How to Travel with Your Family: Tips, Budgeting, and Fun Destinations

After this crazy pandemic forced us all to stay at home, a bit of family travel might be the last thing on your mind. In fact, you may be thinking you need a vacation away from your family, not with them.

We’d argue otherwise! 

Lockdowns, work from home, and virtual school might have you thinking you’ve spent a lot of time with your family over the past year and more. But how much of that time was spent being with your family, enjoying each other’s company, and doing activities together—not just existing in the same room?

Join us to discover why you should take your next vacation sooner rather than later and score some best tips for how to travel easily and affordably. As a bonus, you can also narrow down your list of travel destinations with some vacation inspiration for your next family holiday!

Table of Contents

Why Is Family Travel Important?

Family travel is the perfect way for families to deviate from their busy, everyday routines and spend quality time together. It reduces stress, creates stronger relationship bonds, forms happier childhood memories, and results in more long-term happiness for the whole family. 

That’s not just us talking—that’s science.

In 2018, Americans left 768 million vacation days on the shelf—days they could have spent with their families. And in 2020, a year arguably more stressful than any other in the past several decades, over half of Americans still didn’t learn their lesson, with 56% leaving their PTO days unused.

We’re all guilty of bringing work and a bad day home with us, but being unable to mentally or physically leave work can have a discernibly negative impact on kids. More time in “work” mode means less time meaningfully connecting with our families. Over time, that shows.

So, how can you break the cycle? By investing in family time, specifically family travel. The science confirms it—putting work aside for dedicated family vacations can improve your relationships, communication, and your family’s sense of well-being and happiness.

Top 6 Family Travel Tips

Planning family vacations can quickly become overwhelming.

From carefully planning out your trip itinerary to double-checking you have everything before boarding your flight, there’s a lot to do. 

So, from the planning stages to galavanting around your travel destination, here are some helpful family travel tips to make sure you get the most out of your next family adventure.

1. Don’t Rush and Take It Slow

When we plan trips, we tend to want to make the most of our time away, and that means seeing and doing as much as we can. Unfortunately, this can quickly lead to over-packing your schedule and scrambling to do everything

Slow down, take a breather.

While it’s tempting to stuff everything you want to do in one perfect family vacation, the result will likely be that you and your kids are miserable, with no time to relax or be spontaneous. 

So, instead of cramming your travel itinerary full, try narrowing your plans down to the things you absolutely must do and see.

For the best trips and ones that are sure to be family favorites, leave plenty of time for breaks, playtime, and getting lost in impromtu adventures!

2. Get All Your Travel Documents Together

Ensuring you have all your travel documents will help you keep from stressing out too much as you’re preparing for your next vacation. 

Depending on the airline, you may need to bring a document showing proof of age, like a birth certificate, for your kids under 18. Always double-check what documents you need based on the airline and your destination.

If you’re headed abroad for your next family trip, the federal government requires children under 16 to have a passport. So, if you haven’t already, don’t forget to submit your child’s application well before you head out.

3. Make a Travel Checklist 

There’s nothing worse than getting excited for a trip, only to feel dread come swooping over you as you realize you left something important at home.

Want to make your family travel more manageable and less stressful? Make a travel checklist for everything you’ll need, from clothes to electronics, for you and your family to travel comfortably and travel light. 

Pro-tip: If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler, you don’t want to leave home without the essentials! Be sure to snag a copy of our super-useful baby travel checklist for your next family adventure.

4. Share Your Contact Information with Your Kids

We never want to imagine the worst happening, especially not during family vacations. But when an emergency pops up, you’ll be glad you had the foresight to prepare your kids with tools they can use to stay safe. 

Before your trip, share your contact information—phone number, email, etc.—so your kids can contact you or give your information to the appropriate authorities to help find you. 

Talk to your kids and confirm they know where to go in case of an emergency or if you’re separated.

  1. A special place or a predetermined spot near the day’s activities
  2. A nearby center to find staff or local authorities to assist them
  3. Your accommodations

5. Stick to Your Child’s Routine

Now, this one can be subject to a bit of adjustment. Traveling means a new and strange place, which will cause a lot of curiosity, excitement, and maybe some nervousness.

You may not be able to stick to your child’s routine 100%, but allowing your routine to help shape the itinerary for your family adventures will do wonders in keeping them engaged and less cranky during your trip. 

A happy kid means happy parents and a fun family travel experience!

6. Be Flexible

Nothing ever goes exactly how we plan it, which can be unbelievably frustrating, but it’s the kind of truth you need to accept if you’re going to have a great vacation. 

Mentally preparing for the inevitable hiccup in your itinerary will make you more adaptable and less stressed when forced to make changes. However, that doesn’t mean you should spend your time dreading when things will eventually go wrong. 

