Tips for Planning the Perfect Family Vacation

traveltheme parks & cruise vacations

We all have the best of intentions when we are planning our family vacations. We don't anticipate there being any problems or stress since it is a vacation, right? If you don't plan carefully, you will need a vacation from your vacation. Vacations are meant to be as stress free as possible. Here are my top tips for planning the perfect family vacation.


Tips for Planning the Perfect Family Vacation

Choose Your Destination

Traveling with 3 kids that range from 11 to 17 can be a bit of a challenge. We find it difficult to find family activities that we all enjoy doing together. We recently planned a trip to Southern California. We had a family meeting and asked everyone what they would like to do while we were there. My 11 year old and I wanted to go to Disneyland and California Adventure. My 17 year old daughter and husband wanted to go to Sea World. Set up a family meeting, and discuss all your options. Put together a fun itinerary that the whole family will enjoy.

Make a Flexible Itinerary

After you decide what you want to do on your vacation, write out an itinerary. Make sure you include back up ideas in case you need to change up your plans. Sometimes you had to skip items because you ran out of time or are too tired to do what you had planned. Being flexible is what takes the stress out of your vacation. When we were at California Adventure, I wanted to attend some of the fabulous shows they have there. We planned this into our day so we could attend the "World of Color". Disneyland has so many fun shows to choose from, that it was hard to choose just one. The kids knew they had to cut going on rides short so we could get a good spot for the show, but they did it willingly. In the end, they actually enjoyed the show as much as I did. Additional information on park operating hours, attractions and entertainment can be found at

Stick to a Budget

The last thing you want to have happen when you go on vacation is run out of money. Set a travel budget and stick to it. There are lots of ways to cut costs and still have fun.

  • Book Hotels Online - Since we were traveling to several locations on our trip, we used Expedia and to book our hotels. We were able to search hotels in each city, and compare prices and amenities. Booking your hotels online can save you anywhere from $50 to $75 dollars a night.
  • Receive a Free Breakfast - Find a hotel with free continental breakfast. We did this several times on our trip and were able to save quite a bit of money.
  • Take a Cooler - We packed around a cooler every where we went. We found that was the best way to save money on eating out. We made sandwiches for lunch and then went out for a nice dinner. I was surprised that Disneyland let you take snacks and water bottles into the park. Because of this, we were able to spend our money on a nice dinner there and still be able to buy souvenirs for the kids. Score!
  • Book a Room With a Kitchenette - Whenever possible, book a hotel that has a kitchenette. Because we had a cooler with food for our day trips, being able to store our food in a fridge at night was very helpful.


Know the Details

There are a lot of details to consider when you are planning a family vacation.

  • What time of year are you going?
  • What will the weather be like?
  • Are there any events going on at that time?
  • What tourist attractions are in the area you are traveling to?

As I mentioned before, our family went to Disneyland while we were in Southern California. Our family hasn't been to Disneyland in over 6 years. I know, we were long overdue. When we started researching some of the park's amenities, we knew we had to spend time at both Disneyland and California Adventure. We had never been to California Adventure before, so we decided to get a one day park hopper ticket and hit both parks in the same day. Because our children are a little older, we planned a 16 hour day at the two parks and enjoyed every minute of it. We knew what rides we wanted to go on first and were able to plan ahead so we could do everything we wanted. I have to say, going to Cars Land and riding the "Radiator Springs Racers" was the highlight of our trip. It is something you have to plan to do when you are there.

Packing Tips

Most people have a tendency to over pack on vacation. Consider taking only 4 or 5 outfits and find a hotel with a laundry facility. This will make packing not only easier, but much easier to cart around with you. If you are going to the beach on your vacation, consider packing all your beach items together so you can quickly grab them and go. We did this with our beach toys, towels, and chairs and it saved us a lot of stress and time. Roll your clothes so you have more room in your suitcase. This really works!


Create Memories

Don't forget to take pictures and videos on your trip. Take pictures of signs so when you look back on your trip, you will remember where you were and what you did. Take pictures of not only people, but the things that are unique to that area. I loved all the beach flowers on my vacation. I couldn't help but stop and take in the beauty each time we went to a new area. While we were watching the "World of Color" show, we practiced our night photography. The pictures turned out amazing!

What are some of your top travel tips? What are your favorite things to do at Disneyland and California Adventure?

My trip to Disneyland was compensated by Disneyland. All options and tips are my own.

Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She gave that up 19 years ago when she got married and started having kids. She loved being a stay-at-home mom while raising her four beautiful children. She now works for the Mom It Forward team as a Sales Manager. She loves her job. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy. Connect with Mom It Forward on TwitterFB, and G+.

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