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Planning a Family Vacation – A Step by Step Approach

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Managing a busy household can be overwhelming. Even getting your whole family together at the dinner table can be a challenge. Planning an entire family vacation? It may seem next to impossible. With a little organization, it’s easier than you might think. Read on to see the family vacation planning tips that will keep you organized and help you avoid pulling your hair out along the way.

Step One: Set a Budget

Setting a budget is a smart move when planning a vacation – it’s one of the most important steps to take to make sure you’re organized. Budgeting can help you determine which destinations you can afford, whether you want to travel in or out-of-season, transportation methods, and more.

To set a vacation budget that won’t break the bank, evaluate your current financial situation. The following questions can help remind you of upcoming expenses to take into account when planning your vacation budget.

  • Have you already saved up for your vacation? Or do you need tips on saving money for vacation? Another option to consider is a travel loan or vacation loan, which would allow you to cover travel expenses like hotels, transportation or other costs.
  • Do you have any upcoming events that you’ll need to spend money on? Birthdays, graduation parties, wedding gifts, and the holidays can creep up on us. If a similar event is happening close to your ideal vacation dates, make a note of how much you plan to spend so you can set that money aside.
  • Are you anticipating any major life changes? Making an addition to your family or planning to move can be costly. Being aware of charges that come along with these life changes can help you understand how much money you’ll have available on vacation. For example, if you’re already in the market for a new home, ask yourself: how much can I afford to pay for a house and a vacation at the same time? If you happen to make the big purchase before your vacation, this will help you estimate your future budget.

After answering these questions, be sure to give your budget some wiggle room in the event that there is an emergency.

Step Two: 1.   Make a Destination Wish-List

Once you have an idea of how much you’re willing to spend, it’s time to pick your destination. It may seem a little backwards to start with a budget and then pick the destination, but knowing how much you’re able to spend beforehand will help set expectations.   Check out some of our ideas for family road trips here

Tip – if your kids are old enough, consider inviting them to help you make a wish-list of where they’d like to go on vacation. This will not only make them feel involved; brainstorming together will take some pressure off you to find the perfect place.

When you’ve collected a few ideas, pick a few target travel dates. Certain destinations fluctuate in price throughout the year, so think about on and off-seasons. If one destination is too expensive in the time frame you’re planning, you have backup options to choose from.

Step Three:  Research Everything Ahead of Time

Nothing is more frustrating than getting dressed up for dinner, heading to the restaurant, and discovering that it’s closed. Now imagine that you’ve spent hours traveling with your kids to get there – disappointing, right? Taking the time to do research about where you’re headed can save you the headache of rescheduling and rearranging plans. Here are some things to look into before you book a room, reserve a table, buy tickets and more:

  • The best dates to travel within your budget. Would you rather visit an amusement park when lines are hours long? Or maybe closer to an off-season when less people will be there?
  • Hotel or rental reviews and policies. Hotels and rentals like AirBnb do their best to present well on the internet. Reading reviews and policies will give you a good idea of what guests actually think about staying there. Pictures may not tell you about noisy trains that run all night by the ground floor, or that there is a pricey fee to bring your furry friends.
  • Weather. Take a look at the projected weather forecast when you are considering your destinations, when you’re packing, and the day you leave. Services like Accuweather can provide you with typical weather behavior months in advance so you can plan accordingly.
  • Know what your attractions provide. Traveling with kids can be wonderful, but you may not need to lug a bulky stroller from location to location. Some attractions, like Disney World, have strollers for rent and even lockers that are available for free for up to two hours in some instances.
  • Luggage storage. If you’re planning on sightseeing before you check in or after you check out of your lodging, consider luggage storage services, like LuggageHero. These services are available in many major cities and airports, so you don’t need to look far to set your bags down and explore.

Step Four: Create an Itinerary with your Family

Your budget is set, you know your destination, and you’ve done your research. Putting together your itinerary is your next step.  Here are some ideas on how to cut down on stress for both you and your family.

  • Book ahead or make reservations. Knowing you have a spot in line when you arrive will cut down on waiting, leaving less room for kids to stress out and get antsy.
  • Account for extra time. Leave room for travel delays, transportation from attraction to attraction, and most importantly – bathroom and food stops.
  • Include backup options. If the weather just won’t cooperate when you’ve booked time at the beach, having a backup option like a museum or bowling alley can save the day.

Step 5:   Make a List (and Check it Twice)

It may be obvious, but making a list of what to pack can save you stress in the long run – especially if you make it early. You can even have your kids make their own lists; they may come up with some creative ways to entertain themselves without bringing their whole toy room.

            Be sure to remember the important things, like medication, IDs, tickets, etc. Once you’ve got a good idea of what to bring, you can slowly chip away at the list so you’re not panicking the night before. Compare your list to the weather forecast close to departure to confirm the weather matches the clothing to be packed.

Tip – bring your list on vacation with you so you can re-pack without forgetting your child’s favorite stuffed animal under the hotel bed.

Step 6: Get Organized (You’ll Thank Yourself Later)

Staying organized is the key to a stress-free vacation planning process – even if that means doing your spring cleaning early. Here are some decluttering tips and tricks to help you avoid the hectic night-before packing rush.

  • Organize your bedroom.  A clean, organized bedroom will help you know which clothes to bring – and exactly where to put them when you come home. Tip – folding storage boxes can give you easy access to clothes for vacation – even if they’re not in-season.
  • Organize your bathroom. Traveling with toiletries can be very restrictive. To stay under the size limit from many airlines, organize your toiletries. Knowing exactly how much toothpaste, shampoo, or body wash you have – or need – can help you plan ahead on what to buy for your trip. For cluttered bathrooms, here are some of our favorite bathroom storage ideas.
  • Organize your home office. No one wants to think about deadlines and meetings while spending time with your family. Home office organization allows you to feel confident leaving your job at home and know exactly where you left off when you get back.
  • Clean out your refrigerator. While you don’t have to get rid of non-perishables or the baking soda that keeps your fridge smelling fresh, it’s a good idea to clear out food that may expire while you are on vacation. Returning to spoiled milk could spoil your whole vacation. 
  • Organize your luggage. After all of the above is organized, identify and clear up a place to compile your luggage as you pack. If it is all in one place, you won’t have to wonder where anything is the closer you get to leaving. Tip – if you’re traveling by car, check out our trunk organizers.

Step 7: Pack Up, Take Off, and Relax

Once you’ve gotten through the stress of planning your vacation, make sure you actually slow down and enjoy it. Looking for ideas on how to organize after you get home and unpack? Get your life organized with meori.com! We create classy storage bags and bins to make your house a happy home. Check out the full meori blog , “Organize Life” including specific ideas on how to organize your home room by room. 

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