Hi there, Melanie here from excellent-vacation-ideas.com. We are a travel website that is out to inspire you to think “outside the box” when you travel and to spend your time and money wisely to make the most out of your vacation time with or without your kids!
Warren and I started this website out of our passion for travel and because people kept asking us about our adventures and how we managed to travel so much over the last 15 years. They were really surprised to find out that we spend 2-3 months a year travelling as a couple or as a family, have visited 6 of the 7 continents and dozens of countries, while running a business, and raising Warren’s daughter (my stepdaughter) Montana, who is now 16 years old.
The answer is simple; we place as much value on our vacation time, as we do on every other part of our life. It is a time that we can reconnect, experience the world together, have adventures and just relax!
|Outside the Sydney Opera House|
What are the major questions people should consider before starting to plan a trip?
People should start by looking at what they want to accomplish on their trip.
Is this a romantic vacation? A family vacation? Or both?
If it is a family vacation, what activities do the kids want to do? What activities do you as the parents and/or teens want to do?
How old are the kids travelling with you?
How much money do you want to spend?
How much time do you have?
Are you looking for a relaxing hang out by the beach holiday? Or a let’s learn a new hobby holiday?
Do you want to visit and really experience a new destination and culture like Hong Kong? Or have an easy vacation together like the beaches in Florida or an all inclusive in the Caribbean?
Ask your kids what they want to do… Sometimes you will be surprised at what excites them too.
There is nothing worse then spending a lot of money on a dream destination that you have always wanted to visit and your kids are bored and complaining that they are bored!
|New Years Eve on the Las Vegas Strip|
How do you encourage people to "think outside the box"?
We love to think outside of the box when planning our vacations together and I always encourage others to do the same. Some people are happy with taking a cruise every year, or going to the same island and hotel every year. Others do it because they can’t think of anything better.
On our website we have some great ideas and a free ebook available called “Secrets to Choosing a Family Vacation that Everyone will Love”. We pose some questions to ask each other and the whole family when you are in the planning stages of your vacation. Some of them include:
What are your kids interested in? Movies? Sports? Music?
When will you be travelling? Off season or Busy Season – this effects how much money you will have to spend and if you will be fighting crowds or not.
Ideas other than going to Disney World or to an all inclusive resort to hang out on a beach like touring the places where Harry Potter was filmed in Britain or touring the birthplace of Justin Beiber or Mylie Cyrus (ok maybe a bit of a stretch but at least it gets your family thinking).
What activities do your kids, teens and parents want to do, is there one place that covers all of them?
Have you learned any travel tricks for packing, planning or actually traveling that you'd like to share with us?
Here are some of our top tips:
Packing: Plan what you actually need for each day you are away and then actually pack what you plan.
Laundry while travelling: Research where you are going and see if there are any off hotel property laundry facilities close by. Take half of what you need and then get it laundered. Some destinations this works really well like in Asia.
While in transit: Plan what you and your kids will do while actually travelling to your destination. If you have small kids, plan for some surprises while travelling, so that if things get too boring or hairy, you have something new to give your kids to entertain them (works with husbands too).
Technology: We travel with our iPads and can’t remember what life was like before them. Not only can we entertain ourselves with movies, tv, music and books, we can play games and surf the net. We can even keep in touch and do business easily while away. The iPad has lightened our carry on load substantially!
Planning: Collect and then use your air miles and loyalty program points wisely. You will be amazed at how much you can save!
You've mentioned that you take a family vacation at least once a year. How far in advance do you usually plan this? Do you create a solid itinerary for yourself or do you keep it more relaxed?
We actually take more than one family vacation a year. Either as a couple or a family we travel for spring break, for a few weeks in the summer and for 2 weeks over the Christmas holidays and a few weekends in Las Vegas, Los Angeles or other cities.
For longer holidays where we have to travel longer distances (like Asia, Hawaii or Australia) we plan early. We usually start with the airfare first to anchor our dates and work from there. We work out if it is a better spend to use our loyalty program points, or to pay for our tickets. We then research the destinations and decide what we want to see, experience or where we want to stay (we use hotel loyalty programs or choose to stay in apartments/condos usually). Then the itinerary works itself out from there.
|Exploring the volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii|
We make sure that we plan to have down time while we travel too. So for every day we have activities planned, we plan ½ a day to 1 day to relax and spend time together hanging out.
What are some of the most reasonable places to travel on a budget? Does this answer change when you have kids factored into the equation?
Reasonable places to travel on a budget... hmm... Well a lot of places I would find reasonable are far away and hard to get to which can cost a lot more in airfare. I would choose places like Thailand, Ecuador or Eastern Europe as it is relatively inexpensive once you get there. The problem is getting there.
As a couple you can usually choose these further away places as you only have two airfares to pay for, as soon as you add kids to the equation, the costs go considerably higher. So with kids, make sure you book early, look for specials or deals or stay closer to home.
I do however, find that you can go anywhere and find a way to travel on a budget. If there is a destination that you really want to visit, but it is known to be expensive (like Disney World or Europe), travel in off peak periods, book your airfare early and choose to rent apartments. You will be amazed at how much you can save on accommodation and food by staying somewhere that has a kitchen and extra bedrooms. So it’s not necessarily the destination, but it’s how you vacation.
What's on the horizon for you guys? Where are you planning on going next?
On the horizon for us, is a cruise on the Norwegian Pearl for Spring Break. We can only take a week and we find that cruises are a great way to explore new places, while making travel relaxing and fun. If you choose the right cruise line and do your research it can be a relaxing, adventurous and family oriented time!
As for our next big trip away together as a family, we are planning a trip to South Africa for Christmas. It has always been my dream to return to Africa (I was in Kenya in my early 20’s) and to show Warren and Montana how beautiful it is. Montana will be graduating from high school next year (I can’t believe it!) and this will be her last big trip for awhile as she will be focusing on university. We are enjoying spending some time planning this trip together!