A family vacation can be heaven or hell. A lot can go wrong, especially with two or more generations and across state lines. Still, a properly-executed vacation can provide excitement, adventure, and bonding.
The most important part of your vacation is staying safe. After that, the key to getting the most out of a break is to plan. By knowing where you’re “meant to be” at all times and preparing for unplanned eventualities, you can be more spontaneous and respond more quickly to things beyond your control.
Here is how to plan, pack, and prepare to keep your family vacation running smoothly.
What do wars, market domination, and family vacations have in common? Effective strategizing and meticulous planning.
A smooth family vacation requires careful thought and preparation. While you might be able to make it up when going alone, traveling en masse (and that includes a family of three) requires planning.
- Prepare and familiarize yourself with your itinerary. If you need connecting buses or flights, it’s essential to allow enough time to make those connections. No one wants to be running from station to station or terminal to terminal with luggage.
Preparation will also help you organize things so that you arrive in new places in daylight. This is generally safer and easier than arriving when it’s dark and useful businesses may be closed.
- Check Google Maps or another map service. Looking at maps of your destination online might cause a few spoilers for your family vacation, but it can help you prepare. You’ll get the lay of the land around your hotel, for example, and the distances and directions to useful services, like hospitals, pharmacies, and maybe a casino or two.
- Find out what everyone wants to do. It’s unusual for everyone to want to do the same thing during a family holiday. You can help things go more smoothly by finding out what everyone would like to do before you all arrive. Look at events and places online to see if there will be a way to satisfy everyone at your vacation destination.
- Check opening days and times. Depending on the time of year you travel, not all the attractions you want will be open. Or they may have restricted hours. The time for disappointment about this kind of thing is while at home.
By checking out your ideal attractions in advance, you can schedule them to ensure you visit them and to give everyone a heads-up if there are issues.
Packing in advance gives you time to remember important things to include and reduces the stress of vacation prep.
- Pack light and in advance. This tip is the two combined since packing in advance facilitates packing light.
Bulky cases that you have to carry around throughout the trip can take the edge off an otherwise fun vacation. A wise traveler once suggested that people pack their cases at least two weeks before a trip, then spend each day removing at least one item from each case. Whether you agree with them or not, their heart is in the right place.
Packing in a hurry is the key to packing too much. By packing conservatively and then reassessing and removing items at leisure, you’re more likely to have manageable luggage when you travel.
- Include “go-bags.” It’s an excellent idea to have small, prepared bags, such as rucksacks, that you and your family can use when staying overnight in a location, going out on an adventure, or just wanting to take a shower and change your clothes. Having a go-bag prevents you from frequently excavating your case and unpacking it.
Besides, when you need a snack, travel document, your toothbrush, or other personal hygiene products, they are in a portable go-bag. Everyone traveling with you, except very young children, should have their own ones.
- Use a packing list. You can use a general packing list and adapt it to your needs. With a guide at hand, you will surely remember critical items like medications and travel documents.
A smooth vacation is one where people don’t scam you, you don’t get lost, and nobody ends up in the hospital. So you need to take precautions against these eventualities.
For a smooth trip, it’s essential to have contingency plans so you can deal with unexpected situations promptly. Even if you don’t use any of your disaster planning, you’ll be more relaxed because you’re prepared.
- Check people out. Being on vacation tends to mean interacting with strangers. You might be planning to stay at someone’s Airbnb or getting picked up from the airport by Uber or a friend of a friend. It’s wise to do due diligence regarding people you’ve not met in person.
Fortunately, it’s 2023, which means you no longer need to hire a private detective. Put the person’s phone number into PhoneHistory’s search bar, and it will give you the owner’s contact details, name, profession, state, how long they’ve had that phone number, etc. – all useful information for verifying someone’s identity against what they’ve told you about themselves.
In addition, investigate their social media, look at their reviews, and consider contacting the reviewers for details if needed.
- Arrive in daylight. Normally, fewer predatory criminals, such as pickpockets, operate during the day, making this the safest time to arrive in a new place with your family.
Arriving in daylight also has the advantage that you’ll be able to find your way around better. If you get a cab to your destination, you’ll find it easier to verify your route to ensure you’re not taking the longest, most expensive route. And you’ll have a chance to familiarize yourself with the environment.
- Don’t be overreliant on technology. Do pack a portable charger (preferably solar) in your go-bag, but don’t leave every piece of critical information on your phone. In case of a dead battery, screen damage, or theft, you’ll find yourself with a significantly rougher vacation.
Pack a paper map, cash distributed in at least two different locations on your person, and useful telephone numbers, such as an emergency contact, the number for your destination, a close friend or family member, a local pharmacy, the tourist information center, and the US embassy.
The way to have a smooth family vacation is to have a slightly choppier time preparing for it. Most would agree that staying safe and having a more pleasant trip is worth it. While there is a lot to do, you might discover that your family’s anticipation of the event will increase, making the preparation time more exciting and the result more rewarding.