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Do It Better: Tips for Planning a Family Vacation

By Joyce Venezia Suss

A family vacation is an opportunity to bond and create memories – the good kind!

The destination, method of travel, lodging, dining and activities will vary not only by the family budget, but also the ages of all family members. Ideally, everyone should offer some input in planning a vacation together, to avoid disappointment and exhaustion.

Here are some suggestions to make a family vacation a wonderful memory for everyone, instead of a stress-filled disappointment.

Plan with a Common Goal

Even if one person ultimately handles the arrangements, ask every family member for suggestions. Take a poll to see if the vacation should be for relaxation, adventure or a combination of both. Have young children choose between two or three activities. Consider what each person loves or hates, and find a happy balance, even if that means occasionally separating for different activities. 

Make Reservations Early

Book rooms early, and make as many reservations as possible. Start with the hotel or rental home, and reserve tickets for popular attractions. Make restaurant reservations – it’s easier to cancel than to discover you can’t find a place to eat during peak season.

Map it Out

Create a daily vacation schedule with room for flexibility. Then share it with the family in the days leading up to departure. It builds excitement and gets everyone thinking about what’s ahead.

Schedule Downtime 

If you are touring a theme park or visiting several cities, include some time to rest at least once a day. A morning at the pool or an afternoon nap for everyone on a hot day can help prevent exhaustion.

Pack Light

Lugging heavy luggage is not fun. It’s easier to do some laundry midway through the vacation. Extra underwear is a good idea for children. And the golden rule of any traveler is “If you forgot it, we can buy it.”

Pack for the ‘Just in Case’ 

Bring remedies for pain, allergies, motion sickness and upset stomach, and basic first aid supplies. Bring extra doses of daily prescription medications, and take photos of prescription labels, just in case. Pack disposable rain ponchos, a nightlight to navigate unfamiliar rooms in the dark, zip lock bags to hold wet items, and an extra phone charger. Some parents have a spare “lovey” in case their child’s favorite stuffed toy gets lost.

Prepare for the Unexpected

Rain isn’t always a reason to stop the fun. Those rain ponchos are perfect if light showers are in the forecast. If an attraction is unexpectedly closed, be ready with a Plan B – and maybe even a Plan C.

Have a Child Safety Plan

Children should carry a card with parent names, phone numbers, and the hotel’s name, address and phone. Before the trip, teach children to find a police officer or a mother with children in case they get lost.

Smart Travels

Whether it’s by air, car, train or boat, getting there is half the fun. If by air, try to schedule a nonstop flight. If you can’t avoid a layover, make sure there is enough time to factor in delays. Bring snacks for all ages; even adults get hangry! For long trips, distract young children with hourly gift-wrapped surprises: small, inexpensive toys or booklets to keep them occupied.

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