Family Travel Tips: 5 stress-free hacks to leave on vacation
I was talking to a friend the other day who said that she likes to travel but it’s the prep for just getting herself out the door that is stressful. She said that she tries to pack and get her life in order but it all just doesn’t work out and then she goes and comes back and it’s just as stressful to return. Why is that? What’s different about how we go on vacation vs others? I figured it out. When you’ve been doing family travel for a while you work out a system to make life easier.
There’s no reason that getting ready to relax and have fun should be unpleasant, right? Here are five hacks to make leaving for a trip easier and to take the stress out of family travel. And be sure to share any tips you have below in the comments, as I’m sure we all have those things we do before leaving that could help out other people too!
Family travel planning to-do/packing lists
In our everyday life we have to-do lists, but they’re simple things like wash diapers, feed chickens, vacuum sand out of the car. As we prep for a trip, about two weeks out we add to this. Two weeks out is the key. With this much time, you’re able to check and double check things off your list. You can even procrastinate a bit, and since you’ve got a list and have been conscious of what you need to do, when you buckle down to complete it, it’ll be a breeze.
Here’s an example of a 2 Weeks Out list:
House sitter – find one and provide instructions
Stock up on pet food
Clear phone and camera memory
Create departure plan
With the list as just a big picture and not every minute detail, you’ll feel like you’re accomplishing things and won’t stress as your last day home approaches. Within these categories you will have more details, but you don’t need to think about ALL of those things at once. The big picture list is key.
Tip: if you don’t know how to ask somebody to house-sit or think it’s an imposition, there are people who do it professionally or just enjoy a break from their own home. One of our favorite blogs, Sell All Your Stuff, has a great list of resources for making life and travel easier, including house sitting service links.
Accept help before your family travel trip
If you’re prepping to head to Europe for two weeks and somebody says “Do you need anything?” be honest. If they are offering help, take it. Good ways to accept help and not feel awkward about it are by allowing somebody to fetch things for you that would require an errand. I know that if my mom says that she can grab something from the store for us that I forgot to get, I’m taking her up on it. If I don’t have to pack up the kids, drive to the store, get them into a shopping cart, shop… I’m going to be a lot less stressed and have more time to do other things.
Tip: if somebody offers to watch the kids or wants to have a play date, DO IT. Family travel packing and prep goes much faster when little people aren’t involved. Love them, but it’s the truth.
Wear different clothes than normal
What? Really? Why would that be helpful? Simple, people put off packing because there are things that they’ll need up until the last day at home. If you’re okay wearing different clothes on vacation or before, you won’t need to stress about collecting up your everyday items at the last minute. Same goes for toiletries. My son picked out his toothbrush and soap days ago. His regular ones are still chilling in the bathroom. Same with his clothes and shoes. He’s bringing different ones than he prefers to wear every day.
Tip: the reverse of this is also true. Wear different clothes than normal before your trip so the ones you love can be clean and packed.
Be okay with forgetting something
Whirling about the house the night before an early flight does no good for anybody. Do a good job putting your stuff together in advance. If you’ve forgotten something, chances are that it’s not terribly integral to the success of your trip. If you feel that it is once you’re at your destination go explore the area and find a comparable supply. Example: we went camping not too long ago and forgot jackets. It was warm out, so at our convenience we found some fun, inexpensive sweatshirts. The kids needed new ones anyway.
Tip: we’ve learned that packing (for a road trip) with clear bins helps us see what we’ve packed but keeps things organized if we need to shuffle through stuff. Clear bins are great for camping or snack storage.
Clean your house before leaving on a trip
In the same conversation with the same friend as before, she mentioned that she gets stressed because she’s packing and repacking and looking for things so much that her house is a mess when she’s done, and that makes coming home stressful.
Solution: if you’re packed even just a half day before you have to go, you can spend an hour or two picking up around the house and making it feel clean and tidy. If you have the time, go for the gusto and change your sheets and leave mints on the kids’ pillows, but don’t stress it. I can honestly say that leaving for a trip with a spotless house truly does feel the best, but as long as it’s clean and you don’t come home to stale dishes in the sink and clothes all over the place, you’ll feel good.
Note: if you are having a house sitter while you’re away, you better make sure your house is clean, both for courtesy and to be able to see how well the house sitter treated your home.
We are constantly doing big family travel trips and little weekend getaways. These little rules totally make family travel so much easier and ensure that we’re not stressed. I think that’s the big take-away here: prep for your trip in a way that you’re not stressing either before or after travel. Oh, and one more thing to remember… Have fun when traveling!!!
What other hacks get you out the door without freaking out? Share your top tip in the comments!