Family Vacation: Are You Ready?

Travel Tips

It doesn’t really matter what age my kids are, prepping for a family vacation can be a chore. When it’s just my husband and I, somehow it seems way more relaxed. But throw in a few kids and suddenly it becomes a major production leading up to the vacation. The good news is traveling with teens and their gear is way easier than with babies.

I took note before our last trip on things that needed to be done. I’m just passing along some helpful tips:

Vacation Countdown: 2 Weeks Out

Locate passports and check expiration dates. Locating our passports can be tricky as the kids (and the hubs) frequently need them for trips. They never seem to be in one central location. Kids’ passports expire every five years, but many times they won’t let you go/return if there is less than six months until the expiration date. Check to make sure they are within that time frame.

Since we are here as diplomats, we tend to travel with two sets of passports. When we actually get ready to leave, I will take one set and the hubs will take the other in case something happens then everyone has some identity.

Double check all the reservations. This means airline/train dates, seats, luggage allowance, etc. Confirm apartment payments, rooms (how many beds), address, etc. Do it early in case things are incorrect then you have time to change them up or manage expectations.

Create a rough itinerary. Depending on where you go, things can fill up quickly. With our latest trip planning—Paris—we were already too late for a cooking class the weekend we’ll be visiting. Make sure to order tickets online for the must-see sights in advance so you’ll be sure to have those locked in. It’s tempting to say you’ll just wing it. Sometimes that will work and sometimes it won’t. If it’s important to see, don’t leave it to chance. Trust me!

Related: 5 Tips for Planning Your Next Vacation with Teens

Vacation Countdown: 1 Week Out

Confirm absences at school (plus sports, and activities). Don’t laugh at this. I have completely forgotten to tell the school that my kids were gone. We try to go during the breaks, but sometimes we might leave a day or two early to get in some extra time. Also, confirm your teens have told their teachers. This was another lesson we recently learned. While I told the school so they didn’t get in trouble, not all the teachers were told in advance. With exams, papers and projects due, kids need to inform their teachers that they will be out in case there is anything to make up or take along on the trip.

Related: What to Read (or Watch) Before Your Next Vacation

Almost Ready: Time to Pack

I no longer pack for my kids. Not my job. They are young adults and want to independent so they are required to pack their own suitcases. Soon they will be going to college, right? Each kid gets a packing list to work from. Here is one I use that seems to get 95% of things in the suitcase. Every single trip someone forgets something—toothbrush, phone charger, PJs, belt, etc. I consider it part of the learning experience for us all to better adapt. If you forget it once, I am damn sure you won’t forget it the next time.

Snacks? Sometimes I feel like I still have toddlers. Why does everyone always need snacks? Because ‘hangry’ kids make everyone miserable. Protein bars, trail mix, crackers, dried fruit are important to have just in case. We can always buy stuff there, but just in case we’re stranded somewhere, I want to make sure we have food.

All the chargers for all the devices. I would like to believe that our family can unplug while we’re away, but we cannot. I do try to enforce a “let’s not look at our phone while we’re sightseeing at important place” rule, but life happens and well, sometimes they are looking at their phones. Here is why everyone needs chargers. Sharing charging cords at the end of a long time creates fights. No one needs that. Bring a charger for every child. The adults, however, can share. We’re much more accommodating.

If you’re traveling abroad, do not assume the hotel or apartment will have electrical adapters there. In all our travels only one apartment provided a power strip with the plug converters. Keep in mind things like phones and computers from the US can be plugged in almost anywhere, but other things like lights, alarm clocks, or hair dryers may not work or will break when plugged in.

Happy Travels!


Main photo by Nils Nedel on Unsplash

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