So what makes a trip successful or not successful? Preparation. We all know the difference a little preparation can make in life and of course, the same applies to family travel. When trips don’t go well, I look back and say, “What was I thinking?!”
Almost always, the issue with travel snafus is that I didn’t prepare enough and think through the logistics. When planning for a family vacation, you have to lay a solid foundation first, then follow-up with all the juicy details.
Take a pulse and see what your family is wanting and needing. Do you need to explore and get out of your comfort zone? Does everyone need a rest, to restore and rejuvenate? What are appropriate activities for kids your ages? Are there safety concerns and scheduling concerns?
Lastly, how far can you be from good medical care? As your kids get older, that might not be as important, but you certainly don’t want you new baby needing care only to discover the island you are lounging at in the Caribbean doesn’t have a hospital. For more on planning, read my feature article about choosing your next family vacation on Divine Caroline.
Check in with your travelers and get their input up front. I can’t say this enough! Doing this avoids most complaints while traveling. Find out what each person is looking for and what he or she doesn’t want. It’s amazing how insightful kids can be when you ask them.
Trust me, with four kids, I know how hard it is to weigh each person’s needs, but it’s well worth it in the end. Obviously, some opinions get more weight than others. If my husband is exhausted heavy days of touring with our kids is simply not an option. Multi-general trips add an additional level of complexity as you need to coordinate with extended family too (see my multi-generational vacation tips for more insight).
Transforming a family trip from ordinary to extraordinary is all about the little touches you add to an itinerary to tailor the experience for your family. Here’s where the fun begins. You have picked your place, and now you get to customize your experience. I try to book one fabulous event or experience on each trip. Often, it’s a private guide for the day to show us something we might not be able to access on our own.
Also, we love interactive experiences. With kids, it’s more impactful and educational if they get to participate and be hands-on, like the Gladiator school in Rome or Medieval Games in Athenry, Ireland.
Nothing enhances excitement and piques interest like reading books about a destination. We love historical fiction, a little history combined with a juicy storyline, what can be better. For the kids, there is a whole range of books available. This provides them with some context when they arrive. It also helps you understand what really interests them. Ciao Bambino has a suggested kids travel reading list for many major cities.
I start with my packing lists from Lobotome. They think of all the necessities and then some. We also have a medical kit packed. Most of the time, we never use this, but when you need it, you really need it. Spending time tracking down the right medicine, that is if you can find it, can be difficult in a foreign country; I’m not just talking about developing countries here.
I had a really hard time getting finding medicine to help me with a sinus infection while pregnant and traveling in Italy. Because I couldn’t read the ingredients and warnings, it became more complicated. Eventually, a local doctor helped solve my situation. You can save time and avoid many headaches if you have the basics covered before you leave home. Follow the CDC guidelines on the kit or purchase pre-packaged medication for common medical issues.
Nancy Solomon is a travel writer for Ciao Bambino. She loves exploring
the world with her husband, dog and four children ages three to twelve.