Whether you are taking a family vacation on a warm, sunny beach or traveling to Washington, D.C. for a first-hand lesson in American history, you will have more fun and relaxation if you plan ahead using these tips:
- Book early. When you book early, you can take advantage of early booking discounts, special hotel offers, not to mention the dates you need to fit into your children’s school schedule.
- Choose family friendly destinations. You may not want a destination that features nightclubs if your children go to bed at 8 pm; instead you will want plenty of entertaining daytime activities or historical/cultural learning opportunities.
- Choose hotels that cater to families. Some hotels have “kids stay and eat free” offers. They might also provide temporary childcare, or have special activities, programs, or facilities for children.
- Consider an all-inclusive option. All-inclusive resorts and vacations are often a better value for families, since they include meals, beverages, and a variety of activities. If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort, everything is included, so you don’t need to carry around your wallet every time one of your kids needs a drink or snack.
- Buy a vacation package. You can save up to 20 percent on the cost of your vacation if you buy a vacation package with your hotel and airfare together. Plus, vacation packages frequently include extras that can save you more money, like food, drinks, discount passes, continental breakfasts, and roundtrip airport transfers.
- Pack light, pack smart. In your carry on luggage, pack prescription medication, suntan lotion, swimsuits, and one change of clothes, just in case. If you arrive at your destination and your luggage does not, you can still take the kids to the beach!
- Before you leave, make your house look lived in. Stop the mail and newspapers or have a neighbor pick them up and also mow your grass, shovel the walks, make tire tracks in the driveway, and check the house periodically. Leave an itinerary with them.
- Bring proper identification for you AND your children. If you’re going to a country outside the United States, be prepared to prove that you are married to your spouse, and that you are the parents of your children. Foreign country entry documentation requirements change frequently so be sure to check well before you leave, and you can be denied boarding your airplane if you fail to produce the right documents. If you’ll be traveling out of the country, make two copies of your passport and bring along a spare. Also, give a copy to someone at home in case your copy is lost or stolen.
- Eat before the airplane. Remember most airlines no longer serve meals. While there are a few meals sold on-board, do not rely on these to feed your family. Eat before you go to the airport, or once in the airport and past security, stop for snacks or a meal before the gate.
- Be prepared for the security check. Have your identification and boarding passes easily accessible as you go through the security lines. Remember the 3-1-1 rule for carry-ons: 3 ounce bottles or less (by volume) in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag and only 1 bag per passenger. Drink up your pop or water before security, as you will have to dispose of it at security. Try not to wear too much jewelry, belts, watches and metal accessories. Have everyone wear slip-on shoes if possible – some airport parking lots even offer disposable flip-flops to wear through the line once your shoes are on the belt.
- Make safety a priority. Don’t rely on lifeguards to watch your children at the pool or the beach. Always apply sunscreen and re-apply often whether you are at the beach or walking the streets of Paris! The stronger sunshine feels great, but can also cause a vacation-ruining burn if you do not use protection. In public places, establish a meeting place in case you become separated.
- Be prepared with first aid. It’s a long trip to the car or the hotel room for a band-aid if someone steps on a sharp seashell, or Mom’s new shoes become uncomfortable! Visit the beach, amusement parks, museums and other attractions with at least one bottle of water and some bandages on hand to make minor scrapes no big deal.