Travel Tips: Get Organized For Family Vacations

Summer's here and school's out: it's time to take to the road!

Family vacation travel can be enriching, enjoyable and exciting--but only if you're organized.

The family that fails to plan for summer travel can end up frazzled, frustrated and longing for the quiet comfort of home.

This year, get ready! Whether it's car trips, plane travel or close-to-home "stay-cation" trips, we've assembled OrganizedHome.Com's best, easiest tips to organize summer vacation travel.

What To Know Before You Go

A smooth, stress-free vacation begins well before the trip. Use these ideas to streamline vacation travel planning and preparation:

Establish Travel Central. Whether it's a new divider in a household notebook, a dedicated section in a paper planner, or a Vacation category in your handheld organizer, keep all travel information in a single location. Include contact information for airlines, car rental agencies and travel agents, passport and frequent flyer numbers, and itineraries.

The three most important factors for vacation planning? Lists, lists and more lists! Filed in Travel Central, vacation lists can include personal packing lists for each family member, a "before we leave" checklist, instructions for house-sitters, packing checklist, picnic planner checklist or camping checklist.

Enter the packing zone. As you plan and prepare, set aside an area to gather travel essentials. In addition to tickets, passports, and travel documents, add travel-sized toiletries, tissues, travel appliances and personal care items. Moving from "list" to "packed" is easier if all your gear can be viewed in one place.

Pack It Light, Pack It Right

Packing prowess separates veteran travelers from the armchair variety. Keep these ideas in mind as you pack for vacation travel:

Lighten the load. It's an old saw that still cuts--when traveling, less is more. For each family member, lay out all clothing and personal care items needed for the trip. Remove half before you pack the rest.

Investigate packing organizers. Pack clothing, socks, underwear and personal items in zipper food storage bags to cut wrinkles, protect clothing, and organize suitcases. Commercial organizers can be worth the cost for frequent travelers. Check them out!

Pack for children day-by-day. For easiest travel with kids, use large zipper food storage bags to pack a complete outfit for a single day. Tuck dirty clothing into the same bags at day's end.

Forget what mother told you, and pack your oldest underthings! Collect worn-out socks and underwear throughout the year. When traveling, wear and toss. You'll lighten the load and make room for souvenirs as you go.

Plan for T-shirts. Family vacations mean t-shirts, t-shirts, t-shirts. Deliberately under-pack, knowing you'll add these garments along the way.

Take care of yourself! Put together personal care kits for each family member in a zipper bag or cosmetics organizer. Include sample-sized bottles of shampoo, shower gel, lotion and sun block. Use motel supplies along the way to replenish care kits. At vacation's end, re-stock care kits and store inside suitcases for the next trip.

On The Road

Getting organized for family travel doesn't end when you walk out the front door! Try these strategies to keep the miles rolling ... smoothly.

Pack the snacks! Airlines have cut back on meal and snack service, while roadside treats during car travel can be expensive and nutritionally unsound. Carry a small collapsing insulated bag and include a selection of healthy snacks to stave off the Cookie Monster.

Keep the customers satisfied. A visit to the Dollar Store can go a long way to amuse children while traveling. For maximum impact, package small toys, books, and games separately and dole them out one at a time.

Scale back on souvenirs. Don't let vacation travel saddle your household with more clutter! Instead, consider these clutter-free options: collecting small ornaments for a holiday "travel tree", purchasing postcards, assembling a scrapbook or keeping a personal travel journal to remind you of your trip.

Cut "buy me, buy me!" clamor with a Souvenir Budget. Use an envelope for each child, and deposit a small amount of cash earmarked for souvenirs at the beginning of the trip. Each child may spend the money in the envelope any way he or she chooses. Make it clear that there will be no more money forthcoming! When they control the cash, children become savvy souvenir shoppers.

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