How to Plan a Family Vacation with Less Stress

There is nothing like the excitement and thrill of taking a vacation with your family.  We imagine what it will be like getting away together and enjoying some special time without the distractions of daily life.  However, once you are days into the process of researching, deciding on a location and type of trip that will please everyone, figuring out your budgetary issues and checking all the details, this dream trip can become a nightmare.  It can start to feel like a full-time job and somehow you are the only one doing all the work.  Here are some pointers on how to save time, get it booked easily and enjoy the trip.

Simplify Your Choices

Write down a list of ideas of places you would like to go after checking some magazines, asking friends and checking social media.  It can be as simple as the beach, national monuments, Europe, etc.  Is the group looking to relax or wanting adventure?  Keep in mind how much time you have to be away and your budget.  Discuss this with the people who will be going with you and decide on a type of vacation that fits in with the group goals.  For example, if relaxation is the priority, go with a beach location, for excitement go for the amusement parks or exploring another country.

Make Sure the Family is Working Together

It is easier to plan a vacation when everyone feels they have a stake in it.  Family members, including kids who are not too young, can help research activities.  With a destination chosen, set parameters and give each member a specific time to get their research accomplished.  Next have a family meeting where everyone shares their written choices for activities.  Rule out those that are not probable due to time constraints, costs, etc. and prioritize the rest.  Now you will have a list of things to do on the trip.

Avoid Overbooking Activities

Make sure that the itinerary is not too overwhelming.  No one will enjoy themselves when they are rushing from place to place and constantly moving from one hotel to another.  It is a good idea to plan for some early physical activity with the kids so they will be ready for some down time later.  If you have younger children, many people swear by returning to the hotel after lunch and letting the kids veg out by the pool or in the room before resuming any evening activities.  Leave a day free to just relax or do something that is unplanned.  Remember, a vacation is about relaxing.  It shouldn’t feel like work.

Organize Your Trip Information

As you are booking hotels, rental vehicles, tours, restaurants and other reservations, keep all the confirmation emails in one spot.  You can create a designated “vacation” folder in your email account.  There are also special apps for doing this like  They will organize everything into an easy-to-read itinerary that you can keep on your phone or tablet and print out and keep with your tickets, ID’s, passports and other necessary travel documents.  A basic version of Tripit is free.  As you travel, you can edit the itinerary with notes and details for future reference.

Outsource the Planning

Some people prefer to use a travel agent which is good choice to cut out stress.  They can be a valuable source when your time to plan is very limited.  They have the knowledge and can save you hours of time in researching by finding the best hotels and getting the tickets you need.  They know which Disney breakfast has the best characters, and which hotels are closest to your target destination.  If you don’t have an agent, ask friends for recommendations.  Organizations like AAA offer organized group tours for families that spare you the headaches of planning.  Hotels and restaurants are all pre-planned for you.  Other companies include Intrepid, G Adventures and Backroads.  Their trips are designed to keep adults and kids both happy and relaxed.

Keep Lists

Packing lists can be prepared and printed out for each family member to use when packing.  Even young children can pack with adult supervision.  This way you know they are not forgetting necessities which will avoid trips to the store for forgotten items when you get to your destination.  Remember to bring your prescription medicines as well as over-the-counter things like aspirin and allergy medication.  It is important to allow kids to bring some extra things you may feel are unnecessary, but you can limit them.  If there is a road trip, remember to bring lots of healthy snacks for the car, some motion sickness meds and a few new toys or items to keep the kids occupied.  Audio books are a great thing.  Save these lists in your computer or device and add notes for your next vacation.

Relax and Have Fun

Now that you have everything booked and packed, it is time to head out and enjoy.  There will always be mix-ups, forgotten items and inevitably someone may get sick, but try not to allow the small stuff to upset you and ruin the fun.  Make sure to get adequate sleep, even if it means taking turns with your spouse as to who gets up early with the kids.  Junk food can be part of the fun of vacation, but try to limit it so children are not “sugared-up” or out of sorts.  For teens, limit the amount of phone/device time so they stay connected with the family.  If you are traveling with family or friends, perhaps you can take turns babysitting the kids so couples can get some free time alone.  The important thing to remember is that it’s vacation – there’s no right or wrong.  Just relax and have a wonderful time with your family.

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