For many Military Families, summertime means packing up all of your belongings and moving to a new base in a new city. But for the lucky ones who aren’t moving this year, take advantage of the extra time you have to spend as a family by planning a summer vacation!

Summer vacations often make for cherished family memories that last a lifetime. Here are five tips to help you plan the best possible trip for you and your loved ones this year:

1. Decide which type of vacation works within your budget

Planning a family vacation is all in the preparation — and one of the most significant factors to consider when preparing for an excursion is your budget. Have you been saving for the vacation of a lifetime, or are you simply looking for a quick getaway? International travel may not be in the cards for all families this year, but there are so many other types of fun-filled trips you can plan that won’t break the bank:

  • Make it a “staycation.” Just because you’re on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on a summer of fun. Hit up your area’s local tourist spots, build a campfire in the backyard and sleep under the stars, or drive down to the nearest beach for a day in the sun!
  • Go camping. If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, camping is a super fun and cost-effective vacation that the whole family will enjoy. Reserving a cabin or campsite is relatively inexpensive, and activities such as hiking, biking, and swimming are all free of charge.  
  • Visit National Parks. Some of the most beautiful places to visit across the nation are actually free! Check out the National Parks Service’s website to find a national park near you.

2. Book travel and accommodation

Are you looking for the luxury experience of a ritzy hotel? Or are you more interested in kicking back in a laid-back bungalow? Whatever your preference, there are many resources available to find the perfect accommodation for your family, from Airbnb and VRBO to and Expedia.

If you’re looking to get the best bang for your buck, be sure to check websites that price-compare. You can also use services like Hopper and Google Flights to track flight prices over time so you can buy when the prices are lowest. In some instances, you can even package flights and accommodation into one bundle at a discounted rate.

3. Create an itinerary of activities

While we’d love for vacations to last forever, you’re likely only working with a few days to pack in a variety of activities. Take advantage of everything your destination has to offer by researching the top sights to see or places to visit around that area.

To help you get started, check out SpouseLink’s resources for fun, family-friendly activities in or near popular locations across the U.S., from remote beach towns to major metropolitan areas like Tampa and Salt Lake City!

4. Get started on a packing list

Planning a summer vacation doesn’t have to be stressful. Trust us you don’t want to be in a rush to get your ducks in a row the day before your flight takes off and end up forgetting items you’ll really need. Save yourself the headache by getting a jump-start on your packing and pre-vacation to-do lists.

Traveling with a group, especially with kids, can be hectic, so you’ll want to be efficient and strategic about what should and should not be packed. Start with the most important items first phone, wallet, IDs, medications and work your way down to non-essentials.

If you’re traveling overseas, make sure your passport is valid! You’d be surprised how many people fail to realize that their passport has expired before it’s too late. It takes several weeks for a new passport to be issued, so if you need to have passports updated prior to your trip, you’ll want to get the ball rolling on that process as soon as possible.

Here are some additional tips to help you pack effectively:

  • Double-check your train or airline carry-on and checked baggage policies.
  • Pack your items using the Marie Kondo method to help save space in your luggage.

5. Set expectations in advance

In order to have the best vacation possible, both kids and adults should know what they’re getting into ahead of time. Are you planning a relaxing week at a beach resort, a walking excursion through the streets of Europe, or an adventurous camping trip in the mountains? It’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page about what they can expect from the trip since vacations can be a big expense. You definitely don’t want to waste your hard-earned savings on a disappointing experience!

Make the most of your family vacation this summer. Giving yourself time to plan, adequately budgeting for the type of vacation you and your family want most, and taking the necessary steps to prepare will all result in a summer of fun, laughs, and lifelong memories!

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