It’s February, and if you’re like me, that means it’s time and past time to get on the vacation plans for the year! Every year my extended family takes a trip to the beach in September, and every year we have to make our plans early to get things sorted and avoid any last-minute frustration.
I want to share a few tips I have for smoothing out the family vacation planning process. Since my extended family is spread out across a couple states, most of our planning has to be done digitally rather than in person. I’ve asked a few other people their tips as well, and I think if you’re planning any kind of large group vacation (whether with family or friends), these tips are for you!
So let’s get going, and you can get planning your next family trip!
First — and I think most importantly — is this: agree to open and honest communication. We all know family can be some of the people that drive us the most batty, but if you plan to go on a trip with them, you’re going to have to communicate. This includes finding the best means of communication for your group, too. Does that look like a big group chat, a scheduled in-person meeting, a Facebook Messenger chat group? Whatever it looks like, agree to it and center your vacation talk there! This will save some heartache when people get frustrated or have issues they need to solve.
Second and also incredibly important: expect to compromise! I don’t care if you’re going on a trip with five or 50 people, you’re not going to get everything you want. Period. If you want to make all the decisions about your vacation, you should probably go on a trip by yourself. Compromise is part of family life, and it’s going to be important if you want to plan a trip that everyone can enjoy. For my family, that looks like finding a beach house that may not be perfect for everyone or may mean some of us have to bunk-in together, and that’s okay. For you, it might mean compromising on how many activities you can do together and who will be able to participate. Either way, if you don’t go into planning with some flexibility, you’ll just wind up making yourself, and maybe everyone else, miserable.
Honestly, those are the two most important tips I can share with you. The rest of these tips will help, but if you don’t start with open communication and a spirit of compromise, you’ll probably be ready to cancel your trip before the planning is even done!
My next tip is to establish firm deadlines for funds and make a schedule of reminders. In my family, one person tends to be the go-to person for the trip, and that has changed over the years. But what doesn’t change is that renting a beach house usually requires two payments: a deposit to hold the house and the remaining balance due sometime prior to your trip dates. It’s important for us to place deadlines on when to get in funds so that the planner isn’t scrambling at the last minute. It’s just common sense. If you don’t pay, you don’t go on the trip.
Another thing that you may or may not deal with is pre-establishing room assignments. This tip comes from a fellow contributor, and I’m really surprised my family hasn’t done this. You may be heading to a beach house or a hotel, but if space is limited and the numbers are high, it helps to plan your rooms out in advance.
Talk through any extra expenses before you go. This is a big one. Paying for your transportation and lodging is an obvious budgeting issue that you already know about. But if some of your family wants to go on a visit to a museum or zoo or local attraction, you’ll need to set aside extra money for that. So before you go, make sure that you’ve talked over everyone else’s wants and decided how much money you’ll need to take with you or set aside for different experiences.
Figure out meal plans. This may apply to all situations. If you’re going to a theme park together, this might simply look like planning whether to eat in the park each day or go somewhere else. If you’re going to a beach house, it might look like deciding whether to eat in or out each day. My family tends to make a week-long plan and set aside a couple days for dining out and then assigns each family a night to cook for the group.