Summer time is here and it makes me think about family vacations! Our family vacation is coming up and I am so excited. We are going to Sesame Place! We have never been and the little one loves Elmo so I think it will be a hit.

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I spent almost 2 hours comparing everything, so I thought I would share my tips for planning a family vacation.

I always do these things anytime we are planning a family vacation, or really any trip. These tips are great when you are working within a budget. We want the most affordable option, though we will splurge for some things.

Book your hotel

For booking hotels, I haven’t found it to be more affordable to go through websites designed to help find a hotel. I will search for hotels in the areas I want to stay and then compare prices through the hotel’s direct website.

I have found that you can often get better prices going directly through the hotel. Sometimes it even helps to call the hotel directly, last time I did this I found out I qualified for a special that wasn’t being advertised online!

For this trip we looked at what was included with each hotel. One hotel was going to be $215 more. We are staying 3 nights and going to Sesame Place for 2 days. The more expensive hotel included breakfast and a free shuttle. This does not equal more than $200 so we went with the cheaper hotel. Our room has a fridge and microwave so we can bring our own breakfast food.

Look for deals

When booking family vacations, I always check sites like groupon. There was a groupon deal for a two day pass and one meal ticket that cost the same as getting just the tickets through Sesame Place. So we got our tickets through groupon.

If you are a AAA member, you can often get discounts so make sure to check for that.

We’ve been taking advantage of going to places that offer free/discounted entries based on age for our family vacations. My daughter has flown for free twice. We went to Disney world this past year and she was free. She also doesn’t need a ticket for Sesame Place.

We know she is young and may not remember these things, but we are creating memories as a family. We take a ton of pictures and we get so much joy out of watching her have fun, so it is worth it for us.

Plan if you are able to splurge

Our splurge for this family vacation was booking a breakfast with Elmo and Friends. This was $25 for each adult and our daughter is free since she is under 2. $50 is a lot for breakfast, but we will get to see all the characters in one place. Since we haven’t been here before I don’t know how easy it is to see the characters around the park. I know from my Disney trips though that character meals are a great way to see your favorite characters and get some photos.

family vacation fun

Do your research

I do a lot of the leg work researching everything and then my husband and I sit down together we grab a pen and paper and write out the different options. This makes it very easy to compare prices. With this trip there was a hotel I wanted to splurge on, but when we wrote everything out side by side it just didn’t make sense.

Also, look outside of the packages. The packages at Sesame Place included things that we didn’t really need. Yes, it would have been easier and saved time to just buy one of the packages, but we would rather save the money for things that we really need.

Get souvenirs ahead of time

I feel a little cheap doing this, but I find souvenirs are always crazy expensive! For this trip I ordered a Sesame Street shirt and we will be bringing our Elmo doll that we already have. I’m sure we will still end up getting a little something while we are there! Check out the sweet shirt I got my daughter!

Make a packing list

I always try to make a list. Traveling with kids means you will be bringing a lot of stuff! I’m sure there’s a way not to bring so much, but I would rather be prepared. Making a list and checking the items off helps you not to forget anything.

Be prepared for meltdowns

Is a family vacation really complete without a little meltdown?! All the planning and preparation can’t prevent it, so just expect for your kids to have a meltdown at some point. If there’s something you know helps prevent or end a meltdown then I would say bring it with you! I will have snacks on hand at all times, those usually help us.

Book your family vacation and enjoy it!

Now that you’ve done all of your planning, go enjoy your family vacation! Your family vacation doesn’t have to be anything fancy either, even little day trips can feel like a fun family vacation. Spending time together where you aren’t bothered by the stresses of every day life is so special.

Share your tips for planning family vacations below!

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If you like planning check out these tips for time management!