(Corinne is a guest blogger from Have Baby Will Travel.)
If planning a summer vacation with kids is stressing you out as much as the thought of a summer vacation with kids, it’s time to break your summer travel planning down to the basics and craft a holiday that will be a great escape for everyone. Family vacations offer everyone the opportunity to relax and have fun, and the bonus of bonding should not be overlooked.
Here now are 14 tips for a summer vacation that will be memorable for all the right reasons:
Budget is your first consideration. Knowing how much you have to spend will help narrow down your almost overwhelming number of trip types and destination options.
Active or chillaxed? City culture or nature’s beauty? A bit of each? Consider all your family members’ interests when creating your itinerary. But more than anything, avoid overscheduling your time. One daily outing is more than enough, and don’t forget to plan time to just hang out and enjoy your hotel’s amenities and each other.
You can stretch your vacation time and budget by planning a few mini-breaks or extended long weekends over the course of the summer. And if your work offers summer hours, take advantage of them!
Fancy resort or cheap and cheerful beach motel? Budget will determine most of your accommodation options, but if you require 5-star surroundings, don’t discount vacation home rentals or Airbnb-type stays. Even people with super-fancy places rent them out.
Save big on meals and attraction entrance fees in advance by visiting local parenting websites for your destination. Local parents often share the best restaurants with “kids eat free” promotions, and many attractions share discount codes and online coupons as well.
Self-catering is a great way to save money and to stretch your vacation dollar. And you needn’t fret about spending your entire vacation doing dishes, since many grocery stores now offer meal preparation and self-serve buffets that rival many fancy hotels.
If you’re trying to avoid the expense of car rentals, consider driving to your destination. You can combine the comfort of your own vehicle with the added bonus of not worrying about the baggage check fees most airlines charge these days.
If driving’s not an option, don’t be daunted by the notion of public transportation. Kids love buses and trains, and many family destinations factor in easy airport transfers and shuttles to their top attractions.
It’s easy to get carried away in theme park gift shops filled with expensive souvenirs and princess dresses. Consider bringing a few gifts or costumes with you. Deals can be found ahead of time and the kids will be just as delighted by the surprise.
If you’re sticking to US destinations, the Oh Ranger! ParkFinder app finds all parks nearest to you and includes activities you can filter. Oh Ranger! provides a comprehensive database of every national park, state park, local park, and federal public land in America. Oh, like most of the parks, it’s free.
In need of a crib or high chair when you get where you’re going? Rentals can be expensive, but harness the power of social media and share your requirements with your networks. You may just have a friend of a friend with a garage full of gear they’d be happy to lend.
Be sure to carve out some me-time. Spell off naptime or just an hour or two with your partner so you can explore with a walk or recharge at the spa. Don’t forget to reciprocate!
Follow your children’s lead. Vacation time is often scarce and it’s tempting to pack a lot of expectations into your already overstuffed bags. Take a breath and relax. If you’ve planned an amazing day that includes a trip to a famed children’s museum, and your kids exclaim they’d rather just hang out at the hotel pool, just do it. Visit the museum another time or look at your missed outing as a good excuse to return.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Or even the big stuff. Kids will follow your lead, and travel can be very stressful even under the most ideal circumstances. Try to laugh if things go pear-shaped, and make the most of every minute together, even if those are more minutes than you planned on spending at an airport departure gate.
40% of Americans do not use all of their vacation time. And a few years back, at a conference hosted by Disney, it was pointed out to me that we only have our kids for 18 summers. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to spend time with those who matter most, and getting away together means none of you will be distracted by obligations at home.
My kids don’t ask “Are we there yet?” Instead they say “Where are we going next?” And I’m so glad they want to go those places with me.