This morning I spent an hour of my life waiting to speak to a Disney representative. Planning a holiday (in particular a trip to Disneyworld in the height of summer) involves a lot of time and effort. If you’re wondering what that call was about, it was to book a coveted early morning slot at the Bibbidi Bobbido Boutique so Mesdames Jetlag & Mayhem can get transformed into Cinderella for the day. I digress. Planning any trip, especially road trips where you are constantly on the go can take absolutely ages to figure out. I’m currently in the process of sorting two trips, a week-long visit to New Zealand’s South Island and a fortnight in Florida later on in the year. As I’m in full planning mode, I thought I’d share with you my top tips.
Copy one of my trips!
I’m not saying they are the best but why not save yourself time and effort by copying a Jetlag & Mayhem itinerary. I write about all the trips we do so all you need to do is pour a glass of wine and check out the ‘Destinations’ tab.
Sort your flights out
No point going to all the trouble of organising a trip only to find out flights are expensive/booked up. Flights will always be my first port of call. This way I have a better chance to use air miles or book early bird discount fares. For most of my flights, I use my travel agent Daryl at Jebsen Holidays. He can often put our names down but not require payment till much closer to the deadline which is very helpful. I also rate Skyscanner for providing a good aggregate of flights and also Zuji and Expedia for packages.
How do I figure out my route?
Even if you’ve pinpointed a location e.g. Florida/Disney, planning your route can be quite overwhelming. Some people prefer to pick a base and make short trips from there. We like to see as much as we can and often move every two to three nights. I start by going to the library and getting out guidebooks. I really like Lonely Planet, Frommers and Insight Guides for cities. They will have a few itinerary suggestions in there. I then select places that sound interesting and pretty much stare at a map. Then I head over to Tripadvisor and post my sample itinerary on the relevant forum. After that you can sit back and wait for all the amazingly helpful people who will give you their advice. Make sure you include what time of year are traveling, ages of kids and where you are flying into and out of.
Once you’ve had your lightbulb moment and your itinerary is sorted, plug it all in to google maps to work out the driving distances. Sometimes I wonder what I did in the days pre google maps and travelmath!
Where do I stay?
As soon as the route is sorted, you can move on to accommodation. Perhaps you are getting the impression my road trips aren’t at all spontaneous! You may be right – when traveling with young kids, you just want everything sorted, especially if you have under two weeks to fit it all in. We’ve had the occasional night with nothing planned but I now like to have my accommodation mapped out.
I tend to mix up my accommodation and use airbnb more than ever. For the price of one luxury hotel room, you can can often get a whole house/large apartment on airbnb. I think you just have to go with your gut on what suits your family. For our upcoming trip to New Zealand, I have a mix of rental property, motel and farm stay. Where possible I book a cancellable room just in case our plans change.
How do we get around?
If we are landing in to a city with great transport links or cheap taxis, I’ll often forgo the car hire till we head out. This works especially well if you are tired and jet lagged, the last thing you want to do is wait around at a car rental office after a longhaul flight. You can also save money this way, a few days of car hire can really add up! Here are my tips on renting a car.
What do we do each day?
Some my find this overkill but I have a spreadsheet that details all the activities I intend to do. This means I can keep track of what I’ve booked in advance, opening hours, free admission days etc. I read the guidebooks, get recommendations from the official tourist website, sift through travel blogs and Tripadvisor to work out what I want to see. If you’re staying in rental properties e.g. airbnb, ask your hosts to recommend places to stop off enroute and restaurants.
My husband is a huge foodie so his side of the planning is booking the car and figuring out where to eat. I detail this all into my spreadsheet which I’ll give you a snapshot of below. If you are ever after one of my itineraries, please do get in touch and I’ll send it over.
Plan for what your family can handle. My kids are used to being schlepped about on road trips so I know they can handle multiple attractions in one day. But I always factor in chill out time, whether that’s in the local park, hotel pool or relaxing at your accommodation.
What do I pack?
Have a look through the historical weather averages to gauge what clothes to bring. For our family of four, I try to keep it to two checked bags. I also pack a foldable duffel for any shopping. I’m now out of the stroller/travel cot zone but I appreciate you may want to bring these with you. In terms of a travel cot, always check with your accommodation in advance as so many places now provide these.
What else do I need to think about?!
From visas and travel insurance to buying foreign currency, here are my 20 things you should do before you travel!