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How to Plan the Best Family Vacation

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If you want to create lasting family memories, instead of buying more stuff, devote time to plan the best family vacation this summer. Your kids won’t remember toys years from now, they’ll remember the time you spent as a family doing something fun together.

a collage of five different scenes of a family on vacation with title text reading How to Plan the Best Family Vacation

Notice that I said BEST family vacation. We’re potential Wonder Moms! We’re not settling for an ordinary vacation. No, we’re aiming for EPIC. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. You just need to follow a few simple steps and remember a couple of important points.

How to Plan the Best Family Vacation

With proper planning, you can set the stage for an amazing vacation. The plan doesn’t have to be complex, it just needs to cover the basics. Here’s the exact process I used for our recent vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia.


The first thing you have to plan is how long your vacation will last. Consider each family member’s schedule, plot out a few days, and figure out how long your vacation will be.

My husband and I each have very busy work travel schedules this summer so a week-long family vacation wasn’t going to happen. After looking at our calendars, we pinned down a weekend that worked for everyone.


Once you know how much time you have for vacation, you can choose where you’ll go. Take into account travel time and recovery time, leaving ample time to enjoy the destination.

Since we only had a weekend, we needed to stay close. Thankfully, from our home in Virginia, we had a lot of choices within a few hours’ drive.

We opted for Williamsburg which is only two hours away and is filled with things to do. If you’re uncertain where to go, ask friends and family for recommendations.

You COULD take your chances and choose a location randomly. But if you don’t want to gamble on the outcome, a recommendation from someone you know and trust is a sure bet.


After you know where you’re going, you need to figure out what you’re going to do there. Chances are, you already had some of these things in mind when you chose your vacation destination.

For example, we chose Williamsburg in large part due to the fact that Busch Gardens is there. We’re big fans of amusement parks and appreciate Busch Gardens’ ongoing support of the military.

We checked out their attractions online to make sure there would be something each one of us would enjoy there. We found lots of things for each of us to look forward to!

My older kids were looking forward to riding all 8 of the world-class roller coasters at Busch Gardens. My son, who is coaster-averse, was more excited about all the different food available in the country-themed sections of the park. And there were plenty of shows and exclusive tours that appealed to all of us.

Because we almost always include my youngest daughter’s best friend in our family vacations, handicap accessibility is important to us too (she has a prosthetic leg). Busch Gardens is AMAZING at accommodating individuals with prosthetics!

how to plan the best family vacation



We’re talking about vacation, why am I bringing up education? Well, for one, because I believe in lifelong learning. I never refer to myself as an expert on ANYTHING, because I know I always have more to learn.

In addition, one of the reasons I am happy to invest in experiences instead of things is because they provide you with better memories. As long as we’re making memories, why not include some new information that increases our knowledge as much as we’re increasing our happiness?

I encourage you to look for educational opportunities whenever you plan your vacation. Learning is more fun when it’s part of the fun! For example, on our trip to Busch Gardens, we participated in the Wolf Training Up-Close tour. We learned a lot about wolves AND we each got a chance to have a wolf perform one of its skills.

how to plan the best family vacation

We also visited some of the other animals at the park, including Penny, a male bald eagle that was illegally shot but was saved in surgery.

how to plan the best family vacation


While you’re away from home you need a good base camp. The longer your stay, the more comfortable your accommodations should be.

With six of us, we need two hotel rooms. When we travel as a family, a hotel pool and free hot breakfast are mandatory requirements for us.

For longer vacations, I prefer suites so that we have a kitchen where we can prepare some of our meals to save money. I also like the extra space since the hotel room seems to shrink each day you spend there.


With two teen boys, meals can sometimes be the most expensive part of our vacations! That’s one of the reasons I choose hotels that include a full breakfast (i.e. one less meal I have to budget for).

I encourage the family to eat well at breakfast on vacation so we can spend all morning enjoying activities. Then, in lieu of lunch we usually grab a light snack.

We eat a large, early dinner. That way, we have time to relax then play in the pool before showering and turning in delightfully exhausted each night.

This dining schedule lets us enjoy maximum recreation time without starving. It also means I only have to figure out dinner for each evening of our trip.

On our recent trip to Busch Gardens we ate at Squire’s Grille and loaded up with hearty Philly cheesesteaks. And because we were on vacation, I let the kids count carrot cake as a vegetable serving.

how to plan the best family vacation


ALWAYS make sure to set a small budget for souvenirs. And, if you tend to be forgetful like me, jot down the names of people you want to buy for or the items you collect.

If you don’t end up buying anything, you’ll have some extra cash after your trip. In contrast, if you don’t budget for them but end up buying some, you’ll end your vacation worried about money.

Plus, I think shopping for souvenirs or postcards is a wonderful way to teach your kids to think of others. It also gives you an insight into which aspects of your vacation stand out to them.

More About Busch Gardens

Hopefully, you feel pretty confident about planning your family vacation now. If you still feel overwhelmed though, take my recommendation and visit Busch Gardens. Since we were there on a quick trip, we only went to Busch Gardens, but if we’d had more time we definitely would have visited Water Country USA too.

It’s the largest water park in Virginia with more than 40 slides. Use their handy Vacation Planner to work out all the details I covered above, including food and lodging. Then, use my theme park checklist to make sure you bring everything you need.

And in case you’re worried that “theme park” and “relaxation” don’t belong in the same sentence, I promise you that Busch Gardens is a different experience. I spent a lot of time just enjoying the beautiful flowers.

how to plan the best family vacation

And we spent several minutes watching these turtles play in the water.


A Giveaway to Help You Plan the Best Family Vacation

I want to help you plan your perfect family vacation. So, I’m giving away a $100 Visa gift card to one lucky reader! To enter, all you have to do is share your favorite family vacation memory in the comments.

Entry Instructions:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#Sweeps” and “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from SheKnows via the sweeps@sheknows email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 7/12-9/12/2017

Be sure to visit the brand page on SheKnows.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!


216 thoughts on “How to Plan the Best Family Vacation”

  1. #Sweeps #SweepstakesEntry – comment

    I remember going to Great Adventure with my parents for the first time when I was about 5 or 6 years old and riding on the log flume was a big scary thrill !


  2. My favorite family vacation memory is of our trip to Yosemite. We had planned to spend a week there and then go on to Sequoia. We loved Yosemite so much we spent the entire two weeks there and just took a quick drive through Sequoia on our way home.

  3. My favorite memory is taking our four boys to Florida and having nothing panned we just winged it and had the best time of our lives!


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