“Are we having fun yet?”

There are certain times of my life when I am so thankful that my family is organized and hasroutines. Getting ready for vacations under extreme circumstances is one of them. Last year our family headed to the New Jersey shore just 5 days after I got out of the hospital after heart surgery. “Crazy” you might think but it was actually a great way & place for me to recuperate. Because we have a system and a packing list that resides on my computer it was really easy. For the heavy lifting and running around, my big sister was a big help. She came by the day before we left and loaded up food, towels & sheets and even took my kids shopping for what they were missing. I just orchestrated. Once there, I had lazy days and walks on the boardwalk – exactly what the doctor ordered. Here is our family system:

  1. Pack up your family in one week – As a general rule, getting ready to go on vacation shouldn’t take longer than the vacation itself. 

Typical schedule the week before vacation:

Sun – Check the weather for the place you are going so you can pack appropriate clothing.  Go on-line and cancel your paper/mail for the days you won’t be home.

Mon – Clean the house. Print out your packing list.

Tues – Run to stores to pick up sundries you will need.

Wed – Pack toys, books, music etc.

Thurs – Wash and pack clothes.

Fri – Pack dry food.  Drop off your pet if necessary.

Sat – Pack cold food in cooler, and pack the car.

  1. Packing list – Keep a general list on your computer so you don’t have to create it every year.  For example write “5 shorts outfits, 3 pajamas” instead of “green shorts, tan t-shirt, blue pajamas, plaid boxers.”  Have the children pack their own clothes and toys, but give them the guidelines. Give them each a  bag to fill it with toys, videos and books of their choosing.
  2. Meal planning – Plan out dinners for the week and make sure you have some staples for lunch and breakfast. For the first night, it’s easier to pack something pre-made so you just have to pop it in the oven.  For the last night of vacation, don’t plan a meal, just eat left-overs so there’s less to bring home.
  3. Prepare for the weather – I once heard someone say, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” How true this is! You don’t have to let bad weather spoil your vacation; you just have to have a Plan B.  Check the weather for wherever you are headed so you at least have an idea about the temperature and precipitation.  Even if it’s supposed to be dry, I usually pack umbrellas and water proof jackets for everyone in my family. 
  4. Don’t over-schedule – Have you ever had a vacation that was so packed with activities you needed another vacation when you came home?  Think      about that before you take your next vacation.  You want everyone to have fun, but you  also want to have some relaxation built in.  In my experience the kids are usually worn out by mid week of the first week of vacation.  Whether it’s experiencing Disney World,  going to a beach or visiting friends out of town, the change in schedules will affect the children, so plan on it. Take one day and don’t do anything extra.  Sleep late, go to bed early, lie around and watch movies or whatever suits your family.  Take a “Sunday” in the middle of your vacation week and recharge everyone’s energy.

My system came in handy again this year when a funny thing happened. We found out that the house my mother-in-law booked at the beach was actually booked a week before we all planned! (She had not looked at the dates on the lease.) We found this out 5 days before our start date. Needless to say we had to shorten the plan and adapt, but we made it down a few days late and relaxed anyway!

What’s your vacation strategy?

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