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How to plan a family trip

A young girl and her parents walk through the corridor at an airport, ready to go on holiday.

Planning family trips well ahead of time can be a great way to save money and time in the lead up to your holiday, as well as making it easier for you to find the perfect deal for you and your family.

How to plan a family road trip

If you’ve resolved to get started early this year when planning a family trip, good on you. Planning early can often mean a lower price tag, and may even afford you more choice in terms of destinations and activities. Unfortunately, though, big trips can be tricky to plan for when there’s so much to do - it can be easy to fall into the trap of putting it off until the last minute.

If that sounds familiar, don’t worry. The key to tackling a big task is to break it down into smaller, more manageable chunks and do them bit by bit over a longer period of time. This can mean planning for your planning, but it doesn’t have to be strenuous. More often than not, all you need is a checklist of what needs to be done so you can visualise the whole task and monitor your progress as the big date approaches.

Fortunately for you, we’ve got some suggestions to get you started.

Choose a destination

Picking a destination is the first and arguably most important step to planning a family holiday. It’s also something the whole family can get involved in for suggestions and discussions - although bear in mind that your children might not be taking budget into consideration!

Remember, a family holiday to somewhere distant and exotic can be fun, but so can a UK staycation. When considering a location, it can be more effective to start by thinking about what’s there rather than the actual destination - for example, whether you’d prefer a sunny beach holiday or a city break.

Consider what you'll need to pack

Making a packing list is an excellent way to avoid forgetting items of clothing or accessories you’ll need on your holiday. It can also be a great way to bring the kids in on planning - both in terms of asking them what they’d like to bring and letting them be a bit more independent in packing for themselves with the list to guide them.

With that said, we do recommend that you check over your children’s bags before setting off just to make sure that your and your children’s idea of ‘essential’ are the same. This is especially important if you’re crossing borders, as some items may not make it through airport security and luggage weight limits can catch you out - no matter how much your child ‘really needs’ their 20-story box set with them on holiday.

When setting out your planning list, it’s fine to have a template you work from for every holiday, but don’t forget to tailor it for the trip you’re planning. For example, if you’re going on a beach holiday, you probably won’t need wellies, but sandals will come in handy. Make sure to cover all the things you wouldn’t necessarily automatically think of, such as slippers for walking around in the hotel or B&B. If it will make your children more comfortable and help to avoid disrupting their routine so much, it’s a shoe-in for your packing list.

Be prepared to be flexible

Our last tip is to be prepared to be flexible once you’ve arrived. It’s advisable to plan plenty of rest and buffer time between activities to give children a chance to decompress and mentally prepare for the next part of the day. As a general rule, the younger your children are, the more time they’ll need.

It’s also a good idea to be flexible in terms of what you’re planning from the outset. You might be all for visiting those ruins, but your children may have other preferences. If that’s the case, it doesn’t mean you have to give up your plans, but instead you could take the opportunity to teach your children about compromise. You’ll all go to see the ruins, but perhaps in the afternoon you’ll do something the children want to do in recompense.

It’s important to continue this practice even as your children become teenagers and young adults. Everyone has differing interests and nobody wants to traipse around doing someone else’s plans all the time, so be flexible and include something for everyone to balance things out.

Why is it important to travel with family?

If you’re wondering whether travelling with your family is really worth all the planning and preparation, we’d like to assure you that it is. These days, many of us live with conflicting schedules, with working parents and children in school and all sorts of extracurricular activities and hobbies in between. It can be hard to find time to spend together as a family with all those distractions, but a holiday gives you the chance to do just that.

And not only are holidays important for giving you quality time with family, but they’re also an excellent way to broaden your children’s horizons. Learning about different cultures, climates and locations - or even learning more about their own - is vital, and children can often find this kind of out-of-the-classroom learning much more engaging and enjoyable. You don’t have to spend your whole trip in the museum to achieve this either - just soak in the atmosphere and take opportunities to explain things to your children as and when they become relevant.