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The Secret to Creating a Bulletproof Family Travel Itinerary (That Everyone Will Love!)

The Secret to Creating a Bulletproof Family Travel Itinerary (That Everyone Will Love!)

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Do you want to travel with your kids, but just thinking about it stresses you out? Here are some tips by a family travel blogger who has done a LOT of trial and error.
This list of family travel tips was written by family travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.

Oh, the joys of family travel!

From the ancient ruins of Rome to the magical streets of Paris, from the adventurous landscapes of New Zealand to the sandy beaches of Hawaii, my two boys and I have seen our fair share of this beautiful world.

And let me tell you, while those Instagram snapshots look picture-perfect, getting to those moments… well, that’s a whole different story.

I’ve learned the hard way that trying to cram every “must-see” attraction into our trip only leads to grumpy kids, a stressed-out mom, and, honestly, not a lot of fun.

So, how did I go from a frazzled, itinerary-obsessed mom to someone who actually enjoys (yes, enjoys!) traveling the world with her kids?

Here’s the secret sauce to creating a bulletproof family travel itinerary that everyone will love—mistakes I’ve made included, so you don’t have to repeat them.

10 Family Travel Tips That Actually Work

Embrace the Slow Travel Mentality

The first lesson I learned? Slow down. You don’t need to see every single thing.

Pick a few key sights and experiences that truly interest your family and build your trip around those. Not only does this reduce the rush and stress, but it also allows for deeper experiences and unexpected discoveries.

Image of a mom and two kids in the Colosseum
We spent a day exploring the Colosseum and then doing Gladiator School nearby! Photo credit: Nicole Dittrich

For us, choosing to spend a whole day exploring just one part of Rome, rather than ticking off every ancient site by lunchtime, meant we could really soak in the atmosphere and even stumble upon a little-known gelato shop that had the best pistachio gelato we’ve ever tasted!

Balance is Key

Creating a family-friendly itinerary is all about balance. Mix up museum visits with outdoor adventures, historical tours with hands-on experiences.

The Tower of London is packed with historic info. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

In London, after visiting the Tower of London in the morning, we spent the afternoon picnicking and playing in Hyde Park. This kept the kids engaged and gave them the downtime they needed.

Remember, a happy, well-rested family makes for a much more enjoyable trip.

Include Everyone in the Planning

One of the biggest game-changers for us was involving the kids in the planning process. Sit down as a family and talk about what everyone is most excited to see and do.

My youngest was obsessed with knights and castles, so when we went to the UK, we made sure to include a visit to a real castle in our itinerary.

Giving the kids a say not only makes them feel valued but also helps ensure there’s something in the trip for everyone.

Plan for Downtime

This one might seem counterintuitive when you’re in an exciting new place, but trust me, scheduling downtime is crucial.

Image of a boy pushing a toy boat in Paris
We spent a long time playing with toy boats in Paris. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Travel can be overwhelming, especially for kids. Building in time to relax or just play at a local park can make the difference between a meltdown and a memorable day.

Plus, some of our favorite memories are from these quieter moments, like racing toy boats at a pond in Paris.

Be Realistic About Timing

In the early days, I was notorious for underestimating how long everything would take. Now, I plan for everything to take longer than expected.

Why? Kids.

Extra time is your friend, whether it’s bathroom breaks, snack time, or just their wonderful propensity to get distracted by everything.

And if you end up with spare time? That’s just a bonus for more exploring—or relaxing!

Book Ahead When Possible

Booking tickets in advance can save you a lot of time and hassle for those must-do experiences.

Eiffel-Tower-Selfie.jpg
We highly recommend booking Eiffel Tower tickets in advance. Photo credit: Marcie Cheung

Skip-the-line tickets were a lifesaver for us at Disneyland and the Eiffel Tower. They allowed us to avoid the long waits and get straight to the fun part.

Just be sure to check refund policies in case plans change.

Stay Flexible

No matter how perfectly you plan, things will go awry. A site might be closed, the weather might not cooperate, or someone might just be having an off day.

Learning to roll with the punches and adjust our plans on the fly has led to some unexpectedly amazing experiences.

That rainy day in NYC? It led us to discover an incredible pizza place that my son still talks about.

Keep a List of Backups

Having a list of backup activities up your sleeve can be a lifesaver. On a trip to Maui, our planned beach day was a bust due to a sudden storm. Thankfully, I had a list of indoor activities, and we ended up having a blast at an aquarium instead.

This list is especially handy for those moments when plans fall through, or you find yourself with extra time.

Remember the Snacks

Never underestimate the power of snacks. Hungry kids (and let’s be honest, adults too) can quickly turn a fun day into a not-so-fun one.

We always pack a variety of snacks for the day, and it’s been a game-changer in keeping everyone happy and energized. Plus, it saves you from buying expensive snacks at tourist spots.

Capture the Memories

Finally, don’t forget to document your adventures. Encourage your kids to keep a travel journal or take photos. Not only does it give them something to do, but it also helps them process and remember the trip.

And those journals and photos? They become priceless family treasures.

Wrapping It Up

Creating a family travel itinerary doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By slowing down, balancing activities, involving everyone in the planning, and staying flexible, you can craft a trip that’s enjoyable for the whole family.

Remember, the goal isn’t to check off as many sights as possible; it’s to create lasting memories together.

So go ahead, plan that trip, and get ready for an adventure that your family will talk about for years to come. Happy travels!

Looking for more family travel tips? Check out Avoid These Money Drains on Your Next Family Trip, Surviving Multi-Generational Travel, How to Save on Summer Travel This Year, and The Ultimate Checklist for Traveling Abroad with Kids (What NOT to Forget)!

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