plan a family vacation

Are you already daydreaming about your next vacation but not sure where to start when it comes to planning? Look no further than Plan the Best Vacation! This website has made it so fun and easy to turn those dreams into reality with tons of useful tips and resources. I can’t wait to start planning my next adventure thanks to this amazing tool. Who’s ready to join me in making vacation dreams come true?

plan family vacation
Thanks to this amazing website, my family was inspired to embark on an epic vacation filled with unforgettable memories and adventures! From incredible travel tips to insider recommendations, we were able to plan the perfect getaway. 
Sandy Whitaker

Plan the Best Family Vacation in 6 steps!

Planning a vacation can be simple and most importantly FUN! Let us break it down for you and then we’ll dive into more details to help you make planning your next family trip a breeze.

start planning a trip by dreaming and exploring all the options out there, research your options, best time to travel, cost and more

Step 1

Research Destinations
plan the best family vacation includes setting a budget and saving for travel

Step 2

Set a Budget & Save
steps for planning the perfect vacation

Step 3

Create an Itinerary
book your vacation

Step 4

Book Your Trip
pack for vacation

Step 5

fun family vacation

Step 6

Have Fun!
start planning a trip by dreaming and exploring all the options out there, research your options, best time to travel, cost and more
Step 1

Dream and Research Destinations

This is my favorite part! Where would you like to go on your next vacation? Our site and social media pages are filled with pictures, locations, and ideas to get you started and help you see all the amazing opportunities. Start by researching different destinations that interest you. Whether it’s a tropical beach, a bustling city, or a serene mountain retreat, there are endless possibilities to consider.

So Many Places to See…..

safari to see animals like elephants lios giraffe on Kilimanjaro mount background in National park of Kenya, Africa
Safari in Kenya, Africa
The Wave, rock formation in Coyote Buttes North,Arizona USA
Coyote Buttes, Arizona USA
northern lights from Tromsø, Norway
Northern Lights Norway
Taj Mahal India - white marble mausoleum on Yamuna river
Taj Mahal, India

Best Family Vacation

Where should you head to on vacation this year?

  • Visit nearby major cities filled with museums, cultural events, and local activities (see our A-Z City Guides)
  • Go camping with kids and enjoy hiking in nature
  • Visit one of our amazing National Parks (did you know 4th graders go free!)
  • Take a roadtrip to visit a variety of parks or cities
  • If it’s in driving distance, head to Disney World or Disneyland for budget trip
  • Book a kids sale free cruise and drive to a nearby port
  • Learn about our country by heading to Washington DC which includes the amazing, free Smithsonian museums
  • Heads towards your nearest coast for a relaxing week at a beach with kids – you can make it affordable by camping or renting a house
  • Spend a week during off-season in Hawaii
  • Travel to Alaska for a week long cruise in May or August

This sections here could be enless, because the world is huge! There are 195 countries to see. But let me just list a couple of the most popular.

  • Long weekend in London – London Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben and The Houses of Parliament. Buckingham Palace, grab some fish and chips, The British Museum
  • Discover beautiful Spain – The Sagrada Familia church, The Alhambra, Prado art museum, Royal Palace in Madrid, Cordoba Cathedral, Segovia, or stay in a parador
  • Visit France – Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, stroll along the Seine River in Prais, Louvre art museum, sip coffee and eat pastries, marvel at Versailles
  • Marvel at Machu Pichu in Peru
  • Step out of your comfort zone and visit China – Great Wall of China, Forbidden City, have traditional tea, Terra Cotta Warriors
  • Go ‘down under’ to Antarctica and visit the outback, snorkle in the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House, hang with the kangaroos
  • Enjoy the sunny Caribbean on a cruise or resort
  • Dive into history and visit European cities like Berlin, Prague, Istanbul, Rome, Vienna, etc.
  • Head to Antarctica and enjoy the unspoiled vistas and animal watching
  • Relax in Italy on the scenic Amalfi Coast, picturesque Tuscany, historic Rome, gondola lined cannals in Venice, or art rich Florence
  • Island hopping in Greece to see famous Santorini, Mykonus, Corfu, Rhodes, Crete
  • Safari in South Africa
  • Take a longer voyage at a discounted price and enjoy an epic transatlantic or panama canal cruise
  • In Brazel get ready to be wowed by the scenery from Christ the Redeemer State in Rio de Janeiro or the power of the Igussu Falls

