Organization Tips for Family Travel

It's all too easy to get overwhelmed when planning for family travel. You've got to take everyone's wants and needs into consideration, while insuring safety and adhering to a budget. But the well-executed family vacation leaves everyone with beloved memories that can last a lifetime. The flipside of that coin is missed flights, food poisoning, grumpy kids and all the other disasters you would really prefer to avoid. Your best weapon against those problems is organization. The better prepared you are, the greater the chance that your family trip will go off without a hitch. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you are trying to organize for family travel.

To really minimize the stress, get started well before the trip occurs. Set aside a small corner of the house as travel headquarters. You don't need to go overboard. It can be as simple as a small notebook or a digital list than everyone can access, or even an accordion folder with physical copies of everything. But you must keep all details contained in one location. That means all of the airline information, any travel agent contacts if you're using one, all of your car rental and frequent flier memberships and full itineraries for your trip. It's also a good idea to keep everyone's passports together as well, so you can make sure your family has all it needs before you leave the house.

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As you create different sections in your travel organizer, make lists for everything that needs to be handled. Start early, and don't be afraid to make the lists overly detailed. You can always trim them back if you find certain notes unnecessary, but you want to make sure that each and every contingency and desire has been considered before you
even pack the first bag. You'll have lists for each destination, lists of required identification, lists for packing, and even a list for around the house, to make sure you don't come home after your long trip to some other kind of disaster.

Once the lists are complete and the week of your trip has come, it's time to start packing. Make sure everyone has a written packing list, and that each person lays out what they want to bring before shoving it in the suitcase. After you see it all together, consider ways to cut down to the bare necessities. Lugging suitcases that are too heavy can put a damper on your travel, and you certainly want to leave room for gifts and souvenirs. Consider organizers that can help squeeze additional items into each suitcase, and include separate kits for each person's bathroom supplies and cosmetics. If you finding the process too complicated to keep straight, try packing your kids' bags by day, literally separating full outfits into large Ziploc bags. You'll always be sure you've packed enough for them, and then you can shove their dirty clothes right back in each day's bag.

Once you've left the house and the trip has begun, consider ways to keep everyone happy and moving in the same direction. You don't want to always be arguing with your children over every little impulse purchase, so instead give each family member their own souvenir budget. They can be in charge of that money, placed in their own special envelope, as long as they are clear that if they spend it all in the first few day's they're out of luck. But don't make it all about souvenirs. Every time children see security labels on something they think that means it is worth buying. But most of that tourist junk is just that. Instead, organize some sort of ongoing art project, like a collage of postcards or a scrapbook of family pictures. Get the kids involved in that, and everyone will be much more satisfied in the long run.

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