One of the most exciting aspects to travel is all the new things you will get to do, see and eat! When planning a family vacation it is natural to want to do it all, but BEWARE.

With the excitement of a new destination insight, making lists of things to do can get pretty long really fast. The one thing I’ve learned from my many travels is trying to schedule too much into one trip can be an instant vacation buzz kill. You are putting too much time, money and energy into this trip for you not to have a fabulous time. To help you and your family maximize your enjoyment on the road, here are HotMama’s 5 Steps to Easy and Enjoyable Family Vacations.

5 Steps to Easy & Enjoyable Family Vacations

1. Make A List: In the research phase, make a list of everything that interest you about the destination, including activities and attractions, sites of interest, restaurants and bars, and tours and excursions. Make this list as long as you like; you are just exploring your options at this point.

5 steps to easy & enjoyable family vacations

2. Make Cuts: Now that you have a long list of interests for your upcoming travel, discuss it with the family and see what interests you all share most as a group. Narrow down your list to the few most important things each person wants to see or do on this trip. Making cuts is really hard and overwhelming if you don’t get out of the once-in-a-lifetime mentality. What gets people in trouble when trip planning is thinking it will be the only time that they will ever get to travel to this destination. It may be, but don’t think like that. Assume you will return, which will make it easier for you to decide what is most important now and what can wait.

For example, when we went to Scotland there were a million things we wanted to do and see. We wanted to see castles, the highlands, take several train trips, hop over to neighboring countries, eat at every awesome restaurant, etc. Well, HotDaddy had to work while we were there and although we had over two-weeks in Scotland, it was impossible to see it all have not burn out. It was important for us to not only experience a lot, but also enjoy ourselves. We kept it simple by deciding to cut out country hopping and focus solely on Scotland. That cut alone was such a relief, by making our trip more manageable.

Stirling Castle

3. Plan Ahead: I don’t like to have a hard itinerary, but I also don’t like not having any structure my travels. I want to maximize my time and my enjoyment and I find that I can accomplish this best by making a rough outline. This will give you flexibility to move things around and make room for new opportunities that may pop up during your trip.

I make a list of my travel dates and compare them with my most important must-do activities for the trip. Place the activities you most want to do at the top or early in your vacation, this way if something were to happen such as sickness, bad weather, etc, you at least got to do the most important activities.

Don’t schedule too much in one day, pick one special activity and leave the rest of the day to explore new options. Be sure to research those important must-do’s and make sure you are aware of hours of operation, costs and any special events that may help or hinder you doing this activity. Also, pre-purchase any tickets to attractions, so you can avoid unnecessary lines and frustrations. Pre-purchases will usually save time as well as money. For instance, we purchased tickets to Edinburgh Castle online, which was cheaper and allowed us to skip the long line into the castle.

Schedule “relaxing days.” It is just as important to plan days to do nothing as it is to schedule specific attractions. This makes the trip feel less stressful. Your family will feel refreshed to do more sightseeing if they’ve had time to relax. The less you have to get done on a family vacation, the more enjoyable it will be.

For instance, on our last trip to St. Pete Beach, I made sure to schedule a lot of days just for beach play and pool fun. It made the trip so relaxing to know we just had to wake up and throw on bathing suits. No taxis, no rental cars, no schedule or time frame to worry about.

Hammocks at Guy Harvey Outpost

4. Save Money: Nothing is more relaxing than saving money. Planning ahead can definitely help you do just that. Early tracking of flights, having a travel rewards credit card, going off peak-season, and reading travel blogs like this, can all help you save money while traveling. Many travels such as cruises allow you to make payments, which really helpful when budgeting for a family vacation. Scheduling days to relax also help save money in-between excursion days. Saving money also helps you do more while on your family vacation or can allow for money towards future travels. You may even want to return to a favorite destination and complete your list!

I have a million ways I save money while traveling, which is why I can afford to take my family of six on multiple vacations throughout the year on a bartender’s wages. It is all about the tricks. Check out my Money Saving Tips post to help you start saving today.

Money Saving Tips

Taking on a family vacation may not be the easiest thing in the world, but it is also not the hardest. Family vacations can be a lot of fun and provide memorable bonding experiences. Implement these 5 simple steps and see how easy and enjoyable family vacations can become. Happy travels!