How to plan the perfect family-friendly travel itinerary*

Family holidays are a wonderful way to make memories that last a lifetime. But let’s be honest, they can also be tricky to manage at times as well. Trying to keep everyone happy while navigating a foreign language, weather and customs can all take its toll. Throw in the pressure to see and do as much as possible and you could end up with a recipe for stress.

The good news is that there is a way to have a vastly more enjoyable family holiday this year, and that’s by planning your itinerary in advance. Be warned though — deciding what sights you want to see is actually only the first step. The next is to make sure that your itinerary is realistic, practical and will work for the whole family, from teenagers to tots.

With this in mind, here are 8 tips for planning the perfect (well, almost perfect), family-friendly travel itinerary:

Find a good itinerary template

Ideally, find an online timetable template that breaks time into hourly blocks — the more specific and granular you are with time blocking, the better. Next, it’s time to start filling it in — but where to begin?

Draw up a hit list

What sights does everyone most want to see? Depending on the size of your family and the length of time you’re going to be away for, you could give everyone the chance to pick 2-3 things that they most want to do. This is a fantastic way to familiarise your kids with the destination in advance and get them excited about it. So why not all sit down together with some local area guides to see what most appeals?

Check opening days and hours

Next, you’ll want to double check that you are scheduling everything in for the right day. For instance, that craft market might just be open at weekends, or that stunning medieval cathedral might only do tours in the morning. Also, if you are travelling off-season, then make sure that each attraction will be open when you are visiting. Also, why not aim to head to the most popular attractions when they are less likely to be busy – first thing in the morning, for instance?

Schedule in nap time

This is particularly important if you have younger kids, but teenagers and grownups need siesta time as well, especially if you’re going somewhere hot and plan to be walking around all day. So make sure that you block off enough time to travel back and forth to your accommodation and enjoy a much-needed sleep.

Plan tours for the first day

Bus tours are a great way to orientate yourself to a new destination. Planning one for your first day has two benefits — firstly, you’ll get to whizz around all of the main sights, so you will at least feel that you’ve caught a glance at all the key things that you want to see. Secondly, it will help you to get your bearings straight away, so that it will be much easier to find your way around for the rest of the holiday. 

Don’t try to do too much in one day

Instead, aim to break your travel itinerary into morning, afternoon and evening blocks. You have to be realistic about how much you can do in one day — it’s tempting to think that you can whizz around a city and see multiple sights in 24 hours, but the reality is often very different. So don’t risk burning yourself out or ending up with unhappy kids

Plan meals in advance

Sure, every so often it’s nice to be spontaneous and dine in that little local side street restaurant that you just discovered. But for the most part, it’s best to research restaurants, cafes and eating spots in advance of your trip. So find out what’s near to the sightseeing spots that you plan to visit, then pick out the places that seem the most child-friendly (with good reviews). This way, you are not walking around trying to find somewhere to eat to multiple cries of ‘I’m hungry.’

Leave time for rest

When travelling to a new place, it’s tempting to pressure yourself into seeing everything you can. But don’t forget that family holidays are for relaxing as well. So why not block off a morning or afternoon (or even an entire day) for the beach, pool or patio? This will give the grownups a chance to unwind and the kids an opportunity to enjoy some free, unstructured play. It will also save a bit on spending money, too.

Hopefully, these eight tips have been helpful for you. Don’t forget that if you are planning on taking a driving holiday, then a big part of a successful trip is to keep kids entertained in the car. So as well as printing off your travel itinerary, why not also print off a bingo-style scorecard? Then you can play the licence plate game together (as recommended by TUI), marking off car numbers as you drive past. 

Remember, the key to a successful family-friendly travel itinerary is to blend planning with flexibility — so try to schedule in as much as you can, but don’t forget to leave room for relaxation and spontaneity too.

Enjoy your trip!

*This is a collaborative post