How to narrow down your family’s overseas adventure wish list

Do you get inspired by wanderlust, and then feel totally overwhelmed?

It’s a common time of year to be planning your travels for the year ahead – I just guarantee your social media feeds are full of ideas and offers just now (sorry!) – but we also know the decision-making process can be overwhelming.

There are often places you want to visit but feel they’re too far away, family commitments that need to take precedence, or you feel the activities (or lack thereof) at your desired destination aren’t appropriate for kids.

Time and money are normally the two big blockers to ticking off the “bucket list”, but then what factors should you look to after that? Within the bounds of your resources, we take you through 6 important, practical considerations to help get that bucket list under control and get you planning for 2020 and beyond.

This post is part of our travel advice series

Please note this post was written prior to COVID-19, there will be many further considerations to now take into account planning a family vacation destination.

1. Socio & environmental impact

Sadly, over tourism is an issue that cannot be ignored. As much as beautiful Instagram feeds inspire us, they can lead to over tourism issues too. Don’t just visit a place because it looks idealistic in a photo.

The beautiful Phi Phi Islands
The beautiful Phi Phi Islands – over-tourism has severely impacted on the natural environment of Ko Phi Phi Leh

Consider what the true impact is of tourism is – and all aspects of the trip. Once that “Kodak moment” has passed is there enough to see and do? Also, consider whether the place will change. This could be political, the impact of tourism development (like we started to see on the Cambodian waterfront), or the opening up of tourism like we have seen in places such as Cuba and Myanmar.

Conversely, there are some economies and resort islands still working hard to get back on their feet following natural disasters. Is this where your tourism dollar is best spent?

Related Reading: 18 Tourist Hot Spots that could be lost to climate change

2. Are their activities at your destination that would better fit a certain age group?

Disney World and Universal might be top of the list for your little kids, but height restrictions could leave them disappointed if you book an action-packed Orlando vacation too young. Temple exploration can fascinate school-aged kids but leave toddlers bored and whiny – or equally the complete opposite could happen depending on your children’s interests and temperaments!

Angkor Wat & Siem Reap Cambodia with Kids | OurGlobetrotters.Com
Our then 6-year-old loved exploring Angkor Wat, but the 3-year-old and 1-year-old certainly let us know about their complete disinterest

If it resorts you’re looking for so you can combine “me time” with family time, note that resort kids clubs are usually age-restricted.  You may be better off saving this style of vacation until all of your children are old enough to attend kids club without needing to hire a separate sitter (in our experience, normally from 4 years old they can attend kids club independently, some may allow from 3 years old if toilet trained).

If it’s action-packed vacations you are after like high ropes courses, hiking or more extreme boating adventures, cut off ages may be as high as 10 or 12 years old. 

If these will de “deal breakers” then consider waiting for appropriate ages to be reached. We’ve also deliberately held off on some destinations until we were out of the diaper/car seat/stroller stage. Especially in developing countries, there are just some additional challenges you can do without, especially when the kids outnumber you!

Related Reading: All our Best Toddler Travel Advice

3. Are flight deals available from your location?

Not just living near an airport but where can you get to in a direct flight? (or driving – cruising?)  Will you always live in your current location, or are you based somewhere temporarily?

I know a lot or our readers are expats – so if you will only be in your city for a finite period of time, maybe you should look at everywhere you can easily access that might otherwise involve two or more flights from your home country.

Plane taking off

Sign up to the newsletters and alerts for airlines that use your nearest airport to find out about upcoming deals and be prepared to pounce when you see them!

 We have a great list of short-hop destinations for our UAE readers here

4. Will budget permit an enjoyable experience?

There’s no point planning a trip to your dream destination than having no money left over to actually enjoy the experience. Family vacations cost a lot.  Everything needs multiplying out for extra family members. 

If you save for one more year would there be more activities you could enjoy, or stay at nicer accommodation? It can be a case of deciding between lots of little trips or save up for a big one.

