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How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip

For vacations that are low in tantrums and loaded with fun.

For vacations that are low in tantrums and loaded with fun.

How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip

By Kristi Valentini, Good Housekeeping

Ahhh, vacation. It’s something most of us look forward to all year. But figuring out how to keep your bank account and family happy (meltdowns and sibling spats, no thanks!) can be overwhelming.

Ready to take your family vacation to the next level? We asked fellow moms — some official experts and others who just travel a lot — for their no-fail tips. They dished on everything from saving big to packing light to building an amazing itinerary. Here’s how you can make your next family vacation the best one ever.



Get kids excited about the trip — anticipation is half the fun!

How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip

“Read books about the destination, the famous people who lived there, or the activities you’ll be doing to get kids pumped about the trip. For example, we read The Old Man and the Sea before vacationing in Key West. It made us look forward to visiting Ernest Hemingway’s house once we got there.”—Cortney Fries, family travel writer

“Spend some time as a family researching your vacation destination. Look at local museums, family programming, events, and attractions to get a feel for what everyone wants to do. And then let each child choose an activity.”—Zoie Kingsbery Coe, founder of Kid & Coe


Be picky about your accommodations.

How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip

“When selecting a hotel or vacation rental, make sure it has on-site activities such as a swimming pool or board games for kids. Built-in entertainment comes in handy when you need some downtime, and the pool may end up being the highlight of the trip for your kids.”—Amanda Norcross, senior editor of TripAdvisor’s family travel site Family Vacation Critic

“Where you stay can be the difference between total irritation and a vacation where you truly relax and enjoy each other. Choose centrally-located accommodations so you’re not wasting precious vacation hours driving back and forth around town. Also, spread out in a suite or connecting rooms at a family-friendly hotel, like places that offer kids programs, discounts on a second room, or special amenities for children.”—Amie O’Shaughnessy, CEO of Ciao Bambino



Eliminate big-ticket expenses.

“A great option for families who like to vacation for little to no cost is to sign up for a credit card with travel rewards. Look for one that gives you the most return per dollar spent. Then your everyday purchases help you cover travel expenses like airfare, hotels, and car rentals, and make family vacations much more affordable.”—Brianna Ognibene, founder of Mastering Mom Life blog

Pro Tip: Capital One’s Venture card is a perfect example of a card that will reward you for making every day purchases. Earn unlimited 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day.

After you book your travel, use your miles to "erase" the cost of flights, hotels, taxis and more with no blackout dates. There are no foreign transaction fees. And last, but not least, receive up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® fees.



Ship the small stuff.

“There’s no need to pack things like diapers and wipes — you can pick those up at your destination or order and ship them through Amazon to your accommodations. This saves you from having to pay for additional baggage when you fly.”—Amanda Norcross

“Make sure you have snacks with you and at your hotel. If you’re flying into your destination, order munchies and drinks through Amazon and get them shipped to your hotel. Just pick up your package (usually in the business center) when you arrive and your room is instantly stocked with cheap goodies. We save so much money this way.”—Deanna Tousignant, founder of Maple Leaf Mommy blog



Be smart about flight times.

How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip

“Consider flight times when booking your airline tickets. Spending more for direct flights may be worth it to avoid an extra-long day of travel. Also, arriving at your destination later in the afternoon combats jet lag because you can have dinner and go to bed, making it easier to get on local time.”—Dyan McKie, family product manager at Intrepid Travel

“Pack a bag for kids full of new things to do and keep it a secret. Fill it with markers, coloring books, an easy card game, a bouncy ball, special snacks, and stickers, and pull it out whenever the kids need entertaining.”—Zoie Kingsbery Coe 



Choose activities that make everyone happy.

How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip

“To make your trip extra special, plan one hands-on activity you can’t do at home, like taking a cooking class or learning how to surf. It can even be as simple as going to a neat park and playing with local kids.”—Amie O’Shaughnessy

“If you’re planning a multi-generational trip, plan different activities for different people. For example, you could take the kids to the playground to burn energy while grandparents tour a museum. At the end of the day, everyone can join back up to do a shared activity, like dinner at a restaurant.”—Margarita Ibbot, travel blogger at Downshifting PRO blog


“Look for places that offer something for children to do while you enjoy a grown-up activity, like a winery that has grape-juice tastings or bocce ball. More and more places are welcoming children by adding these kinds of kid-friendly elements.”—Amie O’Shaughnessy


Remember, it’s your vacation too.

How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip

“Prioritize grown-up time by arranging a quiet dinner or spa treatment without the kids, which is easier to do at all-inclusive resorts or on cruise ships where there are kids’ clubs or childcare readily available.”—Amanda Norcross

“Consider going on a family-focused group trip, especially if you’re a single parent. Traveling with other families gives your kids the chance to make new friends and for you to have conversations with other adults.”—Dyan McKie

Now that you have our seven pro tips on how to ensure a stress-free family trip, start booking! 

How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip

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Travel Magazine: How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip
How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Trip
For vacations that are low in tantrums and loaded with fun.
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Travel Magazine
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