Are you planning a trip somewhere with your brood? Going on vacation together is one of the best things about having a family, experiencing new cultures and stimulating sights, sounds and tastes – it’s the perfect opportunity for bonding and creating memories that last a lifetime.
In order to get the most out of your vacation, it is wise to be super-organized. Leaving planning details and paperwork all to the last minute is a recipe for vacation disaster. Read on for sensible tips that ensure you spend your vacation having fun, not stressing over avoidable problems.
Where are you going?
Many factors determine where we choose to go on vacation, and the key to a successful visit is research. Use the internet as your tour guide and discover in advance the secrets of places that interest you. Will there be activities for the children? What are the restaurants like? Where is the nearest hospital? Are there banking facilities close by? Can we walk to the beach from our accommodation? All these questions can be answered with a few clicks and can help you make the perfect choice for a family holiday.
Be aware of other external factors likely to influence choice. Some foreign destinations are considered risky for US citizens either due to terrorism and crime threats, medical emergencies or other reasons. To help you decide, details of countries where travel warnings are in place are at the Bureau of Consular Affairs on the State Department website. Countries currently on the no-go list include Georgia, Saudi Arabia and Madagascar, but there are some popular South American destinations where caution is also required – see the State Department site for a comprehensive list.
Destinations with a proven track record for family fun with great beaches and many outdoor activities include Playa del Carmen in Mexico and Maui in Hawaii. If you want to stay on the US mainland, consider Orlando or Daytona Beach in Florida, San Diego or San Francisco in California, or for a traditional seaside vacation, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina takes some beating.
To explore further afield, look to the beautiful coastlines and rich history of southern Europe. A trip to Nice on the Côte d’Azur, Barcelona in Spain, or the Amalfi Coast in Italy gives your family the perfect introduction to the unique European pace of life. Follow this up with city breaks in Paris and London, and you have a family holiday that covers outdoorsy beach activities as well as city sophistication.
Tackle paperwork early
When the whole family are in tow, paperwork multiplies. It’s a good idea to put together a dossier to contain all the vital documents you need.
First on the list, if you are traveling abroad, is to check that all passports valid. Check at least a couple of months before your vacation date to see that everybody’s passports have plenty of time left to run. Getting a renewal sorted out in quick time can be expensive and stressful. Some countries will not accept passports with less than six months to run from the date of entry, so verify this information before booking trips to places such as UAE, Ghana and Kenya.
Once passports are dealt with, focus on all the other paperwork. Depending on where you are headed, visas may be required. Other far-flung destinations will require you to have particular medical vaccinations (make sure adequate time is allowed for this). Important details such as flight tickets and boarding passes, car rental documents, driving license and hotel reservations will all need to be organized and filed in a safe and convenient place. Take copies of important documents such as passports, medical certificates and emergency details for bank card theft or mobile phone loss.
Travel headaches such as flight delays, lost luggage or unexpected medical expenses should be covered with travel insurance. It is a sad but true fact that accidents occur on vacation, whether that’s due to the unfamiliar surroundings or the increased level of physical activity; whatever the cause, a family on vacation needs to have with them the details of a good injury lawyer for peace of mind.
After all the dry (but essential) paperwork, you are free to kick back and have some fun. The whole family can contribute to planning the itinerary and local excursions. Remember that packing makes an exciting prelude to departure for children who love to get involved.
Once you arrive on vacation, it’s time to enjoy the family fun. If you focus now on getting all the details in place, you will be free to truly revel in the relaxation you deserve.