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Vacation Planning Tips

Summer vacation means a break from the daily grind, but for moms vacation planning can be stressful. Packing lists, itineraries, reservations, and kid considerations send our brains into overload. Simple strategies can make summer vacation planning go more smoothly, which means everyone — even mom — can relax on vacation!

Tips for Planning a Vacation1. Create an email organizer for travel planning. Make a new file for all trip related email and label it “<Destination>, 2013.” When making hotel, restaurant, attraction ticket inquiries, move all emails to the vacation file. As you make decisions, delete emails for those things you won’t use and keep all emails that include reservation confirmation numbers, paid receipts, directions and other necessary information. Before travel, either print the emails or save the documents to your smartphone for easy access during travel.

2. Create a vacation bucket list. For some reason, moms take on the burden of thinking for the whole family. Vacation planning is no different.

“We need to make sure we visit the horse farm for Ellie.” “Oh, Jake would love the aeronautics museum.” Sound familiar?

Instead of doing all the planning, select three or four possible activities for each day of vacation and then ask family members to choose their top three. It’s completely okay to eliminate all activities that didn’t make anyone’s list! If you don’t want to see it and it doesn’t interest them, let it go. If we don’t over-schedule vacation, maybe we’ll actually come home rested and refreshed! For more information on how to create a vacation bucket list.

3. Pack less. For some reason, we think our kids will not survive vacation without their ten favorite toys, two blankies, five stuffed animals and three outfits per day. Guess what! They can and they will. Pack the essentials, like blankie. Pack a few car or airplane friendly toys. Pack one outfit per day, plus an extra for every two days (unless you have access to laundry). Then stop! Kids have your attention on vacation. They will be busy doing things, whether digging in the sand or exploring museums. They don’t need all the “stuff” you rely on to get through the day at home. They don’t! Besides, the less you pack, the less you have to keep track of and the less you risk losing along the way. The less you pack, the less crowded the car. The less you pack, the less checked luggage to pay for. Get the idea? Overpacking is a vacation nightmare. To pack better and enjoy vacation more (really!), use this packing checklist.

Great family vacations begin long before the trip. Proper planning to simplify the planning process, itinerary and even packing means everyone can enjoy vacation. Even mom! Isn’t that what vacation should be?

Karen Dawkins

Karen Dawkins

Karen Dawkins, author of Family Travels on a Budget, traded in her legal briefcase for a suitcase and hasn’t looked back. As the family CFO, Karen has developed a knack for vacationing better for less. She has been featured in Woman’s Day Magazine, Homeschool Handbook and on a number of family, travel and budget blogs. Most recently, she released the Staycation in a Box product line to provide families with planned “at home” vacations they are sure to enjoy. To learn more visit Family Travels on a Budget. You can also connect with her through Facebook and Twitter.

30 comments

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  • Great tips!! I always take too much. Well, I suppose I should say, send too much…When my son has been going on his travels…I can’t be there, so I’d rather he be prepared!

  • A vacation bucket list!? I mean, this article is awesome. So many great tips and ideas to not only ease stress, but to actually make it even more enjoyable.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  • take less is always a tough one–but I found with our kids, one old toy plus one new puzzle book/travel size card game/etc and the excitment of picking out one new toy from the destination has worked well. We’ve done a similar bucket list idea…every one put three things down and we try to work in at least one of them—sometimes members have the same thing so its a WIN WIN =)

    • My boys have gotten so good at the bucket list that they work their lists out before the family pow-wow and present a united teen guy front. They think they’re getting one over on me, but their private negotiations save me from having to mediate. I win!

  • My kids take packing less seriously. We went about 3 hours from home a few months ago, and my youngest daughter didn’t bring ANY shoes. Not one pair lol! Then, we went a few hours from home a couple of weeks ago just for 1 night, and my daughter didn’t bring ANY clothes. I think they just wanted to go shopping! 🙂

    • Haha! How funny. I got my husband to start packing his own bag by forgetting his underwear (accidentally…. honest) twice! My kids have to pack for themselves, but they show me their stuff before we go. Maybe that would help your daughters learn to think it through a little better? Of course, girls + shopping = FUN!

  • These are great tips. I always do the bucket list when we go on vacation that way we all get to do something special that each of us wants. It really makes vacation time fun! I also completely agree about packing light! It is so easy to over pack then you end up lugging around more than you need.

    • Lugging extra is especially tough if traveling domestically by air. Either you pay extra to check bags or your back hurts from carrying stuffed carryon luggage. Right? It’s tough to learn, but so worth it in the end.

  • Great tips, especially the one to pack less. For years I was notorious for overpacking. Four kids later it just wasn’t an option. Nobody notices what you wear on bottom so you can do with less of those. Also, I try to pack clothes in one color family so we can get away with wearing the same pair of shoes with most of them.

    • Ha! TRUE! I’ve gotten to the point that I carry two pairs of earrings, one silver and one gold. For makeup I carry powder, blush, mascara and lip gloss. That’s it! Like you say, “who cares?”

  • I always pack extra for my kiddos (extra clothes) just in case. They are each allowed to being their own backpack with toys of their choice (mostly cars). That said we don’t take vacations but we do go to Grandma’s house in Seattle every now and then.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • I’d add, try not to over do it! We went to Cape Cod and though we had a great time, we did too much! I was exhausted when we got back. I wish we had had like a month lol. I agree with pack less! It is hard when they are little because they want all their stuff! Now that my kids are teens they are content with one blankie and one stuffed animal 🙂 Yes, they still have them. I still had mine in college!

    • (Shhhh…. don’t tell, but I took my teddy bear on my honeymoon.) With the vacation bucket list, it’s easier to keep from over-scheduling your vacation. Start with those activities that every member of the family wants to do and eliminate those that interest almost no one. Too often, we sacrifice quality time together for quantity time conquering the destination. That’s exhausting and exactly the opposite of what vacation should be. Our family has spent three weeks in Nashville, Tennessee over the past five years, and we finally saw everything we wanted to see.

  • Sounds like a plan to me–parts of this would work even if you were traveling with some friends, one family member who is not a child or just by yourself. Good advise all around-Thank you.

About Author

Karen Dawkins

Karen Dawkins

Karen Dawkins, author of Family Travels on a Budget, traded in her legal briefcase for a suitcase and hasn’t looked back. As the family CFO, Karen has developed a knack for vacationing better for less. She has been featured in Woman’s Day Magazine, Homeschool Handbook and on a number of family, travel and budget blogs. Most recently, she released the Staycation in a Box product line to provide families with planned “at home” vacations they are sure to enjoy. To learn more visit Family Travels on a Budget. You can also connect with her through Facebook and Twitter.