With summer just around the corner, chances are high that the question on your lips is the same as many parents: How can I plan the perfect family vacation this summer. Sadly, there is no magic bullet to an experience everyone will love. The perfect trip is a myth. There is always the chance that there will be airport delays that irk you, hotels that don’t live up to their website photos, weather woes and temperamental children that don’t care that they are standing in the most beautiful place in the world. That said, there are a few ways you can ensure the best travel experience possible for everyone in your group. Here are five tips for the (almost) perfect family vacation:

Consider a Travel Agent

In today’s world of online booking tools, it is tempting to go it alone on the recommendation of a few photos and reviews. There is still incredible value in speaking with a live person who is committed to making sure you and your family experience the very best vacation.

Besides the benefits of having someone in your corner who has the benefit of having helped thousands of vacationers experience their perfect vacation, a travel agent can also offer insurance benefits and special bonus amenities that you won’t even know you could have had when you book on your own. It’s a route that is definitely worth considering as you plan.

Look for Value not Cheap

Budget travel is a popular parameter for the ideal family vacation and I can understand why. You don’t want to blow your bank on a trip away only to come home and be unable to buy the basic groceries. That said, sometimes you get what you pay for and that perfect experience may not be found in the cheapest hotel or even a destination you compromised on for price.

Splurge on the experiences that matter most to you and your family. This could mean staying at a fantastic hotel in the heart of the action (or one with greater amenities) but saving on meals with a few well-placed picnics. It could mean choosing self-guided tours, instead of group ones.

Don’t compromise on the value of your vacation. Find a way to balance your budget by putting the priorities first, and finding alternatives for the stuff you care less about.

Look Beyond the Trendy Destinations

It’s always tempting to look at the trendiest destinations when deciding where to go, but doing so will always cost you more in the end. Sometimes because it’s more expensive and sometimes because there are so many people in the destination that you can’t really enjoy it. Instead consider an alternative.

  • Instead of Paris, think Portugal.
  • Instead of England, think Hungary.
  • Instead of Thailand, think Vietnam.  

You will get a different experience, but you’re still likely to find one that will wow you.

Read: 5 Spots to Consider for this Year’s Summer Vacation

Have the needs of your travel group in mind

Keep the needs of your group top of mind when planning your vacation and try to think forward to what could go wrong. What amenities are essential to keeping baby comfortable and well-fed? Do you need to pack them or can you get them once you’re there? If other generations are joining you, what kind of vacation experience suits them? Thinking forward to how you can make your group feel the most comfortable means anticipating needs before they arise and finding the best solution to satisfy (ie. investing in a hotel suite with kitchenette to make sure even the pickiest eaters are well fed).

Ask: “What does your perfect vacation look like?” This is the best way to find out from each traveller what their expectations are.

Read: The Best Advice for Enjoying Multi-Generational Travel

Know when to book – last minute vs in advance

The perfect family vacation -especially the big ones – will  likely require some planning time. Take your time to select the right destination, accommodation and activities. Last minute bookings don’t have to be ruled out but they will be best for families who are prepared to “go with the flow.”  The good news: hotels are starting to really value travellers that make advanced bookings and the rewards can be lower prices.

Of course, even the best laid plans can bring unexpected surprises. Hopefully, with some great preparation, you’ll feel better prepared to weather any unexpected family travel turbulence.

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