I love family travel. I mean, I love to travel. I know everyone says they love to travel, but I really do. I don’t live in the same country as my parents or siblings so our family makes a point of getting together at least once, usually twice per year (and if we are really lucky three times). Much of the time we just all go to my parents’ house, however lately we have been meeting up at other locations. However, this gets complicated without a plan.
Let’s take last year’s big trip. My parents wanted to show their grandchildren the country that they had grown up in. We had three separate family units with two different types of passports spending three weeks in four foreign countries. And the longest we stayed in any one lodging was for three nights.
So where to start? There are three key elements in family travel that need to be agreed on, i.e., pre-planned, before any actual planning has begun: the dates; the place; and the budget.
Related: Travel Problems And Event Planning
Confirm The Family Travel Dates Far In Advance
Kids have school. Adults have work. My sister used to teach in a different school district than her children and their days off didn’t always match up. My brother’s job is so variable that we always save a bed (or a sofa) for him in case he is able to show up at the last minute. If multiple families want to travel together the first thing to do is find dates that work for everyone.
Sometimes the dates are decided for you. When I got married in Ecuador, our friends and family from the US used our wedding as an excuse to visit a country that they would not otherwise consider visiting. Two couples who had gotten married in the years prior included our wedding as part of their belated honeymoons.
Family travel could also be due to another planned event. A few years ago we planned a trip to The Netherlands during our children’s spring break. We did not have any leeway with our dates. But my parents had been thinking about taking a riverboat cruise in France that same spring. So they just scheduled their trip to be at a time where they could spend a few days with us in Amsterdam prior to their cruise.
Family Travel Needs A Destination Decision Early
As mentioned above, sometimes the destination is already decided for you. But if it has not been determined yet, a good place to start is thinking about where you don’t want to go. For example, my parents are retired and they do not want to leave Chicago in winter only to travel somewhere that is cold.
It is also possible that your passport will decide where you go. My husband does not have a US passport, while the rest of our family does. So while we have visa-free travel to Europe, he needs to get a visa, which costs about $100 and (usually) takes between a month and six weeks to get (put these details in your planning software!).
With those caveats in mind, here are some questions that can lead you to an agreeable destination.
- Do you want to stay in the country or travel internationally?
- Do you want to go to a new destination or one that you’ve been to before?
- Do you want to visit a place to know your family heritage?
- Will you be staying in one place or traveling to multiple cities?
- Will you be staying with friends or family or at resorts, hotels, hostels, camping, or airbnb?
- Do you want to prepare your own meals or eat out at local restaurants?
With these questions in mind, you can come up with ideas of where to go among yourselves. You can also turn to the internet for ideas, there are plenty of quizzes online that can also help you find a destination.
Agree On How Much You Want Everyone To Spend
Your trip can cost as much or as little as you can imagine. I’ve backpacked through Eastern Africa spending less than $15/day (back in 2003) by pitching my tent in the yard of hostels, eating local food, and traveling via public transport (sometimes even hitchhiking). I’ve also stayed at all-inclusive resorts that cost $1000/night per couple. When you are traveling with other family members you will need to decide what sort of budget you will have.
You will also need to figure out who is paying for what. Some family trips share costs equally, for example, two siblings with a spouse and two kids each share the cost of renting a beach house (though they pay for their own transport). Other trips have parents paying for children or children paying for parents. In these cases, make sure it is clear who is paying for what.
Once the dates, place, and budget are set, the planning can get started. Then it’s only a matter of logistics.