Family Travel Planning Tips

You want to travel with your family to deepen bonds and create memories to last a lifetime.

In today’s busy world it is important to take time to reconnect with each other. Time goes by so quickly and you want to use travel to broaden the lives of the children in yours, to leave a lasting legacy of life-long learning for you all.

Family travel can lead to launching children into the Great Adventure that is their lives!

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Planning Family Travel: A Guide to Traveling With Children and Grandchildren

a family together on the beach, happy vacation times after they used our family travel guide

Families don’t just get together at the holidays anymore. These days “multi-generational” travel is a popular way for grandparents to spend more time with their grandchildren- and leave a lasting legacy as well. And now, traveling with three generations is increasingly popular. When families are spread out all over the country, what better way of creating close connections and lasting memories of times together than a well-planned trip that everyone can enjoy?

That said, coordinating a trip catered to everyone’s needs and wants seems quite daunting. But here are some guidelines to make the planning a breeze!

family aboard taking a national geographic endavour in Galapagos on their luxury family travel trip

Step One- Plan Early

Because you are planning EVERYONE’S vacation, look at the calendar for the coming year. While grandparents can be more flexible with their time, the work schedule of the adult children and school and goodness knows, the activity schedules of the grandkids really dictate when time together can happen!

family on a safari in jeep, great reminder to include each family member's needs

Step Two- Get a List of Everyone’s Interests and Needs

It is best to get everyone involved in the planning- or at least the dreaming portion. Even the youngest can have an opinion- even if it is the comfy-ness of their crib! Seriously, though, for all to “buy in” to a trip have them make a Top 5 list of destinations they’d like see along with a Top 3 list of their interests and desires of things to do.  It can’t be stressed enough that ALL should feel as if their travel needs were met.

When a grandparent is taking one grandchild at a time, it is important to enlist the kids in the planning.  You want the trip to be fun for you both.   Sure, you can show them the world (or a smaller corner of it), but no one likes to be dragged around to all the “important” sights.  Build in play, downtime and time to explore a particular interest.  Make sure you add in activities you can enjoy together like catching an international soccer game, or taking a cooking class.  If the child has a particularly strong interest, take your lead from them and build a trip around that.  Do they love animals? A safari experience and perhaps some time volunteering at an animal refuge might be a dream come true!

zebras on family travel safari

Step Three- Talk to a Travel Advisor and be STRESS-FREE

Now that you have your lists are compiled, it is time to create structure.  A Travel Advisor not only can get you group rates for your tribe, she can also make sure everyone’s special needs are met.  No one knows your kids (and grandkids) like you do….BUT trust an expert to take your knowledge and work out all the details, from the big (rooms, transportation and activities) to the tiniest (who needs allergen-free pillows or has special dietary needs).

A Travel Expert can anticipate your needs, choosing hotels with truly useful perks like a free laundry service, kid-friendly guides, and cultural experiences that you never could have booked on your own, such as meeting a family in their home who can engage everyone, kids included, in their way of life.  A family wanting to travel at the festive time in Europe enjoyed the special dinner I had arranged for them on Christmas Day, but it was midnight Mass in the cathedral that struck the right note because I knew this musical family would enjoy the fully orchestrated Mozart Mass in D and the final carol Stille Nacht sung by a few members of the choir with only a guitar.

But here’s the BONUS:  your Travel Advisor is the expert who can who takes the calls to answer questions and deal with the particulars.  The planning process should be fun- even for the lead organizer.  You should not, in other words, be left as the “head cat-herder” to make this experience happen!  Put that on someone else’s shoulders.

ADDITIONAL BONUS: your travel advisor can not only arrange private tours, get special rates, get you front-of-the-line access (because nothing says “get me outta here” more than a bored child on a looooong line) and other benefits you can’t get on your own, the right travel advisor can suggest things you wouldn’t know to ask for!

global citizens taking a multigen cooking class on their luxury family travel trip

Step Four – Plan for times together- and times apart!

Yes, we love our family, but we can’t all be in step all of the time.  Kids need naps, young adults will want to be very active, grandparents may dream of sitting a reading a book every so often. After all, this IS a vacation, right? So make it a vacation for everyone, according to their style:

-Plan time for activities together all will enjoy, and put these on the itinerary first as the cornerstones. This way, everyone will know what to expect and when. On a recent trip to Costa Rica a family wanted to learn to surf together, so that was placed on a day during their beach portion.

family on a luxury family adventure travel trip excursion

…but It is just as important to “plan” breaks. The family knew the older kids would want to practice their new-found skills more, while the others could rest, relax, let younger ones nap. So plan those breaks, but plan also to keep the grandkids occupied during those times. There are many ways to do this, from a guided activity just for the younger ones so that parents can pursue another interest and grandparents can enjoy some down time to a kids’ camp on property.

couple in beach chairs on island

-It is just as important to plan days or portions of days where free time can be spent apart so family units or individuals can have the opportunity to purse their own interests- or just take a break from activity. Imagine the fun of gathering again at the end of the day to tell stories of your adventures! Another option is to hire babysitters for time for mom and dad to have a special date.

