If you are anything like me, this is one of the biggest motivators to showing up at work. The pay off of a luxurious family vacation. Yes, there is satisfaction in a job well done. In making a difference in the world around us. There’s also the eternal drive for financial security. But on some cold Monday mornings, it is only the thought an upcoming vacation that can get you out of bed. And when you finally arrive at that chosen destination, you really hope it was all worth it. That you chose well. That the pictures and reviews were telling the truth. I think this is the reason so many people sacrifice variety and adventure and just return to the same resort year after year. A proven winner. But there are ways to choose a new adventure with out great risk to your precious family vacation time. This post will try and help you plan your next family vacation lux reward. We just returned from 2 weeks in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Here’s how we made our decisions on this and other family vacations.
5 Family Vacation Tips
- Choose a Destination through Family Discussion and Research
- Set Budget
- Set Priorities for Vacation
- Research Resort Choices within Budget at Destination
- Choose Resorts that Best Meet Needs
We choose a new international location by first researching online widely. I used Trip Advisor, Yelp, various blogs, and professional guide sites like Travel and Leisure. Articles like Frommers “100 Places to Take Your Kids Before They Grow Up” can be an inspiring jump off point. A great book full of a childhood of special trips and then some is National Geographic’s 100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life. Or your hobbies may be the inspiration, like 10 Best Ski Resorts for Families. If the beach is your favorite place to relax, an article like 10 Best Family Beach Resorts from the helpful Family Vacation Critic might be your best starting point. Perhaps far away relatives or family ancestry may be your inspiration. Ask every member of the family what they think would be exciting. The answers may surprise and inspire your planning.
Combining types of sites you search gives you both a traveler viewpoint and a professional one. Once you narrow down your choices a more specific site may be helpful. Like if your concerned about current safe travel in Mexico read something just written like Ignore the Myths and Take Your Kids to Mexico from indie travel site Bootsnall. I usually search more traveler sites once we have decided on location and begin resort research. Trusted bloggers like the very well traveled Canadian Sarah Pittard have proven invaluable in both avoiding mistakes and inspiring family travel to new destinations.
While I really find the amateur travel based sites (Trip Advisor) invaluable, you do have to “consider the source”. Someone with an obnoxious hotel neighbor or a dietary restriction you don’t share, will at times give a resort 1 star but your time there may be 5 star. I always read the highest and lowest reviews. Then I carefully consider what they are most complaining about and complementing. How important are these things to my family? If it is a resort I like and the complaint is within the hotel’s control, like “low level floors are musty”, I will ask for the assistance of the hotel by email in advance. I quote the review as my source. This usually results in not experiencing the problem at all.
I try to find winning reviews on the most important vacation aspects for our family. We also travel frequently enough to understand what different hotel brands specialize in. As well being able to enjoy the benefit of membership in frequent stay programs. This often means complimentary breakfast, concierge room privileges, or room upgrades. (These programs cost nothing to join.) Often our favorite hotel in New York or London, will also be our favorite in Madrid. We often include our family favorites Westin or Hyatt in our itinerary.
Our top general priorities list usually looks something like this. It often changes slightly with each trip to include things like visiting family or cultural specifics.
Our Top 5 Vacation Priorities
- Nice Beds and Bathrooms
- Transporting Environment
- Outdoor Activities for both adults and kids – Separately
- Enriching Family Activities
- Great Food
Research suggested there were many resorts in Puerto Vallarta that could provide these things for our family. So we decide to book several that were within our budget. For us, the inconvenience of packing and moving is worth the trouble for a richer vacation experience. Plus knowing we might be back, we wanted to find our favorites on our first journey here. We moved all around Banderas Bay and stayed at both all-inclusives and regular resorts. This too is a strategy for us. At the all inclusive we maximize things like water-sports, kids clubs, nightly shows, and beach butlered drinks. On the reverse side, at a regular resort we maximize time in town, family special activities, spas, and finer local dining. This gives us the best of both types of relaxation. The change in venue also gives us incentive to maximize each day at the different resorts.
Based on the local you have chosen consider choosing some complimentary lodging in differing locals to maximize your family vacation lux. In a local like Tuscany this may mean 3 days in town in a branded hotel in the historic district followed by a villa rental in the country side with pool the second half of your stay. Or in Hawaii it may mean soaking up culture at a luxury high-rise in Oahu followed by some down time at Chuns Reef on the North Shore. This unique property allows whole house rental and includes direct beach access and toys galore.
I’ll review each of our 4 choices in Puerto Vallarta in part two of this post and show you what was great ( and not so great) about each of them. But the main point here is that staying in more than one place can really enrich your trip. Don’t be afraid to pack your bags and call a taxi mid week !
So I encourage you to branch out and explore some place new when you plan your next family vacation. We love the richness diverse travel has given our family life. And I would love to hear about your favorite family trips.
Stay tuned for more information on Mexico and all-inclusives. Are they right for your family? Part two coming up!