1. Check the calendar
Every trip in our household begins with a check of the calendar, but the research goes far beyond “availability.”
If you’re planning a family getaway, then you’ll need to balance school and extra-curricular activities. Are you still doing virtual school, which allows you to travel during the week when crowds are thinner? Or maybe you’re looking for a date-night escape, and you first need to check when the grandparents can stay with the kids.
While our family usually opts for off-peak travel to save money, you might prefer to plan at the height of the season. This usually means more attractions are open (or open longer hours), and it typically coincides with the seasonal festivals like the Annual National Shrimp Festival or The Hangout Music Festival.
2. Select your accommodations
The right (or wrong) accommodations can make (or break) a vacation, so this is where we spend the bulk of our planning efforts. What’s necessary for one family is not always the right option for another - or even from vacation to vacation.
The first step is to determine what is required, what is desired, and what is the icing on the cake for your current adventure; and then try to match it to your budget.
- Do you need a full kitchen because you’ll be cooking most meals, or will you be noshing at Brick & Spoon, Hog Wild Beach & BBQ, or other fan favorites for most meals?
- Do you need a washer and dryer?
- How close do you want to be to the beach? Is it important to have the beach in your backyard? Is walking across the street ok? What about driving in the car?
- What is the cancellation policy? In the current environment, you never know what the future holds. Your tolerance for risk should coincide with the cancellation policy.
Whatever your decision, we recommend you book direct through the vacation rental management company. Why? You can leverage the knowledgeable locals who are always happy to assist with area information and can offer quick guidance should anything go wrong. You can usually secure better rates and fewer fees, as well.
3. Pick the right water activities
You’re at the beach – let’s make the most of it.
If your vacation brings you in the warm months, then plan for parasailing, snorkeling and jet-skiing. Visiting during the cooler months? That doesn’t mean you can’t play at the beach. Try sailing, kayaking or offshore fishing.
In addition to letting the temperature dictate our water play, we also try to do something new and exciting with every visit – stretch your comfort zone and explore the possibilities
4. Check out the local attractions
Our family always selects one non-beach day for every three days of vacation; checking out the local attractions is a great way to spend that off-day.
Whether you are exploring The Wharf, heading to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, or building your arm strength at Civil Axe Throwing we offer the same advice as above – try something new!
If you’re visiting more than one attraction, also be sure to mix it up. Select one indoor activity and one outdoor activity, or pick one energetic activity and one calming activity.