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How To Start Planning Your Family Vacation

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 4/03/2016 Christine Johnson

One of the hardest things about planning a trip is deciding where you want to go. Let's face it, this is a make-it or break-it decision. Sometimes the "Wouldn't it be cool..." vacations do not end up being the right fit for your family. Or a vacation that the Smith family loved, ends up being the worst possible vacation for your family. Because our busy lives offer so little time to travel, and the fact that no trees around my house are sprouting money, each vacation has to count. So you know you want to take a trip and you know you want to take it at a certain time, now where do you even begin to start the planning process?
For me, planning involves asking myself certain questions and finding the best answers that fit our family. Every question I ask myself lets me narrow down my selections. Here are some questions that go through my brain when choosing where to go (or rather, these are the questions that keep me up late at night when I'm planning a trip):
Budget wise, what kind of vacation do we want to take? I break our family travel down into four categories: Europe, an island destination, a fly-away U.S. destination, or driving destination. Those categories may change as the kids get older but for now that's where we're at. We traveled to Portugal one year and Greece two years later. Both were amazing memorable vacations, but the price tags attached to them are also something we can't forget. Island vacations can vary greatly on price, so it is important to pick the right one for your budget. Depending on how much you enjoy driving, as well as where you live in the U.S, may sway your decision. For me, the thought of being confined to a car as we drive 24 hours to Florida, is about as pleasant as getting a root canal (If you're reading this...Mommy loves you girls!) But some people actually enjoy driving so they have the freedom to make some cool stops along the way.
How much time do we have for the trip? Depending how much time my husband can travel away from work and the girls' school schedule will affect where we go. If he can only commit to five nights somewhere then Europe is out. In fact, I personally think if I don't have at least ten days then Europe is out. It costs way too much money to fly us all out there to not see enough of the country. If we only have a week, do we want to drive somewhere or do we fly and use the travel time we've saved on extra vacation time?
Who is going on this trip? If the girls and I are going on vacation without my husband, I feel like I have less destination choices. I like to keep it safe and easy when I travel alone with them. I don't want to worry about driving long distances (again...not a car person), don't want to lug around a bunch of suitcases, and don't want to rent a house. Location of where we're staying also plays a huge part in where we go. If my husband is with us I don't mind driving to attractions, but if it's just us then I would rather be in a central location close to points of interest. Also, my girls and I could be happy spending multiple days on a beach where my husband gets antsy after two days and needs to go exploring.
Does this destination seem kid friendly? There are some places that look absolutely amazing but do not scream, "Kids Welcome!" Machu Picchu is on my Bucket List but I'm not going to drag my seven and nine year old through the Amazon Forest in the dark to catch the sunrise from the ruins. (But how amazing does that sound?)
After I've asked all these questions I usually have some ideas running through my head. I can picture us driving across a European country, or see us flying to a tropical island. Narrowing down our choices lets the dream vacation come into focus. I also remind myself that the places I disregard today may be my dream vacation next year. The world is a huge place, and thankfully my Bucket List is quite long!
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