When purse strings are tight or you have a larger savings goal, consider working in smaller staycations and become local explorers for a while so you are still giving the family a well-deserved break while you save.

Best Destinations for a family vacation in 2020

5. Can you “cluster” visit a part of the world?

Put simply, if you are taking a long flight somewhere can you visit several locations as part of one trip? They may not all be “top of your list” destinations, but at least your travel time and costs can be effectively used.

This is a particularly useful way to look at it if you live somewhere remote to the rest on the world. Our Australian audience will know all too well if it’s going to take you 20 hours to even fly somewhere you want to squeeze a lot more in.

European Map -
Many European destinations are close together and easily accessible making it easy to combine destinations in one trip

6. Will you all enjoy it?

Call me evil, not everything I do is all about the kids. Some trips are because I want to see and do something!!

But on the flip side, I now know what my kids want from our holidays and short breaks so how to make them run as smoothly as possible for everyone. Sometimes the best way to make this work is to travel separately.

I can’t ski to save myself so hubby will take a boys trip every winter; Relax and do nothing in a hammock? Definitely better when we have kid-free time and no little people nagging to go for a swim.   Disney – I find aspects of it like the insane advance booking of rides and lining up slightly grotesque – but my kids love it so I suck it up, smile and enjoy it too.

Family standing in Bacchus Temple, Ballbek, Lebanon
Our children get more out of temples now they have learnt more on the different eras of history at school and can self-explore

Equally, our tastes change, the kids acquire new skills and develop a thirst for knowledge. It may be a case of holding off a little longer on a style of travel until there a more of a collective interest in a destination or particular style of travel.

And remember, as kids grow they have opinions too.  We are trying to incorporate at least one major trip a year that is entirely their idea, as we have just done for Egypt.  Apparently, snow is their next request so watch this space!!!!

Back to point 1, unless the destination is significantly going to change, it’s not a race to tick everything off.  Choose the best fit for you, but accept there may never be a “perfect time” to travel with kids.

Putting it all together – how to plan out your family travel bucket list

Every family will make this work in their own way. The restrictions can be far greater on a family than our lovely swinging single and couple friends, but nonetheless doable.   

Here’s how we suggest you now go ahead and make your upcoming plans:

  • Physically keep a list – on your phone, in a notepad, stuck to the fridge – write the ideas down as they strike you (and annotate WHY it caught your attention!)
  • Have a budget in place – its great to dream but if you can’t afford the airfares, let alone comfortable family accommodation, forget it.
  • Keep a calendar for the year(s) ahead and a list of school and public holidays – for where you live and the proposed destination.
  • As places creep up your list, keep a note of best dates, times you should and shouldn’t visit, any of the age or height restrictions to think about.
  • Start scoping travel costs – biggies like flight, hotel, tour group cost per head for example. You can test out pricing using some of our self-planning tools here.
  • Sign up to airlines or travel deal websites (send them to another folder in your inbox if they’re too distracting).  When you are ready to hone in on dates and destination, start searching for cheapest prices and deal alerts.  We like Skyscanner and Hopper on the phone for flight deal alerts.

Need inspiration still on where to go this year?  Check out our top 20 Family Destinations for 2020 – as chosen by travelling families

Where to get that Inspiration from

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Travel Planning? Family guide to narrowing down the bucket list to pick the perfect destination for your next family vacation

Have you narrowed down your destination choices for 2019 yet? Is there any special trick or magic formula you use to decide the next destination? Do your children now get involved at the planning stage? We’d love to hear more about how YOU CHOOSE! 

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2 thoughts on “How to narrow down your family’s overseas adventure wish list

  1. Paula says:

    Some excellent tips! At the moment we seem to
    Narrow them down to where is hubby traveling to – that means we can save on a flight (such Scrooge’s) and explore a place he’s been in!

    • Globetrotters Admin says:

      We have certainly used that technique before. Hubby’s current role is quite scrupulous on mixing biz and pleasure so not currently a technique we can use.

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