How I Plan Our Family Travel in 2020


Family travel is one of my favorite things to do! Now, before you roll your eyes and stop reading, hear me out! My kids are not perfect travelers and we’ve had our share of mid-air toddler tantrums. But, even including all the packing, nagging “are we there yet?!” questions, and jet lag … I love watching my kids explore this world! Sharing the world with kids can mean going on an epic multi-country trip or it could be trying out a new restaurant down the street that has food from a new-to-you country.

Why We Love Family Travel

Our family has made travel a commitment for two reasons specific to us. First, I lived overseas for half of my childhood as a military child (not brat!) in Egypt, the Netherlands, and Germany. My parents made the most of living overseas from my mom driving our minivan all over Cairo (rare during the first Gulf Storm!) to our 18-hour road trips from Germany to Italy.

Jennifer and her kids check out an incredible view in the most beautiful place in the world (in her humble opinion!), Jungfrau Region of Switzerland.

The second reason travel is so important to us is that we are a multicultural family. My husband is Taiwanese American and his first language was Mandarin Chinese. Before we had kids, we talked about wanting to raise them as whole children, not “half” one ethnicity and half the other. We still have a long way to go on the language piece, but through our trips to Taiwan (including living there for under a year), our prayer is that our children feel at home in many different situations.

Ok, apologies for the long set up but knowing the WHY behind our commitment to travel is important to understand HOW we plan! I start with 3 questions What’s Our Goal?, What’s Our Budget?, and How can this be Something More?

1. What’s Our Goal?

Family travel is different for each family and for each season. I’ve found this question to be helpful at naming what’s important for this season. This was so clear last year when I was feeling a little guilty about visiting Europe twice in two years. My sweet husband reminded me that for him, at this point in his job, he needed to have a week vacation out of the US time zone in order to truly disconnect from his work. That physical distance helped us connect more as a family.

We decided our goals for the trip was to relax as a family in a beautiful place. So, we chose to stay in an Airbnb for a 4-night stretch with epic views. When the kiddos went to sleep at 7:30PM, we enjoyed every minute on the terrace overlooking Lake Como in northern Italy! (and it was, I am not joking, only $155 a night!)

Other ideas for goals could include:

  • Adventure
  • Family Bonding
  • Educational
  • Milestone Trip
  • Pure relaxation like an all-inclusive situation
A beautiful view is great for family travel after the kiddos go to bed! Lake Como, Italy.

2. What’s Our Budget for Family Travel?

After the goals come reality. I hope to write a budget travel tips post soon but in the meantime, here are some ideas for brainstorming locations and estimating cost. 


Frequent flyer miles and credit card points are how we pay for most of our travel. We prioritize travel and use credit cards to earn points and pay off the full balance each month. If you haven’t checked out The Points Guy website, it’s a great resource for more info! Just be aware that they receive affiliates for some cards. They have good disclosures on each page but wanted you to be aware!


  • Google Flights: I always start here by checking their “Explore Destinations” tool (on the main page under the search box or here). There, you can search by “Specific” or “Flexible” Dates and even by the duration of a trip (Options: Weekend, 1 Week or 2 weeks). You can scroll around the map based on your departing airport and see in real-time the costs for each location.
  • Specifically, within Europe – Ryan Air and Easy Jet: Check out their Route Maps to see some cheap fares within Europe. We’ve used both airlines for $50 USD or cheaper tickets between Germany, Italy, Dublin, Edinburgh and Zurich which is much faster and cheaper than trains!


  • Airbnb and VRBO: We love staying in an apartment as a family. We feel more like a local, we have more space for kids, there’s often more space between kids and parents rooms, and we save on meals as we cook at the home. My recommendation is to check both sites as some cities and countries use one website over the other. Also, make sure to check the TOTAL price as there are different fees involved. Once I found the same apartment listed on both websites but a cheaper total price on VRBO because of the lower cleaning and website fees! We’ve stayed in rentals in the US, Switzerland, Taiwan, Scotland, Italy and the Netherlands.
  • Food: As I already mentioned, we stay in a lot of rented apartments for travel and can save a lot by cooking our own meals. One way is to ask your host where the locals buy their groceries. Sometimes the markets are the cheapest and sometimes the larger stores two streets down are better. You don’t know until you ask!
  • Uber Eats: When we are staying in nicer hotels for my husband’s business trip tagalongs, I make sure to have my UberEats app ready! Fancier hotels charge so much for even simple things for kids, so oftentimes we will have food delivered from a local restaurant for half the cost. Earlier this fall, we were at a very nice resort in Florida where the kids’ breakfast cost $28 and an adult breakfast was $36. Needless to say, UberEats Denny’s for $30 for the whole family to the rescue!

3. How can this family trip be something more?

I recently read a great Instagram post by Rachel Denning about the difference between Transformational and Transactional travel. Her family of 7 kids has traveled to over 35 countries. Transactional travel is checking out a place and coming back home while Transformational is much more about experiencing a place, asking questions and learning more. I don’t know about you but that type of intentionality gives family travel a fresh purpose!

Other ideas for making your trip more for your family include:

  • READ! Go to the library and check out kids’ books so your kids can get excited about their travels.
  • Research a service component to your travels. (google “location + family service opportunity”)
  • Make local connections: Check out if your area has a restaurant with that cuisine that you could try before your visit and maybe even chat with the owner!
Stairs are so fun wherever you are! Taipei, Taiwan.

So, wherever your travels take you this new year, may your planning be fun, your travel be smooth and your memories forever!