Many of us look forward to family vacations. We picture fun, care-free days in the sun or in the mountains where everyone is getting along, playing board games, and there are no cell phones or electronic devices in sight. For most, the mere thought of packing for a trip can be mind boggling, not to mention the actual car ride which is usually very stressful. The reality is that once you get to your destination, it doesn’t always run smoothly. Many factors can come into play such as bad weather, over planning, and boredom. Finding a happy medium and starting with an organized plan is really the key. Below are five tips that my family has used over the years to help ensure a wonderful vacation.
1. Include your family in the planning
Talk about vacations during the winter holidays. It gives you something to look forward to at the beginning of the year. Pull out the schedules and do some brainstorming. If your family is like mine, we all have different preferences but can usually agree on one vacation spot that has a little something for everyone. Give the kids some research assignments and one of the parents can manage the budget. Another parent can be the planner/scheduler for flights, hotels, tours, etc.
2. Pack up your family in one week
As a general rule, getting ready to go on vacation shouldn’t take longer than the vacation itself. Keep a general list on your computer so you don’t have to recreate it every year. On the list, write down ‘5 shorts outfits, 3 pajamas, etc.’ instead of ‘green shorts, tan t-shirt, blue pajamas, plaid boxers.’ Give the kids the responsibility to pack their own clothes, as well as having each child fill a bag with toys, videos and books to bring along.
Typical schedule the week before vacation:
Sunday – Check the weather so you can pack appropriate clothing.
Go online and ‘hold’ your paper/mail.
Monday – Clean the house and print out your packing list.
Tuesday – Shop for sundries, food, etc.
Wednesday – Pack toys, books, music etc.
Thursday – Wash and pack clothes.
Friday – Pack dry food and drop off your pet if necessary.
Saturday – If driving, pack cold food in cooler and pack the car.
If flying, make sure all necessary paperwork is in
one person’s possession (usually Mom).
3. Prepare for the weather
I once heard someone say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” How true this is! You don’t have to let bad weather spoil your vacation; you just have to have a Plan B. Investigate other options to fill the time if the weather is lousy.
4. Don’t over schedule
Have you ever had a vacation that was so packed with activities you needed another vacation when you came home? Think about that before you take your next vacation. You want everyone to have fun, but you also want to have some relaxation built in. In my experience the kids are usually worn out by mid-week of the first week of vacation. Whether it’s experiencing Disney World, going to a beach or visiting friends out of town, the change in schedules will affect the children, so plan on it. Take one day and don’t do anything extra. Sleep late, go to bed early, lie around and watch movies or whatever suits your family. Take a ‘Sunday’ in the middle of your vacation week and recharge everyone’s energy.
5. Take pictures & don’t forget to upload them
When you take a special vacation, it’s great to have a memory book from that trip. So make sure you upload pictures as soon as you get back. Using a site like Shutterfly or Snapfish allows you to create a digital scrapbook by dropping in pictures and writing some notes in the margin. This is a great way to capture funny little stories and family jokes that will last a lifetime. Keep in mind that if the pictures sit too long on your phone or camera, the stories will be lost.
Encourage your kids to unplug, open their eyes and see the world around them. Save games and music for the drive or flight, but once you arrive at your destination, insist on eye contact!