More Must-Visit Destinations

caribou in mount denali national park alaska
Mount Denali, Alaska
St. Basil’s Cathedral Moscow, Russia
St. Basil’s Cathedral, Russia
abu simbel temple in egypt
Valley of the Kings, Egypt
Le Mont Saint-Michel tidal island in Normandy, northern France
Le Mont Saint-Michel, France

Set a Budget & Save

Determine how much money you are willing to spend on your vacation. This will help you narrow down your options and ensure that you don’t overspend. Then price out your desired vacations and see if they are realistic.

Do you often catch yourself daydreaming about that dream vacation as you scroll through your social media feeds? You’re not alone! It can feel like everyone except for you is off exploring exotic destinations. The reality is, for many of us, travel is a luxury that isn’t always within easy reach due to financial commitments like student loans, mortgages, and tuition fees.

But guess what? There’s a little secret to share – with determination, persistence, and a solid savings plan, you can make those travel dreams a reality. It won’t be a walk in the park, but it is totally achievable. All it takes is some motivation to kick-start your journey. Let’s stop dreaming and start planning – that dream vacation is closer than you think!

I like math and money, so it is no surprise that I like making a budget. I chunk up our income into categories. Some months we don’t spend all our clothing budget, but I put it in savings anyway so that when we do need it, it’s there. Vacation is even more important to be intentional about saving.

To make sure you don’t forget, you can set-up a savings account just for vacation, at no additional fee, and have it auto deposit a set amount every month. You’ll be amazed how your little vacation piggy bang grows.

If you want a $4000 budget, plan to save $334/month. That is only $11.11/day. It is manageable for most families, but you do have to plan ahead and perhaps make sacrifices.

That is hard to say without knowing how big your family is and where you want to travel to.

  • You can spend a week camping at the Grand Canyon National park in July and spend less than $1000 in tenting fees, groceries, and gas money.
  • You could go on a 7 day Alaskcan cruise in May on Royal Carribean with kids sale free promo and $250 roundtrip tickets from Chicago for $3425
  • Spend a week at Disney World in September staying at the All Star Movie resort, use the free dining promo, drive there, and spend just under $4000

It just depends on the size of your family, the deals you find, the dates you can travel, etc.

Save Money out of Your Budget

  • cut your grocery budget by eating pasta or rice based meal once a week
  • once a month skip going out to eat or going to the movies
  • skip the Starbucks coffee – that can add up!
  • Have kids help by doing extra chores or contributing
  • Use a credit card that gives cash back like Chase Freedom or other travel reward credit cards

No one likes to work extra, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like work:

  • drive for instacart or door dash once a week or once a month
  • Have kids help mow lawns or babysit to chip in
  • sign up for an extra shift at work conce a month
  • walk dogs
  • deliver pizzas
  • work at a coffee shop
  • Use cashback apps like Ibotta or Ebates

Don’t EVERY pay sticker price on a vacation! You can save money lots of ways to make it affordable, go more often, stay longer, or upgrade your vacation expections:

  • Go on shoulder season – everyone travels in summer, Christmas, and spring break. Try to go in September/October or in May/early .June. You can asve 50% on flights, hotels, tours, and cruises
  • Cruising? Look for kids sale free offers offered by Royal Carribean, Norweigan, Disney Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line. Then shop around for travel agents that will give you free onboard credit (free money) just for booking through them.
  • Dreaming of Disney? Look at the special offers sections for up to 40% off hotels, ticket deals, and free dining offers. You will need to play about 6-9 months ahead. Again, some travel agents offer perks so shop around for a travel agent with perks. Costco offers some good deals and you’ll get cash back on your vacation!
  • Look for promo codes and sales online for hotels, airlines, and tour companies. Some hotels are cheaper via Travelocity at different times. Shop around, not just in one sitting, but over the course of several months so you know what the “average” cost is.
steps for planning the perfect vacation
Step 3

Create an Itinerary

Once you’ve figured out where you want to go and how much you can afford to spend, it’s time to plan the details of your trip. I like to make a spreadsheet in Excel that lists what we are doing day-by-day (more on that here). Then in the other columns I list any booked items (museums, tours, etc), planned/booked meals, and hotels. I do this for every trip we take from a cruise to Disney World to 2 weeks in Europe.

