As warmer days are just around the corner, families are beginning to think about summer vacations.
While a recent survey shows affordability at the top of a list of priorities when planning a vacation, safety is a close second, says Trae Bodge, senior editor and consumer spending expert at RetailMeNot.com.
The online coupon site recently revealed results from a poll conducted by The Omnibus Company that showed when consumers are planning a vacation, they look at cost, security, availability of activities and whether the destination is family-friendly.
So how can you make the most of your family vacation, from start to finish? Here are some tips that will help keep your family happy - and help you keep your sanity - while planning and enjoying your next vacation.
As you plan
For some people, planning is the best part of the vacation, especially if getting good deals makes your day.
* Start with a budget. Before you start thinking big, consider your budget. Know what you have to spend before you start looking at your choices, Bodge says.
* Avoid ale cart. Bodge says more often than not you can get better prices if you choose packages over ale cart.
"The best deals are with package deals," she said. "Instead, the majority of people are booking ale cart."
Bodge suggests booking with a travel agent or through a travel website to get the best choices of packages. She says typically for a four- or five-day trip, a family can save between $200 and $500 by purchasing packages, which nowadays offer more options for excursions.
* Be open. A set amount of money is going to get you different places depending on the time of the year, especially during high-travel times. Especially during spring break and summer months, destinations are going to be more expensive. Keep an open mind if you want to keep costs lower and avoid high-traveled areas.
"(Travel agencies) used to be more restrictive, but nowadays companies are offering much more flexibility," Bodge said.
On the road
Now that you're on the road, it's smooth sailing, right? Not quite, if you're not prepared.
* Keep a survival kit. Any parent knows nothing can damper the moment like an unhappy child. That's why keeping a parent survival kit is essential, Bodge says. Include Band-aids, disinfectant wipes, extra water and most importantly - loads of snacks.
* Give kids their own survival kit as well. "All kids, if they're up and walking, should have their own survival kits," Bodge said. "I find when I travel with my daughter, the more ownership she has with something, the more excited she is about it."
Kids' survival kits should include their favorite snacks, books and toys.
Not sure what to include? Bodge recommends a site called minimus.biz, which has lots of travel-sized games, accessories, food and medical supplies. There are also ready-made kits, including a JetSet Travel Backpack, perfect for the girl or boy who is a jet-setter.
* Be open to technology. No matter how much you regulate technology at home, Bodge says be more open to it on the road.
"Allow (kids) to bring a tablet with educational video games uploaded," she said. "It will keep your sanity while you're traveling, and you can still regulate it."
Women are more likely than men to consider security or safety a top priority when traveling - 63 percent of women versus 48 percent of men, according to the Omnibus survey.
That's why Bodge thinks more families are choosing to book travel within the United States rather than abroad.
"We are finding people are leaning more toward staying in the U.S., and because of that, we are seeing a lot of great travel deals," she said.
Many of these deals can be found right on your phone.
The RetailMeNot app, for example, alerts the phone user to in-store coupons and nearby malls.
"If you were to step in Southlake Mall, it would alert you to coupons you could use right then and there," Bodge said.
The following are some other apps Bodge recommends using when reaching your travel destination.
AroundMe - The AroundMe app aids visitors who may not be familiar with a particular area. It shows users nearby restaurants, gas stations, banks and ATMs, for example, and keeps visitors in their areas of choice.
TripIt - This app allows someone to create a customized itinerary, accessing reservations and maps all in one spot. "It's helpful with kids," Bodge said. "You can get distracted and forget where your confirmation is, but the app has it for you."
FlightTrack Pro - This app gives you access to airport terminal maps from major airports all over the world. Unlike the other free apps listed above, this one costs $9.99, but Bodge says the cost is well worth it because it keeps the traveler organized - allowing her to focus on her family. "The pro version give you a lot of flexibility if you are taking multiple flights," she said. "It's a little more robust app."