With so many distractions nowadays, family vacations are becoming increasingly important. Vacations provide time to step away from our other commitments and focus solely on enjoying time with family and loved ones. We sat down with two family travel experts in an effort to break down the formula needed for a memorable vacation.

So, as a society focused on sharing everything in real time, how do we create family vacation memories that live on forever and don’t get lost in cyberspace? It’s all about the planning, and the planning should be a family affair. From choosing the destination to the daily activities, each member of the family can have a say in the plans.

Simple and Exciting for all Ages:

When discussing destinations for family travel, Suitcases&Strollers founder Aimee Chan mentioned that children often push for a theme park vacation, as they offer “a fantasy land of experiences.” However, Aimee Chan and Candyce H. Stapen, family travel editor of Great Family Vacations and a former USA TODAY travel editor, both discuss ways to satisfy this need for a fantasy environment, while leaving the crowds behind. These alternative trips tend to include less intense activities and excursions, making them the perfect option for both old and young travelers.

  • National Parks — Many parks have started implementing creative visitor attractions and activities. Stapen suggests visiting these parks during the off-season in an effort to avoid heavy crowds, hot temperatures and peak-season costs.
  • College Towns — Perfect for a quick weekend getaway, each town usually has their own unique culture. If you are traveling with older children, it’s also a great way to get them excited about their future, without all the pressure of making commitments. Though college towns might not offer rides and attractions, children get to explore a completely new and exciting environment.
  • Road Trips — Traveling by car is another way to deviate from the classic air travel dependent vacation and an excellent option for quick day trips or weekend travel. Driving through new towns and cities provides your children with the hands-on experience they crave. Each member of the family gains more control thanks to the ease of pulling over the moment something catches your eye.
  • Camping — Pitching tents and roasting marshmallows is a change of pace that all family members can enjoy. “Glamping,” an upscale form of camping, has become very popular among families, as it provides parents, grandparents and older children with a higher level of comfort and ease, while still embracing a new environment.


Large-Scale Family Vacations

For families looking for a more lavish journey, Chan had a few suggestions. In addition to the wildly common all-inclusive beach stay, “the classics like Hawaii in the US, the Gold Coast in Australia and Bali in Indonesia all continue to be incredibly popular.” These trips offer more cultural and educational experiences that older children will fully appreciate. A cruise vacation is the perfect alternative for families that prefer not to spend hours planning and researching, but still want itineraries full of exciting activities. The all-inclusive aspect of these trips is a refreshing experience and many ships offer activities for all ages, making it a very popular vote for families.

How to Properly Include Technology

During family vacations we get a thrill from sharing our memories with those back home; whether it’s a picture of your family, a gorgeous view, or a goofy shot from the day’s adventures. Sometimes it helps to set guidelines for how often we use technology during the trip, such as agreeing to a half hour of use each day. Though we do our best to cut back on technology use during family vacations, there are some apps that may come in handy throughout your travels.

  • Hotel Apps — Many hotels offer their own apps that make booking your trip extremely simple with the click of a few buttons. To streamline and personalize your plans, Stapen suggests using this platform for specific requests, such as adjoining rooms, an extra cot or even a crib, so there is minimal wait upon arrival. Many hotel chains such as Marriot, Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt, Starwood and Hilton have mobile apps to help customize your stay.
  • Guide Books — Apps such as Gogobot and Viator, have straightforward information regarding the popular sights, attractions and activities for many locations all in the single app. For those looking for more extensive information, companies such as Lonely Planet, Time Out and Fodors offer individual apps for specific cities around the world.
  • Local Transportation — These apps provide you with the maps and travel routes of local transportation. Most will also give you the exact travel route needed to get from point A to point B. HopStop gives you a range of cities within one app, whereas the company mxData has designated public transport apps for major cities.
  • Camera — Both Chan and Stapen agree that letting the kids take their own pictures is a great way to engage even the youngest of travelers. After returning home, set aside time to look through all the photos. Turning pictures into a printed album or creating a DIY scrapbook gives the “family photographers” an even stronger tie to the memories.

Chan points out, “the most important ‘activity’ for the family to do together on holidays is spend time together. It doesn’t matter what it is you are doing; what’s important is that everyone is engaging in something together and having fun doing it.” Stapen accurately points out, “don’t plan every moment, it’s not boot camp. Don’t try to see everything.” Make sure to leave time for impromptu experiences, as they happen to make some of the best memories.

When thinking about memorable family vacations, which of your own trips come to mind? What made them so special?