June 17, 2009

Vacationing with Family- Tips & Reviews

One thing I absolutely LOVE to do with my family, is to go on vacation! Who doesn't? But, travel with kids can be difficult and expensive.

So, what I want to try to do with this segment is to try to share what has worked (and what hasn't!) when we plan a vacation and travel with family. This can include your kids and also extended family.

I also want to share some of our favorite vacations, and tips for those places also. As always, your comments and info are important too. So if you have some helpful info that has worked for your family, please share! Many of MY travel tips have been used for years by me, and passed down from my mother who had 5 children who made travel interesting for her! So, we will say there is a lot of experience here...

So, first things first! You have decided 'We need a vacation! We want to go to _______(insert name of vacation location)!'. NOW what do you do?

What you need to do as you explore ideas, and get information, is you need to make sure you keep all of that info together. I use a notebook, a regular school notebook. First, I write down our ideas. We want to go _______. While we are there we want to see _______. We want to do _______.

Second, establish a budget for your trip. If you are planning to fly to Paris, your budget cannot be $2000. for a family of 6. Probably impossible. Give yourself a realistic amount. Maybe vacation somewhere a little closer.

Third, research! Look on the Internet, look in magazines, talk to people! I have never went with a travel agent. I AM THE TRAVEL AGENT! I don't want to pay someone else to do work that I can do myself! While you are researching, and brainstorming, and gathering ideas... WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN! Write down that Aunt Jane told you about their vacation to Hawaii, and how they found this really great hotel, that was reasonably priced and had many accommodations for kids. Or your next door neighbor just took a trip to New York City and found a great place where their family ate cheaply for the whole vacation. After you write these things down, research it for yourself. Look up how much it costs. Look up if it really even exists! Make sure these places are as great as people are saying they are.

Make sure you are making accommodations you can all live with for a week (or however long your vacation is). If you have kids traveling with you, make sure you have accommodations that will suit them! We don't like to stay in hotel with the boys, because USUALLY there is no play area, there is no areas that they can run and we get glared at for letting them! We also prefer, when traveling with our kids, that we have (at least) a kitchenette so we can have food and eat in, if we want. This is SO much cheaper for us. So we make sure our vacations include this. Make sure each person has what they need!

Once you get all of these great ideas and research done, you will want to make some final plans. Planning months ahead is great, especially for reserving hotels or vacation spots. 1 year in advance is the best time. Many places will only take reservations for hotels and homes a year in advance. Sometimes this is different. Call on the place you want to stay at. Make sure the Internet or brochure price is the correct price. If they tell you more over the phone, don't be afraid to question the price you see on the Internet (or brochure). Sometimes they will end up giving you that price! If they are a lot more then what you expected them to be, don't be afraid to tell them that their info was misleading and you won't be staying with them! This is NOT rude, as long as you act professionally. They need to know that they need to change their info if they want people to vacation with them! Also, make your final arrangements according to what you want to spend, etc. Cross out info for the items that are out of budget!

Look into buying tickets to attractions and shows before you leave. Sometimes, a lot of times, this can save you money. And you may have a better spot at a show if you reserve early! Make sure to get confirmation numbers and final costs, and write them down in your notebook. Also ask them to send you a receipt. When you get the receipt, keep it in your notebook (staple it in or paper clip it, or have a folder with your notebook). This is important because if they don't have your info, and you show up waiting to see the show, then you may not be staying if you can't prove you paid for it! Bring all info with you!

How much is gas going to cost? Figure up the miles, guesstimate the gas prices (make them a little high) then figure out your total cost for gas. (also make sure your vehicle has proper tune-ups and such BEFORE you leave).

When I have all of my prices, I add it to my budget. Like this (please don't critique my math skills, I am NOT a mathmatician!):

  • Gas $2.90 p/gal, 500 miles (round trip), Vehicle mileage is 18 miles per gallon highway. 18 /500 = 27.77 x $2.9 = $80.55 Total Cost for gas

  • Housing House for 1 week $400 per family + $50 deposit = $450.

  • Amusement Park tickets (bought ahead) 1 day, $45. per adult, $30 per child= $90 adult + $90 kids= $180. total for tickets

  • Food Eat out 5 times, $40 x 5= $200 to eat out. Groceries (use your own judgement to guesstimate this total, go high) $300. + $200= $500 Total for food.

  • Shopping (This is also however much you feel you want to spend on your vacation. Figure in all of the places you are going, and are you going to want to buy something from each place? ). $200. Total Shopping

Your total figured for you vacation $1410.55.

So, if your total is $1410, take at least $1500 with you, and have money somewhere in case of emergency. You don't want to be stuck somewhere with a flat tire, and to buy a new one, you have to spend your food money for the week!

I do this for any vacation that we plan. And we just make sure that we know once the shopping money is gone, that's it! And once the eating out money is gone, we go back to the house and make sandwiches! It is a vacation, BUT you don't want to break the bank to have fun!

You also want to make sure you save ahead for your vacation. You don't want to not have electricity when you come back because you wanted to buy all of your kids the "I went to Texas, and all I got was this stupid T-shirt" shirt. Know what I'm sayin'?

When planning your vacation, PLANNING is the key word. If you are planning for your extended family, make sure everyone knows the costs. I usually make a paper (Like the budget above) and print it out for everyone, so they know what their costs are. I usually write what they owe on one thing or another, or when they need to send in the money for the housing, etc. It helps if at least ONE person is organized, and has all of the information. It can actually be counterproductive to have a different person take care of different parts of the trip. Sometimes wires get crossed, and Susan thought Janet was supposed to take care of the amusement park tickets... Ooops.

So, that my friends, is a brief rundown of how I get organized for vacation planning. If you have any questions, don't be afraid to ask! It is hard to get all of the info in without writing a book! Also, if you have any suggestions for planning a vacation, please leave a comment! Any helpful info is appreciated!

More Vacationing with Family- Tips & Reviews COMING SOON!


Travel Tips said...

That is actually pretty cheap for a 1 week vacation with the family, we usually spend 1000$ for just three days. Thanks for the tips!

Danielle said...

Great post...and just in time for family vacation time.....I can't wait to see your family friendly ideas...I am hoping you help me figure out where we are going this fall....THANKS!!

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