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Travel Planning Updated for 2017
How To Find, Plan and Book A Family Vacation
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Now is absolutely the best time to take a family vacation. You may think you cannot afford a real vacation, but I'm here to tell you that anyone can find great bargains out there. It is still a buyer's market. We are seeing some of the best vacation deals since we started traveling years ago. So if you have ever wanted to take a nice family vacation, we highly recommend you consider doing so very soon. Everyone from Disney to major cruise lines are still having to cut their prices drastically, to keep a flow of customers. Take advantage now, as they won't be there forever. Check our our Top Family Vacation Destinations.
The Best Vacation Deals Ever!
Choosing a family vacation destination is not as easy as it sounds. You need to consider what climate you're looking for, how much time you have, how much you want to spend and what type of vacation. Most travel agents and travel sites have vacations broken down into four major types: 1) Vacation Packages 2) On Our Own 3) Tours and 4) Cruising. Each of these offer a different experience and has pros and cons.

Vacation Packages - Many travel sites have now bundled packages that include air, hotel and rental car. These packages can be an excellent bargain and fit almost any vacation timeframe. Many packages also include all-inclusive hotels. If you are looking for a vacation where everything is included and you're not pulling your money out every ten minutes to pay for things a la carte, then you may want to consider all-inclusive. This normally includes airport transfers, accomodations, meals, drinks (even alcoholic at some places) and activities. You can get more for your money on package deals but they are not as flexible as if you built your own travel plan.

On Your Own - If you have the time to research travel booking sites, you can pull together your own vacation package that meets all of your family's needs. If you only have a weekend you might want to consider a quick weekend city getaway. Many airlines offer air and hotel options that are great for short getaways. We have used, and recommend, Southwest Airlines and American Airlines but almost all carriers offer some type of air/hotel combo. Planning your own vacation gives you lots of flexibility and you are assured the activities and meals are what you want. Just remember that building your own will take longer and may cost you more as you're buying everything separately.

Tours - Tours are an exceptional way to travel if you want to see the major highlights of an area without the hassle of driving and finding hotels. I especially recommend tours to retired folks or folks that are not comfortable with traveling on their own. Tour companies put together packages that normally include transportation, accomodations, some meals, tour guides and activities. If you are traveling internationally, this is the way to go. No need to learn the language or worry about booking a hotel in the wrong part of town. Tour companies employ multi-lingual guides that handle everything for you including your luggage. My wife and I opted for a tour when we went to Australia and New Zealand several years ago. In 14 days we saw all of the major sites in both countries with the tour company handling everything. It was tiring, but hassle free.

Cruising - Cruising is much like a tour, but your resort goes with you from place to place. With over 20 cruises under our belts, we really love them. Cruising is one of the most economical and hassle-free vacations you can take. You carry your luggage on board and unpack it once. Cruises have changed immensely since we took our first in 1988 (our Honeymoon). There are lots of cruise lines, ships, departure ports and destinations to choose from. They now offer them from 3 days to as much as 14 days and more. Cruise lines are opening new departure ports every year, making it much easier to find one near you. This topic is so large that I have dedicated an entire page to it. Check out Cruises and Cruising.
Picking Your Family Vacation
It used to be that you had to visit a Travel Agent to book a trip, but those days have changed. There are still Travel Agents in business, but many charge you a fee now as most airlines no longer pay commissions. Cruise lines can now book your cruise directly over the phone. If you are not comfortable using the internet or giving your credit card information out online then I suggest you consider a Travel Agent or book directly with your selected airline, hotel or cruise line. Since you found this website I will assume you are internet savvy.

Nowadays you can book almost any kind of vacation right over internet. You will actually find that airlines and hotels offer discounts when you book directly on the internet, since they no longer have to employ as many agents. See
Travel Bargains for links to current sales. Here are some sites I use when booking my travel:

Cheapflights - Find flights to destinations around the world by date as well as an open date option, where there are special deals from carriers and travel providers.

Tripadvisor.com - The web's best source for unbiased hotel reviews and travel information.

Orbitz.com - Full service online booking agent with price guarantees.

Travelocity.com - Full service and very easy to use booking for package deals, cruises, air and rental cars.

Expedia.com - Also easy to use; offers package deals, cruises, air and rental cars.

Seatguru.com - Information on seating on almost all airlines. Excellent site.
How to Book Your Family Vacation
Before booking your travel arrangements, there are some things that you need to consider. I've made many mistakes when booking that cost my family delays, money and impacted our overall experience. Just consider these when making your arrangements:

Book Early - There's nothing more disappointing then losing a flight or hotel because you didn't book early enough. This is even more true when you're looking to travel during a holiday. Almost all holiday weekends will sell out early so don't wait. You may regret it. Also, many airlines and hotels offer discounts for early booking, and if you wait, you may lose the discount. It is true that there are last minute deals, but you may not get the dates or hotels you want.

Consider Going A Day Early - If you are flying to a cruise or tour you really should consider arriving a day early. Unfortunately, airline delays are all too common these days. There is no worse sick feeling than sitting in an airport when you know your cruise or tour is leaving soon. Unless you have booked your air with the cruise or tour company, they aren't going to wait for you. Even if you did book with them, they won't wait for very long. We've seen many families miss their vacations due to flight issues. Don't be one of them.

Buy Travel Insurance - Unless you like taking a risk, I highly recommend investing in travel insurance. Most policies cover trip delays, cancellations and even lost luggage. They also cover medical evacuations, which can be quite costly when you're in a foreign country or on a cruise ship. There are lots of insurance options so be sure to shop around.

Don't Forget Your Passports - If your travel includes any countries outside of the US then you need to make sure you have a passport. Nowadays, this even includes Mexico, the Caribbean countries and Canada. It can take as much as 6 weeks, less if you pay to expedite the process. Click here for US Passport office.

Don't Overpack - No matter what type of vacation you've booked, don't overpack. With airlines charging everything from $20 to as much as $50 for extra bags you don't want to get hit with a huge bill at the airport. My family has learned to travel light. Its easier to pack, easier to unpack and will fit into your room or cruise cabin much easier.

Have FUN!! - Don't forget you're going on vacation to have fun. Even if things go wrong, just try to make the best of it. Half of the vacation is spending time with your family. My family got stuck in New York one year while we were on our way to Bermuda. We lost a day of our vacation and had to spend the night in an hotel in a questionable part of New York City. We were upset, but we tried to enjoy the experience and just laugh it off. In the end, we will remember that night longer than the rest of the trip.
Things You Should Know for 2017
Our Recommended Light Weight Luggage