One of the questions we get asked the most about our travels is "How do you decide where to travel next?" It sounds rather straightforward but in all actuality, it can be rather complicated as many factors contribute to the decision. We can't go everywhere (though we wish we could), and we can't be everywhere all at once so here are five considerations that influence us when we are deciding What family vacations to go on next!
Ask! With so many active and passionate travelers in our family and so many places to go, a poll or a vote is always a great place to start. I usually ask each person to make a list of their top 5 domestic destinations and their top 5 international destinations. We then make a "dream destination" list and display it in a prominent location (for many years it was just inside the pantry door). Then we begin working toward traveling to the most popular destinations on the list. The list gets updated every so often as our family grows and we learn about new places. This process helps us prioritize our future travel destinations and helps us narrow down (the very long list) of places we all want to go. In short- it keeps us focused:)
Finances! This is probably the biggest factor in deciding where (and when) to travel. We have learned to balance pricier trips with more budget-friendly ones. This is key! When we splurge on a particular trip, the following trips are much more inexpensive. Every budget is different but regardless, the budget must be balanced.
Considering the intensity of a particular trip is key. Factors such as distance, jet-lag, language barriers, and the activity level of a trip must be considered. We once followed a nearly 3-week history and sightseeing heavy trip to Spain, with a 10 day trip to our country's capital; Washington DC. By the time we arrived in Washington DC, we were way too tired and burned out to be able to enjoy all of the magnificent sites there. In retrospect, we should have planned much more time in-between the two trips OR followed our Spain trip with something a lot less intense and saved travel to Washington DC for another time. We have learned to balance the intensity of our trips a bit more since then:) If there isn't a balance, things quickly become a chore instead of something to be enjoyed.
Another pointer- When traveling a long distance and across many time zones, we recommend spending at least 10 days (preferably 2 weeks) in any given destination.
It used to be a lot easier to know who was in and who wasn't. Now, with our family growing and changing all of the time, everyone is in a different phase of life and it is becoming increasingly difficult to have everyone there all of the time. It makes me sad, but it is the reality. I have accepted the fact that not everyone will travel all of the time.
That said, we often do plan around schedules and plan around when we can get the most people to come. Sometimes that means holding off on a certain destination until more of the family can come. For example- Thailand has been near the top of the list for a handful of years but because of conflicting schedules, it isn't until now that we have concrete plans for a family trip to Thailand. If everyone has a strong desire to travel to a certain destination we will often hold off travel until everyone can come.
On the other hand, sometimes certain family members have NO desire to visit a particular destination. This was the case for China. The kids and I had been so excited to travel to China and experience the culture, learn the history and see the sites we had only dreamed about. My husband Phil however, did not share our enthusiasm (at all). We tried to talk him into it but really he just didn't want to come. In the end, we traveled without him and it worked out all the way around.
You may have people in your party who require additional assistance and more access-friendly spots when taking breaks along your travels. It’s worth looking at an application for a as these can be helpful for those needing more room and mobility in often busy parking lots.
Weather is critical. Is it worth it to travel off-time or off-season? In our experience, there isn't a hard and fast rule, it depends on the destination. We often travel in peak season, but there are places we REALLY try to avoid during peak season (ie: anything Disney). While rates can be cheaper in offseason we prefer to travel when the weather is at its best and the activities are in full swing. For example, who wants to spend a beach vacation cooped up indoors because the weather is horrible? NO ONE. Remember each destination is different do your homework when the best time is to go. Shoulder season is often a favorite of ours.
We once traveled to Costa Rica in April, the tail end of the dry season. The green tropical jungles that I had remembered from a previous trip were brown and shriveled. It wasn't even the same place. It is always hot in Costa Rica but at the end of April, it was HOTTER! Costa Rica was completely different in the dry season than in the wet. We quickly resolved as a family to return to Costa Rica during the season when it was green and verdant. We wanted to see the lush landscaping Costa Rica is so famous for. Do your homework and find out the best time to visit a particular destination. Peak season can be busier and pricier but sometimes preferable to offseason.
These are some of the factors that should always be considered when you are trying to figure out what places in the world to visit! Sometimes it can be an adventure even figuring out where and when to go! It is worth the effort and for us, planning is half of the fun! Speaking of planning trips if you are getting ready to plan a trip be sure to check out our 10 Tips for Family Trip Planning
What do you do when figuring out where you want to go next? Do you have a dream destination board like we do? As always share your tips with us and what works for you!
Our Family Passport
(Shani, Kam, & Sav)
Meet the Smiths! We are an average family living in a crazy busy world, trying to juggle work, school, and family responsibilities. As a multi-generational family, we are always growing and changing. We have found that traveling all together with our family of eight (from the Grandparents on down to the little Grandbaby) provides a "time-out" where we can reconnect with the ones we love the most, without daily interruptions or distractions. We have been to six continents and over 40 countries together! Our family adventures are tremendously educational, and most of all, fun! It is our goal to encourage other families to take breaks together and go explore our amazing world!
Stay in touch with them via: