#RealTravel: 8 Tips to Make Visiting Family Fun

We all have experienced times in our lives where we have to do things out of obligation that we would much rather trade in for something else more pleasant. However, travel doesn’t seem like the kind of life experience that you would ever want to forgo. In fact, our culture promotes travel as something inspirational, aspirational and good for your soul.

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Not all travel falls into that category, and some situations demand a different kind of approach. We call it #realtravel. Real travel is the time when you have to go to Texas for a dancing competition. Or, fly up north for a family reunion. Or spend hundreds of dollars to attend your college friend’s wedding. Or, how about visiting your divorced parents who dislike each other for Thanksgiving? Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Whatever type of travel it is, there is more focus on the connections and interactions with people that you love (or are supposed to love), which is great, rather than experiencing the world and exploring your destination.


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What if I told you that you could combine both? These “oblications” (trips you are obligated to take) can be amazing. You could travel the world and see your family and you don’t have to pick one or the other. You are already paying for the airfare to get to your family or the gas to drive to wherever it is you’re going. Why not maximize it and make it fun for you, and educational and eye opening for your children? This is what this article is about – finding ways to turn your real travel that you have the budget for into fun and enriching travel without spending that much more.

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Family Travel Challenges:

1. Budget for Travel

This is the most common problem for all families. Each year you have to decide whether you spend money to visit family or spend money to go on a fun vacation. The guilt usually wins. How can you ditch your mom and dad and go on a frivolous “Instagram vacation”?
We are not made out of money and we can’t always choose both, so we choose visiting family. For most people I would say that’s the right decision but it doesn’t have to be the only decision.

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2. Time for Family Travel

Time is always an issue. It seems like people never have enough time or money, which is why these two are the top of my list. Vacations are short and you usually only have one week to do something fun with your kids and visit family so you do the best that you can. You can’t go on both a vacation and spend Christmas with your family – there’s just not enough time or money.

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3. Lack of Personal Experience in Traveling

This is an issue for some, but not all people. In the age of internet you would think that it wouldn’t be an issue researching and planning out a family vacation, or not knowing where to go or what to do. You can Google anything and everything you want. If you have spent the last decade focusing on other things and not traveling, you might feel like there is almost a mental block that does not allow you to prioritize travel. The good old “I’ve not done it and I am not interested in trying” issue. It’s a completely natural thing to experience, as human beings are generally closed off to anything they are not familiar with. People like that will be intimidated to research to figure out best ways to travel as a family and the best destinations. They might not even accept the fact that traveling is fun or something they might want to do. It is nothing to be ashamed of. All it takes is one leap of faith to break out of this mentality. Once you start, you cannot imagine how you lived in your little town not seeing the world. It’s an addiction, really.

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4. Procrastination to book travel

This has plagued our society for quite awhile but we seem to be coming out of it. For the longest time the priority of our current generation has been “work”, “family”, “more work” and “you’ll travel later”.

We are finally realizing that “later” often doesn’t come. And, if it does come, it doesn’t come with all the opportunities and possibilities that earlier would have. Later does not have the health and the motivation of the young. Later often doesn’t have the budget either. So at some point people have to realize that what they need is to do the things that they want to do NOW. Travel now. Open a business now. Have experiences now, because later might be too late. Take advantage of obligation travel and turn it into an “oblication” where you make an adventure out of a trip to visit family.

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So, how do you overcome your challenges and maximize your time and budget when it comes to #realtravel?

The solution for it is quite simple really. What you do is combine fun travel with obligatory travel. It can be challenging at times but if you have the right state of mind and know some tricks, you will be absolutely successful at it and you and your family will be that much more happy and enriched. I don’t have to lecture anyone about how important early travel experiences are for kids. They can be educational; they can be eye opening. We “grow” better adults out of kids who see the world and diversity.

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Here is how to make it happen and turn obligatory travel into enriching experiences:

Let’s imagine you have family to visit or an event to attend, the following are some tips that might make it easier to get something else out of it.

TIP 1: Fly into a different destination

Instead of flying directly to your family, fly into a different airport hours away, and road trip down to the final destination, stopping on the way and experiencing all the locations and activities.

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I recently took my 5 year old on a road trip from San Francisco to Orange County to visit her uncle who lives in OC. We flew into SF and took a week to drive down to OC, stopping at small local towns, staying at Hampton by Hilton and experiencing some amazing adventures (more on that in a few weeks). She absolutely loved it and we made it an enriching and educational experience for everyone involved, stopping at a quaint Alice in Wonderland shop in Carmel, driving on the only drivable beach in Pismo, learning science at Moxy museum, kayaking sea caves around Scorpion Island, and making friends with miniature foxes on the Channel islands. When you seek out adventure and enrichment, you will find it and this turns a boring family visit into a trip you will remember forever.

