Planning a Family Vacation

Kid-friendly vacations that the whole family can enjoy? Yes, please! Sometimes the best vacations for kids are the simplest ones — stress-free with easy vacation meals, beach time, and time with loved ones. These 4 tips will help with planning a family vacation that is both memorable and fun.

  • By Jess Dang
  • June 24, 2021

I am headed out on a family vacation tomorrow, and I cannot wait. While we’ve been on a few short long-weekend trips this year, this will be a full week+ away and the longest road trip with kids our family has ever taken — all the way down to San Diego — so please wish me strength and patience as Charlie screams, “Listen to Row, Row [Row Your Boat]!” endlessly.

Aside from last year’s pandemic pause, we have always traveled a lot with our kids. Traveling with kids is a very different experience from traveling pre-kids, but kid-friendly vacations don’t have to mean all kid stuff, all the time. We were a bit rusty with planning a road trip when we started up again this year, but I’ve been taking notes from these shorter trips in preparation for this longer trip. Keep reading to get my best tips for planning a family vacation.

1. Sometimes, just being in a different place is novel enough

I think when we plan road trips, we tend to overpack the to-do and to-see list, but fun family vacations aren’t about cramming it all in. Observing my kids over the last few trips we’ve been on, they are so much more excited about the new room they get to sleep in for a few nights and having the attention of their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents for a few days. So while we are hitting Legoland and the San Diego Zoo, the rest of the time will be left for hanging out at our Airbnb and playing on the beach (and who doesn’t love a family beach vacation?). I have a shortlist of more low-key attractions but if we don’t get to them, it just means we were having fun doing other things.

2. I’m the foodie, not them

The best part of traveling to me is the food. I love trying new restaurants and taking a break from the daily cooking routine, but just because I want to try the new hip taco joint doesn’t mean that my kids have any interest. So in our last few trips, I packed easy vacation meals I could cook for them while I ate later from a restaurant that I was excited about. (This also makes for relatively cheap family vacations!) Over the pandemic, we’ve done this as takeout but this trip, I’ll have my parents to babysit so I can actually go out and enjoy some of these places.

3. Do your vacation meal planning in advance

I don’t get a lot of vacation time so when I do, I want to spend as much of it as possible not doing my usual chores. That’s why I plan my travel food in advance. I get my meal plan and grocery list made ahead of time and order all the groceries to be delivered a few hours after my expected arrival. When I used to do this for trips that required flying, I would put in the order as the plane was taking off because you never know about delays and I didn’t want milk to be spoiling on the doorstep. And one of my favorite travel meal ideas? If some of your meals require spices, get those measured and mixed ahead of time and bring them with you!

4. Have a freezer meal ready for when you get home

I love traveling, but it’s also a lot of work. So one of my favorite stress free vacation ideas involves planning for getting home. Instead of worrying about what we’re going to eat for dinner that first night back, I make sure to have a freezer meal ready to go so there is plenty of time for all the unpacking and organizing of vacation photos!

If you’ve spent time in San Diego and have recs, please share! Are you taking any summer trips? What do you do to prepare? I’d love to know!

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