Tuesday, March 11, 2014

{Phenomenal Tip} My 10-Step Guide On How to Enjoy a Family Vacation With Kids

School's done!  And for us moms it can only mean that we have to start getting serious with planning for our family's vacation.  Sometimes planning for a trip can get really stressful.  And mothers everywhere know that a vaction with the kids is not really a vacation.:)  I have met moms who feel like they need a vacation AFTER a vacation. Have you ever felt that way?  

When my kids were much younger, I admit there were times I have felt that way, too. But nothing a quick shake of the head cannot shrug off.  We have to watch what we think ... because what we think, we are.  Positive thoughts only!:)  

The longer I am a mom, and the more frequent we took the kids traveling with us, the more adept I have become at planning our vacations.  Along with that, I have also become an expert in dealing with unexpected changes... I deal with it by winging it. :)

As I am writing this, I am in the midst of planning for our vacation this summer.  We will be leaving soon and I am excited because I know the kids will be having so much fun in our chosen destination. I know I will be, too.
Here's my 10-step guide on how to enjoy a family vacation with kids:
1. Decide Where To Go
Include the entire family when you decide on where to go.  If it were all up to my husband, we would always just be going to Hong Kong.  He lives for food, glorious food!!! But the kids and I wanted something different.  A compromise has to be reached. 

2. Book Flight and Accommodation
For this trip, as soon as we decided on our destination, the first thing my husband and I did next was to book our airline tickets.  We wanted to get the best possible rates so we knew we had to book early. 

The next thing I did after that was to go choose a place to call home for the duration of our trip.  We are a big family (in number and physique), so the size of the room is a notable consideration in choosing a hotel.  Getting two rooms was definitely out of the question, because our destination this year has the reputation of being one of the most expensive in the world.  I don't want our hotel bill to eat up our budget for the trip.

I wanted all of us to fit in one room, but still have space to walk around.  After a long day of walking, I am sure everyone wants to go back at night to a place which is a refuge from the demands of traveling.  
Our room at the Marina Bay Sands when we took the kids on a previous trip to Singapore.
Read about our Singapore trip here.
We typically stay in big city hotels, but since our forthcoming trip is going to be quite long (for our standards), I thought it sensible to choose a serviced apartment, instead.  I think it is the best choice; for not only do we get more space, we also get the advantage of a kitchen, washing machine (so we don’t have to pack that much clothes), and the most important of all, separate living and sleeping quarters.  I am sure the rest of my family don’t really care much for these extra details, but these extra facilities can make the trip so much more enjoyable. The living room is a sanctuary for me when the kids are already in the bedroom. I really need that time alone at night before I go to sleep.  I feel like my mind is so active from taking care of everyone's needs that I cannot just shut it off and sleep right away.  C, on the other hand, would benefit from it because he usually reviews the maps and itinerary the night before.

3. Make a list of places of interest
I made a specific list of attractions that I think my family wanted to experience, making sure to mix a bit of the country’s traditional way of life with modern culture.  And then the husband and I gathered all the kids for a consensus, everyone has a say on where to go.  As much as I like to milk the trip for what it’s worth, I really avoided packing all the attractions into our “must-see,” and instead allotted ample time between sights so we can enjoy the sights on our priority list

4. Make a packing list and designate a packing area
I used to pack for everyone in the family, yes for all five of us!  But now that the kids are older, I let them pack for themselves.  I made a list and printed it out so the kids can refer to it.  We always use packing cubes, but prior to putting everything inside the cubes, I designate one spot in the play room to be the packing zone.  Everyone is given a huge hamper to put clothes and other necessities in as they begin to start preparing to pack for the trip.

5. Slow Down Pace For Kids
By nature, I am the type of traveler who tries to pack my schedule trying to do it all. But now that I have kids, I realized that this will only leave my family tired and overwhelmed.  I am realistic about what we can see and do with kids.   The less sights I have on my list, the more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone because I do not have to rush them. 

My kids love to linger in a place that interest them so we try to arrange a manageable number of attractions in a day, and arrange a mix of scheduled tours and leisure downtimes.  My son still loves to run around so we try to include a break within the day in a place where there are wide spaces so he can run around and take a break from “behaving.” Baka ma nose-bleed sa ka-be-behave. teeheehee!:)
Pawis na pawis.
He always has several shirts in the backpack he carries around
because he always needs that "running break" during the day to release his extra energy.  
One of the most unforgettable experiences for my kids was when we allowed them to spend the day in the zoo – one entire day!  We were one of the few to arrive early and one of the last to leave.  The kids passed by the moat where the lions were contained twice – once in the morning and again in the afternoon.  Such lucky timing because we were able to catch the lions in a playful mode.  They were running around the wide enclosure with no regard for us.  The kids felt like they were transported to the wide savannahs in Africa.  It’s rare to see lions run around because they sleep for about 20 hours each day, so we were extremely lucky to have seen that.

