Vacations. The very word bring tears to my eyes. All of the packing, getting to our destination, kids not sleeping in their beds, getting lost, having trouble finding a hotel to stay in- let's face it, vacations can evoke nightmares for mothers.
I remember our first "vacation" as one of the most horrific times in our lives. We were traveling to Indiana from Massachusetts around the holidays. Getting to the airport is never an easy task, but with thick fog in sight and no planes taking off we waited for ten hours with a ten month old little baby at the airport waiting for a flight to leave. Our luggage, however, made it to our destination and we headed home without our belongings to take a morning flight the next day. The next day arrived and we came with a back-up set of luggage to attempt to make our trip again. Our flight left, and much to our delight, our back-up luggage did not arrive. Upon finding this out, I burst into tears.
How could these people lose a back-up set of luggage as well as our first set of luggage? Luckily, our first set of luggage arrived and we headed to our parent's house for the holidays with luggage in tow. This was, of course, the perfect time for our son to have the stomach flu and this persisted throughout our entire trip. Let me tell you, taking a child on a plane who has the runs is definitely one of the worst experiences of my life. When we finally arrived back to our airport at home, we discovered that they had lost our luggage again along with our car seat to bring our son home in. We set my son in their death-trap of a seat that they offered and headed home- weary from travel and the pure irony of our vacation. The airport did finally deliver our luggage, but delivered it to the neighbor's house where it was sent back to the airport and arrived on our doorstep a couple of weeks later. After that trip I looked at my husband and told him that we would no longer be traveling home for the holidays. Our family would have to come and see us or they would just have to imagine us there for the holidays because I was never doing that again.
That was a particularly horrible vacation, but vacations do not have to be a time of stress or something that you dread doing with your family. The actual definition of vacation is "a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation, especially one with pay granted to an employee." Pleasure? Rest? Relaxation? That sounds like something that one might enjoy. Vacations can actually be an enjoyable experience for the whole family with the proper organization and activities for the children. Here are a few of Mom Advice's ideas for how to successfully pull off an organized and enjoyable vacation.
The key to organizing a good vacation is to take the time to plan. First, I would highly recommend contacting the local Visitor's Bureau for a packet of information on what they offer. Usually these packets of information include coupons for local restaurants, hotels, and area attractions and will include things to do in their state. These packets can save you a bundle of money if you are planning to attend any of the places within the packet and often will include an area map and information on what makes their particular state famous. We got a packet like this for our recent trip to Ohio and it was filled with wonderful coupons and ideas for places that were particularly kid-friendly. Make sure to pack this information with you when making your trip.
Try to check out books from your local library on where you are going so that you can get lots of inside information on the great places to visit. Then make a list of things that are important to your family for you to do so that you can make the very most of your vacation.
Many places offer discounts on area attractions through online sites as well, if you purchase your tickets in advance. Check to see if you can get any discounts on your tickets before you go so you aren't shelling out hundreds of dollars on admission tickets.
Don't forget to make arrangements ahead of time with the post office and your local newspaper if you will be out of town for any length of time and are in need of stopping your mail. Also make any arrangements necessary for your pets if you will not be bringing them with you. Boarding your animal will require you to have all shots current so keep this in mind if you need to have this done before you go.
One of the best ways to stay organized on your trip is to organize your car before leaving for your destination especially if you will be spending hours of time in the car. I remember our trips to Florida as kids and my sister and I referring to the minivan as the "blue prison" because we hated being in the car so long. Our mom would let us pack the things that we wanted to take on our trips and let's face it- when you are a child you have no idea what to pack or what activities will keep you occupied for hours. Our parents could only play so many games of I Spy before going insane.
The first thing to do is to do a through cleaning out of your car before embarking on your trip. Sweep the interior of the car and wipe down all of the surfaces. Once the car is clean you can begin filling it with everything you need in order to make your trip enjoyable. A really great purchase for your car is a backseat organizer. I have my backseat organizer filled with everything we might need on our trip. I keep our Entertainment Book and visitor's bureau packet in there as well as diapers, wipes (for faces and bottoms), snacks, a spare sippy cup, a pen (for jotting down directions), tissues, and small toys for my son to play with. We also keep a plastic bag organizer tied to the back of our seat filled with plastic grocery bags. These bags come in handy for soiled diapers, holding trash, quick clean-up from picnic lunches, or (when not traveling) trips to the grocery store.
I then pack a small plastic crate with toys that my son can play with on his trip. You can fill this crate up with favorite toys or begin to keep a stash of toys that you are saving for just this special occasion. You don't have to go out and spend a bunch of money on these though- check your local dollar store, garage sales, or save all of those silly kid's meal toys that you get when you go out to eat. Some of the things that we keep in our son's crate are puzzles, construction paper for drawing on, crayons and coloring books, a few "new" library books, and a few small toy cars and figurines that are his favorites. The idea is to really space the toys out as much as you can so that they have something to do the entire trip.
When we run out of activities in his box to do that is when we move onto the kiddy music. Try to find music that is at least bearable for the entire family so that you don't need to pop aspirin in order to bear the music. We usually check out a load of music at the library before going on our trip so that there is something good to listen to on the way there. Don't forget to pack some new music for yourself as well so that you too have something to look forward to.
Keep a small cooler in your car for the trip and fill this with lots of healthy goodies for the whole family so that you don't end up blowing a bunch of money at the rest stops on your way there. Try to have lots of snacks on hand, lunch meat, bread, drinks, and breakfast foods/ cereal. This food particularly comes in handy if you are going to be gone for awhile and would like to save money on eating out.
The most important thing to remember is directions to your destination. The source I use the most for printing my directions is Map Quest, though the new Google Maps is also good. Not only do I print out directions TO my destination, but I also print out directions RETURNING from my destination. Yes, some people just reverse the order, but I find it much quicker to have a set in front of me that has already been reversed, especially when I am tired and coming near the end of my vacation. On these directions, include any phone numbers you need (number for the hotel or places you are staying at) and any notes on things you need to remember (confirmation numbers, room numbers, etc.). Staple to these directions any coupons you need for your destination (coupons on car rental, hotels, or restaurants) so that you have everything in one central location.
When packing your suitcases remember to check the weather for an accurate portrayal of the weather in the area you are visiting. Nothing is more uncomfortable then not having the proper attire for your vacation. Bringing layers of clothing insures that you will be comfortable whatever the weather. Keep an umbrella handy in your car as well for any unexpected rain.
Fill zippered plastic bags with your shampoos, lotions, and anything else that might leak or spill in your suitcase. The last thing you want to do is to have to do laundry when you are on your trip- this should ensure that you will not have spilled products to take care of.
Don't forget the little things that can add up to big money spent if you forget them on your trip. Things that are frequently forgotten: cameras, digital cameras, chargers for cameras, film, extra batteries, sunglasses, cell phones, cell phone chargers, calling cards, swimsuits, and maps. Keep a list of all the things you want to remember the day of your trip and check that list twice. A great place to keep the list is next to your bedside table because usually the night before your trip your mind is racing with all the things you need to remember. Jot them down and then get the rest you need and deserve.
Pleasure, Rest, and Relaxation
Review the meaning of vacation and enjoy the time away from home. Make it a time that your whole family can remember with great fondness and remember to record these moments in your journal so that you can look back on them on those hectic days where no vacation is in site. If you are a family that is always on a schedule, then use this time to not be on a schedule. If you enjoy having a planned itinerary then by all means, plan the days the way that makes you and your family happy. The important thing is to enjoy pleasure, rest, and relaxation.
Enjoy your hiatus and happy vacationing!