5 Simple Steps to Planning Family Travel

I’ve heard that this is not fun for some people?
Just kidding.
I get how this is a lot of work, and can be stressful.
Here is my advice to simplify the planning part of family travel:

Decide on what your family’s most important experiences are

So, obviously.
Once you have a general destination in mind, make a list of what you think are important things to do, or important cities to visit, or important places to see.
Depending on where you are going, this may take a lot of research, or not much.
I mean, there has to be at least A reason you picked this place right?
Start there.

Then try to find out what else you want to see while you’re in that part of the world.
(Or don’t.  But, why not?)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before but I like the paper Lonely Planet Guides and Frommer’s ‘best experiences’.
If you want to go deeper, you can usually find a blogger that specializes in wherever your destination is, or whatever your specific interests are.

Deciding this WITH your family can be a nightmare.
I would suggest letting everyone pick one thing.
Or, (especially with younger kids), making a list before hand and have everyone pick their top 2?
(My kids typically pick the park, the pool and the beach, so this is easy to incorporate into our days).

Just a note that I think it is super, super important to give your kids influence (or even just the appearance of it), when planning family travel.
It is going to make them interested, engaged, and excited for your trip.
And those three things are the most important to YOUR enjoyment. 
(Even more important than what you actual do, imo)

Anyway, agree on, and make a list.
Then, without thinking about cost, distance, hassle, or anything else, rank the list by importance.
Like, the most important thing, to you, to do at your destination.
The only rule is, you can only have one thing on each line.
(I know, but it can’t ALL be the most important).

So, for example, a trip to Italy might look like this:

  1. Farmhouse Stay in Tuscany
  2. Food in Naples
  3. Art History in Florence
  4. History in Rome
  5. Food in Rome
  6. Gondola Ride in Venice

This list will likely become your list of ‘home bases’.
If your entire list is in one city, great, you have one base.
If it’s all over the place, great too.
Now is NOT the time to edit.
Just make sure the most important thing to experience is at the top.

One of our most favourite things to do, regardless of where we are travelling.

Determine what is most important at each base

Right, so now that you have your home bases, make a list of your most important things to see or do, from each base.

For example, Food in Naples might mean a farm and market tour.
Or it might mean a week long cooking class.
Or, it might just be staying in town for a week and eating at as many restaurants as you can.

If you have more than one thing, rank them like you did in the previous exercise.

This list or experience will likely end up informing your approximate length of stay at any one place.

You can either pack all the sights and attractions into a couple days, or add in time to relax and chill.
You know that I would advise the second option; especially when travelling with kids


Determine approximate costs

You don’t need to have this all mapped out, but figure out approximately how much accommodation, food, and the major activities you have planned are going to cost.

This is where a travel budget will come in handy.
You can’t really do one without the other.

Stack of coins for planning family travel
The budget. The worst part of travel.

Limit for cost and/or time

Now that you have an ideal itinerary,  you need to limit by either your travel budget, or amount of time you can be travelling, or both.
Gross, I know.
But because you’ve already ranked the list, with most important at the top, it makes this part a little easier.

In our example, if the Farmhouse is Tuscany will take a week, and you only have one week, obviously you are doing that (because it is your most important item)

If you have two weeks, you could choose the week in Tuscany + Food in Naples (which you determined will take another week).

What if Naples is too expensive during the time of year you want to go?
Then you choose only time in Naples, OR Tuscany + Florence + Rome maybe.

Maybe you drop some of the stuff off your Florence and Rome list so that you can spend a couple days in Venice.

See how it works?

So much to experience, so little time (or money….or both)

Stop, right now, with the comparing

Does this feel complicated?
It gets easier once you do it a couple of times.

And yeah, sometimes you need to drop stuff from your list.
But that’s okay, you are doing your most important things.
You do not have to do ALL the things to make your trip worthwhile.
You don’t even need to do ALL the things to call yourself a traveller (Gasp).

But for fuck’s sake, stop comparing your itinerary with everyone on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, wherever else.
You’ve done your research, and picked your destinations.
Do not look at what other people are doing now.
Just be confident, and know that this will be the best itinerary for you and YOUR family.

Oh yeah, and exhale.

What are your steps for planning family travel?
Do you prefer someone else to plan for you?
Do you figure it out once you get there?

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