How to have an awesome family vacation

Planning a family getaway? This quick guide will help you choose the right hotel, keep the kids entertained and enjoy more merriment (and fewer meltdowns)!

Family on beach with blanket

Photo credit: altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Think like a travel agent

When planning your family vacation, think like a pro. Travel agents are paid not only to find the best deals, but also to size up the ages, interests and requirements of all family members. Thinking about everyone’s needs now means happy kids (and spouses) later.

Check out our top picks for the best family-friendly cities to visit! >>


Book a sweet suite

Unless you like to turn in when the kids do, a suite is your best option when it comes to hotel rooms. Tuck the kids in early, and unwind in the adjoining room after a long day of sightseeing.


Pack smart

Make a list and pack only what you’ll need — nothing more, nothing less. If the kids are old enough, encourage independence by giving them each a small bag or suitcase and a packing checklist. And if you’re attempting to stuff in a fourth pair of shoes for a two-day getaway, remember — less is more.


Surprise the kids with fun bags

Busy kids are happy kids — especially when they’re on the road (or in the air). Surprise them with a fun bag loaded with snacks, games and books to keep them entertained for hours.


Split up

OK, we know these vacations are supposed to be all about family bonding, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend every second of every day together. If your group is having a hard time deciding on the day’s activity, split up the group and go your separate ways for a few hours. Make a plan to meet back up for lunch or dinner. It’s a win-win situation, really. Everyone gets to do what they want, and you have great stories to share over dinner.


Make friends with fellow passengers

When the baby starts to wail, you’ll want to be in the company of friends, not strangers. Introduce yourself and your little one the first chance you get, and apologize in advance for any noise the tiny traveler might make. If you really want to start off on the right foot, bring little goodie bags for your neighboring passengers, and include ear plugs and a sweet treat or two.


Be a smart scheduler

If you’re a planner by nature, resist the urge to schedule every moment of your vacation. Leave some time open to relax, or to enjoy whatever you happen to stumble upon. By going with the flow, you’ll stress less and enjoy your vacation so much more.


Let the kids be in charge

Let each child choose one must-do activity on your vacation. Does your son love to play golf? He might choose to play a nine-hole course. Is your daughter a nature lover? Let her lead the way on a family hike. When children feel like they are getting their way some of the time, they’re more likely to follow the leader the rest of the time.


Take plenty of photos

Capture all the memories by snapping lots of photos and videos. If your phone is your primary camera, make sure it’s charged up and with you at all times!


Enjoy the local cuisine

Seek out restaurants that show off the regional cuisine. Encourage the kids to skip the usual kid menu fare, and guide them toward the small plates or appetizers that feature dishes the area is known for.

More helpful family travel tips

7 Ideas for a last-minute family getaway
10 Things to bring on a family vacation
5 Family travel tips to make your life easier