14 Secrets for a Successful Family Vacation

Traveling can be one of the most stressful yet rewarding activities you can do as a family. The memories made on trips are irreplaceable and can last a lifetime. However, there are many things you can do to make your family vacation much easier and enjoyable!

vacation planning tips

Use these 14 secrets to ensure a fabulous family vacation.

1. Make lists

When it comes to organizing for a family vacation, lists are a must! Make a list for your personal bag, one for each of your kiddos bags and any other common bags. With so many elements to trip preparation, it’s likely something will be forgotten without lists to manage what you need to bring and what goes int each bag!

2. Give yourself a buffer day on either end of the trip

buffer day for family vacation

If you’ve never done this before, it’s a game changer! Once you do it, you’ll regret it every time you don’t. A day before gives you plenty of time to finish those lists and packing without the stress, so you don’t forget anything. And Instead of tripping over unpacked bags and luggage for days after your trip ends (and adding to everyday chaos) take an extra day to decompress and fully unpack!

3. Lower your expectations

lower expectation for family vacation

This might be hard, but be realistic about how long the trip will take, how many minor “catastrophes” will happen (you know the ones – those meltdowns from picking the wrong shirt or offering the wrong snack), and what you’ll be able to see and do once you’re at your destination. As the saying goes—traveling with kids is just parenting in a different city. This is very true! But there is also so much fun to be had and rewarding memories to make. At the end of the day babies and toddlers are still tiny humans and can only do so much!

4. On road trips, find playgrounds along your route

little girl playing at playground on a pit stop for family vacation

You’ll thank yourself when you’ve got some planned stops along the way for kids to run off some of that built-up energy! Small towns have some of the best playgrounds so don’t worry about where you’re traveling to!

5. Book an place to stay that has a kitchen

Save time and money by being able to have basic snacks and drinks on hand. Making some meals (breakfast is easy!) and not eating out every meal can help save time and money.

6. Order groceries to be delivered to your destination

delivered groceries at family vacation destination

This is another one of those things that if you haven’t done it before, you’ll wonder why not! You’ll likely never take another family vacation without doing it again! It’s nice to have a few grocery items on hand while traveling and the last thing you want to do when you get to your destination is go to the store. You want to relax and enjoy! So, shop online beforehand and have groceries delivered to your destination. Easy peasy! A few places you can try are Instacart and Shipt.

7. Bring or rent a stroller

rent a stroller for family vacation

Even big kindergartners get tired after a day of sightseeing, so make sure they have a place to rest their legs. Renting a stroller or wagon from a baby equipment rental service like BabyQuip is a great solution so you don’t have to drag bulky gear with you!

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8. Plan down time each day

mom and little girl on family vacation taking some down time

Whether it’s naps or just quiet time in the room, plan some down time in the middle of each day. Use this time to let the kiddos (and yourself) chill and recharge.

9. Research museum reciprocity

little boy playing at a museum on family vacation

Check out the local kids museums, botanical gardens, aquariums, zoos, and more! There are so many great kid-friendly museums around the country, and if you have a membership to a museum in your area, do some research to see if they have reciprocal benefits at any museums you plan to visit at your destination! This can save a lot of money! The North American Reciprocal Association is a great place to start. This is also a great rainy day activity in the case of inclement weather.

10. Seek out the “gems” of smaller towns

Museums are fabulous for vacations in bigger towns, but for smaller towns look for those local “gems”—arboretums, birding centers, local and state parks. On a beach trip, think about a local sea turtle rescue or a nature preserve! Another great rainy day plan. After all, it does rain at the beach on occasion!

11. Look for deals on local activities/dining

Check Groupon or CertifiKID for local deals. Depending on where you’re family vacation takes you, this could be a way to save money, and what family isn’t looking to save when traveling?! Search for deals on meals or activities on the website or download the app.

12. Ease up on screen time rules

girl playing tablet on family vacation

Whether you’re in the car for long hours, relaxing during down time in the hotel room or just getting through dinner at a restaurant, relax your rules on screen time just for the family vacation – tablets help keep kids occupied which is worth every second of sanity!

13. Pack extras of everything

When traveling with small kids there are bound to be accidents, messes or blowouts. Whether you are flying or driving, make sure you have extra diapers, bottles or formula, snacks and clothes for you and your little one. Make sure they are accessible at any time for unexpected upsets. Need a good packing list for flying with baby? THIS ONE is great!

14. Make happy family memories!

happy family after successful family vacation

Things will go wrong, meltdowns might happen, but in the end, it’s a wonderful opportunity to show your kiddos the country (or world) and make wonderful family memories. Don’t sweat the small stuff, relax!

What other secrets would you add? Please comment below!

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