Why you should plan your summer vacation now

Feb 3, 2011 at 9:14 a.m. ET

When you’re tired of the snow and ice, when wet mittens are just so last week, and you just can’t seem to get warm no matter how much tea you drink, you may start daydreaming about your summer vacation. How about making that dream a reality and start planning your summer vacation now?

family on the beach

It may seem months and months away -- well, it is -- but summer will be here before you know it. If you've been jonesing for a really good summer vacation, early planning could be the key to its success. Think about what you would like for your family (and yourself!) in a summer vacation and get planning!

Where do you want to go?

Where do you want to go on vacation this summer? Think a little wild, a little off beat. Now, before you dismiss it outright as too far or too expensive or too this or too that, research it a little. Yes, it might be "too" something -- but it might not be. If you give yourself enough planning lead time (by planning so far in advance!) -- you might just be able to figure out the logistics.

Whether it's a distant land, or long-distance car trip, proper prior planning makes a huge difference. Thinking about your summer vacation mid-winter gives you the time to sort out time off from work, logistics, budget and the like -- and maybe even make a dream trip come true.

Realistic vacations for families

Be realistic about what your family as a whole can handle. If you are traveling with toddlers, will you be able to have down-time each afternoon for naps? Will there be enough variety of activity for older kids? And for teens? Is there a way to give them a little freedom within the structure of the vacation -- while limiting potential temptations? So much to consider!

A family's needs for a vacation changes over the years. Some vacations are unrealistic when your children are young, they do eventually become able to take more adventures as they get older -- and sooner than you think! Your five year old just might be able to make that 19km round trip hike in the Canadian Rockies if you take it at a leisurely pace and offer plenty of (food?) incentive. Heck, her knees might hold up better than yours!

Travel deals and packages

When you plan early for a vacation, you may be able to take advantage of travel deals and packages. Particularly for popular destinations, deals have a limited offer time and packages sell out. Investigate websites for your destinations, travel companies, and your credit card company. Deals are available from many different sources. Just be extra careful to read the fine print.

Travel insurance

Just in case, and especially if you've laid out funds in advance, you may want to consider travel insurance against the unexpected. It would be such a downer to be out the cost of an entire vacation if you or one of your kids gets sick and all of you can't go. Travel insurance policies vary widely, so read them carefully.

Proper prior planning, especially for a family vacation, includes proper lead time. You'll still be able to plan a family vacation if you don't do it right now, but think how many more options you might have and how much more prepared you will be if you do. Plan a summer vacation in the dead of winter? Absolutely.

More about summer vacations