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The (Mom) Trip Advisors for Family Vacations: Choosing a Destination

I’m changing my official job title to family vacation “trip advisor.” The town where I spend most of my time has had record cold temperatures lately, so while I’m thawing, I can’t help but think of warm travel destinations. Warm or not, choosing a destination is likely the most fun part of it all. (Well, aside from being there—but isn’t daydreaming wonderful?) However, choosing the location is much more easily said than done. The world is full of amazing destinations. I know I’m not alone in the joys and tribulations of family vacation planning, so with tips from some truly amazing travel writers, I’m dedicating the next eight weeks to adding a bonus post to our parenting page about planning (happy) family vacations. 

Week One: Choosing a Destination

Family vacation tips from your Full Time Field Trip trip advisor:

“Involve the kids. That’s my number one tip for choosing your family vacation destination. I want our kids to be excited about going somewhere and experiencing new things. Some times you’re boxed into a season or budget; you can still involve the kids. Here are three ideas.

  • Ask them “what type of shoes do you want to wear on vacation?” Flip flops, snow boots, athletic shoes, dress shoes, etc.
  • Give them three destinations that fit your needs and let them vote.Family Vacations
  • Choose your favorite two cities then ask the kids to help you make a list of things to do in those areas. Pick the location that ticks the most boxes for your family.

Keep it fun, anticipate how you would handle disappointment if it happens. By involving the kids, wherever you all decide to go, it becomes their vacation or holiday too. They aren’t just being dragged along on the family trip.”

Family vacation tips from your Dandelion Seeds trip advisor: 

“I’m pretty practical when I choose a destination, so my advice centers around ‘must haves.’ They’re the filter through which I look at each possible place to visit. With that in mind, I suggest deciding what your ‘must haves’ are. It’s amazing how easy it is to choose a location (or at least a top 10 to investigate further) once you clarify what you need, making sure to consider everyone family vacationwho’s joining you. 

For us, my two most important considerations are whether everyone will enjoy the ‘vibe’ of the destination, and whether we all can eat safely (we have food allergies). I know, for example, that my introverted and highly sensitive child loves exploring, but she also requires plenty of downtime to refuel her energy tank. After all, new experiences are wonderful for growth, but she needs enough peace and quiet to be able to process them. As a result, we choose vacation destinations that are near the activities we want to enjoy, but without making us feel like we’re sleeping in the middle of an amusement park. Some destinations that worked well for us with ‘just enough’ activity were Playa del Carmen, Mexico; just outside Vancouver, B.C., Canada; and Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A.

It’s worth the effort to figure out transportation if it lets us find quiet time along with food we can trust (usually from local grocery stores rather than restaurants). When I plan a trip with ‘must haves’ in mind, it helps narrow the options and simplify the planning process considerably.” 

If you’re looking for travel supplies, you can find them here; or inspiration for keeping your kids entertained while traveling, this might help.

Family vacation tips from your Captivating Compass trip advisor:

“As homeschoolers and travelers, we love learning on location, but we don’t so much like taking a bunch of textbooks with us (unless they are digital) and we are planning on an extended slow travel itinerary with numerous day/weekend trips over several weeks. Most of the time I build our itineraries around our curriculum.

If we’re studying ancient history, the great philosophers or epic poems like The Iliad or The Aeneid, then this is the year to go to Italy and spend as long as possible exploring the countries Family Vacationthat border the Mediterranean Sea. An itinerary packed with great places to learn about ancient Greek and Roman history, culture & lifestyle, would include, Rome and Athens, but don’t miss out on kid-friendly destinations such as Viterbo, Naples, Paestum, Erculano and Sorrento in southern Italy. These ancient cities are bursting with artifacts, ruins, hand-on exhibits and even archaeology digs for families.

With that type of school work, what kid wouldn’t want to grab their passport and go learn on location? So next time you plan a family travel adventure, don’t forget to consider how the destination can inspire a memorable learn on location experience.” – https://www.captivatingcompass.com You can find more Italy specifics here.  

Family vacation tips from your Gadsventure trip advisor:

“When travelling with 4 young kids, the destination is so important! We choose places that are safe above all, and just a short and cheap flight away. We also like it if they are relatively cheap too! We shortlist our destinations by considering the time of year and the type of activity we want to be doing. This usually boils down to surfing or snowboarding.

There has to be some kind of attraction to keep the children occupied and entertained, this could family vacationbe a beautiful beach, a fun city or an interesting outdoors. Our kids will be much more excited about a trip and its lead up if we can talk about these things beforehand. As homeschool parents we like to add an element of education here too, so bonus points for a place with historical or cultural significance!

