It has been lovingly joked that I plan the fun out of vacation. But the truth is my entire family appreciates all the vacation planning I do to make it as enjoyable as possible. Perhaps sometimes I become a bit too overzealous, but generally the family is happy to go along with me as tour guide. I have a few basic “rules” of planning that I follow.
HAVE A PLAN
This is probably my geekiest vacation planner tactic. I create a spreedsheet schedule. It will include some basic info like arrival, days we are there, where we stay that night and what we do during the day. I often find out about things I want to do as I research and I need to understand where to include the activity or what will need to be traded out. Every vacation has a limited time. So there are always more things to do than possible. If you don’t like spreadsheets simply write out this information and keep it around for a reference.
GET UP IN THE MORNING
My kids probably hate this practice the most. But I don’t believe in sleeping in on vacation (unless of course getting more sleep was the purpose of the vacation). Most of our vacations are to see places we haven’t and you see nothing with your eyes shut. Getting up at an early time like 7 am means you are more likely to miss crowds, more likely to see more sites and more likely to have tired kids by a reasonable hour at night. (a child that is keyed up and ready to start their day at 8pm is the worst –unless you are at Disney World and the fireworks aren’t until 11 pm). Now you may disagree and like I said some vacations are for sleeping. That beach holiday where your goal is to rest and nap doesn’t apply to this.
PLAN A BREAK DAY
If the trip is longer than 3 days (so pretty much everything but weekenders), a rest day must be included. I learned this rule when my kids were little and I wanted to walk the amusement parks from dawn to dusk. The kids could do that for 1-2 days, but by day 3 they were a tired mess. I have found it better to just have a rest day (or one sleep-in day–yes I realize this violates the rule above). This day often consists of pool days, leisurely meals, hangin in hotel rooms or a day of relaxing activity like the beach or even movies.
PLAN TIME TO EAT
This is probably a need for just me, but I have to remember we NEED to eat. I love to pack a schedule (remember more things to do than time). But inevitably the family is crying for food and I am forced to skip something I really wanted to fit in. We are all better feeling if I just include the meals times in our plan. I usually try to plan the meal based on what we are doing. The best tip I got from a friend was to look at what is around your stop that day before you go on the trip. Have 2-3 options of places you could eat at. There is nothing more frustrating that telling the family to wait (while hungry) while you search Yelp for a a good idea of a place to go, because when they grumble you quickly pick something and don’t read the reviews close enough to realize it’s closed and you walked a mile to get to it.
HAVE AN ACTIVITY FOR EVERYONE
There is no way that everyone will be pleased with every museum, attraction or activity. But you can make sure that some portion of each vacation is ideal for that person. For example my husband hates crowds. I don’t love crowds but I do love popular attractions. So I attempt to have one place that is unlikely to have a crowd because it’s off the beaten path or very specific to his interests (think things like drive through the middle of nowhere to see a unique rock formation). It turns out everyone is pretty patient with these things when they know they’ll get their turn.
ASSUME TRANSITION TIME
And then assume it’s LONGER. It’s not that we are slow to get from place to place, but we are unfamiliar. Even with google maps it turns out that getting here and there takes more time than the standard transition at home. Sometimes you miss the train or shuttle (this happens all the time at places with mandatory shuttle access). Just give yourself a cushion, especially if you have prebooked timed-entry tickets. Which brings me to my last tip…
LOOK INTO ALL ATTRACTIONS FOR PREPURCHASE TICKETS
More and more places are going to pre-purchased tickets. So be sure to get yours as early as you can. And don’t assume because when you looked in April that things haven’t changed by June. We learned that Stonehenge could care less when you arrive all winter, but as soon as summer hits you must have timed entry tickets. Thankfully we saw that in time to get a time for our planned visit, but we originally planned to just buy tickets there. Plus prepurchased usually gets a quicker line and that helps with the maximize time thing.
So there you have it my best practices for vacation planning. Do you have any “rules” of vacation planning? Or ways you make the whole thing better planned for yourself?