Planning Family Adventures!

Do you ever start your vacation planning with a destination in mind, but no idea what might be of interest to your kids when you get there? You know that you want to go to the Vatican when you get to Rome, but what would your kids enjoy? This is one of the most common questions I get here at Our Frugal Life. How do you plan your vacations with young kids in tow?

To be honest, this is one of the most difficult aspects of our travel planning. We know where we want to go. We know how we’re going to get there (most of the times with miles). We know where we’d like to stay (most of the time on hotel points). And oftentimes, my husband and I know what we’d like to do when we get there, but what would the kids like? It’s important to us that the kids see the important sites in the cities or countries we visit and those generally appeal to all of us, but there are things we try to do everywhere that are focused on the kids.

Adventures By Disney

Our first stop when planning what to do in a different country is Adventures By Disney. We planned a good portion of our Austria, Germany, Italy adventure in 2014 by adapting a few of their itineraries around the areas we planned to visit. In Germany, we explored the Bavarian Alps and in Austria, we did a walking tour of the Sound of Music sites. Both of these things are widely popular activities when in Germany and Austria, but in Venice, we visited the mask vendor that made the masks for the movie “Eyes Wide Shut” with Nicole Kidman based upon the Adventures By Disney Venice itinerary. Adventures by Disney’s excursion is mask making, but our kids were too little to appreciate that. They loved checking out all the masks though!


And for our upcoming trip to Australia, the majority of our two week itinerary was framed around the Adventures By Disney Australia itinerary. We’ll be doing a cruise to the Great Barrier Reef, we’ll be visiting an aboriginal cultural park, we’ll be taking a trip to the outback to see Ayers Rock, and we’ll be doing a harbor bike tour in Sydney. Adventures by Disney does all of these things on their tour in Australia.

By piecing together our trip based upon their itineraries, we are able to leverage the Disney experts around the world who specialize in family vacations in each of these countries. But we don’t pay the Disney price. These tours are shockingly expensive. Well, I’m not sure how much of a shock it is when compared to what we spend in the Disney parks in Orlando. But they far exceed our budget. And we get to do everything at our pace which is how we prefer to travel.

In particular, I tend to consult Adventures By Disney before we’ve decided whether to even visit a specific destination. For example, we are giving thought to a South African adventure late next year. And when determining whether or not our family might be ready for South Africa, I went to the South Africa adventure by Disney to determine what they set as a “minimum age” and “recommended age” for that tour. Generally speaking, our kids are mature travelers for their ages so usually the minimum age works for us. But for those with less experienced young travelers, I would advise going with the recommended age.

While it’s quite unlikely that we’ll ever participate in an Adventure By Disney trip, they have really been invaluable in planning our own family adventures.

Other Family Blogs

I also follow several other family blogs like Mommy Points, Walking on Travels, and My Little Nomads and use information I glean from resources like these in our planning. Mommy Points is a great spot for all things miles and points related although most of what I read from her, I have read elsewhere. But she has a daughter about 6 months younger than our son and a newborn so her insights can be unique. And she has a similar philosophy as I do about traveling with kids.

Walking on Travels has kids of similar ages and blogs a lot about food and US travels (in addition to international travel). I like the way she writes, her photos are beautiful, and I find her destination guides (especially the one to Iceland) to be quite informative.

And My Little Nomads is one of the first family travel blogs out there. He has a ton of destination guides although his kids are growing so fast and many of the guides are a bit outdated. I don’t believe he updates his website more than a few times a year now. But there is a ton of great information there.


I have a love-hate relationship with TripAdvisor. There is so much illegitimate information there. But there is also so much legitimate information from real travelers there as well. While we never base our travel decisions on one, two, or even ten reviews, we do use TripAdvisor extensively for general trends about highly recommended hotels and tours. The reviews that state that everything was perfect without any issues or was the worst experience of their lives are hard to find credible. But if a tour or hotel has a lot of positive reviews or a lot of negative reviews, those general trends help us make our decisions.

This is especially true when ascertaining what tours or excursions we want to do when we go somewhere. For example, our excursion to Shark Ray Alley in Belize got so much positive feedback from families that we decided to give it a try. And we are so glad that we did. What I had envisioned the tour to be and what it actually was were so different but positively so. In other words, without the TripAdvisor reviews, we would not have participated in one of our favorite activities while in Belize.


Overall, there are a lot of tools that we employ when planning our trips overseas. We have done it as a family so many times (14 countries to date!) that it is like second nature to me. There are so many resources out there to help in the planning that as long as you’re willing to put in the effort, it’s only a matter of time before you’ve planned a family adventure that’s fun for everyone!

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Our Frugal Life

One Comment

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with Trip Advisor, too. A lot of the reviews are absolutely worthless and I want to smack people who post pictures of like stains on the wall or dingy carpet! Get a life! =)

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