How to take a family-friendly vacation

Jan 11, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. ET
Image: Credit: Uwe Krejci/Getty Images

From "Are-we-there-yet" car rides to airplane meltdowns, traveling with kids isn't always easy. While it can sometimes feel overwhelming to take a trip, parents — and children — can feel more at ease with some proper planning.

Hold a family meeting

Want to take a vacation but stuck on where and when? Getting the whole family involved in a discussion can be a great way to make everyone feel like they are a part of the process. Even if kids are young, you can still talk about any upcoming trip plans well in advance or show pictures or YouTube videos of a possible destination.

Set a budget

Parents don't want to focus on every dollar spent while away, but they should set a budget head of time.

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Pick the right time and right destination

Parents with school-aged children may be at a disadvantage for scoring great travel deals since school vacation weeks tend to also lead to increased demand and higher hotel and airfare prices. Booking a trip in advance can help. If you have the flexibility to book a trip anytime during the year, try to schedule it during the off-season when rates are lower.

Read reviews

Before booking a hotel or vacation rental, read online reviews on sites like TripAdvisor or Orbitz. I spend a few hours scanning reviews to make sure its kid-friendly before booking.

More: 13 Awesome ways to keep kids happy while traveling

Get smart about packing

Make a list and pack smart. Check with the hotel to find out what it supplies, like beach towels, hair dryer or toiletries. When I went to an indoor waterpark in Massachusetts (Great Wolf Lodge), I contacted the front desk prior to my visit and was informed that they already supplied life vests and towels, so I didn't have to pack those items. Some resorts also offer dry cleaning, which can be a great advantage for those who only want to pack a few outfits for a long trip in a carry-on. If you are looking to maximize the space in a suitcase, consider purchasing packing cubes. These nifty bags can help squeeze lots of clothes and accessories and make them compact.

Prep the kids

Keeping kids informed can really help alleviate anxiety. According to AARP travel ambassador Samantha Brown, "Don't let your kids see you stressed out!" Brown says to give children a heads up on what the travel experience will be like. For example, discuss whether the airport will be noisy and busy or how long the car ride will take. This will help kids feel more in control — and lessen the odds of a freak out.

More: 3 Tips for traveling with the kids from travel guru Samantha Brown

Plan it out

Itineraries can help families feel more organized when it comes to trip planning, but don't go overboard. Brown suggests only planning one big activity a day and to schedule downtime to avoid vacation burnout. Check out popular restaurants because you may need to book early. Some popular vacation destinations like Disney World and Disneyland also have great apps to help keep rides and restaurant reservations on track.

Redeem credit card miles

Travelers should take a look at their credit card rewards program and see how many miles or points they’ve accrued. It could be enough to pay for a flight.

More: 7 Family travel gifts recommended by a travel journalist

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