Planning a Family Vacation Checklist

Planning a family vacation can be fun, yet sometimes exhausting just thinking about it. So, I’m here to help with this planning a family vacation checklist to help make your planning a little easier.

Traveling with kids is very different than traveling on your own. It can take longer and you’re often working with a lot of different moods, which can be frustrating. However, family vacations can equally be just as amazing and memorable by often finding joy in the smaller things.

When it comes to family vacations, you should start with the expectation to be flexible. Kids can make things unpredictable. Therefore, it is important to not be over scheduled and have a lot of quieter, down time moments.

Set a budget

Traveling with kids instantly increases the total price. For my family of four to fly anywhere, it easily costs us over $1000. Additionally, we like to eat out when we travel so those food bills add up.

Therefore, it is important to set a realistic budget early on. There are services online, such as, that help estimate what your average costs might be.

Hot Tip: Look to see if there are any travel opportunities with discounts for kids. Cruises often offer deals where kids travel for free, which can get you some major savings.

Planning a family vacation checklist

Use a travel agent

If you want help finding the best deals to save you money, then reach out to a travel agent. It is important to involve them early on so they can help you research everything for planning your family vacation.

Best part of using a travel agent is that they are 100% free to you!

Explore More: Need even more reasons to use a travel agent? Head over to my post about when and when not to use a travel agent.

Planning a family vacation checklist: use a travel agent

Need help planning your vacation? Reach out to me today for a free, no obligation quote.

Where to go

When you start on your planning a family vacation checklist, one of the first things to do is to determine where you want to travel. When traveling as a family either with small kids, teens, or even a multigenerational trip, it is important to consider a place with lots to see and a lot to do.

All inclusive resorts or cruises are some great options that have various activities that many people can enjoy. If you are looking for more of a cultural and historical experience, then Europe might be a good choice for your family.

When to go

Consider the weather for where you want to travel to and figure out when the best season might be for traveling. For example, when my husband and I traveled to Thailand we tried to avoid July to October, which is the designated rainy season.

Planning a family vacation checklist: consider when to go

Typically, when traveling with kids, you are often limited to traveling during school breaks and the holidays. Unfortunately, these remain some of the most popular times to travel as everyone is also limited on their travel dates.

If possible, try to travel in the off season when kids are back in school. Just make sure you inform the school and plan ahead for any homework that might need to be completed while you are away.

Who to bring

Family vacations come in all shapes and sizes. The bigger your family unit, the more fun you can have, but it can also come with a few more headaches.

When you have more people, it means you will have more opinions. So, when choosing a vacation spot, pick someplace that has a number of different activities that suit a number of different needs. This allows everyone to do their own thing and then meet up later for quality family time.

For my husband and me, one of the benefits to a family vacation with grandparents is that they can help watch the kids. It lets us get out to spend some one-on-one time together.

What to do

When planning a family vacation, always consider age-appropriate, kid-friendly activities. Some of our family favorite activities are pool days, miniature golf, bike rides, theme parks, and zoos.

Planning a family vacation checklist: what to do

I like to consider what everyone likes to do and make sure we have at least one activity everyone will enjoy. For example, my teenage daughter loves special snacks whereas my son has a lot of energy and likes to do something physically active.

Hot Tip: Schedule down days to avoid overpacking your days with too many activities. This helps keep everyone well rested and in good spirits.

Where to stay

When figuring out where to stay for a family vacation, start by considering what sleeping arrangements might be ideal for your family. If you have older children, they might benefit from having their own room; whereas, multiple younger kids might enjoy bunk beds.

Look into AirBnb or VRBO rentals to find rental homes that might suit your needs. I find that these vacation rentals can be comparable in price to hotels, but give you more flexibility and added perks like a kitchen or a washer/dryer.

If you are staying at a hotel, try requesting connecting rooms. This allows you to have more space as a family, but still be close by.

Mode of transportation

Travel costs are always one of the biggest things our family has to consider when planning a family vacation. Flying can certainly be faster, but nowadays it can come with a hefty price especially for a family.

Driving is often the cheaper option, but it can take a lot longer. One of the biggest benefits to driving though is that you aren’t limited in the amount of stuff you can bring. This works well if you are traveling with young children that need a car seat, stroller, toys, etc.

Planning a family vacation checklist: mode of transportation

My general rule is to consider flying if the drive is eight hours or longer. That seems to be my kids’ limit of patience with being in the car for an extended period of time. Past that amount of time, the benefits of flying are worth the price tag.

Explore More: Make things easier on yourself with my posts on surviving flights with kids or must-have road trip essentials for kids.

Prepare for international travel

If you are planning to travel abroad, then you must make sure your whole family has the necessary documents. This might mean a travel visa, specific immunizations, and a passport.

Planning a family vacation checklist: prepare for international travel

In the United States, if you are taking a cruise that is leaving and returning to the same port then you are not required to have a passport. A birth certificate is all you will need.

However, I still strongly recommend getting a passport in case something happens where you get stuck abroad. It is better to be safe than sorry.

How to prepare for international travel

Where to eat

My favorite part of any vacation is the food! Therefore, I love taking the time to research some of the best restaurants and local cuisine for wherever we are staying.

However, eating out can quickly add up in costs, especially when we are trying to feed four people. Therefore, try to save some money by staying in and making your own meals.

If you are traveling abroad, then I recommend making a point to try the local food for the full cultural experience. Even with picky eaters, there is no shame in eating from an international McDonald’s menu as you will get more local options. I myself was guilty of this as a child.


Packing for a family vacation can be a lot more difficult than just packing for yourself. Therefore, make sure you start doing laundry, packing clothes, and gathering supplies sooner rather than later.

Best thing you can do for a family vacation is to involve kids in the packing. My kids are slightly older so I can give them a list of how many days we are traveling and what the weather is going to be like allowing them to pack on their own.

If you are traveling with younger kids, I recommend putting an outfit for each day in individual travel zipper pouches. This makes it easy for them to grab and go each day.

My kids are also responsible for packing an entertainment backpack. This is a bag filled with activities and toys that they can play with on their own and don’t require anyone else. It helps make sure they have things that interest them for either long road trips or plane rides.

Explore More: Need help packing? Head over to my ultimate packing list to make sure you don’t forget a thing.


When we are on vacations, we often struggle with the kids wanting to buy EVERYTHING. I have found that it is easier to get them a gift card with a set amount and they are responsible for how they wish to spend their money. When their gift card runs out, they are done.

When packing, consider that you might want to bring souvenirs home and need space to do so. It can be beneficial to carry a foldable duffle bag that can expand if you end up needing more room on your return trip.

Explore More: Looking to travel without kids? Check out my post about on prepping for vacation without kids.

When it comes to planning a family vacation, just remember to relax and stay flexible. I find that the memories on family vacations are made more in the small moments, whether being stuck in the car, waiting in lines, or just hanging out in our pajamas.

What is the best family vacation you have ever taken? Let me know in the comments below!

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