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How to Make Your Family Vacation a Great One

Summer is here, which means it’s time to think about family vacations! (If you haven’t been thinking about them all year, that is.)

The family part of family vacations, however, can make things a little complicated. You want to choose a destination that is fun for everyone, including the kids. You want to ensure they’re safe on the trip, wherever you go. And you probably want to figure out how to make traveling with them easier, too.

We’ve got you covered with some great tips, so you can relax when you hit the road—or at least after you get to where you’re going.

Instead of thinking about where to go, first think about what you want to do.

Experts interviewed by the New York Times recommend starting with figuring out what you want to do on your vacation, because that will help you narrow your list of possible destinations. Want a laid-back trip with lazy days, but one that will still keep kids of all ages engaged? Maybe a beach trip is best. Looking for a few thrills? Theme parks are great for kids ages 3-12 (younger kids might not be able to go on many of the rides, and older kids might not be as enthusiastic). Think it would be best to give everyone a chance to do their own thing? Cruises have lots of family-friendly options, along with chances for kids to be more independent.

To help the kids feel good about where they’re headed, you can let them choose some of the activities for certain days, or actively involve them in designing the entire itinerary.

Think about how you’ll get there, too.

Traveling with kids—especially young ones—can be a challenge. For trips longer than a couple of hours, one old trick is to wrap up inexpensive toys or treats for children and use them as a reward for good behavior. For every hour they’re good, they get to open a present. Not only will that help keep them in line, it will keep them occupied for the hour in between.

Some vacations require a flight, of course, but car trips and train travel can be great options for families. In the car, you’ve got flexibility and control—you can meander and explore along the way, break the trip up however you like, and pull over whenever you want for rest or a fun activity. You don’t have as much control on a train, but there’s plenty of space to move around, and kids often find it fun to watch the world go by outside.

Keep safety in mind.

When you’re away from home, no matter what kind of vacation you’ve planned, make sure your kids know what to do if you get separated or there’s an emergency. recommends that families practice these situations—and create “information cards” for kids to carry that include phone numbers, where you’re staying, etc. Having your children wear bright, recognizable clothing, or even using GPS devices to keep track of them, are good ideas as well.

Another useful trick many parents use is taking a photo of each child every morning before embarking on the day’s adventures. Then, if someone gets lost, you have a current photo to share so people know exactly what to look for.

Don’t try to do too much.

As one travel-company professional and mother of three told the New York Times, make sure to build some downtime into your itinerary—she recommends limiting planned activities to a half-day or less. The rest of the day can still be fun, but give yourself a break with some time at the pool or a local park.

There’s no way to guarantee a great vacation, obviously. But with a little planning and consideration, you and your family will be well on your way. Safe travels this summer!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.


Charlotte Fleet

Monday, January 27, 2020 at 6:16pm EST

I am glad you mention the importance of deciding what to do first rather than where to go since it can help narrow down the possible destinations. My husband and I have been wanting to plan a trip for the whole family for a while but haven’t been able to think of somewhere that has everything we want. I think instead we should make a list of the things everyone wants to do and then look for vacation rentals in that area.

David Richardson

Friday, January 21, 2022 at 10:59am EST

My best tip? Take the stress out of driving and take Red Coach buses. They are family friendly and have wifi and very comfortable seats. That is just one tip I have to share. I like the recommendations you have made about great accommodations too.

Zoe Campos

Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 4:36am EST

I totally agree that summer is the perfect time to think and plan for family vacations. My kids are really excited since I promised them that I’ll be inviting some of their cousins to join us. I guess I should start my search for spacious vacation rentals that could accommodate everyone invited.

Rebecca Gardner

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at 2:57pm EDT

I like your idea to think about what we want to do so we can narrow down the list of potential vacation destinations. My husband and I want to plan a fun vacation for us and our three kids this summer since we’ll finally be safe from the pandemic. Maybe we’ll look for a destination with activities like zip-lining and rating since those would be fun activities for our family!

Alexa Jordan

Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 11:11pm EDT

Great tips. I especially love your last point. Family vacations don’t have to be over planned to be fun and it’s about spending time together.

Thomas Clarence

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 at 2:21pm EDT

I like how you explained that car trips can be great options for families when they are traveling. When you are picking your accommodations, it would be important to make sure that you pick a place that has enough room for your family. If your family is going to be spending a lot of time in the car together, they are going to want a place where they can spread out and have their own space.

Greg Nelson

Saturday, July 31, 2021 at 11:23pm EDT

Transportation is tricky with families too. I like using Red Coach buses because it is comfortable for everyone. Great tips. In the comments too.

Greta James

Thursday, November 18, 2021 at 2:51pm EST

I appreciate the advice to not try to pack too many activities in a day so you have downtime. I am taking my family on a vacation next year, and we have all decided that we want to go to the beach. I think it would be smart to find family-friendly accommodations that will allow us to relax and hang out with each other.

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