Planning the perfect family holiday

Even though your vacations are currently on hold, you can use all this extra stay-at-home-time to start planning an upcoming family adventure. Family travel blogger and expert Eric Stoen shares his advice on planning the perfect family holiday...

We’ve taken our kids to 62 countries so far, and we’re always planning our next trip – or two or three trips! This is everything that goes into our trip planning, and things to think about as you’re looking ahead to your next holiday.

Start with your available dates

If you have kids in school you’re likely limited to traveling during school holidays, but if you have flexibility at all to leave for trips a day or two early or return a little later, it will save you money. 

Look for destination inspiration

Once you know your dates, choose a destination based on where you want to go but also what places are perfect that time of year. Check out guidebooks as well as books like Where to Go When that are pure inspiration, and bookmark blog and social media posts over the course of the year and then go back and take a second look at the destinations that still interest you. We usually narrow our list to two or three options and then let everyone in the family vote. 

Choose the best flights

Do flight searches both on airline sites (for award availability) and on aggregator sites like Skyscanner and Kayak and then pick the flights that work best for you. We’ve found that early morning flights are the least likely to be delayed, and we’ll opt to travel direct rather than connect, as long as the tickets aren’t A LOT more expensive, since it greatly reduces the chance that we’ll have issues getting to our destination.

Pick the best hotel

We always look for a hotel that’s in the best location for everything we want to do at our destination, but that’s just us - luxury, amenities or room setup may be more important to you. For our location-based searches, we start with DK Eyewitness maps that show hotels in relation to major sites, and then check TripAdvisor’s maps for current pricing. 

Think about how you’re going to get to your hotel from the airport

Sometimes it works to simply jump into a taxi when you arrive, but we’ve found it can be worth the extra cost to have a car and driver waiting for us. That way we avoid scams, we have the appropriate-sized vehicle (we’re a family of five), and we can pay online so we don’t need to have local currency immediately. 

Learn a little of the language!

Before we leave for our holiday I want our kids to know how to say "Yes", "No", "Hello", "Goodbye" and "Thank You" in the local language. Tip: everything is in the phrasebook at the back of every DK Eyewitness Guide. In the event that our kids want to go a little farther, they use apps like Duolingo. 

Book activities like cooking classes, art classes and family-oriented city tours

We typically get ideas from the Discover section at the front of DK Eyewitness guides and then head to Google to look for specific guides or tours. The most important thing? Plan everything around your kids’ interests. If you try to take kids along on an adult vacation, no one is going to have fun. 

Book restaurant reservations

We scan guidebooks for restaurants and make a short list, and then see if there are any that we need to book in advance. For a lot of trips, though, we don’t arrange anything ahead of time. Picnics in parks are excellent opportunities to explore local food markets and to let the kids run and play. And picnics are typically less expensive than sit-down restaurants, so win-win! 

Think through day trips, and how you’re going to travel to destinations outside of the city

Do you need to book an excursion, or a car, or train or ferry tickets, in advance? Again DK Eyewitness guides are excellent for figuring out everything to do in an area. Once you have a list of what interests you, sketch out a weekly schedule. But…

Don’t over plan!

Kids need downtime, and it isn’t possible to predict the weather or localized disruptions like strikes. Plus holidays are meant to be relaxing. Our general rule-of-thumb is that we will only plan/book activities every other day on a trip. We plan the other days as we go, based on local recommendations or simply what we feel like doing when we wake up.

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