Plan Daily Activities

Fit in your desired activities day-by-day. For example if we spend 3 days in Rome, Day 1 Borghese gallery and catacombs, Day 2 Colosseum, Roman Forum / Palatine Hill, Baths of Carcalla, and self-guided walking tour, Day 3 side trip to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, Day 4 begi with Vatican City then take a train to Florence

Research Hotels

Use sites like Expedia to find out what hotels are near your activities and a realistic cost. Read reviews to make sure it is the type of place you’d like to stay!

Research Airfare

I start by googling flights (example: Chicago to Rome. Now enter dates and it will tell you the cost after looking at various airlines. If you have any flexibility at all, click “show flights”. From this screen you can click on date grid to see if you can save significantly by leaving on different dates. Look at bar that tells you if flights are “typical” yellow, less than normal green, or high in red. If they are red you will probabaly want to reconsider your dates! You can even track flights and get an email when prices go down.

book your vacation
Step 4

Book Your Trip

Now that you have a plan it’s time to make it permanent by booking your trip. You will want to book your trip 6-9 months ahead of time if at all possible to make sure you get the best options (hotels book up) and cheapest prices (but research for deals and take that into account). Sometimes I plan my trip and book everything except for flights as I wait for them to come down in cost (see how to get cheap flights)

For any museums you plan to visit add hours, what to see, estimated visit length, tips you’ve read, cost, and any timed entrances you booked.

Buy a city pass if that makes sense when calculating the cost of the local attractions you’ve identified. While it makes sense sometimes, it doesn’t always! In fact, I’d say it rarely makes sense for our family.

Get that credit card ready

Let’s Book your Travel!

pack for vacation


it’s Time to Pack!

I like to start packing 2-3 weeks early. I know that sounds crazy, but let me explain. You are going to pull out your luggage and start throwing things in as you think of them. No you wont literally pack all your undies and t-shirts this early. But it will get you thinking and you will probably realize one of your kids needs more socks, your luggage has a broken wheel, you need to grab luggage tags, etc. Now you have a couple weeks to grab those things!

Each destination will have slightly different packing needs. On a cruise you will need a dress for formal night, back packing throught Europe requires you to pack very little, and roadtrips mean bringing some fun for the road. But I have some general travel tips and packing lists ready for you!

Don’t Forget…

As part of the packing phase (2-3 weeks before your trip) it is a good time to think through other details of going out of town! Plus kids always enjoy a paper chain or other type of countdown for your family vacation!

Some things to Remember

  • Ask a neighbord to watch your house
  • Put a vacation hold on your mail
  • Set-up boarding for your pets
  • Tidy the house so you don’t come home to a big mess
  • Make sure you have timers for your lights
  • Ensure all bills are paid ahead of time
  • Set email out of office reminders
  • Remind your boss you have vacation coming up
  • Notify any reocurring activities (soccer, dance, food kitchen) that you won’t be making it such and such a day
  • Email itinerary to yourself for back-up

Step 6

Have Fun!

It’s finally time for your trip! No matter how well you plan, you will probably forget something. I like to have a post-it note with most important things to remind myself (itinerary, passport, cash/cards, phone /charger, medications, clothes). And, something probably wont’ got as planned. Perhaps your flight is delayed, the museum changed its hours, or it is raining. Try to roll with it and make each moment count. You can make or break your whole families trip with your attitude when those things come up. You may discover the rain makes you head to your destination in a new direction and you may just happen to see the King of England like we did. Different, doesn’t have to mean bad!

Enjoy your vacation! When you’re ready to start planning your next get-a-way, we are ready for you!

Having fun seeing the colosseum and titus arch despite rain

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