Choosing the destination is the most fun part, and after our flights are booked, then everything else falls into place. Some of our favourite easy family trips close to home are New Zealand, Bali, Japan and Hawaii.” – More at https://gadsventure.com

Family vacation tips from your Disabled Disney trip advisor:

“Selecting a destination can be a very intimidating part of a family vacation. To help you narrow that down, what are your family goals for a vacation? Take Insta worthy photos, eat delicious food or try a new adventure? These are all things my family likes to take into account for our vacations. family vacationWe like to go to Disneyland because I have mobility problems and have to be in a wheelchair. One of our priorities is disability accessibility. Disney is great on accessibility and a Disney trip hits all these important buttons for my family. When you have narrowed down your family goals look up your possible destinations on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. This will help you narrow down your possibilities! I think the most important thing is to remember you are doing this as a family and to have fun!”

Family vacation tips from your World Wise Kid trip advisor:

“Three elements influence selecting our travel destinations: nature, books and language.

  • Nature – Diverse wildlife and dynamic landscapes have motivated journeys to Alaska, Utah, Florida, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Mexico, Iceland, New Zealand, and Australia. With kids under 10, our ideal travel activities included discovering wildlife, waterfalls, walking trails, and beaches.
  • Books – Now that the kids ages are in the double-digits, their favorite reads influence Family vacationwhere we go. The book Tua and the Elephant by R.P. Harris catalyzed interest in traveling to Thailand. The Percy Jackson series will guide our spring travels to Greece and Italy. London means Harry Potter and The Thief Lord sparked excitement for Venice, Italy.
  • Language – As multilingual parents, exposing the kids to different languages is a key value. Spanish immersion influenced our travels to Mexico and Costa Rica. We regularly stay with family in Germany to secure the kids’ fluency. This spring as we travel Europe, we will delve into Latin and Greek word bases, comparing phrases in Italian, Spanish and French.

It is exciting to speculate on future destinations as the kids’ grow and their interests become more sophisticated. Bon voyage!” See more from World Wise Kid

Family vacation tips from your World for a Girl trip advisor:

“How do we choose the perfect family holiday destination? Well, the process looks a little like this. First, we pick somewhere on our travel bucket list that seems suitable for the length of time/ season/ cost. We have a very long bucket list that covers most areas of the globe and grows by the year.

Next, we spend hours on Skyscanner.com and travel websites researching accommodation and flight options. For whatever reason, we usually decide that the first idea isn’t suitable. The flights are too expensive. There’s malaria present. The hotels look dreadful. And so on.Family Vacation

Eventually, we crack open a bottle of wine and type ‘Everywhere’ into the Skyscanner search bar and our dates. This amazingly useful Skyscanner function means that you can see all the flights leaving your chosen airport on the date you’re interested in. We then filter the results by flight times and cost. And voila, we book a holiday. To a completely different place than the one that we had planned. I wish we had a more organised process… but we do get to go to some unusual holiday destinations!”

Family vacation tips from your State by State trip advisor:

“With so many amazing places to discover in the world, how do we decide where to go next? There are people that prefer to return to their favorite place or places over and over again. On the other hand, there are those that want to always experience something new. I am in the latter category and we rarely revisit a place twice. So what things influence our decision when choosing a destination?

For our family a few things influence our travel choices. First, proximity, meaning how close is it Family Vacationto where we are, can we get there in just a few hours, is it close to the places we want to explore, these are the questions we concern ourselves with. Second, what inexpensive, family friendly activities are available in the area, things like museums, playgrounds, and National Parks are great options. Last, the weather, this is a tricky one because obviously this is out of our control, but we try to keep an eye on the temperatures and go where the weather will allow us to spend time outside, if seems like it won’t be nice we make sure we have plenty of indoor options to choose from. Now…where will we go next?” – More from State By State

Family vacation tips from your Yorkshire Wonders trip advisor:

“When we are deciding on a destination for our next trip, where we stay is very important to us, family vacationnot just the location, but the hotel or resort too. I look at what the rooms are like, whether the hotel has a child friendly pool, kids club or possibly evening entertainment for the children. Does the hotel give off a relaxed family friendly vibe or do they just tolerate families? Finally what is the restaurant like and will we like the food!”

Family vacation tips from your Tips from a Typical Mom trip advisor:

“We have 5 kids and most of them are teenagers now, so that is a big determining factor on where we choose to vacation. Money is another thing we have to think carefully about when we are planning a family vacation. There are a few things we take into consideration while planning a vacation:

  1. Distance. (Do we need to pay for airfare or can we drive?)
  2. Things to do. (Are there enough places to see and things to do to keep our teenagers engaged?)family vacation
  3. Cost. (Can we afford to get there, sleep there, eat there and pay for activities?)
    Most of the destinations we choose are places we can drive to so we don’t have to spend a fortune on airfare. I’d rather go someplace close and spend money on activities than spend a fortune on airfare. Since we do live in Utah there are a lot of cool places we can drive to. One of our favorites is California. San Diego to be exact. My kids love going beach hopping and that’s just fine with me because beaches are cheap! We know we can save a ton of money on hotels through wholesale sites like Jifutravel.com so we use that site to help us determine the hotel we stay in and the activities we do. It’s a membership site, but I have a few buddy passes if anyone want’s to try out the site. 

