Planning a Perfect Family Vacation for the entire clan is usually cause for heartburn. Aarti Cooper tells you how to keep everyone happy (and yourself sane)
From hectic work schedules to kids’ extracurricular activities, there are always plenty of excuses for not taking a family vacation. And those who do often find the planning stressful. But a family vacation also gives you memories to last a lifetime. It allows you to relax together, away from the pressures of home. It lets you bond with people you do love, but probably don’t see often, and discover common interests. You just need to plan it right. Here’s how.
Is it just you and the kids, parents and grandparents or an extended family holiday? Keeping in mind the ages of all involved is vital. For example, you may want to avoid cold places with the elderly or road trips across small towns if you’re in a large group. Kenyan safaris, Florida (Disney World, the beaches and Everglades), Thailand and Malaysia are destinations that have something for everyone.
TOP TIP: TouristEye (iOS, Android) helps you build a wish list of destinations based on your group. You can share the list with your family and plan the holiday together.
When To Go
When choosing a place, consider the weather and the flight duration. Istanbul, for instance, is a short flight from major Indian cities and in May, when schools are out, has pleasant temperatures, between 13 and 20°C. Plus, it’s a popular starting point for a number of Mediterranean cruises. Cunard (www.cunard.co.uk) offers a seven-day cruise around Istanbul and the Greek Isles.
TOP TIP: Check www.accu weather.com for extended forecasts or download Dark Sky (iOS, Android) for minute by minute weather updates.
It’s important to broadly fix your budget for the trip. Keep in mind that the incomes of your family members may vary, so make sure everyone is comfortable with what is being spent. A good budget plan should include the cost of international flights and any other major travel, such as domestic flights or trains, accommodation, meals and basic activities. Remember that travel during Christmas and New Year’s may be more expensive.
TOP TIP: Compare vacation packages on www.kayak.com and www.getgoing.com.
For all-inclusive deals, look at group travel specialists such as Abercrombie & Kent (www.abercrombiekent.co.in), andBeyond (www.andbeyond.com) and Club Med (www. clubmed.co.in). These operators have their own properties and expert planners for a variety of destinations globally.
Destination & Logistics
Now that you’ve got your group, budget and dates sorted out, it’s time to decide where to go. This is also a good time to organise the logistics of how you’re planning to get around. Choosing an area always helps—for example, Asia may offer more bang for your buck than Europe, but internal travel can be difficult. European cruises, such as The Emerald Princess (www.princess. com), which takes you from Southampton, UK to Santiago de Compostela in Spain (and even Australia, depending on the length of journey), are an easy way to see multiple places without worrying about transportation.
TOP TIP: For inspiration, recommendations and advice from others who’ve been there, done that, look at www.gogobot. com’s family travel section. If you’re going the cruise way, check www.cruisecritic.com.
Where To Stay
Your accommodation depends largely on the size of your crew and the destination you choose. Large chain hotels are sometimes best for their consistent standards, connecting rooms and comfort, but serviced or independent- stay rental options, like villas, home stays and apartments are also entering the organised luxury space. Discuss a packing list with your group; make sure everyone knows luggage limits, especially if you’re flying with small internal airlines or will be using cars to get around.
TOP TIP: Take a look at Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) for instantly booking self-serviced accommodation (especially good in big cities and popular tourist destinations like Rome, NYC, Sydney and Cape Town). For globally curated luxury villas, www.edgeretreats.com lists especially good options in Thailand, Europe and the Caribbean islands, and has a private destination concierge service. And do away with all your packing woes with PackPoint (iOS, Android), an app that checks the weather and creates a customised packing list, which you can share with the rest.
Activities & Special Needs
Remember that more people usually means a slower pace, so it is best to keep a less rigid schedule. Generally, one organised activity per day is good enough. Do keep in mind things such as wheelchair accessibility, dietary requirements and kids’ entertainment. Take along plenty of board games as they can be enjoyed by all age groups and are a great way to bond.
TOP TIP: Tripit (iOS, Android) is an app that puts all your travel bookings and schedules in one place. It finds you alternative schedules and grabs you the best seats when it can. For activity packages, look at www. viator.com.
When You’re Back
Put one or two people in charge of editing and sharing all your trip photos and videos and get everyone to send their material to those people. Also, now’s the time you’ll be neck-deep in trip accounts and it can get tricky to ask people for money owed to you. Keep track during the holiday and be transparent about it.
TOP TIP: Tripcast (iOS, Android) is an app that builds a living travel journal—you can record daily updates, map your trip and assemble everyone’s photos in one place. For expenses, use Splitomatic (iOS, Android) through the trip. It’s an app in which you enter all expenses incurred for the trip. It tells you exactly who owes what to whom—no awkward moments.