As a travel agent, I work with clients from all walks of life. Some are couples, some are families, and some are groups. I enjoy working with all types of clients but each have specific challenges.
From time to time I am approached by a client that wants to plan a family vacation but they don’t know exactly what they want. Sometimes they have an idea of what they want but they aren’t sure it is possible or even a good idea. When I work with a client I have several questions that help me determine if their dream vacation is possible, if it is even a good idea for the entire family, and the things we need to do to make it doable. It is absolutely crucial if I am going to match them up to a fabulous, successful, memory-making vacation.
Number of and Ages of Travelers
Multi-generational travel has been a growing trend with the large number of retired/retiring Baby Boomers. Creating a trip that appeals to all age groups isn’t impossible if you ask the right questions.
The first thing to consider is how many people are traveling and their ages. The more people going and the wider the age differences, the more their interests will differ. Some members of the group may want rest and relaxation, some may want fun and adventure, while others may be focused on learning something new. Ask everyone what their goals are so you know how to move forward.
Interests and Goals
Once you know what everyone’s vacation goals are, you can then begin to look for and research tours and activities to meet the group’s goals. Their needs to be something for everyone to enjoy, and their needs to be something in which they can all participate.
For a family trip to be successful, EVERYONE needs to have a good time. That does not mean they have to enjoy all of the same things but there needs to be balance in order to maintain harmony and to create those special family moments that will last a lifetime.
I ask all of my clients to prioritize the tours and activities they want to do so that we make sure we fit in the most important. Time and/or money are always limited resources so I try to get them what they want most before they both run out. I don’t want them to return home from their trip wishing they hadn’t missed out on something very important to them.
How many bedrooms do you need? Bathrooms? Can the younger children share a room? What about the older children? Ideally everyone would have their own space but we all know that it can get crazy expensive to do it that way.
A lot of times vacation rentals work out better for families because they can get a home or condo with multiple rooms and bedrooms, and they can take advantage of shared family space that you won’t find in hotels. Most of the time it ends up being more affordable when the cost is broken down over the entire headcount.
Don’t underestimate the need for multiple bathrooms. If you are cruising, it may work out better to get two smaller, connected rooms so you still have more space but you also gain a bathroom. The suites are nice but, if you don’t get more than one bathroom, you may end up with people fighting for the bathroom.
If any family members have specific privacy needs, then they should have a unit of their own. I can usually find a smaller apartment or condo in the same building or very close by.
We travel with a daughter that has special needs so we always make sure our trips are appropriate for her. Accessible hotel rooms are fairly easy to get but you absolutely have to read the fine print when it comes to vacation rentals.
Not all units have elevators or lifts, especially if you are considering a room, condo or apartment in an old or historic buildings. If you are looking at a historic location, ask the owner if you don’t see it specifically addressed in the description.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that accessibility is not the same in every country. Talk to your travel agent about your specific needs so that he or she can make sure they find the best option for you. They can also help you find special equipment (i.e. oxygen, shower chairs, etc) if you need it.
This is a really challenging topic. The reason is I sometimes have clients that come in with unrealistic expectations. Yes, I work hard to find great deals for my clients but that does not mean I can find luxury accommodations at bargain basement prices. I absolutely believe in “you get what you pay for” and it very much applies to travel.
If my client wants to visit a city in which I do not have personal travel experience, I research it. I contact colleagues that have experience in that city, I do online research, and I contact tourism bureaus to find out what areas have high crime rates, which ones have affordable accommodations, which neighborhoods are close to their places of interest.
Planning a vacation should not be driven only by budget. It should be driven by value. Think about the things that matter most to you and to your family so that everyone has the best experience possible.
This is really important because I don’t think vacations should be difficult. That being said I try to find balance between convenience and saving money. When my daughter and I went to Paris, staying near the Eiffel Tower was much more expensive than staying a few miles away.
I found us a great flat in Old Paris that was near a train station so we could take a short ride to our places of interest. It was worth it to me to save hundreds of dollars over a 5-night stay with the only cost to us being a short train ride to our tours and activities. An added bonus was enjoying a quaint neighborhood in Old Paris, living among the locals, but still having everything we needed nearby.
For my clients traveling with small children, that may not be a great idea. It may be worth it to stay closer to the action especially if they want to travel to a popular location during high season. Packed trains may not be a great idea with small children.
For my more ambitious clients, I have a discussion with them about multiple destinations and how they plan on managing small children. Exotic two or three vacations sound great……and they truly are great. We tend to do multiple countries over a few weeks in Europe ourselves.
It is because of my experience that I know now exhausting it can be. I know that plans do not always work out as intended. I know that kids and adults both get tired and cranky, and that some free time should be scheduled to keep the peace overall.
I recommend making the most of international airfare by seeing multiple destinations whenever possible but doing that with children can be challenging.
If you don’t use a travel agent, the items I listed above will give you a great start to planning a fabulous family vacation. If you need help, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email. I do not charge a fee for my travel planning services (my suppliers pay me commission) and I enjoy helping families travel more and travel better.
January has come and gone but we still have eleven months of fun ahead of us. I hope you have a blessed day and that you make this beautiful day count!