Happy family enjoying their vacation in Paris, France

After you complete a comprehensive questionnaire, a local travel specialist can direct you to unique experiences tailored to you and your travel companions' tastes, preferences and ages. (Getty Images)

Comb through any major travel guidebook, and you'll find dozens of recommendations for any given destination. Scroll through travel and attraction review sites like TripAdvisor, and you'll get a plethora of opinions, ranging drastically from peer to peer. So how do you know where you and your family should go and what you should do in a new destination? Enlist the aid of local experts to tailor your itinerary to what's important to you and your travel companions. Here are reputable specialists to seek out, and why you should let them plan your next great family getaway.

How Family Trip-Planning Services Operate

Travel-planning services work by pairing traveling families with local parents who create customized day-to-day itineraries based on you and your travel companions' needs, interests and ages. Many reputable operators start with an extensive questionnaire, which helps their experts know what's most important to you while on vacation. For example: are you looking for unique dining experiences, or would you rather eat casually? Are you history buffs or adrenaline junkies? For approximately $50-$150, families can expect a written daily itinerary that includes dining and attraction recommendations, walking or public transit directions and useful information such as emergency numbers, locations of local parks and playgrounds or fun facts about the city. Most trip-planning services include only suggested schedules rather than a concierge service, making it easy to customize with your family's preferences. Here are top trusted trip-planning operators to consult before your next vacation with the gang.

Momaboard

Momaboard's Mombassadors are located in cities across the world, are parents themselves and live in the cities for which they create itineraries. Mombassadors start by asking for the address and location of your accommodations and create day-to-day itineraries from this convenient starting point. For example, if you're traveling to Paris, and you already know which major attractions you would like to visit, but want to fill in gaps in your itinerary, a Mombassador can guide you to lesser-known, age-appropriate activities for you and your group's needs with geo-targeted dining picks.

Travelove

Travelove focused on the vacation destination you select, then builds an itinerary that focuses on attractions and activities to see in that destination. Services at Travelove include a professionally printed and bound customized guidebook, which includes color maps tailored specifically to your itinerary. Let's say, you're interested in route recommendations between major attractions in Paris. Travelove would prove you with detailed walking tours filled with under-the-radar sights and historical facts, plus recommendations along each route for snacks, drinks and dinners. Like Momaboard, Travelove does not book tickets or reservations for you, but rather gives you all the information you need for DIY travel.

Stay in a Rental Home or Apartment

When you book a vacation rental or apartment, it comes with a resourceful local expert in the form of a homeowner. Whether you reserve your accommodations through HomeAway, AirBnB or another popular vacation rental site, read reviews carefully before selecting your home away from home. Not only do you want to choose a vacation home that meets your amenities, location and size requirements; you also want to select a home with a friendly, helpful homeowner. Reliable homeowners can tell you where the closest grocery store and laundromat are located, offer tips for navigating their city and even proved you with dining recommendations.

Stop at the Tourism Office

The men and women working in a city tourism office are not only tourism professionals but residents of their region or city. Use them as a knowledgeable, free resource. Ask tourism officials for the best value on city transportation (it might be a bus or metro pass usually only used by locals) and for their personal picks for entertainment and adventure. Also, ask for recommendations from local cab drivers, gas station attendants and wait staff.

Rely on Social Media

Before your trip is the ideal time to crowdsource for helpful information. Use appropriate hashtags on Twitter or Instagram or query your friend list on Facebook when seeking the best restaurants and attractions for kids of particular ages or interests in a new destination. Chances are, a friend knows a friend who knows something or someone, and people are always happy to share their knowledge and expertise.

So before your next trip, by all means, gather information from trusted websites and guidebooks, but also dig deeper, tapping into the resources of locals.

Tags: travel, vacations


Amy Whitley is a family travel writer, editor, and columnist based in Southern Oregon. An avid traveler, backpacker, skier and hiker, Amy has written about family and outdoor experiences for local and national publications since 2009. Amy authors the NWKids column in OutdoorsNW Magazine, is the Southern Oregon ambassador for Travel Oregon, works as a gear reviewer for multiple outdoor brands, and is founder of family travel site Pit Stops for Kids. Amy has been a U.S. News Travel contributor since 2015. Follow her on Twitter @pitsopsforkids.

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