If you and your family are looking for a no stress, relaxing vacation without any worries, then this article is not for you.
What you are looking for is a guided or escorted family tour. This is where a professional tour company does all the work for you. They put together an entire family vacation itinerary with hotel, sightseeing, admission to all the main attractions, activities, transportation and a guide who will accompany your group and hold your hand from start to finish. Choosing a guided family tour will save you a great deal of homework time and usually saves money too. Tour companies are privvy to discount rates and negotiated prices due to the volume of people they serve. They often get other perks too like "jump to the head of the line" passes that individual travelers cannot get.
If you are an armchair travel planner who gets joy out of spending hours surfing the web, researching and comparision shopping then you've come to the right place. We understand this is an exciting way to prepare and anticipate your upcoming vacation. Whether you're creating a priority list to give to your travel agent or you are a complete DIY vacation planner there are some important points you will need to bear in mind.
Creating a family vacation itinerary is like putting together all the pieces of a giant Jigsaw puzzle. Coordinating complicated and complex family vacation itineraries for individuals and even large groups is something that we do every single day. Like any artform, it takes practice to master. Here are some of our insider tips that help us create memorable itineraries and keep our clients happy time after time....
1. Be Honest - (See first sentence of this article) Know thy self and know what will make your family happy. If you are a family of couch potatos understand that you won't be happy showing up to hike the Inca trail. If your two year old still naps then chances are everyone will end up miserable if you do not make this a priority with your time management. Often it's harder to be honest with yourself than it is to be honest with a someone else.
2. Be Organized - Use whatever works best for you an excel sheet, color coded binder, dropbox or a shoe box keep yourself organized. You will need to collate lots of important data and the devil is in the details. Staying organized will keep the devil from rearing his ugly head.
3. Get Your Ducks In a Row - Before you start fantasizing about all the places you'll visit, make sure you have everything you need to get there. If you are traveling overseas, check the state department so that you know and fully understand the requirements to visit your family vacation destination. Make sure you have passports, visas, single parent documentation, health check/medical approval and any necessary. innoculations. If you have passports, double check to see that they have a valid expiration date 6 months after the return date of your vacation. You need to get all the necessary paperwork out of the way first and then you can start planning. If you try to do it the other way around it could cost you major disappointment and big bucks.
3.Book Good Flights - Book your flights early (330 days in advance if at all possible) and book the best flights possible. This is particularly true if you are flying overseas. Try to book direct or nonstop flights. If you must make connections, give yourself at least 2 hours between flights, longer if you need to clear customs at a busy, international airport.
4. See What Interests You - I took each of my kids to London on 3 separate vacations (so that I didn't have to deal with sibling rivalry). With my son we spent most of the week touring art galleries and museums. The only thing my middle daughter wanted to do was to shop while my youngest daughter wanted to meet her penpal and visit a castle. Three distinctively different intineraries all to the same location. Often local tourist boards are a great help and source of inspirtaion for creating unique touring plans. They are also a great resource for any special events, ticketing information and specialized children's activities.
5. Worry About What You Will See - Can you imagine trying to see all of the U.S. or even all of Manhattan for that matter in just one week. Breaking news...it ain't going to happen. Respectfully this may be your trip of a lifetime but you will NOT be able to do everything in just one trip. Don't try to cram and jam pack your schedule trying to do it all. This will only leave your family tried, frustrated and overwhelm. Devote the proper amount of time to visiting your "Must sees" so that you can thoroughly enjoy what interests you the most.
6. Strike A Balance - Schedule a slow or relaxing day after a hectic day of sightseeing. If you're spending several days in the heart of the city, balance that with a day or two in the countryside. Schedule a little "flex time" in case you need to re-arange your schedule due weather or jet lag.
7. No One Night Stands - nobody likes schleping, unpacking and packing luggage. You may be trying to cover a great deal of territory in a short amount of time but whenever humanly possible try to spend at least 2 nights in a hotel. If you're in a different hotel every night then chances are you'll be traveling and not vacationing. Double check to see if there are any sea or river cruises offered to the destination(s) your family is looking to visit. Cruises will allow you to cover a great deal of territory without all the travel hassles.
8. Local Emergency Contact Numbers - Make sure you have LOCAL emergency contact numbers and you know how to dial either your cell or hotel phone should you need to make this call. This goes for your flights, local hotel phone number, transportation companies and sightseeing.
9. Read ALL Fine Print - If there is anything that trips up novice itinerary planners it's not reading and understanding the fine print (remember that devil and those details?). Never assume here because this can lead to costly mistakes. Every airline, every airline ticket, hotel and sightseeing company comes with it's own terms, conditions and cancellation policies.
10. Know When To Ask For Help - It's OK to ask for help, It happens all the time! Nearly every week we are contacted by frazzled parents who start to piece together their itinerary only to throw their hands up and cry "Uncle". There are a LOT of moving parts to a family vacation itinerary. Often our suggestion and insights are all it takes to make it all work together. Remember, your vacation is suppose to be FUN and this includes all the planning. If it stops being fun then it's time for professional help (and we do mean us, your travel agent ;-)