It’s summertime. I’m sure lots of you have vacations planned. Some of you may have more than one. We don’t have one on the books yet as we generally like to travel when school starts back in the fall. Other than our anniversary trip which is usually my husband’s responsibility to plan.
Our first big family vacation was to Florida. The kids were 5 and 3 at the time. We were to be gone a week and I don’t know whether my husband thought we’d never see Florida again or what, but he planned a BIG vacation. As in, something every day. During that week – and I am not kidding – we went to Kennedy Space Center, Sea World, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios (then MGM), and Universal Studios. Seriously. On that Wednesday, we went to Sea World. We were there less than two hours, possibly less than one. The children were ill and exhausted. I was ill and exhausted. We went back to our condo and slept almost the entire day. That trip was a learning experience to say the least. (And I may have threatened divorce if my husband EVER tried to cram that much activity into one week again. EVER.)
When you’re traveling – especially with children – here are a few things that I found helped make vacations less stressful. Experience is harsh teacher. 🙂
1. Plan time for rest.
If at all possible, plan for days of rest during your vacation. I know a lot of people travel to places like Orlando with the theme parks or other places where there are so many things to do. So many choices. And you want to do them all. DO NOT TRY AND DO THEM ALL IN ONE WEEK. It’s beyond tiring. After that first Florida trip, I planned out our itinerary for future trips. I always allow for a day of rest between attractions; if it’s a shorter trip – less than a week – then at least a morning or an afternoon where there’s time to nap, sit around the pool, etc. Just some relaxation time built in. Otherwise, tired people get ornery. Ornery people like to argue. Not pleasant.
2. Have an itinerary.
Really. Plan your vacation out. Maybe not down to the minute, but have a plan of some sort to go by. When we went back to Disney last year, I didn’t do this. The kids were older. I figured that they could do what they wanted and come and go as the pleased. We stayed on the Disney property so it was just a matter of walking to the front of the resort and getting on the right bus. My daughter later told me that she wished I had had the plan. She didn’t like there not being structure. Go figure. Obviously, you have to have Plan B’s in case of inclement weather (when we went to Disney last year it was COLD!). I generally have a day for rest in the middle of the week, and a half day or at least an early night the day before we leave.
3. If possible, choose a condo over a hotel room.
For me, having a condo space so that I can go to MY room – not just sit on my bed – makes a huge difference in how much love I feel towards the others I’m vacationing with. 🙂 A condo might (or might not) cost a little more, but my sanity is worth it. With little ones, you’ll be able to let them nap away from everyone else. You can nap away from everyone else. I like private balconies where I can sit in the mornings and drink my coffee and read my Bible. I love my family. I really do. I do NOT want to spend a week with them in a hotel room. Been there; done that. No thank you. Hotel rooms shrink a little bit every day of vacation. Were you aware of this phenomenon? I also like condos because lots of them come with washers and dryers. If at all possible, I do laundry before we leave so I don’t have to do it when I get home.
4. Plan your meals.
Research where you’re going to be. Decide how you’ll handle breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Another reason that I like condos is that they have kitchens. And while I don’t want to spend hours cooking while on vacation, I also don’t want to spend all my money eating out. I always take my crock pot on vacation. We eat breakfast in the condo and lunch, too, unless we’re too far away. If we eat lunch out, we try to eat dinner in. We try to only eat out dinner once (maybe twice) because it’s so expensive. (Note: We are not all that big on eating out anyway, so we may just be weird.) But theme park tickets are pricey. Condos are pricey. You can save a lot of money by doing a little planning and eating in. We also carry a picnic lunch and snacks for our trips to and from our vacation location.
5. Have a budget and stick to it.
This is the hardest one, of course. Decide how much you’ll spend on your vacation. If possible, save up beforehand so you won’t be tempted to use that credit card. Factor in gas, food, tickets, lodging, and some for those unexpected things that inevitably pop up. Then keep track of what you spend. It’s easier if you’re using cash or your check/debit card. I stick an envelope in my purse and toss all the receipts in there. I write on the outside of the envelope what we spent and where and keep a running total. Then I know when we need to slow down and be more careful. We don’t have a credit card so when we run out, we run out. It’s a lot less stressful to go home without a looming credit card bill.
Do you have a helpful vacation tip that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. I don’t travel with little ones anymore, so I”m sure there are quite a few things that I’ve left out. I just touched on the “big” things.
Leave a comment and share your tips.