Growing up, one of the biggest things I looked forward to was our family vacation. It was something my parents saved for year-round. A family of 5 could not fly on the current budget we had, so we drove to almost every destination within a 15 hr radius. This includes NYC, Washington DC, Mount Rushmore, St. Louis, Boston, Louisville…. You name it, we have probably been there. Most times, we stayed outside the city and took public transportation in each day. This was a little time consuming, but when on a budget, you have to make certain sacrifices.
This tradition that started at a young age still continues as the family regularly takes a vacation together with spouses, children, etc. From a basic vacation rentals to a trip to Disney, family and group travel have become something very common for my wife and I. We really enjoy the company and with a little space, it turns out to be a very exciting and even relaxing vacation!
Here are a few great options and tips for a Friends and Family Vacation
Cruises can a be a great option to explore new locations as a family or group. They provide a little structure but enough flexibility to do your own thing. Caribbean is the most popular option because it’s the most budget friendly. On a cruise, everyone can reunite in the evening to have dinner and enjoy the nightly entertainment. It’s a good balance of personal time and group participation. Cruising can be a little complicated with cabins scattered around the ship, deciding on shore excursion possibilities, and communication difficulties as phones do not work well on the ship and Wi-Fi is an extra cost. You will still see white boards attached to the front of cabin doors saying “At the pool on deck 15” as a way to communicate. However, with some additional planning, this can be a great family or group vacation option!
This is probably the easiest, most flexible, and most relaxing option. Everything is included and this makes it easy to take a family or group. Everyone knows the cost and besides a trip to the spa or an off-site excursion, everything is included. The kids can enjoy the beach or pools, groups can just relax together or participate in evening party activities. Having your own room is nice again as you can always retreat away from the group. The ease of planning this vacation and the “known price point” can make this a popular option for both family and friends. The issue is that it can get boring for families if you do not enjoy the beach and sun every day. Some resorts have more to offer than others, which is why its best to check with a travel agent to make sure it will fit everyone’s needs.
3. Disney World
When talking family vacation, Disney will always come up. I have known several grandparents who take their extended families down to enjoy the magic. Nothing is more special than seeing all the kids light-up as they meet their favorite princess or Disney character. It’s a memory your kids will remember for a lifetime. Being a Disney fan myself, it’s easy to put this on the list with all the different rides and attractions available. However, it's not the cheapest option for families as Disney charges for children 3 yrs old and above. Food can also add an additional cost onto of the resorts, plane tickets, and park tickets.
The biggest thing I can suggest if you go with a group, TAKE BREAKS! This is really hard for me to suggest, but a rested kid is WAAAYYY better than an exhausted kid. This could be as simple as stroller ride to get them to sleep around Epcot or a quick trip back to the hotel. Nothing is worse than experiencing a meltdown at the most magical place on earth. Another thing that is essential is to not be afraid of splitting up. Not every kid can ride each ride or wants to meet the princesses. In a large group, take time to break away and enjoy the parts that not everyone can enjoy. It might be as simple as having one group stand in line to meet Mickey, while the others go and ride Space Mountain. Balance is key!
This is a little more difficult but can be very rewarding. River cruises are a great option for adults who want to see multiple cities without the hassle of driving or using the trains. If you are looking for destination options like Italy, having a tour guide might be the best idea to keep everyone organized. I did a group tour through Israel and really enjoyed it because you end up seeing so much. However, you do go at the pace of the slowest person in the group, so keep this in mind depending on the type of traveler you are. You also are confined to a set schedule which means you don’t have the opportunity to stay longer in a museum or leave early. Everyone does everything together! The price can be the most expensive which is why this is normally an adult option, but I know several people that take entire families overseas and they love it. It just depends on the family or group.
5. US Destinations
Our last option that I have a lot of experience in is traveling around the US. Whether its California or a family trip to Washington DC, each one can be a little different. This might be tougher to get away from the group as everyone is sightseeing on the same schedule. Depending on the number of vehicles, you might be stuck doing things others want to do and see. You also might have to go at the pace of the most outspoken person in the group (We all have been here! The person that tells everyone its time to go without checking in and making sure everyone is finished). It can be convenient since it’s within the US, but it usually adds up to a lot of time with the group which can be exhausting. Staying within walking distance to attractions is a must in my opinion to give each person different options to enjoy. Price wise, this can be a very affordable option, but it comes with its limitations as well.
As always, utilize a travel agent to make sure you are doing the best option for your family or group. Each person is a little different, and the ages, personalities, and interests can play a key part in deciding where to go next!