Sunday 21 July 2013

Vacation Planning Tips From 17 Years of #FamilyTravel #traveltips #travel

Some vacation planning tips from 17 years of travelling with my kids.

Family vacations and road trips don’t just magically happen. They are successful because someone (ME!) had a plan to make our family vacation enjoyable, engaging and as stress-free as possible for everyone in the family. I approach planning a family vacation like I would any other major event. There is a schedule: 6 months before, 1 month before, 2 weeks before, 1 week before, 1 day before, and the last minute and final touches.
I have driven to Florida at least 6 times, Myrtle Beach twice, PEI once, as well as camping (Killbear 8 hr drive), and Boston twice. I have flown to Florida with my kids with, and without my husband, and to Italy. I have travelled with my kids since they they were very young, and I have learned a thing or two along the way. I would like to share some of those things with you.
I have divided this into 2 parts: The first covering the planning schedule at 6 months and 1 month prior to the vacation, and the second post covering the last minute schedule of 2 weeks, 1 week and the day before the vacation. I sincerely hope that some of my ideas and tips are helpful for planning your family's vacation.

Six Months Before: The 5 - W’s and the H
(Where, When, Who, Why, What and How)

  • Where are we going: Where is our trip destination? Will there be multiple stops along the way, or only a single destination?
  • When are we going: When is the date and duration of the trip? How might the time of year, or days you travel on impact the trip, (e.g. expense, lineups, traffic)?
  • Who is going: Are all family members going (including pets)? What arrangements need to be made for pets? Are extending family joining you, or meeting you there? 
  • Why are you going here: What are the expectations of all the family members going? Is an all-inclusive?  Are there specific reasons for picking this trip (bucket list, cheap accommodation, etc)? By clarifying some of these questions it will be much easier to decide on a vacation and to manage expectations.
  • What are we going to do there: What is there to do? What equipment is needed? Can it be rented? Each type of vacation will have different answers. For instance camping will be different than a Disney vacation.
  • How are we getting there:  Mode of transportation, route, etc?  All of these need to be considered and compared. If you are flying will you need to rent a car? If you are driving, route and accommodation along the route are considerations.
  • How are we paying for this trip: What is the budget for the trip, and how are we saving and paying for it? What are some of the ways to save and cut costs for this trip? Are there discounts or loyalty points that can be used? How far in advance do we need to order/book in order to use these points or discounts? This should include looking into travel insurance cost and coverage.
  • ARE YOUR PASSPORTS UP TO DATE! The US requires that you have at least 6 months remaining before expiry date on your passport. This means if your passport expires in January 2014 you can travel using it until July2013. 
  • IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING WITH MINORS WITHOUT THE MINOR'S OTHER PARENT? You require Authorization to Travel from the other parent to cross International Borders. They ask for it, especially when flying. Be sure you have it! 
Check out these links to helpful sites to find out exactly what you need to travel into the US and abroad.

One month before the trip: Devil is in the Details:
Someone (ME!) has to make arrangements for:

  • Someone to collect the mail, flyers, and package deliveries while you are away.
  • Snow removal or lawn cutting while you are away.
  • Someone to check the house for you while you are away. Check your house insurance provider requirements for this, and how long the house can be unoccupied without impacting your coverage.
  • Check to make sure there are no prescription renewals due while you're away. You may need to get your doctor to authorize an early renewal. Be sure to leave prescriptions in the original prescription bottle.
  • Inform teachers if you are taking the kid(s) out of school now, and request any work due prior to trip, or work they are required to during the trip. Often teachers will ask for a trip journal, so make a folder for ticket stubs, park maps, programs, etc.
  • Now is the time to get your International Driver’s Licence if you plan to, or require it. (these can be obtained through CAA)
You'll find more travel tips and ideas under the blogs TRIPS and TRAVEL tab.

 Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about family travel. 


  1. From the other Catherine, I too, plan it all. We have camped since the kids were in cloth diapers (that took quite the arrangement planning); I have taken two of my three to Barbados with the letter from my husband, we have driven out East, up north to Moosenee (part train travel). I believe I have planning down to an art form. Sometimes they have complained about my choices for vacations but not once has hubby offered to do all the work involved,so he goes along with me and all has always turned out well.

    1. Planning is everything! Be Prepared! It is a big job to do by yourself, but at least when I get there I have what I need. Once the planning is done and we leave I relax and follow Hubby's advice. We have passports, Money and a Visa card. If we need something we will buy it! It has worked so far. Barbados is lovely I have been twice. Once with Hubby eldest (18 months)and Mom as a babysitter. I was 6 months pregnant with second. The second time just Hubby and I. Both trips were lovely.

  2. I actually work for a travel agency and your Canadian passport does NOT have to be valid for 6 months to travel to the US. It only has to be valid for the length of your trip :) I've traveled to the US on a passport that was days away from expiring.

    1. Hi Shayna. I have travelled many times to the US but my passport has always had at least a year left until expiry. I was told this by a passport agent when I renewed my passport the year passports became mandatory for travel into the US. Thanks for the update and for sharing it with me, it's much appreciated.

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