7 Tips For Planning A Great Holiday Family Cruise

7 Tips For Planning A Great Holiday Family Cruise
Cruises are a popular choice for holiday family vacations. Today’s family-friendly cruise ships are filled with awesome kids’ and teens’ clubs, thrilling attractions and high-energy activities. In addition, cruise ships are always decked out with festive decorations and there are lots of fun holiday-themed family activities planned. Exciting ports of call and shore excursions add to the appeal.

If you’re planning on taking a cruise with your kids for the upcoming Thanksgiving or December holidays, here are seven tips to make your next family holiday vacation the best ever:

1. Start planning early. It’s important to begin planning your holiday family cruise as early as possible, particularly for larger families and multigenerational groups. It’s easier to get the best staterooms and airfares with plenty of advance notice. Fall is typically a popular time to start researching and booking family holiday trips, although some families start planning their holiday vacations six months to a year in advance. Waiting until the last minute to book holiday family cruises generally doesn't yield optimal results, but space is often available. Working with a good cruise travel agent is recommended for the best results.

2. Involve the kids in the vacation planning process. Making all family members part of the vacation planning process is key to planning a successful holiday family vacation. Involving everyone helps to generate excitement about the cruise vacation and enables kids to get more out of the experience. It also helps to surface specific vacation expectations, along with insights about the activities and programs kids will enjoy most.

3. Research itinerary choices. During the holiday season, cruise lines offer a wide variety of destinations and itineraries from which to choose. Review the options with your family and select an itinerary with plenty of port stops and exciting activities that will appeal to your family’s interests. Discuss shore excursions choices in advance and keep your children’s schedules and stamina in mind when selecting tours. In some ports, independent shore excursions or a private guide can be the best choice for families. No matter what itinerary you choose, plan to arrive at your embarkation port at least a day before your cruise begins in order to minimize holiday travel snafus and stress.

4. Pick the right ship. A great holiday family vacation offers something for every age group and interest. Choose a cruise ship with lots of activities for kids, teens and families to do together. If you have high energy kids who like to constantly be on the go, look for cruise ships that offer a wide variety of activities such as race car tracks, rock climbing, water parks, ice skating, ropes courses, surfing simulators, miniature golf, and basketball courts. Also research the age categories for the kids and teens programs on the various ships you’re considering. Cruise lines have different ways of grouping children by age. Cruise line policies allowing siblings of different ages to be in the same kids program also differ as well. It can be very helpful to talk with a knowledgeable cruise travel agent to get their insights on the best ship for your family.

5. Opt for extra family room. Today’s newer cruise ships offer a wide variety of family-friendly accommodations including connecting cabins as well as staterooms and suites designed specifically for families. While some families choose to remain in the same cabin, others purchase connecting cabins or two staterooms to provide parents with some privacy and give kids more room to spread out. If you do purchase two cabins, get an extra key card so that you can enter as needed to check in or wake the kids up in the morning.

6. Reserve specialty dining, activities and shore excursions in advance. Holiday cruises are generally packed with families and the ships are often sold out. Rather than waiting until you’re on board to make reservations, book everything you want to do on your ship as far in advance as possible. This includes specialty dining times, shore excursions and specific activities that you definitely don’t want to miss on your family's cruise vacation.

7. Make it special. Let every member of the family choose one thing that they'd like to do on your holiday family cruise. This will allow everyone to feel more involved and will get your holiday vacation off to a great start. If you have a tight budget, explain that at the outset and set a dollar figure for how much activities can cost. Let the kids do some online research to find things they'd like to do on your cruise vacation as well.

In addition to all of the above, strongly consider purchasing travel insurance for your family’s holiday cruise.

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