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Planning your family’s perfect holiday takes some time! But with good planning and following our advice on our post How To Plan A Family Holiday, your next step, the family holiday trip planner booking and organizing phase will be MUCH easier.
To start with and to utilize this helpful holiday trip planner guide, you will have all the following mapped out:
- Approx. dates for trip, including any important festival dates.
- Amount of time available + budget
- The Trip Pillars
- A basic itinerary
You can move onto How to plan Your Family’s Perfect Holiday. Now we are getting into the nitty-gritty.
Talk to your travel agent
The easiest way to organize your family’s perfect holiday is to see a travel agent, especially a specialist travel agent in the area you are visiting. You may already even have a relationship with someone who has helped you while doing your research. I am a holiday trip planner but travel agents take much of the headache out of your family holiday.
At a minimum, they book your flights, transfers, and hotels checking a range of details like connection times, and ensure the bed arrangements are suitable. They can often get better rates than you can online.
If you also have them organize your activities while in country, then much of the hassle of travel is gone.
Travel agents do of course come at a cost; but if you don’t have the time or energy to be a holiday trip planner alone, then this will be money well-worth spending. In this day and age they also need to be competitive and recent experiences with travel agents have saved us money, as well as helped things flow smoothly.
If you have kids under 5, then working with a travel agent might be the most practical option for you. Let a travel agent be your main holiday trip planner and you can focus on the fine details.
However, if you are an independent traveler from ‘way back’ the idea of relinquishing control over your travel options is tantamount to heresy!!! Even if you do book some of your holiday with a travel agent, having these steps in your mind is vital.
Review your passports and visa requirements.
Before booking your flights, get out your passports and make sure they will still be valid for your entire holiday . Also, many countries require that you have 6 month validity upon your arrival back home. (Check your home countries requirements!)
Check to see if you need a visa for the countries you are visiting. If yes, confirm that you will have enough time to apply for them comfortably before your proposed travel dates.
Most countries recommend that you do not book flights BEFORE applying for the visa as no visa is EVER guaranteed.
First up, you need to get flights locked in. Once they are booked then know your budget for the rest of the trip. If you are flexible with flights and can depart within a certain few days, then we recommend to search flexibly.
I am not going to tell you if you shop on a certain day or time you will get bargains, but if you can change your departure day +/- 5 days you can often get much better deals. When buying for 4 or more travelers that could mean hundreds of dollars.
Once you have decided where you are going, and which seasons are best (See our handy Trip Planning guide) then subscribe to emails from a number of different places so that you are alerted when the sales start. For example:
- Your frequent flier airline
- The national airline of where you are traveling to
- Online cheap search engines (We like “I Know The Pilot” and Skyscanner)
Frequent Flier membership
- There is a plethora of blogs out there about how to get the most out of your Frequent Flier miles.
- We have traveled 3 out of 3 of our last holidays on points, and we have ‘normal’ spending patterns.
‘Too cheap/ too good”
- If you find yourself salivating at a price that seems too good to be true: check the routing, the layovers, or the arrival time. It probably has some catch; you need to read the fine print! The key to being a good holiday trip planner is to research everything.
- Remember – a 6 am departure means that for an international flight you need to be at the airport at 3am. Not much fun, especially not with kids.
- A 12 hour layover between connecting flights is NOT fun. It is like a version of hell with small kids.
- Consider a better connection or turning the layover into a several day stopover which can assist with jet lag as well as meaning you get to see a new destination. (It all depends on how time-poor you are!)
We have done this travel hack with Expedia over the years, but Skyscanner seems to have exceeded them with their searching abilities at the moment. Basically search for flights to your destination and then add 1 stop or 2 stops. Reduce the amount of clutter by searching only for the airlines you know stop in the places you want to visit. Or click here take a look at this blog which documents the process perfectly.
Booking the Accommodation
This is the big travel decision for this family. If we are on a short holiday, of a month or less, we book all of our accommodation in advance. For longer trips, a more casual approach can work but, once again, is the eternal battle (or balance) between time vs budget.
You can read our full list of pros/cons of home rentals here XXX insert link to blog about Airbnb. (Sheila, this blog is not finished, but will be soon!)
In short, the benefits of staying in someone’s home or apartment are that you can self-cater (important for budget), get more space than a hotel room, and finally, get to live in a “real neighborhood”.
On the other hand, hotels provide a more consistent experience, and perks like a gym and swimming pool and are often better located.
Each family is different, you know yours.
We’ve got a voucher for AU $50 when you sign up to AirBNB. Take the opportunity here!
If you are short on time; and would like your holiday to flow seamlessly then contracting a tour provider, at least for complex sections makes sense.
We recommend looking for a local company that is well recommended and treats its staff in a responsible manner. We specifically look for these kind of companies because it is our belief that any cheap service can’t treat its people, equipment or even cars right! For us, it is a no brainer: we don’t want to unnecessarily put our kids at risk so safety is more important than budget.
Having worked in tourism in the Americas, we agree that if you go book train and local attraction tickets yourself, you will DEFINITELY save money. However, the savings can be pretty minimal and we would rather be spending quality time with kids than trying to entertain them in queues. Again, you know the balance between your budget and your time.
Before actually booking the hotels and itinerary ask yourself the following:
- Have we allowed for “down time” for the kids and family?
- For us, with under 7’s and smaller, that means a couple of days recuperating from travel/and or jet lag. (For us, travel is a huge stress – both physically and mentally – on little bodies. Even as adults we feel strung out by the tempo that surrounds D-day (departure day) and then getting on planes, strange hours, dehydration, and then the surreal feeling of arriving in a new place. Being kind to our minds and bodies after arrival is vital. Being the family holiday trip planner is hard enough, make sure to allow for self-care time during your vacation. See our blog post Jet Lag with Toddlers: How To Deal With It for tips and information on how to mitigate, and cope with, jet lag in your children.
- Then during the itinerary we try a 1 day activities, 1 day down time pattern. Down time might mean sleeping in, lazing around the pool, or going to a playground. For school aged kids, it might also include some school work.
Often, if we can, we book our flights and accommodation in one go and then take a “breather” from the stress of being a holiday travel planner.
Having a fairly loose itinerary is vital with kids, and as long as we have a place to stay then we are happy to “make up” the itinerary when we arrive.
What have we missed in our Holiday Trip Planner post? Please leave us a comment below.
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