Planning family travel (including our big 2012 summer itinerary)

The past five weeks have been trying ones as I have had to make the switch from on-the-go traveling mom to stay-in-bed-look-at-the-world-outside-my-window mom. I’m certainly not used to being physically restricted and I can’t remember the last time I went for two weeks without even leaving the house! But like every experience, my recovery from surgery one had a silver lining: I was able to make some plans for our future travel, including our European trip in the summer of 2012.

Sunset in Kinsarvik, Norway

Matt and I have been back and forth on this trip for some time. Originally, we thought we might go to Norway, the land of his ancestors and a place that intrigues us both. But after looking at how astronomically expensive it is to visit we decided to wait a couple of years until Teddy is old enough to really do some more serious hiking. We’d like our vacation there to be a very outdoorsy one both to save money and because the scenery there is worthy of it.

Mara, Matt, and Tommy at the Fiore del Belvedere

Next we set our sights on Italy, which we haven’t visited since Tommy was a baby. But since we also wanted to fit in a trip to Paris, it started to feel like we didn’t have the time to do everything there we wanted. We really need about three weeks in Rome and Tuscany to give us adequate time for the kind of slow travel that we like, and if we’re also going to make our annual three-week pilgrimage to Vermont, we don’t have a full month to spend in Europe.

Fountain in the Place Monge

And so after much deliberation, we finally made our choice for the summer of 2012. At the end of June/beginning of July we will spend a little over two weeks exploring Switzerland and France. We’ll start in Lausanne and then go to Bordeaux (new locations for all for members of the family). We’re fortunate to have friends we can stay with kids in both places, which will save us some money and be fun for the boys. Finally we will head to Paris, where we hope to rent “our” apartment near the beloved Place Monge for a week.

Now, we travel quite a bit; before we leave to go on this adventure we have trips to Vermont, California, Colorado, New York City, and Arizona planned over the course of the winter and spring. But even though we may be a bit more committed to travel than the average family, like everyone else, we have to make choices based on time and cost. So just how did we come to our final decision? I mocked up different itineraries, including dates and locations, and used the Internet to figure out travel and lodging costs. Once we had a rough estimate for each itinerary we were able to make an informed decision about just how much time and money we wanted to spend.

I definitely recommend using this approach before you make big family travel decisions. It may take a bit of time, but ultimately it is worth it. In fact, I couldn’t be happier with the outcome! I can’t wait to share our adventures with you once again.

And while we’re talking about trips to France, I wanted to share another project I worked on while I was laid up – an article about five kid-friendly attractions in Paris at Why Go Paris (a resource I know I’ll be using a lot over the coming months). Writing this and revisiting the stories of our 2008 trip there got me even more excited for next summer.

How do you plan your family travel? Have you started to work on your 2012 plans?

Photo of Norway courtesy of AdneD via Flickr.

Reader Responses

6 fellow travelers had this to say

  1. For me, I have a number of things I look at when I travel with family.

    1. Where would I liked to go and what would be fun for kids?
    2. What are the costs of traveling?
    3. What is the best time of year to go?
    4. Find places that are good for kids but also fun for adults as well.
    5. Break up big cities with small towns to give everyone a chance for some downtime as well.

    Great trips for next year! Right now, I just need to get through Thanksgiving and the chaos that will be before I look ahead to 2012! :)

  2. Mara, I’ve only been reading your blog for about 6months, but I love it. Like you I’m a travel junkie. We are currently planning our summer 2012 trip to France and Ireland with our 3 boys in tow ages 11,9, and 8. I hope you’ll have lots of Paris tips for me:) This time we will meet grandparents in Ireland so my planning involved adding a city the boys really wanted to go to. First consideration when planning is time frame (how long, when, etc.), then destination, then cost. Although the destination might change depending on the cost. Thank goodness we have a long list of places we want to visit! Keep blogging! I love it!

  3. Our family’s biggest travel constraint is my husband’s vacation time. So we typically map out the year in terms of how many days off he has, any commitments that require vacation time (weddings, babies :), etc.) and then what trips make the most sense based on what time remains. Each year, it tends to be a juggling act of just taking 1 or 2 longer trips, or 3-4 shorter trips. Since having kids, we tend toward the shorter trips. Although we sacrifice a bit in terms of exotic locations by making this compromise, it has allowed us to do and see more throughout the year. Plus, we’re not confined to the school calendar yet, which helps a lot. Your tips to do some price research ahead of time makes so much sense… I need to do more of that and take advantage of off-season deals!

  4. Looks like we’re all going to Europe in 2012!

    As for family travel planning, I kind of go with the flow depending on what we’re in the mood for and how it works into my kids’ school vacations. The big one I always look at far in advance is our Easter break – when my guys usually have 10 days off to travel. I knew last summer that I wanted to extend our wings over to Europe and figured London was a good bet since I’m fairly comfortable with the city in case my hubby can’t join us. We’re fortunate that I don’t have to consider budget . . . but I do have to consider what I want to see and I use my 500 Places with Kids book as my guide, then start planning.

    Our other trips are more devil-may-care, but again fit into school vacations. We try to do someplace warm for February break and this year it’s Miami for a few days, then Atlanta for my wanna-be racing husband (who will probably attend a driver’s program at Road Atlanta). Today we just added a trip to New Orleans over Memorial Day to celebrate my aunt’s 90th birthday (which will also allow us to meet up with my parents who will drive in from Houston).

    Summer will probably be a little sparse because my oldest son is attending a high school prep class for most of July, but I think I may try to squeeze in an Eastern road trip somewhere in the beginning of August or perhaps a visit out to Colorado to see some good friends.

    Then, a wedding in Vermont in early September and probably nothing until our annual Christmas ski trip to Taos, New Mexico.

    Totally agree about at least thinking far in advance – better hotel prices, air fares, and more time to research what I want to do.

  5. Our annual family travel bucket list usually includes a cruise, a national park, a ski trip and an international location with day trips scattered in between. My husband and I both work full-time and our kids follow a traditional school year so time and cost are very important. Travel planning for us always involves a spreadsheet with cost analysis and itineraries which is very similar to what you do. We’ve got our eyes set on Iceland and hopefully, a couple of Scandinavian countries next year (crossing all fingers). The backup plan is Costa Rica. We usually set up various airfare alerts to track costs to our planned destination since this is usually the biggest expense. Your summer 2012 trip sound so exciting!

Join the Conversation