9 Steps to Your Next Family Vacation

February 6, 2020 Updated: February 20, 2020
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It’s vacation planning season! Whether you’re dreaming of a luxury escape or rustic campout—it’s time to get this year’s adventures on the calendar.

Never has it been more important for families to schedule focused time together. The benefits of stepping away from the day-to-day, setting out into the unknown, reveling in the joys and wonders of an adventure together and cherishing memories for a lifetime are priceless.

Here are nine steps to planning your family’s next vacation.

family on vacation
Enjoy the ideas and inspiration that so often come with relaxation and a change of pace. (Shutterstock)

Budget

You know what makes a vacation multiple times better than it already is? Paying for it before you go.

Resist the temptation to get into debt. Pay your vacation with cash; accrue no interest, and come home to no balance. Of course, practically speaking, you may use a credit card to book various elements of your trip, but be sure to pay it off completely, right away.

If you’re planning a trip that requires a substantial outlay, make a plan to save what’s needed in advance. Using your online banking’s automatic savings tools, along with perhaps cutting some expenses, can go a long way toward affording a nice getaway.

Consider the costs of food, excursions, transportation, and gratuities, in addition to general accommodations. Remember the most important thing is that you and your family are together, so if extravagance isn’t in the budget, plan something simple.

With this goal in mind, determine your travel budget and move to step two.

Calendar

Now that you understand your financial constraints, you need to determine your time constraints.

Review the coming year at a glance together with your family to determine the best week(s) to target. Take note of work, school, and personal obligations. Consider the impact different weeks have on costs and crowds in different destinations. Narrow your options down to a few choice weeks.

Research

Oh, this part is fun. Now that you know what parameters you’re working within you can dive into deciding where you want to go. Will you be seeking out warmth and palm trees in the winter? Perhaps you’re on a mission to see a particular landmark or natural wonder. Perhaps your family enjoys a particular interest you want to learn more about. Perhaps you’re looking simply for downtime and relaxation.

Whatever your aim, consider the possibilities, enjoy the process, and narrow down your choices to one or two destinations.

Availability

When you’re ready to book your trip, you’ll want to work on accommodations first. Where will you be sleeping? In a tent? A cabin? A hotel? A resort? On a cruise ship? Perhaps some combination?

Find the option that satisfies as many of your family’s preferences as possible while respecting your budgetary constraints. Be sure to take note of cancellation policies before booking.

Transportation

Once you know when you’re going and where you’re going, you’ll need to determine how you’ll get there.

If you’re planning a road trip, make sure your vehicle is in top shape and ready.

Otherwise, line up all of the planes, trains, and automobiles you’ll be using to get around. Transportation costs can get steep, so be sure to stick to your budget, making adjustments to your plans as needed.

Activities

Once you get where you’re going, what will you do? You may be setting out to see historic sites or natural wonders. Perhaps you’ll be visiting theme parks. Maybe you’ll be taking in the cuisine and culture of a foreign place. Possibly you’ll be lounging, swimming, and ensuring the only decision you need to make is what to eat.

Begin to jot down an itinerary for your trip—in as much or as little detail as you deem necessary. A general idea of what you’ll do may inform tickets or reservations you’ll need to secure, items you’ll need to pack, and additional budgetary considerations.

Countdown

Once your trip is planned, make the most of the weeks or months you have to look forward to it. When an adventure is on the calendar, the anticipation and excitement are enough to put some extra pep in everyone’s step. Consider keeping a visual countdown somewhere in your home marking “x” days until vacation.

Prepare

As your countdown presses on, begin to set aside items you want to pack. Start early to avoid stress and make sure each family member has everything they need. Tie up loose ends at work and at home. Clean your home so it welcomes you back on your return.

Enjoy

At last, when it’s time to set out—go and enjoy!

Enjoy this precious time together with your family. Enjoy the unique experiences this particular adventure brings you. Enjoy stepping back from the everyday into a different environment, a different routine, and a different mode of being. Enjoy seeing your family enjoy the same. Enjoy the ideas and inspiration that so often come with relaxation and a change of pace. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Enjoy the blessings in your life.

Reentry

As all things do, your vacation will come to an end. Reenter regular life with ease as you return to a clean and tidy home, no lingering costs from your trip, lifetime memories, and a fresh sense of gratitude and inspiration. While it’s always nice to get away, it’s also nice to come home. Relish being back, enjoy souvenirs and pictures, and remember—it’s never too early to start dreaming up the next adventure.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza