The organizer in me enjoys planning for our family trips, and the perfectionist in me puts in a lot of time and effort to ensure that our vacations are kid-friendly, safe, convenient and enjoyable. Yes, I’ve drafted enough travel plans and itineraries – down to the tiniest details – to consider myself a pro. Haha 🙂 So here are some tips for you as you prepare for your next adventure. (Note that this is just the first of a series of travel-related posts; the next ones will be more detailed and specific.)
- When to start – Since it is a family vacation, everyone in your household should be able to join and enjoy the activities you’ll prepare. You should decide, then, if you really want to start going on a trip with your 6-month old baby or if you want to delay for a few years so he or she could at least have a memory of your holiday with the family. In our case, we waited for our youngest child to be four years old for our first overseas trip, and that worked well for us, especially because we didn’t have to bring their yayas, as well as their strollers and many other baby stuff.
- Vacation type – For starters, I suggest you go on a short road trip to, say, Clark or Subic if you’re northbound, or Laguna or Batangas if you prefer the south. That way, you’ll get the hang of the drill – from the packing, to the feeding, diaper changes, bladder break, and countless other stopovers to attend to your kid’s needs (and demands). Doing this will also allow you to see how your little one is like when traveling, and adjust accordingly in your succeeding family vacations. Once you’ve mastered step one, then you’re ready to do either a longer road trip or take a short-haul flight.
- Destination – Since it’s a family trip, you have to make sure that your destination is safe for your kids and offers activities that are aligned with your family’s interests. A simple Google search will help you do this. Take our case, for example. Our kids love Disney and theme parks so we made Hong Kong Disneyland our first stop. Hong Kong is just a two-hour flight from Manila, and is considered safe and family-friendly. Hong Kong Disneyland is a haven for Disney enthusiasts, and it offers convenient accommodations through its hotels. The next year, we went to Singapore and Malaysia to visit Universal Studios and Legoland, among others. Then, we said we were ready for quite a longer flight so we traveled to Japan for Tokyo Disney Sea and Tokyo Disneyland.
- Activities – From our experience, kids don’t really care much about a landmark or a tourist attraction, no matter how great the architecture or the story behind it is. For them, it’s all about trying out exciting rides, meeting a Disney princess, talking to their favorite hero, or being playful in a fun environment with other kids. Of course, I’m not saying that you should not expose them to the culture and landscape of the place you’re going to. That’s important, too, as it provides for a meaningful learning experience for them. I’m just saying prioritize areas where your kids will have the most enjoyable time. So if your children love swimming, then your itinerary should include a beach resort. Or if your boys are into basketball, perhaps allot one day where they can play hoops with other junior ballers, or even watch a live NBA game. Knowing your activities beforehand will help you pack the right things for your family.
- Budget – I always go for comfort and convenience, so I don’t mind spending on a nice hotel room (vs. budget hotels and lodgings), private transfers (as opposed to commuting to and from the airport), and tour packages (as against going from one place to another on our own via public transport). But if you’re after practicality and spontaneity, then that’s fine, too. It’s up to you to decide which items you’ll be willing to cash out more, and which ones are under the “no need to splurge on” bucket. The important thing is that you have enough budget for the big ticket items such as flights and accommodations, and a reasonable allowance for your day-to-day expenses while you’re vacationing.
- Important information (for overseas trips) – Before you board a plane, make sure you do your homework. I spend four to six months of research, comparing, and asking questions to know more about the place we’re going to – its profile, culture, weather (so I know what kind of clothes to bring), currency (and exchange rate vs. US dollar and Philippine Peso), its most notable attractions, and many more. I also make it a point to be familiar with their boarding, immigration and customs rules to avoid getting into any trouble.