Planning a new trip or adventure can be stressful for anyone. You can find yourself in a bit of a daze. Worrying about little ones having fun and still trying to cross off that bucket list. We have a list full of tips to help you get your plans off the ground.
- Pick Your Destination
While this part may seem obvious it can also be the hardest. We all have a list of destinations that we want to visit. Then our children have their own list of destinations. We need to find a way to compromise while making everyone happy. You should also keep your budget in mind for your trip. Take your time looking through travel websites such as; Hotwire, Expedia, and TripAdvisor.
While comparing flights, hotels, and rentals for your choice destinations use ideal travel dates for an accurate idea. Keep in mind these will not be final prices but will give you an idea for your budget.
2. Getting Your Documents
While this step only pertains to certain trips, it still is a very important step. While waiting in line at the store I cannot count the times I have heard, “My vacation is two weeks away! I paid for Everything! What do you mean my passport won’t be ready on time?”. Getting your documents takes time. While you can have your express ship your passport, it can be costly, especially when you must order three or more. Do yourself a favor and have your passport done way ahead of time. The closer you get to summer the longer the wait time is. Get your documents before then. Save yourself the headache and the extra cost to express it. If you do not have a passport or need to renew do so 5 months before your trip. In case of any errors on your passport that need to be fixed, you will have to send your passport back and another long period of time. Yes, this actually does has happen. Make sure you have at least 3 months on your passport before it expires prior to your trip.
3. Start Buying your items for your trip
Buy items you need early and slowly. I can not express this enough. Most of the time,we wait until a few months before the trip to begin purchasing items. We use the rational idea that we are saving for vacation and then spend it all at once. This is not the best idea. Buy items you need early, slowly, and grab them when they are on sale. Some of the best sales on luggage are in January and February. In January, Macy’s has a great sale on luggage sets. For a list of best travel items for families click here.
4. Purchase Tickets
While there may be opinions about when is the best time to buy tickets, in all honesty, you should do what works best for you. I would prefer to buy my tickets ahead of time. Here at Tickets For Four, what airline, plane, seating, and time we travel is important. Those details are also taken into consideration when buying tickets along with cost. If you are buying multiple tickets and you are not flying out from a major airport you should buy ahead. Lats minute flight deals are only great if you plan on flying out from a major airport. Also, keep in mind when purchasing multiple of these last minute deals, seating together is not always guaranteed. With kids, this is not the best option even though most airlines will keep one adult with a child together. For certain airlines, you can choose your seat ahead of your trip. There may be extra fees. Set up flight watch with TripAdvisor to keep updated in price drops. If your are also traveling by rail purchasing ahead can save you money. When using Eurostar purchasing tickets at least 6 months or more in advance can bring the economy price down to as low as $50.00 a seat.
5. Purchase Travelers Insurance
This is a step I can not stress enough. This is also a step that should not be skipped for any traveler. Yes, purchasing travelers insurance is an extra cost. But, it is a small cost that will save you a lot of headache and cash. When traveling, there are many things that can happen. If you are traveling with kids there is a million more things that can happen. If someone gets sick and you can no longer travel this will help you retain the majority of cost spent. Without it, you will loose all of your money. Also, this can be helpful in other situations as well. Not every destination follows the same guidelines as what you may be used too. You should buy travelers insurance for your flight, hotel, and family.
6. Make a Plan
Now that you have purchased your tickets and travelers insurance. You want to make a plan. Begin by finding out what area you want to stay in and look for hotels. If you are having a hard time looking for a hotel check out our article here. You should also start working on your itinerary of what you want to do and see. You can begin this task by asking some questions. What sites do I want to visit ? Will I be going to any theme parks, museums, and zoos? What restaurants do I want to try? Start with these questions and go from there. You should also make a plan for one or two rainy days just in case.
7. Get Familiar With The Country Law’s that you are going to visit.
This is another essential step that usually gets skipped in all the excitement. You should be at least somewhat familiar with the laws of the country/state in which you are visiting. Now I am not telling you to prepare yourself as if your setting up to take the bar exam. But, you should know things such as driving restrictions, things that are prohibited, and the general dos and don’ts.
8. Get Organized
Here is our time to get organized. We know our destination. Our documents are in order.We have started buying items slowly for our trip. Our tickets are in order. We know our mode of transportation to our destination. The travelers insurance has been purchased in case something happens. We are now more knowledgeable about the area we are traveling too. So now, we need to find activities in the area. What are we actually going to do and see? What will we have time for? What is in our budget? Can we make this cheaper? Are there any discounts? What restaurants will we try ? Decide on your activities during the trip. Try to find out if there are discounts on these locations. Some locations offer discounts through their websites, some offer discounts on certain days of the week. If you still need to buy items you should be finishing them off at least three weeks before the trip.
9. Make a Schedule
Everything in your plan now goes on paper. Make a schedule or itinerary of your trip. You do not need to follow it verbatim but it does help with the flow of the trip. Keep in mind having rainy day ideas movable.If you are looking for a schedule format we have one available here. I also recommend printing two or three copies in case someone spills chocolate milk on one. Having a back up is important and will save you the mini heart attack of ruining your only copy .
10. Pack Early
I usually recommend packing early for a trip . I would begin packing at least 12 weeks in advance and adding a little at a time so you won’t become overwhelmed. I also use a list of items that need to be packed and check them off as I pack them. If you are looking for a printable list we have one available here. This really helps in taking out the guessing game and is one less headache for me. You are probably wondering what can you possible pack so early on? Well I start of with little things such as; travel shampoo, conditioner, soap, and toothpaste. Then the next week, I would put in any adapters I need or other electronic equipment. Just a few small things every week to make packing easier.
11. Download Travel Apps
Downloading your travel apps should be done the week prior to your trip. Now I know what you are thinking? Do I really need travel apps? Well, technically no. But they are a great help. One of the best apps you can get for your trip is an app for your flight. Most airline companies offer apps that you can get on your devices. With your flight app you can see if there are any changes to your flight. It will also alert you if there is a change. This is a great help if you traveling with children. You are scrambling in the airport lugging two children and four carry on rushing to make it to your transfer only to find out it was delayed. The app could have helped you avoid that rush and,the tantrum your toddler is now pulling because they wanted to see a picture. Some apps will also let you know when your are able to choose your seating if you have not already done so. You can also download apps for your hotel and things to do. For restaurants and things to do I would recommend either the TripAdvisor or Yelp apps.