Getting your head around planning a family trip can be a huge task, especially when your family includes children of different ages. Let’s face it: toddlers and teens aren’t always the easiest combination!
So this article is for any parent who’s ever thought, “Where do I even start?” Let us walk you through exactly how to plan your next family holiday, step-by-step.
1. Decide on the sort of experience you want
The first step of planning any family holiday is deciding what type of experience you all want to have. Do you want a family adventure holiday, a relaxing resort experience or a country break?
Consider asking everyone in the family what they want out of this holiday – yes, even the little ones. You might find that a pool and buffet are all they care about... but maybe they’ll surprise you with a museum-related goal!
Kids are great at knowing what they want, so let them do some of the heavy lifting early on.
Tip - Don’t expect everyone to agree on one thing. That’ll never happen, but it’s possible to book a single trip that includes several different experience types.
2. Choose a timeframe and location
When it’s time to choose a destination, consider both:
- how much time you have for your trip
- how much of that time you’re willing to spend in transit.
It’s also important to keep in mind what time of the year you’re planning to travel. What sort of weather are you likely to face?
Unfortunately, we all also have to keep current travel restrictions in mind. If you’re organising a theme park holiday here in Australia, things should be reasonably straightforward. But if you really want to take the kids overseas, we suggest subscribing to Smart Traveller email updates to stay informed about changing travel restrictions.
Tip - Read our guide on how to travel safely during coronavirus.
3. Look for all-inclusive or self-contained holidays
There are many ways to travel as a family. When it comes to convenience though, the ideal is either all-inclusive packages or self-contained accommodation. Finding somewhere to eat three times a day can get expensive and exhausting.
Self-contained accommodation provides basic cooking facilities, so you can do a simple shop and then enjoy the option of ‘eating in’ whenever you want to.
Alternatively, all-inclusive packages often include food. That lets the whole family enjoy regular in-house meals with very little thought (or extra cost) involved.
Tip - For stress-free food shopping, order a click-and-collect from a supermarket near your holiday destination. Then simply pull in and pick it up! It beats dragging grumpy kids through a grocery store after a long trip.
4. Budget smart
While we’re on the subject, when you’re planning for a whole family, your budget can blow out quickly! It’s a good idea to be clear upfront about how much you want to spend on accommodation, food, activities and general incidentals.
To calculate how much you can dedicate to the holiday as a whole, start by checking how much wiggle room you have in your current weekly budget. Then set a goal to save as much of that money as possible towards your holiday. The more you save now, the more you’ll have to spend on your trip.
5. Look for opportunities for independence
Whether your kids are toddlers or teens, a family holiday is a perfect time to give them the type of independence that’s difficult to find at home. Caravan parks and resorts provide lots of opportunities for parent-free exploration, which will contribute to everyone’s enjoyment.
Check out whether there’s a kids’ club or teen-friendly activities when researching your accommodation.
Tip: If you’re heading to a caravan park and need to decide between bringing the kids’ bikes or scooters, go for bikes every time! On gravel roads, scooters just don’t cut it. It’s also a great environment to learn to ride in. (And don’t forget their helmets!)
6. Divide and conquer – one-on-one time
It can be tempting to try to plan out every day as a family unit, but remember family holidays can also be excellent opportunities for one-on-one time.
Consider when it makes most sense to hang out as a group, and what activities will lend themselves to breaking up the clan for a few hours. There’s no need for everyone to do a surfing lesson if half the family would prefer to collect shells or explore a local market.
Tip - Try to give each child some one-on-one time with both parents.
7. Schedule downtime
No matter how much energy your kids have, at some point, everyone will need a bit of downtime. For some, that might look like a daily nap. For others, it could be the occasional movie plus take-out in bed.
Either way, when you’re in planning mode, remember holidays are meant to be relaxing. It’s totally OK to take it slow.
Tip: If your children still nap, pack a baby monitor. It’s always great to be able to hear what’s going on from the next room.
8. Pack smart
It can be really hard to include everything you’ll need into limited luggage space – especially when you’re packing for the whole family. But smart packing will save your sanity.
A few hacks to consider include:
- Encourage your kids to leave some empty space in their bags. Less pressure means less exploding when you unpack.
- Think about how many changes of clothes your kids really need. They’ll probably be happy wearing the same thing more than once, and you can always hand wash items in the bathroom sink if things get dire. Pack lightly, but also pop some laundry detergent in your suitcase.
- Check whether you have enough chargers for all your devices. Charger scarcity breeds bickering, so this is one item you can feel free to overpack.
- Try to pack items that can serve double duty. If your child wants to bring a large stuffed toy, let them use it instead of a pillow. Comfy shorts and tees can also double as pyjamas or daywear. And versatile shower products are a great option.
- If space is tight, prioritise packing items that are expensive or hard to replace. It’s usually simple to pick up a cheap hat or some thongs while you’re away. But you really don’t want to have to buy a new bike helmet or replace essential medication at a 24-hour pharmacy.
- Invest in a few good-quality vacuum-sealable bags and pile any big, bulky items into those. They’ll take up a quarter of the space, which is a must if you’re packing for a car trip.
Tip - Pack a large zip-up bag for dirty laundry too. You don’t want the kids to end up mixing their clean and dirty clothes in one bag. Plus, you’ll be able to dump it straight in the laundry basket when you get home.
9. Remember to relax
The more you plan out before you leave on your holiday, the less you’ll have to worry about once you’re there. As any parent knows, organisation is your friend.
But also keep in mind that even the best-laid plans sometimes go wrong, especially if you’re travelling with toddlers. Try to get into a flexible headspace and remember – a holiday is meant to be about having fun and relaxing!
Tip - Try to do some things for yourself in the week leading up to your holiday that will put you in the right frame of mind. Don’t wait until you’re there to start winding down.
10. Check out our family holiday hacks
Before you set off, make sure to read our Family Holiday Hacks guide.