Traveling should be fun, especially when going to another country. All too often however, a lack of proper planning means that a trip ends up far more stressful than it ought to be. That goes double if you’re traveling with kids.
The following are 10 travel tips that will help make your next vacation much more relaxing:
Make a List
This is the single most important thing you can do. Everything you want to take, from clean underwear to bug spray to coloring books for the kids, should be written down on your list. Be as thorough as possible. Having it on a list means much less chance of forgetting it, either coming or going! Which brings us to…
Check it Twice
Have two places on your list to check off each item. The first check mark shouldn’t be made until the item is actually in the suitcase or carry-on, packed, and ready to go for the trip out. The second check mark is for the trip back.
Never check them off until the item is actually packed, though. It’s easy to set something beside the suitcase, check it off; because, after all, it’s right there; and then never actually pack it. The check marks are to make sure things actually get packed!
Know Your Needs
This one and the next one go together, but whenever you’re traveling, you should always know what you’re going to need on your trip. Are you going somewhere hot? Somewhere cold? Is there a supermarket or drugstore in the area? Will you need to have cash on hand, or just a credit card?
Are you flying, driving, or riding a train? Different transportation methods will get you to different places in different ways, but there’s one similarity between all of them: unless you’re driving, and you’re the only one driving, there’s going to be some time where you don’t have anything to do. Bring a book or a journal with you, and take advantage of the downtime. If you have kids, make sure they have something to do too.
Know Your Travel Destination
What are the highlights of your travel destination? What things are “must-see” for you and what things can you skip? Do a little research to know where the restaurants, museums, natural sights, and so on are. Need some help? Check out our Team Travel Guides featuring fun activities in cities all across America!
Make a list of one or two places you want to see per day; then make an alternate list of places you’d like to see if you have time. By doing it this way, you cut down on the need to rush around trying to see everything, but you also make sure that there are places you can go if you find you have extra time that you don’t want to spend relaxing.
Traveling with Kids? Be Prepared!
Traveling with kids demands its own article; its own book, even. However, there are a few strategies you can implement beforehand to make it easier. First, bring plenty for them to do. Kids get bored easily. Prepare for that by stocking up on a few favorite books and travel board games.
Also, don’t plan too much for one day. Remember, when kids get tired, they get cranky! Plan for lots of time to rest and relax.
Make the Most of Carry-Ons
Your carry-on is the bag you’ll have with you on the flight. Make the most of it by planning ahead of time what should go into it. Medications, books, board games, a change of clean clothes, deodorant, makeup… anything you want to have on hand and anything you couldn’t live without if the airline lost your luggage should go into your carry-on.
Just in case it does get lost however, check out our article about what to do if an airline loses your luggage.
Weigh Your Bags
The last thing you want to do is get to the airport and discover that your bags are too heavy. There’s a 50-pound limit for checked bags, and a 40-pound limit for your carry-on. Grab a scale and weigh the bags as you’re packing them. It seems like a little thing, but it can make all the difference later on when you’re rushing to catch a flight!
Vaccinations and Medications
If you’re traveling within your own country, vaccinations shouldn’t be a problem. But if you’re traveling outside of the country, know what sort of vaccinations you’ll need, and have this information several months in advance if at all possible. It takes time to set up a doctor’s appointment. Some vaccinations even take time to become effective. Getting your vaccinations should be one of the first things you look into doing when you travel, not one of the last.
Even if you’re traveling within your own country, know what medications you’ll need. Make sure any prescriptions are filled, and that you have enough medicine to last the length of your vacation. This goes double, of course, if you’re traveling to another country.
There will always be last-minute things, things that you forgot to put on your list and find yourself having to do at the last minute. These things happen, and no amount of planning will prevent them. So instead of getting rushed and panicky because you left the aspirin on the kitchen counter, remind yourself to sit back, relax, and let it go.
If you do find yourself going back to get it, use gentle, self-deprecating humor no matter whose fault it was that the item was forgotten. “Oops! I’ll forget my head one of these days” makes for a much more relaxing trip than any amount of swearing, fuming, or arguing because an item was left behind.
This one is sometimes actually harder than it sounds. If you’re traveling to a different country, you’ll encounter different customs, different sanitation, sometimes even a different language. Even if you’re going somewhere as prosaic as Disney World, you’ll still be facing long lines, long days, the hot sun, and tired children. When you’re up against things like that, even the most pleasant trip can start to feel overwhelming. Tell yourself to have fun and you will!