Family getaways are so rewarding, but planning them can be daunting. If you don't know where to start, here's our tried-and-true guide for creating memory-filled trips with kids.
We've been on a LOT of family getaways. From resort destinations like Aulani and the Great Wolf Lodge water park to small towns like Mendocino and Fort Myers, on over to South Dakota, down south to Jackson MS and back up to Montana, Glacier National Park and more. Too many to list!
After using Wyndham as a home base for lots of explorations along the way (like when we played tourist at Balboa Park back in San Diego), we decided to work with the brand again to help us explore the idea of using family getaways to make epic memories. Their properties are easy to tour and book online, and they offer home comforts in the middle of incredible destinations – so you can actually relax and enjoy your family getaways.
Family Getaways are all about Amenities
We set our sights on WorldMark McCall, and got packed up. Two hours up into the mountains above Boise, and we were there! This trip truly showcases how family getaways can be as simple or as complex as you'd like to make them.
Pack Games and Entertainment – or Find them On-Site
The community vibe at this property in particular was strong. Condo-like rentals are all centered around the lobby, which had DVDs for rent, a bunch of snow toys for outdoor adventure, board games and more. All the goodies you could possibly want for family getaways.
The game room, pool and fitness center here offer tons of on-site entertainment, which is a huge relief for parents who may want a little time off from playing chauffeur. And don't forget to bring books if you want to get some reading time in!
What to bring – or ask about when making reservations for family getaways:
- Seasonal accessories, such as barbecues and s'more sticks or sleds
- Board games
- Swimming stuff if there's a beach, lake, pool or hot tub
- Craft and coloring supplies
Kids will love the family fun and awesome memories that are created with some well-planned downtime.
Kitchenettes While Traveling are Hugely Helpful
The biggest must-have for me when planning family getaways is a kitchenette. Shuffling four kids in and out of restaurants for every meal gets utterly exhausting! I'd much rather throw some simple fixings in a cooler and know that my family is totally taken care of – at least for breakfasts and lunches. We even whipped up a couple big dinners, using the extra time around the rental to play games and chat by the gas fireplace.
A lot of the Wyndham locations we've stayed in have had simple spices in the kitchens – along with all of the necessary equipment for baking and cooking. With these basics taken care of, I can just pack up a protein like chicken, some veggies, and a simple dry side such as rice or quinoa. If we're flying to our destination instead of driving, I call ahead and ask the front desk about the best place nearby to order or pick up groceries.
It really doesn't take much effort to pull together a family-style taco platter or charcuterie board. We've made many a meal out of deli meat, cheese, fruit and nuts. Pack granola bars and sandwich fixings to stave off hunger, keep everyone's energy up, and keep enjoyment of family getaways at the max possible level.
Carefully Consider Sleeping Arrangements
When our kids were little, we'd always just get a room with two beds: Nate and I could sleep in one, and they'd pile into the other. That's becoming a little more difficult to swing, as the boys get bigger. Conversely, a lot of larger families automatically assume that they'll need adjoining rooms or massive suites to accommodate everyone.
Nowadays, a lot of places are cleverly using spaces and offering pull-out couches, Murphy beds and other solutions to make you comfortable on your family getaways. We've seen so many awesome solutions to maximize space – and we've used a lot of those ideas in our own home renovations.
Include consideration of our increasingly-digital world. Will you need a desk to work from? Reliable WiFi for remote school? A well-lit corner for Zoom or a quiet spot to take conference calls? My kids often have ad-hoc classes such as recorder lessons or history studies with a small group. The teachers for those groups tend to send printable pages only a day or two before class is held, so if we're traveling during school sessions I need access to a printer or business center.
Getting There is Half the Battle
With a convenient destination that offers up a ton of amenities (less to pack, yay!) you should definitely consider the best approach as far as getting to your family getaways. Flying may actually be cheaper than driving, depending on how many people you have. Always price out your options! Road trips can be fun, but they're also kind of exhausting if you're going a long way.
If you drive, it's a good idea to break the trip up into a couple of chunks, with a few days spent exploring different destinations. That way, you won't feel like you're unpacking just to turn around and re-pack and hit the road again.
Make a Recreation Itinerary
Every place has their own schtick when it comes to recreation. Hiking and biking, water sports, mini golf, and theme parks galore! If there's a golf course nearby, ask if your resort offers special discounts to guests. Same thing may apply to a boat tour or other outdoor activities, and they may even be able to hook you up with special amusement park pricing. Stopping by the concierge desk and speaking with an activity expert early in the trip is always a good idea! If there's a resort spa, be sure and nab your preferred appointment slot before they're all booked up.
With the above said, it's worth reminding folks that you really don't want to pack your schedule too full. Some of the best memories are made in gathering spaces, while nothing in particular is going on. Particularly if you aren't familiar with a given activity, you may not want to dive in with both feet while also trying to keep kids happy. If your family is new to skiing or snowboarding, for example, don't plan an epic week-long mountainside snow immersion. It's just not going to go over well.
Explore Local Sites
Think through what this destination has to offer that's different than home. Killer food? Epic scenery? Plan some time to immerse yourself in that. It's also worthwhile to ask at the front desk about must-see local establishments. Our family tends to steer clear of the latest trendy spots in favor of classic, family-run places that have been passed down from generation-to-generation. There are quite a few places we first visited on one of our family getaways years and years ago, and we're now revisiting them as the kids get older! That sort of thing can't be guaranteed with newer places that may come and go with quick turnover.
It's also worth looking into the broader region to see if there's anything worth driving to. Too many people overlook state parks, incredible children's museums, or a world famous ice cream parlor that would be totally worth the time it takes to get there.
Carve out some One-on-One time, if you Can
This applies for every member of the family. You don't need to do every single thing together! Sibling bonding time is important, as is mom-and-dad time. If you can get someone to watch the kids, this is the perfect time to squeeze in a date.
The key to enjoyable family getaways is truly in the planning. Get ahead on any work you have due, make sure your house is in a state where you're comfortable leaving, and set aside lots of time to check out what's going on in your destination. The extra effort inevitably pays for itself a thousand times over.
And if you don't have time for much planning – take comfort in knowing that there are tons of incredible vacation rentals that offer pretty much all you'll need!
Have you gone on many family getaways?