Step Five – Expect the Unexpected

As with any large gathering or important event, it may not always go exactly as laid out. The weather may turn uncooperative for the day you wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower; a luggage piece might not make it to Santiago when you do. A vacation is supposed to be relaxing, fun and memorable. Spend any time not exactly in the plan by sharing stories (“what your Mom was like when she was your age”) and create a legacy of calmness and flexibility in the face of the unexpected. Just remember that you have a Travel Advisor as your secret weapon to fix hiccups and smooth your way. All you have to do is relax and enjoy the journey.

So here are a few ideas to get you started on planning your next family gathering:

1. Make it easy with a cruise or sailing. Cruise are good because they have an all (or most all)-inclusiveness about them. A floating hotel so you unpack just once. Dining and activities for all ages abound; kids and teen clubs; entertainment for all. To make your experience more exclusive, and therefore more contained, book space in the concierge levels of the ship.

For more cultural immersion- particularly for the tweens and teens as well as adults, consider a family river cruise into the heart of a region. Another fun option might be to charter a yacht with a captain and crew- the ultimate in freedom!

2. A fun way to engage everyone and meet new people who share the same interests and kids of the same ages is an organized tour. They are great

2. when you want a built in itinerary with planned activities and down time to explore. But don’t choose just any one.  Choose one that will get you all the great benefits and access a family needs.  (Your Travel Advisor can help). **Here’s a good tip: Your family could take over the whole group space- and have the tour customized!

3. Plan a theme for your vacation.  What fun to be immersed in an idea!  Does nature excite? There are exquisite trips to the Galapagos. Adventure? Excitement abounds in Australia! The Great Outdoors? Why not a luxury ranch or a privately guided trip to the great National Parks out West?

One of my clients went to Greece around the themes of culture, ancient history and Biblical history.  The kids made local handicrafts, the family ate with a Greek family; they dressed as characters from ancient Greece and acted out roles from history at the Acropolis with their very engaging scholar-guide; they followed in Paul’s footsteps one day to Corinth and beyond.

Another client took his grandkids to New Zealand because they loved loved loved movies- especially the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not only did they visit sites where the movies were filmed, they went with private access to the filming and post-production studios where they were immersed in sound and makeup methods.  They even held an Oscar!

4. Don’t expect to see everything on your bucket list. Going too many places with kids is a recipe for melt down.

A family decided to go to Greece because each of their children had been introduced to some aspect of its history. Much of the touring was in Athens and the mainland. The parents also wanted to take them to Santorini where they had honeymooned, but I convinced them to stay on a lesser-known island that would allow for a mid-week ferry ride to visit more sites on the mainland for this trip and break up touring with the relaxation that was also on their list for this trip.  So after Athens and one day trip from there, they stayed a week at a villa on a beach with a butler/cook and pool for true relaxation and local cultural immersion because they could ride bikes to a nearby small fishing village and ancient ruins far off the tourist radar.

5. Prioritize doing, not seeing. Kids connect and remember the fun times they have creating or being actively engaged. A mask-making session in a workshop in Venice, feeding elephants at a sanctuary in South Africa, fishing from a wooden boat on the Sea of Galilee, riding the range on a cattle drive in Montana all sear wonderful memories into the family fabric.

6. Employ a private driver to do more touring. It also allowed you to leave a bag in the vehicle with spare clothes, water, toys, and other in-a-pinch supplies, carrying only the essentials with you as you tour.

7. .Help your child create a “Things that Are Different” or “New Things I Tried” book.  as a way to turn potential negatives into positives, and to engage kids in really seeing what’s around them.

8. Splurge at the end. And during.  Sleep and comfort is, well, comforting at the end of a busy day.  Nothing soothes frazzled nerves like a good night’s rest. Families cramming into the same room gets tiresome after a few nights.  Hotels have gotten the hint that families are different from the traditional traveler and have stepped up for them. Special menus, connecting rooms, suites with bedrooms, special kids’ clubs and play areas can be game changers for the young set.  Farther afield, you can opt for houses, villas or apartments that give much-needed personal space.

With a good Travel Advisor, anything can be done to make your family time moments to remember for always!

family celebration luxury family travel trip on beach

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