Take Five: Family Travel Timetable
Summer is creeping closer and closer. I can just feel it. Actually, I really can. The frizz-out humidity that spells summer here in south Florida has been here for over a month. I digress. It is time for me to wrap up planning the family summer get-away. So, today I will discuss a timetable useful for holiday planning. Our family usually begins summer get-away planning approximately five months before departing on holiday. This is the timetable we use:
Five Months Prior to Departure:
- Begin researching and discussing destinations.
- Ask the kids for input.
- Peruse travel websites, blogs, and magazines to help narrow the choice.
- Take a look at the bank account. Going into debt for a family vacation is not the kind of adventure you want to get into.
- Make sure travel documentation such as passports are current.
Four Months Prior to Departure:
- Narrow down your choices to two options that you can actually pull off. If your kids are old enough, take a vote.
- Choose your travel dates. Look carefully at the entire family’s calendar. You do not want to discover that Jimmy will be missing his lacrosse playoffs or your in-law’s annual visit after you have booked your flights.
- If you need to request time away from work, do it now.
- Book your flights. But, don’t do it right away. Check websites for airfare to your destination daily for at least two weeks. Include nearby airports in your search. Use all of the travel search engines at your disposal (more on this next week).
Three Months Prior to Departure:
- Choose your accommodations. Again, don’t do this right away. Read all of the traveler recommendations that you can find from all of the sources that you can find. Make sure the accommodations fit your family’s needs. A week in a “boutique” hotel suite with toddlers may not necessarily be the right fit.
- What do you want to do on holiday? Go to your local library. Check out all of the books on your destination as you can. Don’t forget to include the children. There are wonderful resources written for children as well as adults. The internet is an invaluable resource here too. Google “things to do in…with kids”.
- Plan your itinerary. Remember, when traveling with kids, less is more. A surefire tantrum inducer is cramming way too much into too short a time period. Trust me. I have learned this lesson the hard way.
- Include input from everyone in the family. Ask, what would you like to do on holiday this year? Aim to integrate one preference from each family member into your itinerary.
Two Months Prior to Departure:
- Make reservations for attractions, restaurants, tours, etc.
- If necessary, schedule transportation such as trains, rental cars, ferries, etc.
- Frequent online communities like BootsnAll and visit the discussion boards to gain useful information from travelers who have already visited your destination.
- Schedule immunizations if necessary.
One Month Prior to Departure:
- Download maps, walking tours, etc. onto a portable device such as I-Phone, I-Pod or Blackberry if you have one.
- Inventory your family’s clothing and supplies. Purchase necessary items. The personal battery-operated fan may be tempting, however; the money belt may be necessary.
- Inspect your luggage. You don’t want to have to carry a handful of your underwear through St. Pancras Station because your old suitcase tore apart. Save yourself the humiliation.
- Make arrangements for your pets to be cared for if they are staying behind. If you are bringing them along, God bless you. I am not that put-together yet.
- Put together small goodie-bags for your kids. Include art supplies, travel games, books, gum etc. Dollar stores are great for these items.
One Week Prior to Departure:
- Fill any prescriptions your family needs to bring along.
- Scan your travel documents such as passports into a PDF and e-mail it to yourself.
- E-mail receipts of reservations to yourself.
- Pack your luggage. Start packing as many days out as many people who are going on your get-away. For instance, if you are a family of four, begin packing four days before your departure.
- Enjoy yourself. Yes, you have been planning and preparing for the past four months, but don’t forget to live in the moment.