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Tip 2: Make a detour

Driving to your destination instead? Make some detours.

It’s easy enough to search for “best things to do with kids in…” and make a plan of action. Daily Mom offers a great deal of articles on things to do in various locations.

Take a few more days to arrive to your final destination. There are plenty of affordable and comfortable lodging options all over the U.S. that you can trust that won’t break your bank. My favorite is Hampton by Hilton, with their free breakfast, Hampton’s On the Run Breakfast Bags, and super comfy beds (more on that later).

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TIP 3: Camp out

Don’t have the budget to make a lot of overnight stops? Camp out!

Camp sites are so inexpensive, and while it might be a challenge for some families to camp every night, it can also be an additional educational and character building experience for your kids that you may have not considered. Plus, everyone could use more outdoor time.

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TIP 4: Enjoy travel with extended family

Don’t have the time to extend the trip? Include the family you’re visiting in your plans and experiences.

You’d be surprised how much there is to do within a few hours drive of your hometown. Research activities within 2-3 hour drives and get the whole family in on it. What’s better than an experience with multiple generations to get a different outlook on things?

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TIP 5: Stay at Hampton by Hilton

If you’re making stops, we recommend staying at Hampton by Hilton. It’s an affordable family oriented hotel chain that we have grown to like and use almost exclusively. These hotels can be found literally everywhere! On our trip through California, we made it a point to stay at a Hampton By Hilton each night just to prove to myself how proliferated they are around the U.S. Every point of interest where we had planned to stop, had one (or more) for our overnight stays.

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I know what to expect with Hampton by Hilton and it makes for a less stressful trip.

  • I know I will have a great complimentary breakfast every morning (one time the kitchen staff even baked me a croissant by request because I wanted to have a croissant and egg sandwich and they hadn’t offered any that morning).
  • I know the beds will be comfortable (this is my personal preference, I travel so much that I was tired of sleeping on hard beds).
  • I know that the rooms will be clean and nice and that I will get some water at check in (in some hotels if you ask).

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  • I love that you can have a little to go bag (they call them their HAPPY KIT) with snacks and water, if you’re running out and don’t have time for breakfast. That to go bag saved our rear ends many times as we were rushing to get to our next stop.
  • And most importantly, by keeping our stays consistent with one hotel brand, we make sure that we are able to rack up points that would later add up to free hotel stays when we travel again. Oh, and they now have digital check in and you can use your phone as a key (how cool is that?), so you don’t have to waste time checking in up front while your kids are crying or sleeping in your arms (raise your hands if you’ve been there).
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TIP 6: Save money on car rentals

Save money on a rental car by using Turo. It’s like the Air BnB of car rentals, where you can snag a car for as little as $18/day, helping you facilitate that awesome experience you might not have known you wanted!

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We have used this before, but not for our recent trip, because we had an opportunity to actually test out a Toyota Highlander during the trip, which was an awesome experience. Road tripping through California, driving on winding roads and beaches with 4 wheel drive and a ton of space for our luggage and our family, was a breeze.

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TIP 7: Eat locally

Save money and help the local economy by eating in restaurants owned by locals. You’ll have good food, great service and local stories and flavor.

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TIP 8: Research the travel destination

Find unique things to do by visiting the area’s tourism board website. Which can usually be found if you search for “visit (area name)”

Next time that you have to visit family or go on a work trip or travel for an event, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How many days can we be gone?
  • What areas are within 2-3 hours drive from our destination?
  • How much free time can we have there (if it’s work or school travel)?
  • What is our budget?

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And plan something beyond the purpose of the trip!

I have recently had a chance to experience all of these challenges and obstacles myself, and to have the kind of experiences that I’m surprised I haven’t had up until now. That trip has made me realize that I will never travel the same way again. Real travel doesn’t have to be an obligation. You can and SHOULD make it fun for yourself and your kids. Once you change the way you travel to see family, you will be amazed that you had not done it before. I know I was. And now, I love the opportunity to share this experience with everyone and hopefully motivate you and create a shift in how you think about obligatory travel. #Realtravel is the best kind of travel!

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Read about our #realtravel around California in a few weeks.

For more travel tips to change the way you travel with your family, check out How to Plan A Weekend Getaway.

Photo Credits: EveryAvenueGirl

Elena's favorite pastimes are traveling, photography, volleyball, reading business, psychology and spiritual books and finding cool products. Elena started Daily Mom with a vision to provide quality content and help to busy modern women. Follow her life and adventures with her 11 year old daughter on Our Little Voyages. or on Instagram at: @everyavenuelife @everyavenuegirl @ourlittlevoyages

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