So before I dive into the 5 easy ways to help you plan amazing summer travel for your family, I have to point out the difference between a vacation and travel.

Personally I don’t agree with Merriam-Webster. The words “vacation” and “travel” cannot be used synonymously.

A vacation is relaxing time away. In most cases, I picture a vacation being at a beach or mountain get-away. However, you can also take a vacation in your own town as long as it’s relaxing and restful.

Travel, on the other hand, is for movers and shakers. It involves adventures, activities and experiences. Most often, travel can be described as anything, but relaxing or restful.

On a vacation we don’t set an alarm clock and we rarely have an agenda for the day. But when we travel, we don’t want to miss a second. We maximize every minute and often return home exhausted. Our family typically tries to take at least one vacation per year (it’s a lot harder for me to “vacation” than my husband!) and the rest of our time we travel.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, here’s why you might want to plan your travel…

By planning your trip, you will find all kinds of things you want to see and do as you travel. It allows you to set a schedule in advance which will make for much smoother family time. For example, advanced planning allows you to check hours of operation on parks or museums so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to visit. Additionally, you won’t return from a trip and wish you’d seen or experienced something you didn’t know about prior to the trip.

A lot of people ask me how we plan our trips. And, more specifically, how we know about some of the cool things we do. Here are 5 easy tips for planning amazing summer travel for your family:

  1. Google: Yep, it’s that simple. I almost always do my first bit of research about an area on the internet. Typing in searches such as “best family activities in XX” or “top things to do in XX” will usually bring up a great list to start with. I usually make a list of any of the activities I’m interested in researching further.
  2. Question: One of the BEST (and most simple) things you can do when planning a trip is to ask for advice. I’ve found that by putting it out on social media, tons of people respond. The more specific you can be, the better. For example: “I’m looking for some recommendations on where our family should eat in Dallas?” or “What are your favorite places to visit with kids in Atlanta?” Those type of specific questions get great responses on social media!
  3. Talk: Another one of my main resources for planning travel is simply talking to people. Whenever I have the opportunity, I ask people from different areas what they recommend doing there. Just last week I was talking to another mom at the baseball field and it came up that she was from Kansas City. Knowing we’d be venturing there soon, I asked her opinion on some of the best things to do with kids. Two of the things she mentioned had not turned up in my google search and I was so excited to add them to my list of possibilities!
  4. NPS: We never go anywhere without consulting our Passport To Your National Parks book. Each region is broken down with a map and you can easily see where all the National Parks are located. Visiting National Parks is one of our favorite family activities and we include as many as we can in our travels. 
  5. Roadside Attractions: I also do some digging to see if our route will take us past any crazy roadside attractions. Very often these are free, and incredibly memorable for my kids. They don’t require a major amount of time or planning, but often just an awareness that they exist. Additionally, they aren’t aways found IN our major destinations so they don’t always turn up in my initial google searches. As an example, I’ve been so busy planning our summer trip and I’ve done a ton of research on Mount Rushmore as that will be a major stop for us. However, I JUST found out that the world’s largest drugstore is located just minutes away. And apparently, it’s kind of a big deal and super neat. Who knew? I would have hated to be that close and missed out! (P.S. I LOVE the story of how they got started- be sure you don’t miss reading this!

Usually after I’ve done all 5 of these things I have a list much longer than we could ever accomplish on one trip. The hard part becomes narrowing it down. I try to make sure our trip is diverse. So, for example, zoo recommendations usually turn up in a google search, in questioning on social media and in talking with people- but our family doesn’t need to visit 5 zoos on one trip. I usually have to pick just 1 or maybe 2 depending on the length of our trip.

Likewise, time and money are always a factor. I sometimes have to ask myself, “would we rather do 1 activity that will take all day, or 3-4 shorter activities?” Similarly, “would we rather do 1 expensive activity in a day, or several free/inexpensive things?”

Planning a trip can be almost as much fun as actually doing it! Hopefully these 5 tips will help you get started planning amazing summer travel for your family!

You might also enjoy reading:

The Most Affordable Way For Families To Visit National Parks

7 Places To See In Every State

The Most Interesting Place I’ve Ever Been

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