For anyone who has planned a trip abroad you know how much research and planning goes into a vacation. There are so many components to consider that it is easy to get lost behind one, possibly forgetting completely about the importance of another.
In my experience there are 5 key components to a fabulous vacation. None more important than the other really rather all are equally important and all components that need to be addressed before leaving home.
If I had to pick 1 thing that is most important in trip planning I would have to say that location is it. To start you want to pick a country or general area of the world that will suit you and your family. Think of all the intricate details to any given country, you will quickly realize that certain spots may not be best if you only have 1 week, or perhaps you do not want to be vaccinated, leaving other countries off the list. The ages of your children will also need to be factored in. For example a beach trip to a location with huge waves and a frightening undertow is probably not best suited to travelers with toddlers.
Now this is perhaps the most difficult piece to the puzzle, the thing that always gave me the most angst. There are just so many options and scouring through them all can be very overwhelming. My advice is to focus again on your families needs. Do you have to work while there? Is WIFI vital? Do you need a pool or a certain configuration to the room?
Of course cost will also be the main search criteria but even with in a range of prices you realize in a hurry that the options are endless. Now I am not a huge planner but especially if you are only going someplace for 1-2 weeks try and see what it is in the general area that you want to be sure not to miss. Research where the good restaurants are and choose a hotel according to whatever will not only save money but stress in searching the city to get to the places you wish to see. If your hotel is located in easy walking distance you will save time, money, and angst!
It may not seem like an important component but really it is. Most people can only take so much of sightseeing and in their downtime prefer to have a little fun! Whether it comes in the form of an adult casino visit or a trip to the local amusement park for the kids, its important to be aware of what options there are where you are headed. I know researching all the cultural or tourist must see sites is important but I have also found that knowing what options for entertainment are around and having that info in my mind has eased the sudden boycott to all things cultural. Sometimes you just have to focus on fun!
Another heavily overlooked piece to the fabulous vacation is keeping time available for relaxation. No planning, no running, no sightseeing, but simple relaxation. You can lay by the pool, head to the spa, or just sit in your room engulfed in a good book. I know that especially when you have a limited time in a new spot the urge is to see everything, but on a short schedule it is even more important to stop and just do nothing for a day or 2. Let it be OK! I know how hard that can be to do as I am one of those, let's see and do everything NOW, type of people. But for the sake of my family and even for my own sanity I have learned that relaxing a bit is not only OK but should almost be planned for. Make some time for it and everyone will thank you!
For my family, the experiences we have, the people we meet along the way, and the cultural perspective we gain through travel are vital! Simply put, it is the bulk of the reason why we travel! But every person and every family is different. If you ask the question, why do you travel? or what do you hope to get out of this trip? you will find vastly different answers. That is fine, wonderful really, but the key is to ask these questions of yourself and every member of the family that is traveling with you. Evaluate what everyone thinks the best experiences will be before the trip that way you can be prepared to help everyone capture those moments.
The real trick is being honest with yourself in order to manage the expectations vs the realities of the trip. Can you really handle a hostel in order to go to an expensive location and afford it? Do you really want to be in a country where no one speaks your language? Can you tolerate travel with extended family? Maybe the answers are yes but if you don't think it through ahead of time you may be in for a rude awakening when reality and the dream trip collide!
As a final note, the most important thing is to have patience, take everything in stride and enjoy yourselves. This is just a small guide to getting you on your way to a fabulous vacation!