Are you planning a family vacation? While vacations are fun, and often help you relax, regroup, and enjoy your family, it can often be stressful before your trip. With everything that you need to do before you leave, you’ll probably need your vacation time just to relax.
Last summer, before heading out on our Greece family vacation, I spent weeks preparing for our trip. Whether you are going on a quick weekend getaway, or an epic European vacation, here is a vacation checklist of some of the things that you may need to do before you go for a stress free vacation including things to pack on your vacation.
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Note that this may not be a completely comprehensive travel checklist. We are not responsible for omissions.
Packing Your Bags: Travel Packing List
This is the most obvious, but also the most stressful. I have the most difficult time figuring out exactly how much I need to bring on my vacation. It’s a delicate balance between packing every single thing you may possibly need and keeping your bags lightweight.
Depending upon your plans, you’ll need to decide how many bags to bring. If you are flying, you’ll typically be allowed a personal item and a carry on bag (although some airlines may charge for the carry on). Most airlines (with the exception of Southwest Airlines) charge for checked bags. It’s a good idea to check with your airline before packing so that you can be prepared.
Before you start packing, take a look at the weather for your upcoming vacation. If you are going to multiple destinations, make sure that you check each spot. I remember going to Hawaii and San Francisco on our honeymoon, and completely forgetting that San Francisco weather can be chilly. I ended up adding a few San Francisco sweatshirts to my wardrobe during that trip!
We have travel ultimate packing lists here that you can download. These vacation packing checklists may not include everything that you need, but they should be a good start. If you are traveling to Europe, you can check out our Europe packing list with some additional items to bring. Our travel packing lists are separated based upon the type of trip you are taking (with different lists for a beach vacation, theme park vacation, and city vacation).
If you take medication, make sure you refill your prescription before leaving. If you need a prescription for the refill, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of time to talk to your doctor.
One of our top travel tips is to use packing cubes. They can help you pack light, and are a great way to separate out outfits for each member of the family. When we switch hotels on vacation, I find packing cubes especially helpful. That way, we have our outfits divided by location, and don’t need to unpack the items that we don’t need.
Find packing cubes to buy here.
If you are flying, you’ll want to pack your carry on bags with things that you may need on the flight. In addition to things like my phone and charger, I also like to carry a small first aid kit with essential medications (including my daughter’s Epi-Pen), a water bottle, and a snack.
Prepare Your Home
We have some great tips for preparing your home for a vacation here . You’ll want to make sure that you have your mail held before you leave. I also generally tell a neighbor that I am going on vacation, so that she can make sure that no packages are sitting outside our house while we are away. Even if you hold your mail, some items can show up.
If you have a pet, in addition to arranging pet care, you’ll want to make sure that all shots are up to date. This may involve getting a vet appointment, so do this early. I’ve found that our kennel gets especially booked up during school vacations and holidays, so make that reservation early.
Verify All Plans
I’ve heard nightmare stories of people who accidentally booked their flights for the wrong weekend, or who forgot to book a hotel. Before you leave, just re-verify all of your plans, making sure that everything is set exactly as you want it to be. If you are flying, now is a good time to ensure your seat assignments haven’t changed at all. I’ve experienced a change in seating that I was unaware of, and it’s always better for you to be aware of it sooner, especially if that change means you are not longer sitting next to your kids.
Get All Documents Ready
Check passports, driver’s licenses, and other IDs now. Make sure that your credit cards haven’t expired or won’t expire soon. I’ve known people who have tried to rent a car with an expired driver’s license and were turned away. It’s easy to miss – so it’s always better to check in advance. Remember that you may need a Real ID to fly.
In addition, pull all of the paperwork that you need to bring, including vacation documentation, boarding passes, confirmations, etc. While you may have some of this information in your email, I always find it easier to bring along a printed copy so I’m not stuck looking it up if I need it. If you are traveling internationally, know the name and address of where you are staying so you can add it to the customs paperwork.
Prepare Your Phone
If you are traveling out of the country, you’ll want to talk to your wireless provider to find out if you have coverage. If not, you may choose to purchase an international plan. Even if you don’t have wireless coverage, you can still use Google Maps – you just need to download the area that you need to your phone while you are on WiFi.
There are also some apps that you may want to download to make your vacation more efficient. Do this in advance so you don’t have to do it on the road.
How do you prepare to go on vacation? Is there anything else we should add to our vacation checklist?