6. Learn a little of the local language
I downloaded an app for my kids to learn the language of our destination.  We always get favorable reactions from locals whenever they hear anyone of my kids trying to speak their language.  During our trip to Korea, my two younger ones gets loads of sweets from Koreans whenever they greet the locals with “Annyeong Haseo!”.  I’ve always noticed servers in restaurants break out a smile due to the kids attempts at communication.

7. Set a Budget
Cost can pile up easily for my big family, so before and during planning my husband and I talk about how much we want to spend for things like our accommodation, transportation, food, activities,etc.  Basically we categorize the things we can save and what to splurge on.

I also talked with the kids that they will be give a certain amount as “trip allowance.”  Anything they want to spend on outside of our accommodation, transportation and regular meals, they will have to pay for on their own.  This includes shopping for pasalubong for their friends, shopping for whatever interest them.
8. Capture Memories
Heavy as it is, I will be carrying my DSLR to document our trip.  My iPhone5 takes pretty good photos, but I want the way a big camera captures photos… more vivid and sharp.
Add caption
My oldest is also good at digital sketching, so I asked her help to document our forthcoming trip.  The photo shown above is one of her works.  Click here if you want to know what app she used. I requested her to draw certain landmarks of our trips, which I plan to include in my future posts.  For my two younger ones, I will be asking them to write down a journal to encourage them to draw and write about the things they see, food they eat and places they experience.

9. Expect the Unexpected
Even if I spent a good number of days planning our itinerary, I know that not everything will be followed.  That is why I make sure to put in a free day into the itinerary because it is likely that we will discover a new attraction or activity that I was not aware of when I was planning.  This will also allow us some room just in case we did not cover everything that we intended to do as planned.

If unforeseen events happen, C and I remind each other to just go with the flow and treat the occurrence like an adventure to be conquered. Our children will learn important life lessons from watching us deal with unexpected changes. #whomovedmycheese

10. Enjoy The Trip!!!



  1. Hi! I'm also planning a family trip to Singapore (with 5 kids and my husband's family). I was evaluating staying in a serviced apartment, but couldn't find options for short-period stays (5 nights). I would appreciate if you can share with me where you looked for serviced apartment choices (as you mentioned in your post). Thank you! - Evelyn Ng

    1. Hi Evelyn! We stayed at Marina Bay SAnds and Swissotel-Stamford when we took the kids to Singapore. But if you are planning to stay in a serviced apartment, you might want to check these out: Pan Pacific Services Suites, Lanson Place Winsland and Fraser Suites. I haven't personally stayed in any of those places, but they come highly recommended.:)

  2. This is a great list! A very OC list, hahahaha... but definitely very helpful in planning and organizing family trips. Enjoy your vacation!

    1. Hahaha! OC ba? This is really what I do when we travel, there are a lot of opinions going around kaya kailangan manged expectations from everyone.:)

  3. And of course, the #10 is the most important. :))

  4. Thank you s much for those tips. It was very helpful and as we're planning for a family vacation outside the country soon I found this to be timely. Your daughter is very talented. Thanks for referring the app!

    1. You are welcome, Louisa! I hope you enjoy the app as well.:)

  5. Naku speaking from experience mahirap talaga to travel with kids lalo na pag toddler hahaha Andun na ako sa phase na maghahabulan kami sa likot ni #babyMartinez lol

    Thanks for these tips!


    1. Agree, Michelle! When the kids were younger, meron pang bitbit na sterilizer, playpen, booster seat, etc, etc. I am so thankful I am done with that! hahaha!

  6. Are you going to Japan this summer? Are you availing of the 7 day unlimited JR pass? Thanks and hope you will reply.

    1. Hi Anonymous! I don't know your itinerary but from what I know the cost will only be worth it if you travel via the JR lines. So you have to make sure the places you go to are being serviced by JR. Otherwise it will not add up and you will end up paying more.

  7. We're so looking forward to a relaxing summer vacation! Thanks for sharing these tips!