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5 Tips for Planning a Memorable Family Vacation

5 Tips for Planning a Memorable Family Vacation

Twelve summers. Once your kids have entered elementary school, the clock starts on your summer vacations. You only get twelve until the rigors of the "real world" take over, and the kids spend their summers interning, studying abroad, or embarking on their professional future. So, what are you going to do with those twelve summers to make them count? How will you make the most of the time you have?

Choose the Destination that Works for Everyone

When you ask them how they'd like to spend their summer vacation, it's easy for kids to default to amusement parks or other places jam-packed with activities. But before you start booking park hopper passes, take a minute to think about what your kids need. Do you spend much of the school year running from place to place, practice to practice, and lesson to lesson? Have you missed your own ability to kick back and relax? Maybe some members of your family enjoy museums, others prefer beaches, and still others love hiking or camping. Some resorts provide access to all of these types of activities. Or you could take a road trip that hits everyone's summer vacation itinerary.

Consider driving

The United States Energy Information Agency announced this spring that gas prices are expected to be lower this summer than in previous years. This may mean it's time for a good old-fashioned family road trip. Get out a map and see where the road may take you. Tourist Maker has created a list of "100 places to visit in the USA." Mark the location of all the places on the list that sound interesting to you. Then, draw a radius around your home with the distance your family can comfortably travel by car, and see which sights fall inside that circle. You may get to explore somewhere you never would have thought of before!

Bonus! Driving gives you the flexibility to change your travel plans at a moment's notice, and you don't have to worry about fitting everything you need in a suitcase. Just be sure to have lots of games and activities planned for the ride and a full bag of drinks and snacks.

Save some money

There are plenty of ways to vacation on a budget if you're a savvy planner. The simplest: avoid surge pricing. TripSavvy has pointed out that traveling to certain locations outside of their peak time can be a cost-saver. The first and last few weeks of summer, before schools let out or start for the year, can be great times to travel. Places will be less crowded, and you're likely to pay less for hotels, car rentals, and attractions.

But avoiding surge pricing isn't just about choosing the right dates. If you're thinking about visiting theme parks or other locations that are typically busy during the vacation season, check to see if the park has a twilight pass. Sometimes when you plan to arrive after 3 p.m., you can get a discount on your ticket.

Leverage your loyalty

Some companies use affinity programs that offer you discounts at other retailers when you buy their product. Even your employer might offer employee discounts at retailers, restaurants, and attractions. Try to secure discounted rates on the activities you'd like to include in your summer vacation.

Know your audience

If this summer vacation is about creating lasting memories with your kids, make sure the trip includes activities that are going to engage their minds, enhance their creativity, and improve your bond as a family. Trip Advisor compiles a list of America's 20 Most Kid-Friendly Places to visit. There are lots of ways to help your children experience something new and explore their interests, and this list includes lakes and rivers where your family can have an adventure along with interactive historical sites that will help them impress their teacher with their new knowledge in the fall.

At the end of the day, summertime is about recharging your mind, body, and spirit. The time your family spends together during the summer months is invaluable for building strong bonds and creating lasting memories. With some creativity and careful planning, make the most of every summer you spend together.