Remember how fun it was to make spontaneous travel plans? A weekend in Las Vegas at the drop of a hat, or a last-minute beach trip just because a relative suddenly had a vacancy at the family condo. Now that we’re parents, travel has taken on a whole new personality. That doesn’t mean we can’t get out there, see new places, and have fun, but it does mean that we need to sit down and make a plan. Here are a few tips to help you make your 2020 travel plans.
Timing is Everything
The first thing I do every year is buy a paper calendar and mark down all of the important dates. I give myself about two weeks to do this in January (and I usually beat the deadline!). I mark birthdays, school breaks, everything. Digital calendars are convenient, but I like to look at a physical calendar on the wall and see everything at a glance. I also happen to like calendars with cute things on them. One year it’s nature photos, the next it’s firefighters with their shirts off.
Make a Mini Bucket List
This isn’t the bucket list with “see the Eiffel Tower” or “kiss Neil Patrick Harris” on it. I just write a list of the kinds of trips I would like to take this year, and I do it fast, without stopping. No idea is too grandiose or too whimsical – I just write it all down, put the list away for a few days, and then take a look at it again with fresh eyes. I also include the less exciting – but still desirable and/or necessary – trips, like “visit Grandma for the holidays.” Since it’s still winter while I’m making this list, I tend to put a lot of sunny vacation ideas down. This year I’m looking into San Diego tours, last year it was a Caribbean cruise. I do this because it helps me get an honest idea of what kind of trips my family and I would actually want to take, without letting any negativity or doubt get in the way. When I look back at the list, sometimes I surprise myself. My family and I have had some great vacations as a result of these brainstorming sessions.
Invite the Babysitter
I know you’re thinking that you can’t afford to pay a babysitter or nanny to travel with you, but I want to encourage you to think outside the box. While not every babysitter may want to spend a week or so traveling with you, the opportunity to take a vacation – all expenses paid, or even partially paid, in exchange for helping out with the little ones – might appeal to a friend of the family. It might just be possible to find someone who would happily come along to help out with the children in exchange for a free or low-cost vacation. It’s worth a shot, and it could be more affordable than you think!
Don’t Rule Out Spontaneity
Just because there are more moving parts when you take the whole family on vacation doesn’t mean that you should altogether rule out more impulsive travel decisions. I think that it’s still okay to subscribe to cheap flights lists and to keep your eyes and ears open for spur-of-the-moment opportunities.
Make a Checklist
This may sound a bit nerdy, but I’m a big fan of checklists and to-do lists. And, while I like my calendars analog, I like my checklists digital. Write your checklists early, before there’s the stress of the moment. You’ll thank yourself later. And why do I prefer digital checklists? Because when you’re in San Diego or the Caribbean and you realize you should have brought an extra charger, you can add it to your digital checklist right then. Hopefully, next time you’ll benefit from the experience.
The important thing is to make your travel plans early enough that you don’t let the whole year slip by without a good trip. The year 2020 feels full of promise, and it would be a shame not to get out and travel!