Family Travel: How to Create the Perfect ItineraryBy Angelica Malin
Are you looking forward to a family holiday next year? Well, if you want to do a bit of travelling with kids of all ages – from toddlers to teenagers – doing a spot of planning beforehand can really pay off. Here’s how to create the perfect itinerary for your next family trip:
1. Consider the ages and interests of family members
Family holidays are the most fun when everyone is happy, which means it’s worth considering what might be interesting to family members of all ages.
If you have toddlers, teenagers, or kids in primary school, a waterpark is bound to go down a storm, with teenagers hurtling down the biggest slides and toddlers splashing in the baby pool.
Consider looking for holiday packages with a kid’s club, too, if you think your children will quite enjoy having some age appropriate activities planned in for them: they’ll enjoy having some independent time away from mum and dad, and there’ll be plenty of opportunities to make friends as well.
2. Research top attractions in your chosen holiday location
When you’re looking for your next family holiday destination, make a note of all the top attractions that catch your eye. Whether it’s paying a visit to the wildlife parks in the Canary Islands, or stopping by a family-friendly science museum in Paris, you’ll have an easier job creating your itinerary if you’re not starting from scratch.
Google ‘what to do’ in your holiday destination and read the blogs and reviews written by other holidaymakers that have visited, and pay particular regard to what the tourists taking children have to say.
3. Book tours for the first day of your trip
If you’re planning on taking part in a tour or two, start writing your itinerary by planning them for the first day of your trip. The reason for this is that it will familiarise you with the location early on, getting a lay of the land and figuring out where everything is.
You’ll also be better able to appreciate the history, architecture and culture of the area as your holiday progresses by absorbing all that information at the beginning of the trip, and it will also give your family a chance to tell you what they’d like to see or do while you’re there.
4. Divide your itinerary into morning, afternoon and evening
Once you’ve planned in your tours, start dividing your days into three sections. This will help you to make sure you’re not over-cramming a day with things to do, and will help you to plan a bit of a structure too. If you have very small children, you might want to account for naps, and if you have teenagers, you’ll know all too well that they may not be the first to the pool in the morning!
5. Plan to visit well-known sites on weekdays
If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to put everyone in a bad mood, it’s having to wait in long lines – particularly in hot weather. So, if you want to visit popular tourist attractions, try to plan them on weekdays. Weekends tend to be busier (whatever the time of year) and if you can arrive earlier in the day, you’ll often find that attractions are less crowded too.
6. Plan activities and nearby eateries to fall side by side
While you’re filling up your itinerary, think about where you’re going to eat. If you visit family-friendly destinations such as Spain or France, you’ll find lots of restaurants, cafes and food markets, and you’ll have a relaxing time if you schedule activities nearby these places. That way, you won’t need to double back for lunch or dinner, or spend time travelling around with hungry children.
7. Plan to eat early
Also, factor in when to eat. As you’ll know from your normal routine at home, very young children do best eating earlier – for example, lunch at 11.30am to 12pm, and dinner reservations around 5pm. Of course, you can avoid the need to plan this kind of thing if you book an all inclusive holiday, knowing that your kids will help themselves to the poolside café throughout the day and eat well in the hotel restaurant too. But, if you do fancy going out for meals, just bear timings in mind. The other benefit of early eating as a family? You probably won’t have any trouble getting a table in a restaurant you have your eye on!
8. Schedule downtime
Everyone will have a great time flying from one activity to another, but factor in a little downtime – just as you would in a normal week at home. Use it to take a breather, have a nap (you, as well as your little ones!) or simply relax in the sunshine. Provided you pick a hotel with a swimming pool, your kids will be grateful to have lots of hours splashing around without the need to go anywhere, and you’ll get some much needed rest too.
9. Don’t underestimate how long it will take to get around
You’re only going to be able to explore at the pace of the person with the littlest legs – so expect everything to take a bit longer than you would if you’re travelling solo – especially if you’re pushing a pram or securing little ones into taxis or hire cars. So, when you’re filling up your itinerary, try to bear that in mind.
10. Don’t book up every day
Finally, remember how you’ve planned to take a tour on the first day of your holiday to give everyone the chance to spot a place or activity they’d like to do? Keep room in your itinerary for spontaneous trips accommodating precisely that kind of thing – whether it’s as simple as getting ice cream from a café on the beach, or as magical as going swimming dolphins, leaving some time free in your itinerary will give you the kind of flexibility you all need to have a great time.
So, that’s how to create the perfect itinerary for a family holiday, wherever you’re traveling to. Plan a loose schedule and factor in these key tips – you’ll have a fantastic time together, making memories that you and your children will treasure forever.