10 steps for planning and booking the perfect family holiday
This post about planning and booking the perfect family holiday was created in collaboration with Admiral Travel Insurance. Travel insurance is something you should never travel without and I make sure I have an annual policy that covers the whole family!
If you’re planning a family holiday this summer I’ve got 10 great tips for planning and booking that dream trip. Family holidays aren’t quite as easy to plan as your solo trips or couples holidays once were but if you manage to book the right trip and enjoy the excitement of planning your trip as a family then you’ll get your holiday off to a great start!
#1. Where do you want to go for your family trip?
I’ll be honest, when it comes to the majority of our family holidays, location hasn’t been a major factor. There are some things that affect where we’ll end up and these are:
- Flight time (preferably less than 4 hours)
- Weather (hot and sunny please!)
- Nice beaches
- Family friendly activities
Every family will be different but our children are young (2 and 4) and we’re mostly going away for the sun, sea and sand and there are hundreds of European resorts we could choose from.
My favourite family holiday destinations and why
Do you need some family holiday destination inspiration? Here are my favourite places for a family holiday…
Dubai – for family activities and winter sun
I know I said we prefer shorter flight times but the 7 hour flight to Dubai was worth every second. We could have stayed in Dubai for weeks and not got bored. Dubai might be lacking in natural beaches but it makes up for it with waterparks, theme parks, family activities, incredible resorts, amazing swimming pools and beautiful man made beaches.
Tenerife – for affordable winter sun
For a more budget-friendly winter sun holiday you can’t beat Tenerife. If you like to explore, I recommend hiring a car and heading into the mountains. Make sure you spend a day or two at Siam Park, one of the best waterparks in the world!
France – for large family holidays and camping trips
I have never seen campsites like the ones in France. They’re incredible! They’re enormous resorts with pool complexes, cafes, restaurants, kids clubs, parks and beaches. France is great option for a family holiday for large families, especially if you’d like to keep the costs down by driving rather than flying. You can rent mobile homes for a week or two for a fraction of the cost of a hotel and keep costs down with BBQs and picnics.
The Algarve, Portugal – best for villas and multigeneration holidays
We go to the Algarve every year for a family holiday with my parents. There’s something about the Algarve that ticks the box for everyone and keeps us coming back year on year (despite promising we’ll be more adventurous and try somewhere new next year!) My parents love the golf courses, Sam and I love exploring the rugged coastline and adorable little villages and the kids love the huge beaches.
Read more: 10 places you have to visit on the Algarve
Menorca – best for chilled beachy holidays
We’re heading to Menorca for a family holiday next month and I can’t wait! Menorca is a beautiful and super chilled island with gorgeous beaches that are mostly calm and child-friendly. There are loads of great resorts but we’ve opted for a private villa in the countryside and plan to discover a new beach area every day!
^ In Menorca – I can’t wait to return with the kids next month!
My number 1 tip for choosing a destination
Have you come across an area you’ve never heard of? Maybe you’ve seen a bargain all-inclusive holiday to Marmaris but…errrr…what’s Marmaris like?
If you’re anything like me, your first instinct will be to do a quick Google Image search to see what it looks like. Now the problem with Google Images is that the top photos are always perfect stock photos that are highly edited and oversaturated. A good stock photographer with access to Photoshop can make any beach look nice so don’t trust these images!
I recommend doing an image search on Instagram instead as you’ll see user-generated images and you’ll get a much better idea of what it really looks like!
Read more: How to choose your travel destinations
#2. What type of accommodation would your family prefer?
Your main accommodation options are:
- Hotels – All inclusive hotels are often the cheapest option for family holidays so this can sway it for most families
- Villas – Great if you want the extra space, a private pool and are happy to self cater
- Villas within resorts – A perfect compromise between the ease of a hotel and the space of a villa. You get the facilities and restaurants within the resort but also have a living room, kitchen, outside area and more bedrooms
- Apartments – Usually smaller and without much outdoor space but in great locations
- Camping/glamping/mobile homes – Great for budget holidays
For us, having extra living space, separate bedrooms, a private pool and a kitchen is really important so we usually opt for private villas. I’m sure this will change as our kids get older and want to socialise with other children. We also find it a lot of effort to eat out for every meal while we’re on holiday so we like the ease of a villa and the ability to prepare a picnic to take to the beach.
If you’ve got older children then a holiday resort is a great option as they’ll make friends around the pool and will enjoy the kids clubs.
^ In a private villa you can have as many ridiculous pool inflatables as you please!
#3. Package holidays are often best for family trips
I feel like most people do everything they can to avoid package holidays when they’re in the pre-kids stage of their life. We want to be independent travellers and explore and find great deals ourselves.
But family holidays are actually much better value when you book them as part of a package.
