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How to plan the perfect family weekend getaway

Elaina is a Phoenix-based freelance writer, blogger and co-founder of the Kidlee baby book app. Check out her blog, Fun Finds For Mom, for product reviews, recipes and fun activities for moms and kids.

A weekend to remember

Planning a vacation for the family? We asked travel industry experts and experienced parents to share their tips for planning the perfect weekend getaway.

Little girl packing for vacation

Get the best deal on airfare

While taking a family road trip is always a fun way to escape for the weekend, sometimes traveling by air is the best way to maximize your vacation time. When making airplane reservations for the family, Chris Cuddy — chief commercial officer of CheapOair.com — has the following tips:

  • Book your trip 45 days in advance to get the best travel deals.
  • If you're booking travel on short notice, check Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for the lowest fares since the airlines update their inventory and prices overnight.
  • Sign up for fare alerts, download mobile apps and use social media pages.
  • Check online travel agencies, such as CheapOair.com, for a variety of comparable fares.
  • Consider seating a large family in smaller groups of twos or threes. You may be able to get tickets at a lower rate than if you sat all together.

Pack light, pack right

Packing tip: Click over to family travel site Minitime for packing checklists by age group.

Set yourself up for success by packing light — but not so light that you leave out the essentials. It's never fun to show up at the hotel pool only to discover you have no bathing suit!

What to look for in a hotel

Carrie Anne Badov, managing partner at EverythingMom.com, is pretty passionate when it comes to family travel.

"A swimming pool and child-friendly TV programming are a big priority for weekend getaways," says the mother of three. "Not all weekends away have to be to exotic destinations or filled with nonstop activities. Having a late-night swim, ordering room service or catching a family movie on cable in the room can be just as much fun — and Mom doesn't have to clean the room or cook!"

She recommends finding a hotel that caters to families, offering larger rooms or a separate sleeping-and-TV area for the kids.

Family travel expert Dave Parfitt, founder of Adventures by Daddy, agrees that the right hotel can make or break a family vacation.

Hotel tip: Embassy Suites hotels offer two-room suites, so kids have their own space to hang out and sleep, while parents can enjoy some quiet down time after a busy day of sightseeing.

"Look for a hotel that includes breakfast and a good pool, and the kids will be set."

Parfitt says he'd rather spend a little more money on a nice hotel room because that's part of creating a fun experience for the kids.

"Bunk beds, a suite and free breakfast — all make it special, new and exciting."

Eat well

If you're a foodie, or if you simply want to expose your kids to new cuisine through travel, Badov has some great advice.

"Just because you have kids doesn't mean you have to settle for chain restaurants and toys," she says.

Instead of relying on an uninspiring children's menu, Badov likes to let her kids order from a restaurant's appetizer or small-plate menu.

"The portions are smaller, the prices are usually reasonable and you can expand your child's taste palette."

food tip

Try to find a hotel that includes breakfast so the family can fuel up for the day. Embassy Suites offers a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast and a complimentary evening reception where everyone can relax and unwind before dinner. The kids will love the snacks and Shirley Temples, while parents will enjoy a selection of alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks and appetizers.

More family travel tips

Best family-friendly cities to visit
Weekend trip ideas kids and parents can enjoy
Be the fun mom! Surprise your family with a weekend getaway

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