When to start planning a "regular" trip

Hello all!
Got back from my big family WDW trip a couple of weeks ago, and have been going through trip-planning withdrawal. I know this will not be unusual since I have read that others go through the same thing…the question of what to do with all that extra time you now have on your hands?? So, of course, I started thinking about another trip! I am not ready to go back to WDW yet…okay, emotionally, yes I am, but I want to wait til the kids are older (see my trip report for details on that), and probably not financially ready for the type of trip I want to take (would love deluxe Epcot area lodgings next time around).

That brings me to my actual question for folks here…how far in advance do you start planning a non-WDW vacation? I think we’re going to go to PA next July. Much closer, so we can drive, so I don’t need to worry about planning a flight. Is it too early to start booking a hotel or planning what we’re doing each day? I’m not much of a vacationer (obviously!) so the whole process is still kind of new to me. My MIL planned a lot of the WDW vaca, too. Besides this recent trip, the last big trip I took was my honeymoon 6.5 years ago.

Oh and if anyone has tidbits of info on PA (we are looking at Lancaster county…Amish country, Hershey, Dutch Wonderland), please share :slight_smile: And I hope this is okay to be in this section…I didn’t know if many people would see it in the Cava threads. Thanks all!

I usually start looking around about a year before: the hotels in the area, etc. we just recently booked our hotels for our DC/beach trip for June.

I live in Pa, very close to Lancaster and am a season passholder for HersheyPark. We have done Dutch Wonderland when the kids were younger. What kind of tidbits of info do you need? For Hershey, their hotels tend to have deals with tickets. They typically have some kind of kids deal for the summer, but I don’t think they come out until a few months into the year, February/March/April. Not really sure since we don’t book those packages. We stayed at Hershey lodge overnight and my kids loved the pool area. There is also the Hershey Gardens, chocolate world, and Hershey museum.

Depending on the age of the kids, Idlewild was fun. Has Mr. Roger’s Trolley, and a bunch of unique rides for young kids to enjoy. For the older crowd, look at Kennywood.

Sight and Sound Theatre is there. Extremely well done Biblically-themed shows. We saw Noah when they did it, and it was incredible. The entire theatre looked like you were inside Noah’s Ark. I’m not sure what shows they will be doing.


We also visited the children’s museum in Pittsburgh: https://pittsburghkids.org/

And did the Duquense Incline Train (which was harrowing for me, due to my fear of heights, but the kids loved it): http://www.duquesneincline.org/

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Interesting things to do that I might not know about, a can’t-miss place to eat, a fun event that goes on…I’m not planning to do quite as much research on this trip so there could be something there that I would never think of! :slight_smile: I went to Hersheypark as a kid but don’t remember much…I’m sure the kids would love chocolate world!

As in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood?!?!? :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: Oh this I will have to look into!! That was my favorite show as a kid and now I am getting my kids into watching it, and I get all sappy because it just makes me SO HAPPY!

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Ok. I agree with Sight and Sound. There is also the American Music theater and the Hershey theater. Not sure what shows there are in July, but you can check the schedules. There are tons of outlets in Lancaster and Hershey (no tax on clothes and shoes). Be careful of the Amish tourist traps in Lancaster, as there are some fake farms. Strasburg Railroad has train rides and a museum. Dutch wonderland is a great park for young kids, not so much for kids over about 7. Hersheypark is great for all ages. Lots of kiddie rides, coasters and a water park. One of the rides is getting an overhaul for 2019 and they are just starting to build a whole new entrance and coaster for 2020.


Great! Thank you! :slight_smile: Kids will be 2 and 6 next summer so I think Dutch Wonderland would be just right :slight_smile:

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Too funny I was just looking at planning a similar vacation… as a thing to do before returning to Disney. Following a long!

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Oh, yes. We did that as well.

Yes. You ride the trolley through the land of make believe.


Usually I don’t plan too far out in advance for domestic travel (except for WDW!) but in that area of the country, I’d start planning at least six months out so I could have first crack at the lovely B & Bs that are sure to be found in the area. They don’t typically cost much more and you get an awesome breakfast and a chance to meet locals and learn about the area.

With younger kiddos it is really nice to take your time driving. You might also want to have a theme, like trains, geology, Native American history, etc. There’s no way you can see it all but a theme helps you organize what to stop for and what to pass up. We did a coal mining theme going through WV/VA last time and it was wonderful, gets you off the beaten path, too.

The National Park Service and state parks guides can steer towards that type of information, they have all kinds of pre-made tours you can plan for. Road trips are wonderful, make the drive there part of the vacation and take your time. This country is full of such beautiful, interesting little spots that sometimes people just blast right by on their way to somewhere else, but you don’t want to miss those gems!

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WAlmost forgot, now that I’m off work. If you have a history buff, Gettysburg battlefields is about an hour and a half from Lancaster. It’s a National Park, if you are looking to take your kids to any of those. They have a museum, bus or car tours, and personal tour guides. We have taken our kids, the youngest when he was 5, and they loved Devil’s Den, Little Roundtop, the PA monument, and climbing a tower to see across the battlefield.

Restaurants are a little tricky. There are lots of local and chain restaurants and it really depends on what you are into. Traditional PA Dutch food is really heavy and filling, comfort kind of foods, but there are plenty of kid friendly restaurants and even “foodie” options. Foods that are very prevalent in this area are whoopie pies, shoo fly pies, soft pretzels (local places hand make them), apple dumplings, pot pie (which is like a stew or chicken and dumplings), and funnel cakes. If you visit an Amish market, you will find most of these foods.

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Thank you guys, this is very helpful! I’ll take a look at the parks website, would definitely like to incorporate some outdoor time. I’ll have to see if we can come up with a theme, that would be fun. My daughter is into a bunch of different things, but doesn’t have that ONE THING that she loves like a lot of kids her age (dinosaurs, space, trains). She likes a lot of things a medium amount :grin:

We live about 2.5/3 hours from the area, and it’s our favorite place to visit. We were Dutch Wonderland season pass holders one year, and Hershey season pass holders this year. Your kids are aged perfectly for Dutch Wonderland - they will be able to ride most of the rides, and there’s a cute little splash area with a few water slides that they will really enjoy. Don’t miss the frog diving show when you are there - we went back this summer with our 9 and 7 year olds and they still loved it! I’m sad that we’re aging out of that park.
Hershey would be fun. It’s a little bigger with probably enough rides for their size, but a much larger park than Dutch Wonderland (still not as big as MK, though, but close I think!). The water areas include a wave pool, lazy river, and several kid play areas, all with regular admission cost. I definitely can recommend Chocolate World and we’ve done the trolley ride through town that leaves from Chocolate World - interesting for adults with history, but maybe not so much for the younger crowd.
We have enjoyed our visits to B&B’s in that area, but have found that regular hotels with pools are much more interesting to our kids. TripAdvisor reviews are usually very insightful!
The train at Strasburg is a fun diversion but can be pricey.