HikingPlanning your family vacation can be overwhelming–where to go, what to do, how to get there, you name it. There are a lot of details to planning a summer vacation. We understand. We’ve been there. So we polled top family travel writers from across the web, and within Traveling Mom, to bring you their very best advice for planning an (almost) foolproof summer vacation.

Include the kids in family travel planning

Rebecca Darling, R We There Yet Mom and Texas TravelingMom, advises: Sit down with your family and brainstorm all the places y’all want to visit. Listen to your kids’ input, based on their interests. Don’t just assume they “want” to go to the beach again. Making the decision together gets everyone excited from the start.

We love this idea from Family on a Bike: Theme the trip. Brainstorm as a family and then vote out the ideas “X Factor” style until you have one that makes everyone happy. Some countries and cities lend themselves easily to a theme; with others you have to be more creative. We’ve done Moomins in Finland, pilgrims in Spain, and music in Germany where we taught ourselves to play recorders on The Danube. (Blue Danube, if you were in any doubt about our choice of song!)

Claudia Laroye from Travelling Mom in Canada suggests: Get everyone involved in planning your summer holiday. Have a dinner conversation or family meeting to chat about the trip, wherein every family member picks their top activity, place to visit or thing to do. Including everyone’s special wish ensures greater buy-in and happiness for all, as well as continuing things to look forward to once you’re on the trip itself. Older kids can (and should!) do their own research. Traveling & education = great mix.

Lesli Peterson, the travel editor at Homeschool.com, shares a super cute idea for keeping the kids excited as the trip approaches. Help the kids make a paper chain counting down the days until you leave. Write a simple activity on each link to help them get excited. Going to the beach? Color an ocean picture, watch a surfing video on YouTube, play catch with a beach ball. Simple and fun ideas before (and after) stretch your vacation experience.

Choose your summer vacation destination wisely

Beach walkingJenna Francisco from This Is My Happiness suggests taking the road less traveled. Summer is travel time for most people, so choose your destination carefully. You don’t want to spend it waiting in lines or in big crowds. Try a destination where you can spend quality time together but that may not necessarily be a popular “must-visit” place for families. For example, in California, renting a vacation home on the coast and taking walks along the ocean is something my kids and I enjoy.

Bethaney Davies from Flashpacker Family hits the slopes, in summer. Think about going somewhere where summer is the off-season. Ski resorts like Whistler in British Columbia and Vail in Colorado have a ton of summertime activities for outdoorsy families – mountain biking, hiking, swimming. These winter resort towns are well set-up for visitors and there are plenty of family-friendly vacation homestouse.

Amy Moore from Everything, Everywhere says stick with summer-only destinations. With summer being the busiest travel time of the year, I try to visit destinations that are only practical to visit in summer. Alaska, Canada or other northern locations are at the top of my list. More temperate regions are saved for the off-season when the visitor numbers and the prices are lower.

Consider a summer vacation at home

Kate Spiller from Wild Tales Of reminds us that: Summer is a great time to check out the local sports teams of your travel destination (and hometowns too, of course). Baseball and soccer are two that first come to mind, and both are extremely family friendly. You don’t have to be a fan of the team (or even the sport) to enjoy yourself. It’s also a fun way to interact with locals, and get a feel for some of the town’s culture through the sport’s traditions and rituals. And the team doesn’t have to be in the “major league” to be worth your time. Minor league games pack in plenty of excitement,and are muchcheaper too!

Allison Laypath from Tips For Family Trips also suggests un-travel summer travel. Think local. Not all travel requires an overnight stay. Look up local festivals, factory tours, museums, gardens, historical sites, state parks, etc. to fill long summer days. Invite another family along to make summer field trips even more fun.

Road TripSneak a little learning in to your summer vacation

Sandra Foyt, founder of Albany Kid gives great advice on sneaking in learning on summer break. Is your child crazy about dinosaurs? Visit a dino dig. Does your teen love fashion? Drop in on a costume exhibit. Inspire lifelong learning while enjoying memorable family adventures.

Lots of moms sneak in the education. Wheeling Traveling Mom Barb Likos, founder of Mom Off Track advises: Try to look ahead at next year’s curriculum before planning a summer vacation to see what your child will be studying next year. If they typically spend 4th grade learning about Mayan ruins, try to spend third grade summer visiting ruins in Mexico or ones near you. Any sort of relatable travel experience makes school lessons more ‘sticky.’

This is the first in a series on summer travel. We’re all in this together, traveling moms, so if you have advice you’d like to share and be featured in an upcoming post on summer travel, leave us a comment below and a link to your website.