I’ve just booked a family holiday to Menorca and I couldn’t possibly have got it so cheap if I’d booked flights and accommodation separately. The flights alone would have cost almost as much as the whole holiday if I’d booked things separately!
^Never underestimate the joy of a kids club! (Not just for the kids!)
#4. Pay extra for easy flight times
OK, so now you’ve decided where you’re going and the type of accommodation you want so it’s time to start booking!
When I’m booking a holiday without my kids I’ll go for the cheapest flights, no matter what time of the day they are. But when I’ve got my kids in tow then I’ll pay extra and have those precious mid-morning flights. It means you don’t need to get up too early in the morning and you also won’t arrive too late at night. No one needs to mess with their sleep pattern too much and the whole journey will be much easier!
#5. Book your airport transfers/hire car in advance
When I’m travelling with the family we always prefer to have our own car and not rely on taxis.
This means using airport parking in the UK so I’ll book it as far in advance as possible for the best deals. I always book Meet & Greet airport parking when I’m with the kids as it means we start the holiday without any stress. Anyone who has tried to get from a budget car park in a field onto an airport transfer bus at 5am with 4 suitcases, 2 car seats, 1 pushchair and 2 tired children will know that it’s ALWAYS worth paying £15 extra for Meet & Greet!
We’ll then pick up a hire car from the airport when we arrive in our destination.
If you’ll be using transfer services then make sure they’re booked in advance!
Travel Hack Tip: If you’re hiring a car in your destination then I recommend one parent runs off the plane and through security as quickly as possible to go and get the hire car. Picking up a hire car is one of the slowest and most painful processes and if 20 families from your flight are all using the same hire car company then it can take well over an hour to queue and get your car (if not longer!) But if you can whizz off the plane and be the first in the queue, you can at least get the keys to your car quickly. Sam will usually take one child and do the mad dash for the hire car while I take my time with the second child and get the luggage.
#6. Get the kids involved with planning your holiday activities
As soon as we’ve booked a holiday we’ll start watching travel vlogs on YouTube with the kids. They love to watch any kind of user-generated content and it’s a great chance to start researching what to do when we get there. This gives the kids the chance to help with planning and gets them super excited as they can see exactly what we’ll be doing. YouTube is especially good for young children who are too little to read a guidebook or start planning online.
I like to plan one small activity for every day we’re away and we usually try and do it in the morning. It could be things like visiting a beach, going to a market on a specific day, going to a waterpark or visiting a castle.
I don’t go mad on planning full day itineraries because they never work out and we usually like to spend half a day around the pool and relaxing in the sun. But if I don’t plan anything I feel like we haven’t seen anything at all as it’s way too easy to find a favourite beach and go there everyday for a week.
Travel Hack Tip: Check whether any of the activities you have planned require you to book them in advance or are cheaper if you book online? You can often get ‘skip the queue’ tickets for no extra cost when you book online.
#7. Don’t forget your family travel insurance
Travel insurance is a quick and easy one to book but it’s also an easy thing to forget! If you don’t have an annual family travel insurance policy, make sure you book your insurance as soon as you’ve booked your holiday!
#8. Check-in online
ALWAYS always always check-in online as soon as you possibly can! I’ve made this mistake before and came to check-in online a few hours before the flight and we couldn’t get a single seat together. We were 4 adults, and 2 children and we couldn’t get seats together! It was all a bit stressful and even the staff on the plane couldn’t/wouldn’t ask other passengers to switch seats so we could sit with our children.
Of course, people were very accommodating and moved around for us but it wasn’t the blissful start to a holiday I wanted.
Double check when online check-in begins and set a reminder on your phone so you do it as soon as you can!
If you’re travelling with a budget airline and have to pay for your family to sit together then I’d recommend doing this, especially if your children are young. It’s one less thing to stress about and is a small price in the grand scheme of the holiday!
#9. Write a ‘pre-holiday list’
I’m showing my true geeky colours here but I can’t go on holiday without a good list! Here are some examples of my pre-holiday checklists which you can print out and use yourself if you’d like. I have lists for when I’m booking, while I’m packing and lists for those final things it’s easy to forget just before you leave the house!
#10. Get everyone an airport treat
Get your holiday off to a good start (and pass the airport boredom!) by getting everyone an airport treat. A little toy for the kids and a magazine or a book for the adults will quickly pass that spare hour at the airport and will be a good start to your plane journey!
Bonus tip for booking a family holiday: Set yourself a budget!
I know, I know, it’s boring and no one wants to think about budget when it comes to their holiday! But it’s so easy to keep jumping up a price bracket and, before you know it, your holiday has cost twice as much as you were expecting!
Start your family holiday planning by setting yourself a realistic budget. Write it down and keep coming back to it to make sure you’re not pushing it too much.