As the Spanish song goes, “Que será será,” whatever will be will be. Plan as much as you can, and let the rest go.

Staying positive even in the face of ruined plans can salvage a bad situation and have a favorable impact on your family’s overall mood.

What’s a Good Budget for a Family Vacation?

Formulating your vacation budget is the first step on your way to responsible travel. Experts recommend that your vacation budget should be between 5-10% of your total income. Meaning if your family makes $50,000 a year, you should be putting away $2,500-$5,000.

Based on how vital family travel is to you—we argue it should be very—you can adjust this as needed, but 5-10% should serve as your starting point.

Family Travel on a Budget: 4 Ways to Make It Happen

Traveling with your family on a budget may seem intimidating, but it’s more than doable. 

And the satisfaction from knowing you didn’t break the bank to give your family a fantastic experience is its own reward too. So, let’s get right into our best tips for making family travel on a budget happen.

1. Plan Ahead

Start strong. You should have a rough idea of what you need to save for future family vacations, so stay ahead of the curve, set a goal for your next trip, and budget throughout the year!

If you’re looking for ways to save outside of your paycheck, start thinking outside the box:

  1. Track your spending 
  2. Stop buying coffee
  3. Share streaming service costs with family and friends
  4. Use coupons to shop
  5. Sign up for a travel newsletter to get the best family deals on flights and more
  6. Skip the take-out and cook meals at home
  7. Get a side gig
  8. Buy second hand from thrift stores and online sellers

Cutting back on buying things brand new for your kids—clothes, electronics, or toys—will add up over time. And the science shows that giving your kids an experience-based gift like a family trip will mean a lot more in the long run than the latest phone upgrade or the hottest new toy.

2. Book in Advance

As much as possible, book in advance. 

That means you should plan and book your flight, accommodations, and activities months before your family vacation. Then, with all this already paid for, or payment plans set up, you’ll have taken care of your most significant travel expenses. 

You’ll also know precisely how much you have left for travel costs like food, getting around at your destination, etc. 

Meaning you can spend less time worrying and more time having fun with your family.

3. Find Discounts for Kids

Many places have great travel deals for families, including freebies for younger children and terrific discounts for big kids. 

Even small travel deals can add up and save you a lot of money on your family trips!

From child discounts on attraction entrance fees to special prices for students, the deals are out there, so be sure to look into your purchases and see what may be available for your family.

Of course, no business wants to give up money that easily, so some discounts aren’t always clearly advertised. But we suggest simply asking or doing some digging on family travel blog experiences.

Checking out family travel blogs to see how other budget travelers did is a small but clever way to save big and personally, one of our favorite travel tips!

4. Prepare for Unexpected Expenses

Even when relaxing and enjoying your vacation, you’ll want to remain prepared for the unexpected. In this case, a fee you didn’t anticipate popping up or one you simply forgot about—emergency expenses, foreign transaction fees, spontaneous travel activities, etc.

The solution? Give your family travel budget a cash cushion. 

Creating a cash cushion within your budget will give you peace of mind and ensure you have a buffer for when those unexpected expenses crop up.

Decide what kind of cash cushion you need, maybe an additional 5-10% of your travel budget, so you know your family is covered.

5. Use a Flight Comparison Site

Remember we mentioned booking ahead for your family vacations? 

A great way to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when booking flights is using a flight comparison site like Google Flights.

If you don’t have much experience finding the best fares on flights, you can learn all our Tips for Cheap Flight Fares You May Not Know to get started deal-hunting like a pro.

Or, you can sign up for a service like Next Vacay and take advantage of a dedicated team of flight-savvy deal hunters to get the most savings on your future flights.

You’ll be booking your next vacay in no time and for way cheaper than you had planned.

6. Travel Like You’re a Local

Amazing cities around the world offer an abundance of family-friendly tourist attractions to give you a taste of their city, culture, and history. 

But rather than going to the restaurants, experiences, and parts of town that feature heavy tourist traffic, try your hand at traveling around like a local. 

  • Walk to your destination
  • Utilize public transportation like buses and subways over more expensive tourist options
  • Eat out at smaller restaurants that don’t cater specifically to tourists 
  • Check out street vendors or takeaway foods and find a place outside to enjoy your family meals together
  • Stay at an apartment/house or budget hotel
    • We recommend Airbnb for finding accommodations in the local neighborhood and budget hotels for connecting to other families and fellow travelers  

If you can, try getting advice from the locals and other travelers for places to eat and things to do!

Pro-tip: Use family travel blogs as a travel resource.

