The following is a guest post from Jeri who writes a frugal family travel blog where she shares family travel tips like airplane games for kids. Having flown over 75,000 miles either pregnant or with kids, she has some experience in the field of family travel.
‘Tis the season for gearing up and trying to figure out what the family will do to entertain the youngsters while on summer vacation. If you want to plan an amazing family vacation, these tips will help get you on your way.
How to Plan a Memorable and Frugal Family Vacation
1. Consider your budget. So, maybe you can’t fly your family of 12 to Europe this summer, but surely there are more options. Look at your family budget, decide on a number, then continue with the planning. Make it a challenge: where can we go and what can we do with this much money?
2. Ask for input. Even if you have young children, ask the family for their ideas. I know my 4 and 2-year-olds love to be involved in our travel conversations. Sometimes I’m amazed at the ideas they have in their minds.
3. Create anticipation. In our home, we read books and play a game we invented called “Airplane, Airplane” where my husband pretends to be a flight attendant and we all practice being passengers. Even very young children can learn words like “departure”, “arrival”, and “rest area.” Get the kids (and yourself) excited about the adventure ahead -whether it’s a road trip or someone’s first flight. Count down the days or months together.
4. Tell stories from past travels. My two-year-old son still loves us to tell the story over and over and over again about how he ate buffalo food at a Bison Ranch in Wyoming last year. He doesn’t remember it, but he loves to hear all about it. And it breeds more anticipation for future travel. My children also love to hear about all of the countries they’ve been to and the modes of transportation they’ve taken.
5. To save money, be flexible with your dates and destinations. (And, just be flexible in general.) Make sure you do all you can to book cheap travel and start planning in advance! (That’s why I’m telling you now.) Also, depending on your lodging, consider cooking meals instead of eating out.
6. Be ready and willing to entertain the kids. After all, it is a FAMILY vacation. Yes, it takes more energy, but it is worth it. I notice that when I pay attention to my children and go out of my way to spend time with them (at home or on the road), I have a lot fewer behavior problems. It’s even possible to keep kids entertained on flights.
7. S-L-O-W down! Is it really necessary to visit every museum in Washington DC in a single day, go out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and enjoy the latest viewing of the latest movie that was released, and stop for ice cream on the way home? (Phew!) To enjoy a vacation with children, make it simple. Make time for naps – that is, if you’d like your 2-year-old to be good-natured at dinner. Fewer activities = fewer dollars, too. We try not to plan more than one “big” activity per day for our young family.
8. Take pictures. You’ll want to remember what you did on your vacation, and this is an easy way to do it.
9. Check out free activities. I was amazed when we found a FREE museum in Brisbane, Australia on one of our vacations. Also, it’s often the simple things that matter most. Hanging out at the beach or a local park for a picnic can be just as memorable as paying big bucks for Universal Studios.
10. Stay with friends on vacation. Sometimes I’m afraid to ask because we might be intruding, but we’ve always enjoyed staying with our friends on vacation. (And I think that deep down they like it, too!) The best part is that after you put the kids to bed, you can hang out with your friends. The days can be spent doing something with your own family, and communicating this with your host family is important. It saves you money, and gives you some time to invest in a relationship that maybe you’ve neglected over a few years. Conversely, we would always welcome our friends to “vacation” in our home. Speaking of which, anyone up for a South Pacific vacation this summer?
11. Pack light. Even if you’re taking a road trip, there’s no reason to take the whole kitchen and bathroom sink with you. As you pack, ask yourself, “Can I survive a week without this?” If the answer is “yes”, leave it at home. This one is tough for me since we’re missionaries in Papua New Guinea and travel for months at a time. But, I can tell you firsthand that it is no fun having too much luggage! Besides, now it is costing more and more on flights for extra weight. More weight often means more wait in many circumstances.
12. Preserve your memories. I keep a travel scrapbook for our family, in which I make one page for each trip we take. If you’re not into scrapbooking, consider making a short slideshow to view with your kids days, months, or years later. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
For us, family vacations are important. They have knit us together in a way that every day life can’t.
What are your vacation plans for the summer?
This post is linked to Frugal Fridays.