On second thought, the title of the post should probably be "How To Plan The Perfect Family Vacation" because that's really the answer every parent is searching for. Either way, we're here to help!
First things first...If you're asking the almighty Google this question, you obviously need some help with vacation planning. Did you know that a travel agent could be your new best friend? Most people don't understand how travel agents work and all the benefits they offer. If they did, they would certain realize a travel agent could save them a TON of hassle, time, frustration, worry and yes, money too.
Whether you insist on Do It Yourself vacation planning or working with an agent, you'll need to create a vacation shopping list. Trying to plan a vacation without a list is like heading to the supermarket hungry on your way home from work....everything looks good, you're tired & hungry. You end up at home with a ton of junk, half the ingredients you need to cook dinner and end up calling out for pizza.
Unfortunately, there are no "do-overs" for family vacations. If you screw up, that's it. You can't just call up for vacation delivery. Parents only get about 15 chances to enjoy family vacations with their kids so we need to make everyone perfect right from the start!
A Vacation shopping list will help to keep you focused and on track. You'll be able to easily prioritize when it comes to making the right vacation decisions. Wise decisions will come quickly. When it comes to travel shopping, procrastination usually costs money and can lead to disappointments. If you take too long to make decisions, the cost of your airline tickets will go up or that hotel room with the perfect view will get sold to someone else.
Vacation shoppers are understandably excited, as well they should be. Vacations are fun, full of promise and the thrill of new adventures. Novice vacation planners will immediately start focusing on details instead of logistics. They will start by planning how they imagine spending their day sightseeing in Paris before they even know if they can afford the flights to get there, let alone a place to sleep.
Think of a vacation shopping list as your logistical travel outline. It's the foundation for your vacation. Once this foundation is set, then it's time to color in all of the details and customize your family's experiences.
To create a vacation shopping list, you'll need honest and precise answers to these important questions....
1. WHO will be traveling? - The number of adults and the number of children going on this vacation. You'll need to know the ages of all children at the time of departure. You won't be able to get accurate pricing unless this information is accurate.
2. WHAT type of vacation do you want? - Are all passengers active, extreme sports enthusiasts, grandparents with mobility issues, traveling with an infant or all of the above? This type of information will influence choices for transportation, accommodations, activities and so much more.
3. Where do you want to go? Is your heart set on Hawaii? Is this a return trip to Disney World? A bucket list safari to Africa? Or do you just want to go "someplace warm and cheap"? Having either a specific destination or the experience you're looking to enjoy will help you put a pin in the map of the world.
4. When Do You Want To Go? Are you traveling next year or next week? Are you looking to travel with the kids are off from school during the December holidays or looking for low season prices? Dreaming of a cruise to Alaska?...then you'll be traveling during the summer months because that is when the ships sail.
5. How Much is your budget? Affordability is often the deciding factor for most family vacations. Having a realistic budget in place is often a good starting point. Your travel agent can set up payment plans that can save you from the hidden costs of credit card interest.
6. Why Are You Taking This Vacation? - Are you celebrating a once in a lifetime milestone or do you just need a week vegging out on the beach. Is your child the right age for Disney or do you want to experience Europe with them before they head off to college?
The important thing to remember here is that your vacation shopping list is made up of 6 main "moving" pieces. Think about the answers to each of these questions are like puzzle pieces that all interconnect. The answers to each of these questions will influence and affect each the others. For example...
- If your family can ONLY travel during the December holidays then your travel budget will increase 50-70% because this how much prices jump for that week due to high demand for flights and rooms.
- Maybe your dream is to visit Jamaica but the cost for your family to fly there is WAY over your $2000 budget. Perhaps a cruise might just be the ticket to making your vacation dreams come true.
- Mom is now cancer free. The family is taking that dream trip to Italy ASAP regardless of budget.
Travel agents juggle vacation shopping lists every day for their clients. They know how to make all the puzzle pieces come together for the perfect fit. They can offer suggestions and alternatives that you probably hadn't considered. The decisions are ultimately yours but having a winning coach on your team, never hurt anyone.