We are always planning our next trip. And the one after that. And the one after that. Part of the fun is dreaming about when we get to visit each destination … and what we will do along the way.
We typically don’t stay in one place for an entire trip, unless it’s for a long weekend. We keep things moving, yet we like to be thorough in our visit and explore as much as possible. This takes a lot of planning, organizing, and prioritizing. Especially with young kids. This is a delicate task, because we don’t want to have everything planned out and feel like we are on a rigid schedule. We need to relax and allow for changes in plans, depending on weather, moods, diaper changes, etc. So, planning is key so we know what our options are at any point during our trip – or at least have a general idea.
How do we plan? We read … a lot. Travel guide books, visitors guides, magazine articles, and anything we can find on the Internet. We go to the library or bookstore to check out guidebooks appropriate for our destination(s) (but before we go, we have a short list of books after reading book reviews on Amazon). We typically buy books that we think are great because our planning lasts for months. We also order visitors guides from the destinations we want to visit. One of my favorite places to check out is http://familyfun.go.com/vacations/ … for ideas of destinations to visit, and also to see if there are any stories about places we are headed.
TV shows on the Travel Channel and Food Network also help us sometimes, and our kids love watching them too, especially Samantha Brown- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JgSXPxUZHCs.
All of our research leads us to making wish lists (the kids help us with these in a general sense). Wish lists usually lead to planning spreadsheets (more often than not, especially on driving trips) to track mileage goals, ideal hotel stops/resting points, and attractions or parks we don’t want to miss (with our ideal amount of time spent at each place noted). It also may include some highly anticipated meals. This may sound rigid, but it helps us relax once we’re there, because we have a plan and we know what we want to accomplish. We also allow ourselves flexibility to fill in time when we get there.
When on the road, a key tool for us in the car is a book called The Next Exit (http://amzn.to/ievbib). This book lists restaurants, coffee shops and gas stations at each Interstate exit in the U.S. You can see how far you have to go to get to your favorite road trip fast food joint and can then sweet talk the kids in the backseat to hold on just a few more miles to avoid major meltdowns. Another great tool, especially when looking for local restaurants, is www.yelp.com, because you can search by your location and type of desired food – and see reviews.
There are so many tools out there, and so many ways to plan, but these are definitely some of our favorites.