How to Have the Family Plan the Family Vacation

When everyone pitches in on trip planning, everyone enjoys the trip.

Family planning a vacation in front of a map, picture
Ask your kids to choose one activity a day to get them involved in the vacation planning process. 
Photo: Torwaistudio/Shutterstock

Unless you're traveling solo, there's no reason to take on the burden of planning an entire trip by yourself. Not only does involving your kids and family in travel planning make your life less stressful, it helps ensure everyone has a great time.

Getting the Kids Involved

It's important to give everyone tools they can understand on their own, so pick up age-appropriate books and maps covering the destinations where you’ll be traveling. Point children toward certain activities or attractions you think they might enjoy, but leave room for them to discover things makes kids feel more invested in the process.

Give younger children a choice between two options you've pre-approved, making sure every kid gets to choose one day's activity. As kids get older and begin to understand finances, discussing the travel budget may temper the constant pleas to add more activities. You might even give each child a budget to plan the family's itinerary on one day of the trip. Children can be given specific research questions—the operating hours or entry fees of museums, for instance, or travel times between cities.

Seek out entertainment set in the locations you'll visit. Look for travel shows as well as fictional movies, shows, or books in which a destination is more than just the background.

Getting Reluctant Adults Involved

Let's face it: Kids aren't the only ones who can make trip planning a challenge. There's usually one adult taking the lead on the planning, and at least one who claims not to care what the itinerary looks like. (The latter is not to be believed—ever.)

Make gathering input easier by meeting the travelers in your family where they already spend time—such as a private Facebook group or documents shared on Google Drive—to avoid repeating yourself and reduce obstacles that could keep people from participating. Make sure everyone contributes at least one item for the itinerary and that everyone has at least one of their choices on the itinerary.

It's important to stress up front that your family doesn't need to agree on 100 percent of the itinerary. Half of the group might really want to do the helicopter tour over the city, while the other half would prefer to browse the flea market. Divide and conquer keeps everyone happy.