Organizing a Stress-Free Vacation
Sara S. Skillen, CPO®, owner of SkillSet Organizing Who’s hitting the road for some fun travel this summer? OK, now how many of us will struggle with forgetting something, dragging luggage, riding in a cramped vehicle,
Sara S. Skillen, CPO®, owner of SkillSet Organizing
Who’s hitting the road for some fun travel this summer? OK, now how many of us will struggle with forgetting something, dragging luggage, riding in a cramped vehicle, crabby children (or adults!) and end up needing a vacation from our vacation? Sometimes it seems that even doing something as innocent and all-American as going camping requires a degree in project planning to account for all of the moving parts and details. Other than the cost, factors that rank high for vacation stress are small spaces (both in the mode of travel and accommodations), wasting time (waiting for others, or for things to open), and having to pay more for unexpected extras. With those factors in mind, I thought this month it would be helpful to outline a few ways to cut back on the hassle and organize the details for successful summer travel.
First, it’s all about the research. My motto: know before you go. The more time you put into the planning, the more time you’ll have to enjoy the journey. With your budget and destination in mind, head to the web to gather facts. I find researching vacation spots a lot of fun, and with all of the travel sites, ratings, and online reviews it’s easier than ever to have a good grip on accommodations and activities that suit your preferences. You can pretty much find anything – from a condo on the beach that sleeps 20 to a quirky, urban B&B – just by typing in a few search options. Other things to check out:
- What is included in your stay (free WiFi, meals, beach accessories, etc.)?
- What other services might make things easier (concierge, child care or activities, skycaps, etc.)?
- What are the latest airport security requirements?
- When and where are gratuities expected?
- Does the hotel or rental have a washer and dryer?
- What accommodations are available for any special needs or diet?
- What sort of medical/emergency assistance is close to your destination?
Try going digital with your information and keep all of your confirmation numbers, boarding passes, addresses, phone numbers, etc. on your phone and/or in an app. I create an Evernote notebook for each trip our family takes, and share it with my husband. We both add information about the budget, packing lists, reservations, attractions, and restaurants we’d like to try ahead of time. Once we’re on the road, we have all of the essential details right on our phones, plus we have a record of everything after the vacation is over (I’ve used the information I keep to make recommendations for friends traveling to the same places). It’s also great to have a weather app like Wunderground or Rainaware downloaded and ready to go.
Then it’s all about the packing. I am a huge advocate for packing light, and I will do anything possible to not check a bag on a flight (statistics show that about 23.1 million bags were mishandled in 2016*). You are on vacation, not headed to New York Fashion Week, so you don’t need tons of separate outfits. One of my “musts” on any trip longer than three days is access to laundry facilities (although I once did 12 days in Europe with one bag, a backpack, and plenty of underwear!). I always pack an outfit or two that can be used more than one way. For example, a long black tunic can function over leggings for shopping during the day, and then convert to something dressier for the evening by adding jewelry. More packing tips:
- Make a list. Check it twice, and then check it again.
- Include things that serve more than one purpose – scarves, tanks, and t-shirts work in lots of ways.
- Make use of packing cubes, or even large plastic baggies to flatten down clothing and create extra space (the bags can also be used for items that leak or get dirty).
- Try not to drag bulky “entertainments” along for the kids (try listening to audio books, podcasts, or music to keep from taking up too much valuable car or suitcase space).
- Keep a few emergency items (band-aids, pain reliever, extra device charger), but don’t go overboard. Unless you’re traveling to a remote location, extras can usually be purchased when and only if needed.
Time management skills are a plus. Say you have a 3-hour flight – it’s not really just 3 hours. Don’t forget to count the time spent parking at the airport, checking bags (if you must – see above), getting through security, exchanging currency, and maybe grabbing a snack or meal for a long flight. When traveling by car allow time for traffic jams, rest stops, and other unexpected delays.
Finally, be sure to plan for some downtime during the trip, so everyone can have a chance to stretch out, relax, and regroup (maybe even clean or repack used items to save time at the end of the trip). After all, your vacation is an investment in time and money – organizing it well will ensure that you get your return in fun and relaxation.
Happy, safe, and organized travels to all!