Back in my twenties, selecting a destination was easy. I browsed travel brochures or attended travel shows, something caught my eye and bam, it was booked. Now, with another adult to consider plus three young children, my whole methodology has changed. I need to consider travel time, methods of travel, amenities at our accommodations, safety, medical facilities…and the list could go on.
Today, I usually start with these two questions:
- Is there somewhere we really want to go?
- Are we bound by certain parameters such as a school holiday?
With my oldest in elementary school, we find ourselves using our children’s school calendar as the primary driver. Once we know the dates, we will begin jotting down ideas for each time period. We do, however, have some exceptions. In summer 2018, my husband, an avid UK football fan, shared that his team would be playing friendly matches in Sydney and Perth, Australia. Australia was somewhere we had wanted to go and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Originally, we were looking at tickets for the game in Perth but quickly changed our tune when we started looking at the additional travel time just to get across Australia!
Aside for an event like this (or a wedding or other celebration), we tend to look at several options before we actually book. I playfully call this “candidate cities” (or countries) – basically emulating the Olympic site selection process! I’ll do the research, put together a quick outline for my husband with the basics (travel time, approximate cost, things to do that are family friendly) and then we whittle it down from there.
Ready to start planning your next adventure? Here are some considerations?
- Weather: Take a look at historical weather and see what you are likely to encounter. We don’t mind cold or rain but would rather be prepared and ensure there are adequate activities for us to do.
- Travel time: I always look at the total travel time, length and number of layovers, the time we will arrive at our destination and if we will need to switch airports at all (ex. Buenos Aires has two airports and, if you’re traveling domestically within the country, you may need to travel across town to the other airport).
- Type of Accommodations: As a family of five, we have shifted towards more vacation rentals as many hotels require us to be in two rooms (has it advantages but also drastically increases the cost, especially since we like to be more centrally located these days). I like to get a sense of average cost per night, what are common amenities, what neighborhoods are desirable to be in, etc.
- Things to Do (with kids): It is very easy to find a list of things to do in a new city but can be challenging to find a list of kid-friendly activities. While you may want to hit up the famous museum in town, your kids may be more interested in the local playground! Also, be sure to seek out both indoor and outdoor activities — after getting a sense of the neighborhoods and major attraction’s locations, I like to search for indoor play spaces, kid-friendly cafes and indoor museums so we have some options if it is very hot, very cold or rainy.
- Playgrounds: I never thought I would be searching Google Maps for playgrounds in random cities and then checking it out from street view to get a sense of the offerings but, it has helped us find some amazing locations to stay in and gives us a cheap and easy outing that we will usually visit a few times.
- Getting around: If we just need to get to and from the airport, I have had great luck finding kid-friendly car services that provide seats but, in most places, we are starting to ditch the rental car in favor of walking or public transport. I look for a safe, reliable bus or subway system and pedestrian friendly pathways.
- Health & Safety: My pre-kid travel took me to places like Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Antarctica. I didn’t really look into available medical facilities and just winged it. Now, I will usually search the US Department of State website to review health info and sometimes will also seek out an English-speaking doctor ahead of time in the event we need care.
- General costs: Traveling with five people isn’t cheap – we need five seats on the plane, a larger car, five admissions to everything, five meals…you get it, it adds up. I like to get a sense of costs so I can estimate what our daily spend would be and, if there is a premium, gives me a sense of having amenities like a kitchen or a hotel with complimentary breakfast being that much more worthwhile.
Things I don’t worry about:
- Food – literally everywhere in the world we have gone has something my kids will eat (ex. Pizza is universal!)
- Language barriers – yes, it can be frustrating but it is also part of the adventure. With today’s technology like Google Translate using the camera function, what used to be difficult is now much easier.
- Will we be bored? – While I try to have some “must dos” jotted down, I love traveling for the reason that I get to enjoy my kids more and not worry about work, keeping the house clean, running errands, etc. On many of our trips, we have lingered in a local cafe coloring and enjoying some fresh pastries before heading to the park and just getting lost in the city. The days like these have been some of our favorites.
Lastly, I love to mix-up the types of travel throughout the year – city break, beach, cultural…it helps diversify our travel experiences and narrow down locations. Check out some of our family adventures in my destination guides section.
And yet, sometimes, I see an amazing photo on TV, Instagram, in a magazine and, instantly, know I want to go to that place!