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How to plan a family vacation

Planning a family road trip can feel overwhelming. You need to think about so many things before you can hop on that plane. Where should our family vacation at? Is the destination safe? How much money do we need to safe up? What should we pre-book? The list of things to figure out, plan and book is endless.

I wrote this step-by-step guide, how to plan a family road trip, to make the family travel planning process a lot easier. Having traveled to about 50 countries, 35+ with kids in tow, I know all the things you need to consider before booking you family road trip. So what do you have to know about planning a family trip?

a light grey floor is filled with books about Bali. They are all opened to showcase the beauty of the pictures inside. Surrounding the pile of books is a miniature globe, a Canon camera, a GoPro and a Dutch passport

Why travel with kids?

Family travel planning is all about being prepared and knowing what you’re getting into to make your trip a succes for everyone involved. You’ll run into some bumps along the way, but you get so much in return. Traveling with kids is amazing and there is no reason for you to believe you have to stop traveling while your kids are young.

You might ask yourselves if it is worth it to go on a trip with kids. The most important reason to do it is that you’re able to spend quality time with your kids away from daily family life. You get to see the world through your kids’ eyes and their perspective. Traveling opens their eyes to the world and they learn to appreciate similarities and differences of all people and cultures.

Traveling as a family means getting out of your comfort zone, this goes for every family member. You try things that you might never do again or you’ve been on an adventure you’ll never forget. You win some and you loose some on a family trip. You just have to get your feet wet and learn what works and what doesn’t. You have come prepared so you need to do some planning before your family vacation.

a boy running through the sand, surrounded by lush jungle. He's running towards a beachside accommodation in Tulum, Mexico

Deciding where to go

The first step when planning a family road trip is deciding where to go. It’s really fun to do this together as a family. But, before you gather everyone around the table it is important that you as parents answer some basic questions first:

  • what type of road trip do you want to do?
    • are you traveling domestically or internationally?
    • do you want to travel around in your own vehicle or will you rent a car, camper or use public transport?
  • what is your budget for this trip and how much time do you have?
  • what destinations are appropriate for the ages of our kids?
    • does the destination offer enough activities that are fun for the entire family?
    • is there political unrest in (parts of) the country of choice?
    • is the level of hygiene acceptable for you as a parent?
    • do you need (travel) vaccinations that are available for all kids in your family?
  • what sort of experience are you looking for?
    • are you looking for outdoor adventures, island hopping or city tripping or maybe a combo?

After answering all these questions you have a better vision of the right kind of road trip for your family. Fitting with your budget, and available vacation days. Next up, pick a total of 5 road trip destinations to choose from as a family. Kids ages 5 and up will probably love that they get to be a part of the decision-making process. It will give you a chance to teach your kids things about the countries on your shortlist.

After exploring all the options together tell them that they can each pick a favorite and a number two and then add your own top 2 to the list and pick the family favorite.

Congratulations! You’ve picked a destination. The first step of planning a family vacation is done!

A father and his two sons are enjoying the pages of an atlas

Travel essentials

Now that you know where you’re going it is time to start checking off your must do’s in time. And I’m not talking about booking that flight or renting a campervan. Here’s a list of things you have to do before you’re truly ready to pack those bags.

Get your travel documents ready

    • do you have the right type of ID?
    • are everyone’s ID’s still valid?
    • do you need an international driver’s license?
    • are you traveling with both parents? If not, make sure you bring proof of parental rights, birth certificates and a letter of consent from the other parent proving you can bring the kids with you on the trip
    • check all vaccination passports and make sure everyone is vaccinated as advised by your country its health department and/or warranted by the country you’re visiting

In all cases check the dates when there’s still plenty of time to get the documents renewed. Some countries require a certain amount of time left before it’s time to renew your passport.

Visa

An unmissable step when planning a family trip is checking the website of the embassy of the country you’re planning to visit to find out if you need a visa. Depending on how strong your nation’s passport is you’ll either need an e-visa, visa on arrival or a visa stamped into your passport.

If your trip takes place in high season chances are that embassies are flooded with visa applications right before high season. Take that into account when planning your applications and make sure you don’t wait until last minute to apply.

We recommend using iVisa when you want to apply for an eVisa.

Medical declarations

A lot of people take prescribed medication. If you do then you have to check a few things before bringing your meds along. What is legally prescribed in one country can be illegal or even forbidden in another country. This is something you should check with the consulate of the country you’re visiting. In most cases you need a medical passport that can be provided by either your general practitioner or your pharmacy.

It gets trickier if you use medication that falls under the Opium Law. In this case a medical passport isn’t enough. You need a medical declaration filled in by your general practitioner and stamped by them. This medical declaration needs to be legalized by the institute that handles consular issues in your country. After you got this form legalized you have to visit the consulate or embassy of the country you’re visiting. There you will get your last stamp (in exchange for money, of course) and you are finally ready to take your meds with you to your destination of choice.

Read more >>  Traveling with medication that falls under the Opium Act

Download my pocket guide >> How to stay healthy traveling with kids

Travel insurance

Get travel insurance if you don’t already have it and check if all your children are part of your insurance policy. If all is well take a look at your coverage. Is the country you’re visiting part of the coverage? Are you planning on doing activities that might be excluded (for instance skiing)? And what if a member of the family gets ill or a next of kin dies and you need to get home asap, is that all covered appropriately?

In other words, check what can be claimed back and what is excluded. If you’re not happy with your coverage you can switch in time for your trip.

