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Stress Free Travel Tips from a Professional Organizer

Ahh, family vacations. It’s something we all look forward to. It gives us parents a much-needed break from work and normal day-to-day life, and research even shows that family vacations have a long-lasting impact on our kids’ happiness. But what we don’t talk about a lot is the travel planning process… and how stressful it can be! 

Just before we took our first vacation after my son was born, a friend said to me, “traveling with kids is not a vacation – it’s a trip.” And it didn’t take me long to realize what she meant. Traveling with kids can be really stressful — which is why I wanted to share my top stress free travel tips, to help save you from some of that headache. 

1. Pre-Plan Your Family Trip

Years ago, I created a packing checklist for our family which majorly reduced the stress of travel. I no longer have to worry about whether or not we’ll forget something, because it’s all on the list! But the reality is, packing isn’t the only stressful part of travel. A lot of the stress comes from planning the trip itself.

I highly recommend doing as much pre-planning as possible. Once you’ve decided on your destination and booked your hotel, there are a few other decisions to make to ensure stress free travel, especially when it comes to transportation. 

For example, if you’re flying, how will you get to the airport? 

  • If you drive to the airport, which lot will you park in and how much extra time do you need to allow for that? 
  • If you’re taking a cab, do you need to bring a car seat, or will you use a company that provides one? 

Same thing once you get to your destination:

  • Will you hail a cab at the airport?
  • Does the hotel provide a shuttle?
  • Do you need to pre-book a car service?

Your hotel can typically help you out with this. 

Once you’ve figured out how you’re going to get from point A to point B, make sure at least one person you’re not traveling with has a copy of your itinerary and local phone numbers in case of emergency.

2. Research your itinerary

Once your trip logistics are ironed out, spend some time thinking about your itinerary. The average family takes 10-20 hours to research and plan a trip, so be sure to give yourself plenty of time to find and evaluate all your options.

One of the biggest stresses of traveling is thinking you’re going to forget something when you pack. If you’re traveling to a place you’ve never been before and can’t picture how you’ll be spending your days, you might not even know where to start! That’s where research is key.

To make packing as stress free as possible, first research the resort or hotel you’ll be staying in and look at its list of amenities. Will you need gym clothes? What about swimsuits? Is there an option to do laundry on-site?

If there are surrounding towns you plan to visit, do some research on the types of activities you might want to try. Some people prefer to book everything ahead of time, whereas others prefer to see how the mood strikes them once they are at their destination. Regardless of which category you fall in, it will help with your packing if you have a sense of what activities you plan to do.

3. Start packing well in advance for ultimate stress free travel

There’s nothing worse than having to make a last-minute run to the store the day before your family trip. If you start laying out your clothes and other belongings a week or two ahead of time, you give yourself ample time to purchase anything you might be missing.

Rather than put stuff directly into a suitcase, I prefer to lay it all out on my bed or floor so I can easily see everything I plan to take. Putting your stuff into the suitcase should be the last step in your stress free travel planning process! 

If you did your homework in step two, you should already have some sense of how you'll spend your days and what you’ll need to pack. If you won’t be doing laundry at all, think about how many different outfits you’ll need for the length of your trip. Try to mix and match outfits as much as you can to minimize the amount of stuff you have to pack. 

Once you have everything laid out that you want to pack, I want you to go through it and put a third of it back in your closet or dresser! Trust me, friend — you won’t need it. Overpacking will literally and figuratively weigh you down.

4. Take care of house stuff

Stress free travel prep doesn’t only involve packing your clothes — it also means making sure your home will be taken care of while you’re away.

Here are some of the things that I like to do in advance of a family trip, to make sure our house is as organized and tidy as possible on our return:

  • Make sure everything is in its usual place, so you know where to find things when you come back
  • Empty your fridge and pantry of anything that might go off while you’re away (check out my post on How to Organize Your Fridge for more food waste prevention tips!)
  • Put a hold on your mail and newspaper delivery
  • Cancel your trash pick-up 
  • Tell a neighbor you’ll be away so they can keep tabs on your house
  • Leave at least one light on inside the home so it doesn’t look empty

5. Fill your luggage

Once you’ve done all your planning and research, taken care of your home, and purchased everything you need — it’s time to pack! I recommend packing all of your stuff into your suitcase at least a day or two before you are set to leave, so you can use the last couple of days before your trip to take care of anything that comes up last-minute. 

If you plan to check a bag, I suggest that each person you’re traveling with have a carry-on with a change of clothes, a set of PJs, some toiletries, and a bathing suit, cover-up, and flip flops (if you’re traveling to a warm-weather destination). That way, you’ll be all set for a full day should your luggage get lost. 

Of course, make sure you’re also filling those carry-ons with tons of snacks and activities for kids, including the non-electronic variety. Nothing says stress free travel like a bunch of happily entertained kids!

Enjoy your vacation - and your stress free travel!

Traveling can be very stressful, but don’t let that overshadow the joy of vacationing together as a family and all the wonderful memories you’re about to make. 

And when you start to feel a little overwhelmed in the planning and packing process, just remember — if you do forget something, chances are you’ll be able to find it wherever you’re visiting. Sure, it’ll probably be priced exorbitantly high. But should the worst-case scenario happen, you won’t be left in a lurch!

Safe travels, friends!

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