Tuesday, July 01, 2008

July Newsletter Article.........Tips for an Organized Family Vacation

Do you have a vacation coming up that you have been looking forward to? As it gets closer, are you starting to feel a little stressed? Are you thinking of all the planning, packing and travel and feel overwhelmed? Do you think to yourself, "Why is this called a vacation again?"

There are some steps that you can take to help you get the most fun out of your family vacation, while also minimizing the stress. After all, we take vacations for enjoyment and relaxation, right?

Assuming you have already chosen your destination and travel dates, it's onto planning what you will be doing on your vacation and what you need to do to get ready for it. Consider creating an itinerary for your travels but be flexible. Keep alternative activities in mind to allow for unexpected changes. The main goal is to have fun, even if things don't go as planned.

Get the whole family involved in the planning. You may want to hold a couple of family meetings to let everyone know what is going on and what part they need to do in order to get ready for the trip. What major activities does the family want to do and what are some of the smaller activities? Get everyone's input.

Finalize and confirm your reservations. Always be sure to ask, "Am I getting the best rate?" Or, "Do you have any specials right now that I can take advantage of?" You'd be surprised by what you can get just by asking. Take advantage of any discounts through your AAA membership if you have one.

Make Lists
Lists will definitely help you reduce your stress while you are planning your family vacation. Rather than trying to remember it all, I suggest creating master lists on your computer that you can print and use each time you take a trip. You will be able to greatly reduce your planning time for the next vacation and lessen the chance of forgetting any details.

Start with the list of the things you need to do to get ready to leave on your vacation. Do you have to make arrangement for the mail and paper? What about pets and plant watering? Will you be using a house sitter?

Next, make lists for the items you need to pack. Give children their own lists to be responsible for. Help create lists for younger children by using pictures, numbers, and words of the items they can gather.

Keep your printed lists with you so you can easily jot down ideas whenever they come to you. Take time to update the master lists as needed.

Start Packing
Have a designated packing area and let the kids help pack their things. Many times I have to go back and redo some of my kids' efforts, but they love to feel helpful and they are learning life skills. One tip is to pack the kids' clothes together by outfits. Roll each outfit together or use gallon-sized plastic bags and label them.

Limited on space? Plan to stop at a laundry mat during your trip. This is a good way to cut the amount of clothing you will need to pack by at least half. Remember to allow space for souvenirs. Have the suitcases ready to go one day prior to departure.

Don't forget the books, crayons, and games to help keep children entertained in the car or on the airplane. Create a vacation scavenger list that children can either draw, take pictures, or buy postcards of the items on a list throughout the trip. They can add journaling and then they will end up with their own vacation scrapbook. I also like to bring a few surprises along. I remember when my parents did this for me and my brother; it added to the fun and excitement of our family vacations.

It's vacation after all! Remember your objective of taking the trip. If things don't go as planned, be determined to have fun regardless. Traveling with children can be a trying event at times. Allow for some time that you might be able to get a few quiet moments. For example, when we go camping, I try to get my morning walk in before everyone is awake. I love this routine at home and on vacation because it gives me time to think, pray, and reflect. I find this helps me ready my heart and perspective for the day (I am not the best morning person!).

Returning Home
Allow at least one day for everyone to readjust before returning to their normal schedules. Start unpacking and get clothes washed. Or, leave the dirty clothes in the suitcases and plan a trip to the laundry mat to tackle several loads of wash at once. While you wait, you could even get those developed vacation pictures labeled and into an album. As you are unpacking, gather all the memorabilia in one place. That way, if you plan to put together a scrapbook, it's all together - just add pictures.

Make arrangements to keep your first few days home after a vacation low-key. Avoid making appointments and other commitments if you can help it. You'll be busy with laundry, putting items away, grocery shopping, and probably a little bit of recovery. Allowing this extra time in your schedule will help you get those post-vacation tasks done in a reduced-stress environment.

Enjoy your summer, vacations, and family!

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