I’m not an insurance expert, so I won’t recommend a specific insurer. But I will share the most popular travel insurance companies with you. Check out if one of the following companies is a good fit for your family: World Nomads, Heymondo , Safety Wing or Travelex.

Copies and scans

Always copy and scan all needed documents. Carry your copies in a different bag than the official ones. In case you lose any of the documents you will at least have a copy. Nothing beats the original, but it’s better than nothing.

Copies also come in handy when you want to buy a local sim card. Sellers require a copy of your passport. If you don’t feel comfortable handing out a copy of your passport buy your eSim in advance from Airalo.

Entrance to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap - Cambodia
Renting a campervan online

Planning your trip

No part of how to plan a family trip guide is complete without sharing what you should plan ahead. There are 3 major type of things you should book ahead.

Transportation

How do you get to your destination? If you’re traveling with your own vehicle there’s nothing to worry about. But if you need to rent a car of camper you should book well ahead of time to get the size that fits your family and your luggage.

And then there are the flights. Get your domestic and international plane tickets before they sell out. Nowadays you often have to prebook seats next to one another. Don’t think that people will be kind enough to swap seats to keep the family together. They might, but most people pay extra for their seat and unwilling to swap seats with you.

Accommodation

When planning a family trip consider the accommodation options. If you’re looking for a rental home, family room or AirBnB for a longer period of time you should definitely book well ahead of time. Especially during high season.

This is also important if you’re traveling off the beaten path. Less options are available, especially for couples with one or more kids. When taking a cruise you should definitely do your research on time. Not all cruises are kid friendly and the amount of family or interconnecting rooms is usually not that high.

We recommend Hostelworld for hostels, Vrbo for rental homes and Booking.com, Agoda and Expedia for hotel rooms.

inside family cabin on Halong Bay cruise - Vietnam
inside family cabin on Halong Bay cruise - Vietnam

What to pack

You’re almost done planning a family trip, you’ve made it to the last step and that is: packing! What are the do’s and don’ts?

Don’t overpack

everything needed for a baby on a trip is laid out on the bed. A back carrier, toys, clothes, a few diapers and shoes
Everything a teen needs on a trip is laid out on the bed. Clothes, games, shoes and toiletries are all ready to be packed

Do not overpack. Most parents have a tendency to pack everything kids use at home. That’s a terrible idea. Mostly for your back. Unless you start your road trip from home with a camper or caravan and have the luxury of bringing much more stuff, my advise is to pack as little as possible.

Halfway through a long travel day, there is a very good chance that you’ll both be carrying a kid on your arm and that’s why you need to pack as light as you can to avoid sore arms and little energy left.

No matter where you go, children live there. Diapers, wipes, formula and jarred food: you can buy these almost everywhere. Bring what you need in your child’s daypack and after you arrive you can buy all these things while grocery shopping.

How much luggage should you bring? Our family of 4 we prefers traveling with carry-on only. That wasn’t possible during the baby and toddler phase, because they need so much stuff at that age. But ever since our youngest turned 4 we bring 1 large suitcase along to fit all our stuff (4p) and we each bring one carry-on along for the trip.

A mother and son are enjoying the view of a lake in Italy during summer

How to plan a family road trip

If you made it to the end of this post you know that planning a family trip requires some serious planning. I gave you the rundown of the most important steps you have to take. If you want to know more about planning a family vacation, then I’ve got you covered with my eBook!

I’ll be holding your hand every step of the way. Just to make sure planning your family trip will go smoothly.

Get my FREE ebook >> The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road Trip

If you’re interested in more family travel tips or road trip guides to various countries all over the world then check out my other blog post. And be sure to check out my free resources to check out all the printable packing and travel bucket lists, ebooks and pocket guides.

Enjoy your family trip! Remember: if you want to give your offspring something special that they will value for life, gift your kids the world!

About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

above a couch you see 4 illustrated poster maps of different countries in the colors brown, blue, green and white. This picture leads to the shop page where you can buy illustrated poster mapsbanner image with the text get access to my free ebook with all the tools and tips you need to plan out and enjoy your ultimate family road trip. The title of the book is also shown and is The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road Trip. A mock up is shown of a laptop, tablet and phone showing the cover of the ebook and 3 small images giving a sneak peak of 3 pages inside the book.5% discount link Heymondo Travel InsuranceVisit our travel shop!Download my FREE printable packing listsBuy your 3D wooden world map @ Enjoy The Wood with 10% discount code SASCROSSINGCOUNTRIESUPBecome a member of my private family travel Facebook groupLink to shop The Adventure BookRent a car via Discover CarsGet my free downloadable family travel pocket guidesGet an eSim from AiroloDownload my FREE printable bucket lists

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About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

above a couch you see 4 illustrated poster maps of different countries in the colors brown, blue, green and white. This picture leads to the shop page where you can buy illustrated poster mapsbanner image with the text get access to my free ebook with all the tools and tips you need to plan out and enjoy your ultimate family road trip. The title of the book is also shown and is The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road Trip. A mock up is shown of a laptop, tablet and phone showing the cover of the ebook and 3 small images giving a sneak peak of 3 pages inside the book.5% discount link Heymondo Travel InsuranceVisit our travel shop!Download my FREE printable packing listsBuy your 3D wooden world map @ Enjoy The Wood with 10% discount code SASCROSSINGCOUNTRIESUPBecome a member of my private family travel Facebook groupLink to shop The Adventure BookRent a car via Discover CarsGet my free downloadable family travel pocket guidesGet an eSim from AiroloDownload my FREE printable bucket lists