One of the best resources you could utilize for an upcoming trip is a family travel blog focused on your destination. It’s like having your own personal travel coach you can go to for advice on destination guides, including the best places to explore, favorite activities to do, and more!

4 Fun Family Travel Destinations

So, where should you go for the best family adventures? If you require some inspiration, we’ve got you covered! Check out these fun family travel destinations in the United States and abroad for your next getaway. 

Put it to a vote and see which destination your family would like to visit the most!

Family Adventures in the United States

1. Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the US and spans just under 3,500 square miles.

You could spend years walking, hiking, and exploring this massive park and still leave much of it untouched. In other words, it’s the perfect place to unplug from all your tech and enjoy the outdoors to the fullest.

While people are most familiar with Old Faithful’s dramatic eruptions and ​​Grand Prismatic Spring’s stunning and unique coloring, this park truly has it all: majestic canyons, sparkling lakes and waterfalls, and lush forests that stretch for miles in every direction.

Activities abound, from family-friendly hikes to incredibly scenic lookouts and riding on horseback through the trails to kayaking across Yellowstone Lake. And if you’re looking for more wild adventures to keep the big kids busy, be sure to check out rafting and ziplining in the park!

You’re bound to run into other families enjoying these amenities and taking advantage of the endless outdoor adventures.

2. Oahu and Maui, Hawaii

We’re offering up two popular options out of the beloved vacation destination of Hawaii: Oahu and Maui. 

Both islands offer a stunning array of attractions and opportunities to create treasured family memories, whether it’s Disney’s Aulani Resort in Oahu or sandy beaches and snorkeling off Maui’s coasts. 


If you’re looking for a bustling hub of city life, endless adventures to undertake, and gorgeous beaches, then Oahu is calling your name. Swim with dolphins, sail out on the sparkling blue ocean, and in Kualoa Ranch, check out where they filmed the famous Jurassic Park movies!


On the other hand, if what you’re in the mood for is chill vibes on a more relaxed vacation, without a doubt, Maui is the place for you. Drive along the beautiful Hana Highway, go out on the waters to whale watch, and learn to surf with your kids on Maui’s calm west coast.

Family Vacations Abroad

1. Canada

We may have cheated a bit with this one since we didn’t choose a specific city to recommend, but in reality, Canada serves as one giant playground for families to plan the perfect vacation.

Want to visit a bustling city with a wide variety of family-friendly activities and excellent sights, food, and entertainment? Toronto’s the place to be.

Looking to take an exciting family road trip, maybe do some RV travel, exploring the very best of the Canadian Rockies? Banff National Park is calling your name.

How about a historical excursion to a beautiful city that’ll make you feel like you’re in France without flying across the Atlantic? Quebec City is right on the money!

Canada is a lot like the US in many ways, but as the border between us suggests, it’s an entirely different country with lots for curious travelers to explore. No matter where you go, the kids are sure to be engaged for your entire visit.

2. Tokyo, Japan

There are so many great cities around Japan to visit with your family, but we’re going to recommend Tokyo specifically. That’s because this unique city is a dream come true for kids and parents alike!

With a rich mix of tradition and modern innovations, you can visit historical sites like the grand imperial palace or ride up the Tokyo Tower to view the city skyline and check out the thrilling view from their “Lookdown Window,” a glass floor 150 meters above the ground! 

You can find familiar comforts in theme parks like Tokyo Disneyland and Legoland Discovery Center and explore delightfully whimsical places you’d only find in Japan, like the Studio Ghibli museum.

You can also take advantage of fun day trips to explore outside the city! There are several popular destinations, including the seaside town of Kamakura, beautiful Lake Kawaguchiko, which offers a stunning view of Mt. Fuji, and the peaceful city of Nikko with everything to explore from Shinto shrines to cascading waterfalls.

Let Next Vacay Find Cheap Airfare for Your Next Family Vacation

Planning a trip can get expensive. It’s one of the main reasons so many people put off planning family vacations! 

One of the biggest budget eaters by far is airfare—even just flying to another state can cost over a thousand dollars for a small family! 

You could spend hours of your own time monitoring airline websites or sign up for airline newsletters that fill up your inbox with useless deals you won’t be able to use for your family. Or you can skip the headache and sign up for Next Vacay.

Forget spending days searching for deals. Next Vacay’s team will do the heavy lifting for you, scouring through countless deals for the best savings and customizing the flights to your location, so you only see deals from departure points that work for you.

Each flight deal is guaranteed to save you money, from hundreds on cross-country travel to thousands off of your international family trips.

It’s time to stop wasting and start using your PTO days. It’s time to stop putting off family time and start making memories with your family that will last a lifetime. 

You’re ready for a family adventure, so let Next Vacay help you make it happen!

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