Family vacation tips from your Mommy and Me Travels trip advisor:

“Do you love the idea of a vacation but always worry about planning one the whole family will love? Mommy And Me Travels has you covered. Here’s our top 3 tips for planning a fantastic family vacation.

First and foremost, get the kids involved! Vacations are more fun for all when everyone provides input. Have everyone think of their top 2 or 3 vacation wishes. Do you want to go to the beach or skiing, and so on?

Second, once your list of wishes are completed start thinking of locations that can accommodate your family wishes. Are you planning on flying, driving, or taking the train? This helps to narrow down which part of the world you will visit. family vacation

Third, here is where the real fun begins. Now that you have a list of activities and locations take the kids and head to your public library. This allows you and your kids to enjoy an afternoon together looking through books of everywhere around your desired locations and activities. Kids love being able to see, feel, and touch the pictures. This helps them start to get excited about learning and planning for upcoming adventures. Family vacations are about building family memories and this starts with the planning phase.”

Family vacation tips from your Grab My Passport trip advisor:

“When we plan our own family vacations at Grab My Passport HQ, pricing is typically our biggest determining factor when deciding on a destination. We do have a never-ending bucket list of places we’d love to visit, and activities we’d like to do one day, so anytime a sale or special promotion pops up that matches something on our list, we try to jump on it. We are subscribed to all the airlines’ email lists, and we follow a bunch of travel deal pages on Facebook so that we are alerted to all of the deals, promos, “error fares”, and discounts that are available as soon as they come out.family vacation

Most recently, we had a bit of time during my maternity leave to take a family vacation before returning back to work. We didn’t know where to go with a 2-month old, but I knew I wanted somewhere warm to escape the cold DC weather. We’ve really been wanting to go to Universal Orlando to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but since we both work full time, and we have to work around the school calendar, we’ve been hesitating for a few years.

Well, Universal announced a “Buy Two Days, Get Two Days Free” promo, so we checked the crowd calendars for the parks, researched flights on Google Flights and Skyscanner, and then booked our trip. Since it was off-season, rates for everything were a bit cheaper than normal. We used a combo of credit card points, airline miles, and money from our travel savings fund to pay for the trip.

Take advantage of email subscription lists.

It’s one of the best ways to learn about discounted travel deals, which can really help you narrow down your destination choices. Also, try to travel to popular destinations in the off-season, if possible. You’ll end up saving a lot of money and avoid the big crowds.”

Family vacation tips from your Gofamgo trip advisor:

“Are you traveling alone, as a couple, as a family with children, or as a group with your best friends?family vacation

As a multi-generation family who travels with seniors, we first bear in mind who is tagging along before we decide where to head next. Knowing each person’s interest or limitations is important in choosing the appropriate destination first hand. When you’re planning a family vacation, you must cater to the different strengths and interests of everyone. Evaluate the limitations of the party.

For instance, the grandparents on wheelchairs are coming as well, this might mean skipping the hike in sandy and hilly Indiana Dunes National Park and opting for a more accessible location like a museum.

Family Vacation Trip Advisors: Next Steps

With so many travel destinations from which to choose, consider whether you’ll find more joy on cobblestone streets or in national parks; in the largest city of a big country or in a small town somewhere rural. Which vacation spot “feels” right in your gut—a day at an art gallery in a big city like San Francisco, New York City, or Beijing? Or on the beaches of travel destinations like San Diego or Puerto Rico? 

In the coming weeks of our travel series, you’ll hear more about our favorite booking sites, money saving tips, and general ideas to help ensure a good time for everyone (not just the adults or the littles). We’ll help you find something for everyone. 

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Continue the Journey!

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About the Writer

Sarah R. Moore is a published writer, positive parenting educator, wellness advocate, and world traveler. Her work spans the globe, reaching readers on six continents and appearing in publications such as The Natural Parent Magazine, Scary Mommy, and Macaroni Kid.

She has been certified by the Raffi Foundation for Child Honouring.  She wholeheartedly recommends the course for parents, educators, and all others who influence the lives of children. 

She also holds BA / MFS degrees in Journalism, French, and Media/Arts/Cultural Production. Read more about Sarah here.