1. Go online and start researching the events that will be happening in the area you are about to visit. This way you will know in advance if you want to attend an event that you may need to purchase tickets for in advance (dinner train, special show, etc.)
Start a paper folder or a folder on your computer's desktop and store websites, notes and activities, as well as hotel, travel information.
2. If you have time, and if you like hard copies like I do, call or go online to the chamber of commerce in the city/town you are visiting. They love to know when guests are coming and are invaluable to planning a wonderful vacation.
3. I look at how many days we are going to be, say, Sunday through Saturday. This gives me a good starting point. For example, our trip to Ft. Myers, we knew that my husband and I wanted to visit the Edison and Ford Winter Estates (http://www.efwefla.org/), we also wanted to go kayaking (my favorite past time), and I also wanted to visit the state park for birding, hiking, biking and I believe there was another attraction we wanted to visit. So I called or went online and got ticket information, hours of operation, etc. From here I would pencil in a date for the visit.
4. I also learned early on not to book more than one or two events/attractions in one day, allowing for travel time, eating or just last minute drive-bys.
5. It's also a good idea to get coupon books, or tourist brochures, these are great for local maps, restaurants and coupons for restaurants and attractions. We also like to pack our favorite snacks.
6. By scheduling your activities for the week, the kids and you have something to look forward to and they still have time to hit the beach or limited video games, etc.
7. It's also fun to plan your meals if you are staying in a place where you have a kitchen. We usually try to eat dinners in, since they are more expensive than breakfast or lunch.
When we planned our trip to Williamsburg, VA last year, we called ahead and found out the hotel/resort where we were staying offered day trips to various places. We chose to go to Washington D.C., on one day, with their bus service. This allowed us to sit back and relax while being chauffered around and they are also good tour guides. And you don't have to worry about getting lost.
8. It's also a good idea to get the kids input on activities for the family to enjoy. For example if the kids know we're going skiing or to the beach, they also enjoy researching online and suggesting events, etc. With an active interest in the vacation plans, the kids get excited about the excursions and are more apt to help out where they are needed.
9. Kids can actually forget about being online and texting their friends all day because they are too busy having fun with their family.
10. Also, to help keep the distractions to a minimum, if you set the ground rules up early, and everyone knows what is expected they will do their part, chores, etc., and behave in order to enjoy the activities they want to participate in.
Everyone also has to agree that one person may not feel 100 percent about an event, but once they go, they may realize they enjoy that outing or event and will be glad they went. And everyone also needs to be nice to each other.
For more ideas, go here: http://www.twittermoms.com/forum/topics/share-10-tips-to-create-a-fun