Plan in Advance; Plan as a Family
A spontaneous road trip can be fun for a couple, but when you have kids, planning ahead of time is essential for a successful vacation. Your children will enjoy being part of the decision-making process, and they will also be less likely to complain of boredom if they share some of the responsibility for the itinerary. Planning as a family will help ensure a variety of activities that everyone will enjoy.
Plan Your Budget
Unless you’re on an unlimited budget, planning your budget is probably the most important step in minimizing vacation stress. Add up expenses for hotels, airline tickets, rental car and fixed entertainment costs, such as amusement park tickets, whitewater rafting tours and other activities. Then estimate fuel costs and other variables. Next, add in a daily allowance for food and other necessary travel expenses. Finally, budget for harder to estimate costs, such as snacks, souvenirs and unanticipated purchases (allowing for spontaneity adds to the fun and will keep the kids happier).
Simple is Best
It’s easy to get carried away in the planning phase. Travel destination websites are filled with many options, and before you know it, you’ve created a superhuman schedule that will keep you and the kids busy from dawn to midnight. Keeping things simple will create a more relaxed vacation – and save you money. If the choices are overwhelming, check out a package deal, which might include flights, hotel, rentals and entertainment costs. Packages offer substantial discounts compared with paying for everything separately and can save stress during the planning phase and while you’re on vacation.
Go During the Off-Season
Plan your vacation during off-peak times, if possible, to beat the summer vacation crowds. That’s hard to do if your kids are enrolled in school, but planning your trip as early in the summer as possible or waiting until very late, just before school starts, should help you miss the summer rush.
Build in Downtime
Instead of jumping right into the most energetic activities the first day you arrive, spend some time settling into your new environment. Stretch your legs after a long drive or flight and enjoy your hotel room. Acclimate to the elevation. Lose your jet lag. Do some sightseeing, enjoy a relaxed meal, take a walking tour – get to know your surroundings.
Get Your Car Serviced
If you’re driving your own car, make sure all the maintenance is up to date, including oil change, fluid levels, tire tread, air pressure and other items. Cleaning the inside thoroughly before you leave will also make the trip more enjoyable for everyone.
Save Receipts and Reservations
For any reservations or ticket purchase made online, make sure you have easy access to your receipts and itineraries. Print and put them in an actual paper folder; save them to a special email folder; or save them to a file on your mobile device.
Consider Travel Insurance
Depending on how much you are spending, where you are going and what you plan to do, travel insurance might be an important consideration. If your trip gets cancelled due to a storm, disaster or any other unexpected event, travel insurance will pay for your loss. Coverage might also include reimbursement for lost luggage or cancellations due to sickness or injury. If you’re going overseas, travel insurance can guarantee a flight back home in case of an emergency. It can also provide medical treatment in a country where your insurance isn’t valid.
Get Everything in Order
Apply for passports early if you’re traveling to another country. Arrange for pet, home and lawn care, if required, by a trusted friend, business or family member, and ask the post office to hold your mail. Make sure your bills are paid; no one wants to come home to a disconnected utility. Finally, make a list of everything you need to pack and everything that must be done before you leave, and then check off each item as it is completed.
No vacation is perfect, but following these simple steps will help ensure a more enjoyable escape with minimal stress and maximum fun.