Planning a family vacation can be exciting, but also incredibly stressful. There are so many details to think about – flights, hotels, rental cars, activities, and more. You want to make sure everyone has a great time, without breaking the bank. The key is being organized and preparing ahead of time.
Use this comprehensive traveling checklist for family to make your next family vacation a breeze. With some advance planning, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your time together, instead of running around trying to tie up loose ends.
Research Your Destination
First things first – decide where you want to go! Talk it over as a family and consider things like:
- Budget – How much can you realistically spend on the trip?
- Timing – Are you looking for a summer vacation when the kids are out of school? Thanksgiving or Christmas break?
- Interests – What kinds of activities do you want to do? Beach? Hiking? Theme parks? Museums?
- Ages of kids – Choose activities and destinations that work for their age and energy levels.
Once you’ve settled on a destination or a few options, do some research before booking anything. Look into the weather that time of year, top attractions and activities, hotel options, and costs of flights. This will help you determine if it’s affordable and the best fit for your family.
Once you’ve picked your destination, the next step is booking flights. Here are some tips for scoring cheap airfare:
- Book early – Flights are cheapest when you book 6-8 weeks in advance. Prices go up the closer you get to departure dates.
- Use flight comparison sites – Check sites like Expedia, Kayak, and Google Flights to easily compare fares across airlines and get the best deal.
- Fly midweek – Flights tend to be cheaper on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.
- Consider budget airlines – Airlines like Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant offer discounted fares, just be aware of extra fees.
- Book nonstop flights – They tend to be cheaper than flights with layovers.
- Watch out for hidden fees – Basic economy fares often come with extra charges for seat assignments, baggage, etc.
- Use airline miles – Check if you have enough miles to redeem for free tickets.
Once you book, sign up for flight alerts in case your flight gets delayed or canceled. And if you need to cancel or change flights, do so as early as possible to avoid high fees.
One of the biggest costs (and decisions) of any family vacation is where to stay. Here are some popular options to consider:
- Often located in the heart of major cities and tourist destinations. Easy access to attractions.
- Variety of prices, amenities, and room sizes to fit different needs.
- Great for families who want spacious rooms, daily cleaning service, on-site restaurants, and pools.
- Can book discounted rates through third-party sites like Expedia, Hotels.com.
- Consider suite hotels like Embassy Suites which offer families more room.
- Often cheaper than hotels and provide more space for families to spread out.
- Accommodations with kitchens allow you to cook meals and save money.
- Platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, and HomeAway offer vacation home rentals worldwide.
- Read reviews carefully to gauge quality, location, and amenities.
- Popular for families looking for easy, convenient vacations.
- Offer lots of kid-friendly activities and services.
- All-inclusive resorts include accommodations, food, and entertainment for one price.
- Great for beach destinations like Mexico, the Caribbean, and Hawaii.
- Provide a central “home base” with plenty to do.
No matter where you decide to stay, book early. Resorts and popular family destinations often sell out several months in advance for peak seasons.
Reserve A Rental Car
Renting a car allows you maximum flexibility to explore a destination at your own pace. While public transportation works in some cities, a rental car is the easiest way for families to get around.
Here are some tips for finding the best rental car rates:
- Book in advance, ideally 6-8 weeks out. Last-minute rentals are very expensive.
- Check both car rental company websites and travel booking sites for rate comparisons. Priceline, Kayak, and Expedia all offer car rentals.
- Consider renting for a longer time but with unlimited mileage. It’s sometimes cheaper than a shorter rental period.
- Avoid renting from the airport location when possible. Off-airport rental offices often have cheaper rates.
- Opt for a mid-size sedan or SUV with room for your family and luggage. Upgrade to a minivan if you need even more space.
- Inquire about child safety seats if needed. Often available for rent or free upon request.
When picking up your rental, inspect it thoroughly and note any prior damage. Review insurance coverage policies so you’re prepared in case of an accident.
Book Excursions and Activities
The fun things you’ll do on vacation often get overlooked in the planning process. But reserving excursions and activities in advance ensures you won’t miss out on popular experiences. Here are some ideas:
- Sightseeing tours – Hop-on hop-off double-decker bus tours, boat cruises, architecture tours. Easy ways to see the highlights.
- Museums – Reserve timed entry tickets for busy museums and attractions. Avoid long lines.
- Theme parks – Look into discounted combo park tickets from sites like Undercover Tourist and whether fast passes are available.
- Outdoor adventures – Book things like snorkeling trips, helicopter tours, and whitewater rafting excursions.
- Shows and performances – Purchase tickets for Broadway shows, Cirque du Soleil, and Vegas concerts.
- Kid experiences – Reserve space for kids’ cooking classes, robotics workshops, and magic shows.
Booking a few special activities makes the trip more memorable. Do your research to find the best options for your family and destination.
