Ten Tips for Traveling with the Family
Updated: Jan 9
"Let's all go! It'll be so much fun to do something big all together" That's how the adventure of the big family vacation always starts.
What they don't tell you, is it's a lot of work to make an extended family vacation work! I know; my family took on the mammoth of the full family trip to Walt Disney World in February 2019. LET ME TELL YOU.... If you think get togethers for the weekend or a holiday are hard to plan, a vacation is a whole other conversation! From gathering everyone's schedules to making sure there's a time carved out for each person's "must do", it really does take time to make the plans perfect. Here's my top ten tips from personal experience for planning your big family vacation, along with some trip pics because my niece and nephews were an absolute BLAST (no sarcasm, they're awesome) to enjoy the magic of Disney with!
10.) Start Planning Early
Getting everyone to have the same time off is definitely one of the biggest struggles of planning a full family vacation - family reunion as many call them - and it will absolutely take time to find the best dates that work for everyone. Not only do you have to look at work schedules, school and activity calendars, but you also want to think about your destination and their peak attendance times. My family trip to Walt Disney World landed in the late winter/early spring. This time was right between the Epcot Festival of the Arts and Flower and Garden Festival, it also landed after the runDisney Princess Half Marathon weekend, meaning there wouldn't be that extra draw of crowd! One sacrifice that was made - school schedules. Honestly growing up we always took trips during the school year and I made up the work----this is NOT for everyone, be sure to assess the student's workload and ability to work outside of the classroom prior to making this decision.
9.) Pick the Right Destination
Traveling as a family/larger group usually means a wide range of ages; selecting the right type of vacation destination will be paramount to making the trip enjoyable for everyone. Many families, like ours, choose to travel to the Happiest Place on Earth... Walt Disney World! Disney has a special place in my family; my parent's Honeymooned there, I went multiple times through my childhood, I interned there in college, I honeymooned there.. it's special. With our family history and the fact that my brother's kids were 6, 3, and 2 years old it was a no brainer that Disney was going to be our landing pad!
Now, if your family isn't about rides, characters, theatrical entertainment... don't pick a theme park! There are so many great destinations that can fulfill the all ages enjoyment! Want sun and sand? Head to a beach! Looking for some new cuisine and sight seeing? Check out a new city... or country! Want some quiet time to be with each other and maybe try something new? Check out cabin rentals in the mountains! There are endless possibilities waiting for you!
8.) Make a Financial Plan
I cannot stress this one enough. Talk with everyone going about the money! Finances of a group trip really do add up. Especially as the group grows! Who is paying for what is extremely important when determining your plans. It's really important to discuss the options. Is everyone paying their own amount, is the full trip being split evenly, one reservation or multiple, is one person paying and taking everyone on the trip? These kinds of questions can absolutely be uncomfortable, money always is, but they are vital to a smooth planning process. Expectations being communicated are the #1 way to make sure they are met!
7.) Plan one Special thing for Each Person/Family
Our family trip combined four separate households, 10 people, three generations... let's just say that there were many different "must do" items on the list, and thankfully, a few of them overlapped! Making sure every person or family breakdown in the group has one thing in particular to satisfy their wish for the trip is super important to making the whole trip harmonious. Whether it's all going to a show, dining reservation, attraction, or simply making sure you have a pool and play day, ticking those boxes will ensure no-one feels left out or not thought of!
6.) Take Breaks
Just like those adorable little ones are doing, it's super important to take breaks! Take a break from the action, take a break from the sun, take a break from each other! Rest and recuperation is vital to keeping your energy up! Like they say.. you can't fill from an empty cup, and I fully believe that stands on vacation too! If you're spending all your time at maximum energy and engagement, it is going to drain you very quickly! Couple the lost energy with the other pulls that come with a trip - hunger, dehydration/headaches, the inevitable disagreement- rest is a great reset for everyone! I like to schedule breaks so everyone knows they're coming and can plan for that time!
5.) Try Something New
Experiencing something new together is a great way to bond as a group. Try a new cuisine, see a new show, zip line, sky dive, scuba dive, surf, ski... anything! If it's something new, try it! I also recommend putting this new experience in the middle of your trip. That will allow for everyone to get "settled in" to vacation mode, get re-bonded if it's been a while since you've seen each other, and also leave for time to enjoy the story telling between each other after your adventure! Shared experiences are the best way to create lasting memories, which is what we all really want out of it all.
4.) Take the Picture
The best pictures happen in the little moments, and I promise those are the ones you really don't want to miss! One thing I've learned in my travels is that here in the USA we have an odd (to others) tradition of posing and smiling for every photo. Did you know that's not a thing everywhere?! When traveling to Denmark to visit family once, my exchange sister made the remark that we didn't have to force every picture moment. We had been enjoying the day and kept stopping to take pictures.. not realizing that in stopping to have the perfect posed photo, we were missing out on the moments that we should have been capturing. I get it, we all want to look our best for the 'gram or we just aren't feeling the most confident in our bodies... trust me I am right there with ya buddy, but looking back on some of my photos I wish I could have captured the true essence of the moment. SO go ahead and take the candid shots. Take the pictures of laughter (for real) of the tears of amazement, the big hugs hello and goodbye. Those moments will be with you a lifetime, and when you look back they will be like a time machine back to your best moments.
3.) Skip the Diet
Okay, so I'm not saying to completely gorge yourself to the point of being ill, but like Garfield and his lasagna, enjoy your meals! Taking a vacation is like one big planned splurge; it's okay to do that with your meals for the time as well! I absolutely love using my vacation time to try new foods! While a lot of my trips happen to be to the same place (ahem Disney), that does not mean that I am limited to the same food every time! There are so many restaurants between the parks, resorts, and Disney Springs, that it would be a long time before I can say I've tried it all - which my husband and I are determined to do! Take one less stress off of your plate (duh dun tssss - pun) and don't worry about what you eat!
2.) Prepare yourself
This one is a bit broad because there is so much to prepare yourself for... be it meltdowns if there are children, delays because groups take quite a bit of time to gather and go, for appropriate weather conditions (pack your ponchos, sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses), group outfits -like mine pictured, or snacks ..because hangry happens, it's really important to manage your own expectations and be prepared for things to not always go according to plan.
1.) Use a Travel Agent
Travel Agents - like myself - have the knowledge, experience, and passion for making vacation plans work! Your agent takes care of filling out your booking information, payments, reservations, updating plans when they inevitably change, and cancelling when something comes up. We spend the hours on the phone making sure your allergy friendly dining needs will be accommodated and your special requests can be met. Like I've said, making it all come together, especially for groups, can be extremely tough; a Travel Agent can help take away the load of the planning details while letting you focus on how much fun you are going to have and what souvenirs you plan to bring home. Oh, and of course what delicious meals await you at your table!
SO! There it is.. my top ten tips for traveling with your family or group! I hope these helped you to start thinking about your next group vacation! Remember, planning travel magic doesn't have to be hard!
And a few more of my family pics to leave you with magic!