Here’s How to Plan the Best Family Vacation, Based on Your Personality
Guess who's coming on the family trip this year? Everyone! A cruise is a classic way to bring together parents, kids, and grandparents, but you can broaden your horizons with these options as well.
If you're considering a last-minute big family vacation but you feel like you've missed your opportunity to book one, think again. Seventeen percent of families book their spring break trip a week or two beforehand. You can save on last minute bookings by buying a bundle (flight, hotel, and car rental), signing up on a travel site that offers discounts to members, and being flexible about dates. (It’s often cheaper to travel midweek.)
Picking a vacation that a big group will enjoy can be tricky, you want everyone to have an equal voice in what they'd like to do. You can start planning your vacation with a family conference call or email. Ask everyone what price range they’re comfortable with and nominate a final decision maker (FDM). “In the event of a disagreement, the FDM can make the call,” says Erik Hastings (Erik the Travel Guy), host of Beyond Your Backyard on PBS and the Create channel. Try the app GrupTrip (iOS, Android; free). It collates flight, hotel, and activity information and feedback into a shareable itinerary and bundles online reviews.
And if you need a little help what type of trip to take, these three options might help your family come to an agreement everyone can be happy with.
These are good for families happy to hang out in a shared space while traveling to various spots. “A long train ride is the perfect time to bond over board games, play cards, or enjoy each other’s company while watching the scenery,” says Hastings.
Amtrak has options that appeal to nature and history buffs (tons of trips to national parks, such as from Chicago to Glacier National Park in Montana to Seattle), leaf peepers, and music aficionados (the Jazz Blues and Rock ’N’ Roll trip hits Chicago, Memphis, and New Orleans). To customize your own vacation—for example, tour museums while visiting a certain city—Vacations by Rail can help you build a package.
For families who want to have flexible schedules, an all-inclusive resort may be your best option. You pick and choose from activities running throughout the day. On-site restaurants take the stress out of deciding where to eat. But do your homework about what’s included; some activities may cost extra and/or have age restrictions.
Beach resorts are a popular choice for an all-inclusive, but you can also get your fix of scenic watersides at a mountain lake resort, such as Basin Harbor on Lake Champlain, Woodloch Pines in the Poconos, or Mohonk Mountain House in the Hudson Valley. Like their beach counterparts, these resorts have kids’ clubs, water sports, dance lessons, and nightly entertainment. Or try a dude ranch: Research your options at the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association and the Dude Ranchers’ Association.
Edit Tip: A big group means a higher risk of derailed plans. American Express Travel Insurance and Allianz Global Assistance are good options if you're considering trip insurance.
If your family likes to give back, consider this type of vacation style. It’s also a meaningful way to see another country. The potential for tax deductions could result in savings; check IRS rules here before you book.
When you're thinking about a volunteer vacation, consider whether you want to stay in the states or venture out. For travel in the United States, visit Global Volunteers. To go abroad, Elevate Destinations has trips to places like Ecuador, Costa Rica, Peru, Thailand, and Kenya. Its Buy a Trip, Give a Trip program means your trip funds opportunities for groups of children to see more of their home country.
It's not too late to plan a great vacation for the whole family to enjoy. With clear communication and a bit of planning, you'll be well on your way!