How planning a family vacation is like planning a party

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I know, planning a family trip and planning a party don’t immediately sound connected, but as I was planning my daughter’s quarantine birthday party last week I realized I was doing a lot of the same things I do when we plan a trip.

The basics of a trip and a party are the same–they should both be fun, both need a theme and a location. And you need great food and activities.

How had I never thought of this before? I don’t know! I used to plan events for a living, and traveling is one of my favorite things to do. And I’ve planned a whole bunch of both of them.

One thing I know is that for a lot of people, both planning a trip and planning a party are stressful. But they don’t have to be. They have the same basic steps and things you need to do. It’s just the details that are different.
Here’s how to do it much easier and with less stress.

Step 1: Determine the theme

Every trip and every party need a theme. The theme sets the basic feeling and vibe of what you want your trip to be like. When you imagine what your trip will be like what do you see? The theme just gives your trip focus–what is the purpose?

Do you want to relax or do you want to explore somewhere exciting? Or is it the outdoors you want to enjoy? Mountains, beach, city, desert, jungle, many locations or just one?

These are just some of the options for what the theme of your trip is going to be. Our family is planning a trip to Spain this summer and the theme is Exploration and Education. We’ve been wanting to visit for a while, especially since our kids became fluent in Spanish at school. We want to see as much as we can, but also take in the culture and beautiful historical sites we’ve heard about.

2. Budget

I’m not a great trip budgeter, especially when it comes to breaking things down, but deciding how much you have to spend in total will make everything else that comes next much easier because you’ll be able to know where to splurge or where you need or want to spend less.

3. Location

Once you’ve decided what you want to get out of your trip, you can narrow down locations. The way you want to travel–by car, plane, boat, etc. will likely be the biggest factor. The time of year you’re traveling will also play a big factor in where you go based on your theme. Do you want somewhere warm when it’s January or do you plan to ski or enjoy other winter sports?

Next consider what’s on your travel bucket list and see if you can cross one of those places out with your trip. Where have you been dying to go? Sometimes it’ll be a combination of where you want to go, where you can get to within your budget and what your goal is.

4. Activities

Activities are probably one of the most fun parts of a trip, and a big reason you’re going to your chosen location in the first place. Depending on your theme and location, your activities could mostly be chosen for you.

Wanted a beach vacation? You’ll most likely be mostly hanging out by the water. Touring a new city? You’ll base your activities on the locations and sites that are most important to you.

Are you into history and culture? Then find the sites and do activities that will give you the biggest sense of the place.

And that is the key–chose the things that your family cares about and don’t rely entirely on what other people say. If the guidebook tells you a certain museum is awesome, but you really don’t care about what’s inside, you should definitely skip it.

5. Food

One of our favorite things about traveling is the food. It really is one of the best ways to get to know about a place.

When we’re somewhere with multiple options we very rarely eat at chain restaurants so that we can get to try local places.

Last summer we visited Knoxville, Tennessee for the afternoon on our way home from a longer vacation. We didn’t have much time to see things in the city, but we happened upon a farmer’s market and picked up some bread and cookies from a local bakery to take home. Then we had lunch at Sweet P’s BBQ restaurant, tried ice cream from Cruze Farm creamery, and finished it off with treats from Knoxville Chocolate Company.

food travel with family cruze farm creamery

Yes, I now that’s a lot of sweets. But, we didn’t eat them at once and they were a great way to get to know the culture and flavor of Knoxville.

The point being, plan to eat at some local favorite places to get the flavor of the place and understand the culture better.

By thinking of these things as you begin planning your trip–or when you decide you want to take a trip in the first place, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and make the planning process much easier and less stressful.

What is your favorite kind of trip or where do you want to go next?

Happy planning!

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