Family travel is a joy. Except, of course, when it’s a hassle. But we know how to make travel easier for you and your family. Read on to learn some how a few simple family travel hacks, tips and tricks can make your family vacation more fun, less stressful and even save you some money!
Simple Family Travel Hacks, Tips and Tricks
You wouldn’t believe how many stressful trips I’ve had with my family. But after a few years of trial and error, I’ve managed to make it all go smoother, even with young kids. These might seem obvious, but when I first started planning family travel, I was so stressed about everything that I overlooked these easy things to make a family vacation run smoother.
Eventually, I figured out how to travel with less stress. Read on while I share the family travel hacks, tips and tricks I learned along the way.
Stress-Free Travel Planning for Families
For me, the most important part of a trip and half of the fun is planning. This is when you decide what you want to do, where you want to go and what you want to accomplish. It sets the whole theme for the trip.
Pre-planning will also determine whether you have a relaxed or crazy vacation. Plus, you can do it on your own, without having to pay for agents. Being hands-on with your planning can help you keep calm (after all, you’re in control) while it also adds to your excitement. Besides, you know your family best, so you can plan what will keep them happy.
When to Plan?
This is definitely one of my top, most important tips. Start planning as soon as your family decides to travel. Even before a date is set. This is the time to go crazy and do as much research as you can about the place you are going to visit. My pre-planning happens from three to six months before the actual trip. This allows me plenty of time for research.
What to Plan?
Every tiny detail. This is why you start so early, to allow enough time to take care of everything. And I’m not just talking about the obvious – what to do, where to eat, transportation and where to stay. That’s obvious. The hack here is to also figure out things like who will water the plants while you’re away, how you will pay bills while you’re gone, and what you’ll do with the pets. Do you want travel insurance? Will you be renting a car? Did you let your bank know that you will be away?
At first, I never took care of those things in advance, resulting in the last two days before the trip being chaos between packing and figuring out all the last minute stuff. I started my vacation already stressed and a bit paranoid about forgetting something.
Who to Talk to for Help?
This is may not sound like a travel hack, but it’s something I learned along the way that has saved me a lot of time and effort: Talk to the local tourism office. Most of the time you will get an answer from a nice person who is willing to tell you all about their town, state or country. I have gotten some amazing and unique recommendations from them — things to see, places to stay and, most importantly, travel tips on things or places to avoid.
When to Book?
My advice is to have all of your reservations done at least a month before you leave. Booking in advance gives you plenty of time to get excited and enjoy the packing phase. And if anything comes up, you have enough time to make changes without rushing. Also, remember that in most cases, the earlier you book, the lower the prices.
Budgeting Travel Tips for Families
Now let’s go over the expenses. With these little things, I have been able to save tons of money.
How to Save on Accommodations
The problem with accommodations when traveling as a family is that you can either get separate hotel rooms for you and your kids or cram everyone all together in one room. That why we now choose vacation rentals and Airbnb. Most of the time, when you do the math, it is cheaper to get a fully equipped house than two rooms. Bonus savings: You can do some of your own cooking.
How to Save on Food
As I said above, I’ve found renting a home saves me money because I can buy my own food. So much cheaper than restaurants or theme park offerings!
As much as I am a fan of trying the local dishes, I know that paying for food for four can do some serious damage to my travel budget. Instead, we pick a few restaurants we want to visit, and the rest of the time, we grocery shop and cook at “home.”
This has allowed us to spend less on food and more on activities.
You can also find cooking classes, a two in one bonus, as our family combines activity with food. There are also restaurants that offer free (or discounted) food for kids under certain ages, so look out for those opportunities.
How to Save on Transportation
I would normally go for public transportation. However, paying for four tickets can be costly. It may even cost more, if we are traveling with our bags. Instead, my husband and I rent a car and make pretty much every trip a mini road trip. Just be sure the company offers a car seat if your child requires one.
When staying in one place, renting bikes can also be a fun and inexpensive activity that drive down transportation costs.
Packing for Family Travel
When traveling solo, you’d have everything packed quickly and efficiently, usually in a carry-on. Traveling with kids is a whole other ballgame – especially if they are really young. You really need to make sure that you have everything they ‘might’ need.
My big packing hack: Keep a running list of what you want to pack. I created mine slowly, trip after trip. Then every time we went on another trip I referred to the list and adjusted to their needs. It has been a huge time saver. Plus by not overpacking you save tons on airfare.
My #1 Travel Tip for Families
Don’t stress too much! The plans should only be guidelines for what you expect to happen. If you fixate on having your family vacation go 100% as planned, you will always come back a bit disappointed. Be flexible. Things happen, especially with young children and you can’t avoid that. So just enjoy.
I’m pretty sure that most of you have learned many other family travel tips along the way too. Share them in the comments so we can all learn about your experiences.