If your vacation takes you out of the country, make sure everyone’s passport is up to date. Many countries require your passport to be valid for 3-6 months beyond the dates of your trip.
Check the expiration date on each family member’s passport. If anyone needs a new passport (or their first passport), apply several months in advance of your trip. It can take 4-6 weeks for routine passport processing. Expedited service is available for an extra fee.
The easiest place to renew a passport is at your local post office, clerk of court or other passport acceptance facility. Bring passport photos, ID, and documentation like birth certificates or existing passports.
If you’ve changed your name, be sure to update it on your passport to exactly match your ID. Mismatched names can cause problems at airport security and customs.
Also, check the visa requirements for the country you’re visiting. Some nations require tourists to apply for travel visas ahead of time which can take up to a month to process.
Arrange Pet Care
If you’re leaving pets at home while away on vacation, book their care early too. Arrange for them to stay with family or friends, or look into boarding kennels and pet sitters.
Be sure to:
- Give your vet a heads up on travel dates and confirm pets’ shots are up to date.
- Schedule grooming appointments before and after boarding.
- Confirm all medication and food needs with sitters/kennels.
- Introduce pets to the sitter before your trip if possible.
- Pack their favorite toys and treats to help them feel comfortable.
- Check the cancellation policy in case your trip dates change.
- Book extra pet care visits or dog walks if you’ll be gone for more than a few days.
Knowing your furry family members are in good hands gives you peace of mind while traveling.
Packing for a family trip can quickly get overwhelming. Make detailed packing lists to keep everyone organized and ensure you don’t forget essentials. Here are some tips:
- Involve kids in choosing their suitcase so they’re excited to pack it. Let them add some decorations like stickers or ribbons to personalize it.
- Use color-coded luggage tags for each person so bags are easy to identify at baggage claim.
- Only bring what you can reasonably fit in a carry-on bag and personal items. This allows you to avoid checked baggage fees and lost luggage headaches.
- Check airline luggage policies before packing. Most airlines restrict carry-on bags to 45 linear inches or less.
- Pack one outfit in each person’s carry-on in case checked bags get delayed.
What to Pack
- Come prepared for the weather! Check the forecast for your destination and pack layers, rain gear, and proper shoes.
- Bring breathable, comfortable walking shoes. Leave room in suitcases so you can pack souvenirs on the return.
- Pack sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, and other sun protection if heading somewhere warm.
- Bring copies of your ID/passport. Carry your passport, medications, and valuables in your carry-on bag.
- Pack disposable ponchos, hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and extra phone chargers and batteries. These make family travel easier!
- Don’t forget activity-specific items like swimsuits, hiking boots, and helmets for outdoor adventures.
- Allow kids to bring a special stuffed animal, book, or small toy. Travel can be disruptive to their routine. Bringing familiar comfort items helps.
With a complete packing list, you’ll be ready for anything on your family trip!
- Set up rideshare/taxi accounts ahead of time if you need transportation to and from the airport.
- Arrange for mail/newspaper holds, plant watering, and home security while you’re away.
- For international trips, alert your bank/credit card company to avoid foreign transaction fees or frozen accounts.
- Have kids help plan outfits so they’re involved and excited about the trip.
- Take lots of photos! Documenting your travels makes for great memories. Let kids bring their own cameras too.
- Try teaching older kids to help navigate public transportation. It keeps them engaged in the travel experience.
Enjoy Your Family Vacation!
Advance preparation is the key to a smooth, stress-free family vacation. Use this checklist to get organized and cover all your trip details ahead of time. occupying kids during travel makes all the difference. Before you know it, you’ll be making magical memories together!
Bonus: Here are 5 of the most frequently asked questions about traveling checklist for family:
Q: How can I keep kids entertained on long flights and car rides?
A: Pack engaging activities like coloring books, magnetic travel games, eyeshades, and headphones. Bring their favorite snacks. Plan for device time and download movies/shows in advance. Stop frequently on road trips for breaks.
Q: Should I buy travel insurance for my family trip?
A: Travel insurance provides protection against unexpected cancellations, delays, and emergencies. It often makes sense for expensive, international trips. Read the policy details carefully.
Q: What vaccines or medications do my family need when traveling abroad?
A: Check the CDC website for recommended vaccines based on destination, including hepatitis A, typhoid, and malaria pills. Update routine shots. Bring motion sickness and anti-diarrheal medications.
Q: How do I find kid-friendly activities at our destination?
A: Look for “Top Things To Do with Kids” lists online for the city you’re visiting. Ask your hotel concierge for recommendations. Check Timeout, Mommy Poppins, or similar sites popular with local parents.
Q: What’s the best way to handle jet lag with kids?
A: Gradually adjust their schedule and bedtime before you leave. Encourage sleep on the plane. Avoid heavy meals right before and after flying. Hydrate and get sunlight when you arrive to acclimate to the new time zone.