First you need to decide on a destination. Take into consideration the likes and dislikes of each individual traveling with you. You don't want to go to the Swiss Alps if 2 out of 5 people hate the cold and can not ski. Not smart. You need to carefully make wise decisions when choosing a destination. Sit down with a pen and piece of paper, list everyone's name and start your pro/con travel list. Save yourself time and have a "group" meeting. Your list will come together quickly and before everyone scatters make a decision on your travel destination. Get ideas of what they do not want to miss when traveling to a particular area of the US or other country.Put some creative thinking behind your family's travel ideas and I think you can satisfy everyone's expectations. Where ever you end up embrace it and fully enjoy each moment. Be willing to completely try new things. Don't freak out over the differences just take a deep breath and laugh, knowing that in a couple of weeks you will be back home and your own toilet!! You had to be there... Remember you are spending money to go experience a diverse culture. If you let yourself relax and take it all in, you will be the wiser for bringing extra excitement in to your life. AND PLEASE do not eat at the local McD's! Eat the chicken they just killed and are roasting out back of the hut on a spit while the dogs are all running around...you'll be alright!
Once you have your destination decided then decide on a budget. How much are you willing to spend. Mr. P and I have NEVER charged or taken out a loan for a vacation. Now that is our preference not everyone feels the same, you need to go with what ever is comfortable for you. Consider this: airfare, car rental or train tickets, food...which can sometimes be more expensive than you might think....depending on where you go you may need need to purchase museum passes or hiking gear. Make yourself a list of expenses and do not be optimistic...think the worst and when it turns out to cost less be thrilled!
Plan out an itinerary. We never start a trip without having every day planned out. Your reaction to this may be, "Hey, won't my spontaneity and freedom suffer?" In a word...NO! Mr. P and I know what it's like to travel without a plan. Then you find yourself driving around at 3 am with two little ones in the back seat and there are NO rooms at the inn. We learned fast what to NOT do! Although we always begin a trip with a well-thought-out plan, usually typed up on paper, we maintain some forms of flexibility and don't sweat the changes. An itinerary forces you to see the consequences of any spontaneous change you make. For instance, if you spend two extra days out on Martha's Vineyard you will see that you won't have time to stop in Mystic Seaport. With the help of an itinerary, you can lay out your goals and if you decide to make a change then you can decide where to cut your time short avoiding any regrettable changes.
B Now is the time to read everything you can get your hands on. The Internet can be a good source of information. I would also recommend Rick Steve's Travel books if heading to Europe. I also like Frommer's. Now after you have your information down you need to book your airfare or decide what type of transportation you are traveling by. Airfare changes DAILY! Plane tickets are cheaper if you can travel on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. Why you may ask? I have NO idea. It's just so... Check airfare often, different days and at different times of the day, especially on Tuesday afternoons. The airlines come out with their "deals" on Mondays, late in the day. If there are going to be any deals floating around Tuesday is your day. When you find an airline you are comfortable with and the price is right BOOK it....and don't look back. If you are looking for a particular seat on the plane check out the website seatguru.com. When Mr.P and I travel alone we don't mind layovers in an airport, but when the kids are with us we try NOT to have any layovers. It just makes life easier. When that is taken care of it's time to get busy locating accommodations. Know where you plan to stop and make reservations. Especially when traveling outside of the US. This is definitely NOT when you decide all of a sudden to become spontaneous and leave it all to chance! You may find yourself at 3 in the morning driving down a dark highway with two little ones in the back seat wondering if you will have to sleep in the car. Mr.P and I have done this and learned NOT to make this mistake again! Make reservations! And SOON!
You can never be to organized while traveling. Here are a few things not to forget. If you are traveling out of the country make sure your passport is up to date. Take care of this early on because it may take a few months to square it away. Check the web to get the latest Do's and Don'ts of security screening. You don't want any last minute surprises at the airport. Pack light!! This could be THE key to a successful trip. If you can't carry it on your back...leave it home. Your destination and time of year will determine what is needed but layers are always a good choice. I can not express fully how important this is. Mr.P and I never check bags. We carry on the plane with us what we need. This ensures our luggage will NOT be lost and it makes for a quick get away from the airport. And please DO NOT go and buy new shoes for your trip. You will be one big blister after a couple of days! Travel does require a lot of walking. Carry your driver's licenses with you, especially if you are renting a car. You also want to reserve a car about the same time you are making hotel reservations. Buy a really good map, the smaller the better. Study it before you leave so you are familiar with the roads, signs and speed limits. I know gas is expensive here in the US but don't flip out abroad...it is ridiculously expense. When you have your travel itinerary completed make a copy and give it to a close friend or family member. Really important especially if you are traveling off of the beaten path. You just never know. Make sure to have a travel checklist. You don't want to head off with out your blood pressure meds. When you begin to pack go down the list knowing you won't forget anything. Make sure to have your mail and newspaper stopped. If there are 10 newspapers out front of your house it is a huge neon sign for the criminals! Buy a few "timers" for your lamps and front porch light. This also gives the illusion that someone is home. And lastly, I think it is important to take a small travel journal with you. Try to write daily of your experiences. Sometimes the greatest memories are found in the little details that we sometimes forget. Most of all look up and enjoy, be determined to have a great time. Choose to have a wonderful attitude and you will be the better for it! Happy Travels!!