Monday, June 2, 2008

Organized Relaxation? Yes, You Can Organize Your Vacation!

Yes, I even organize my relaxation time! I am that neurotic. Really. Just ask my husband, who’s been trying to get me to relax for years. But even homeschooling families need a vacation.

Seriously, organization is the pathway to real relaxation. Once the details are in place, then I don’t have to worry about them and I can be at ease. I’m not running around trying to find sun block or hats or beach towels. I’m not stressed about where we’re headed or how to get there; it’s already worked out. Snacks? No problem. Car activities? Right in that bag. (Better yet, get your kids to pack their own small traveling bags with quiet games, books, and stuffed animals.)

What’s my secret? Lists. When something pops into my head, I write it on the appropriate list. I usually have several lists running concurrently for different purposes. By spending a little bit of effort ahead of time writing lists, I can avoid the frustration of forgetting important items. The vacation list can be started at any time – the earlier the better. When I’m ready to pack for a trip, out comes my list. I check things off as they are packed. This method also allows me to pack more quickly since I’m not wasting time trying to remember what else needs to be brought. A plethora of websites offer free packing lists for various types of trips and travelers. Here are a few of my favorites: http://honeymoons.about.com/cs/travelplanner/a/Packing_List.htm, http://www.flylady.net/pages/FLYingLessons_PackingList.asp, http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art29190.asp.

Another detail that I like to organize ahead of time is the itinerary. Two to four weeks before our departure date, I go online to map out the roads we’ll be taking. Often, I check several mapping websites as well as a regular road atlas to make sure that we’re going the most direct and the most easy route. I print out the directions and map and store them in a desk drawer or with a pile of stuff already slated to go on the trip. I also spend time looking for and planning activities at our chosen destination. I look at the costs, additional travel time required, and educational values. While this may seem restrictive to some people, it’s really not. It gives us choices of many activities that we could possibly do. We don’t do everything I’ve planned and sometimes we do things I didn’t plan, but at least we’ve got a starting point. Since travel time is excellent reading time, I often bring material regarding the places we’ll be visiting. This helps my kids to get an introduction to and historical background on what they’ll be seeing and it’s a great way to get kids excited about unknown places.

One last tip for organizing a vacation: start early. I usually start putting things in a neat pile in the guest room (or my room) a week or two before our planned vacation dates. I do this as I remember things that aren’t on my original list or as I look at my list and see things that could be set aside ahead of time. This photo is of the pile that I’ve accumulated in our guest room for our impending shore trip. Of course there will be quite a few items that can’t be packed until the day or two prior to leaving, but the more that’s done ahead of time, the less stressed I am the day before. Just in case you didn’t catch it, I never wait until the morning of a scheduled departure to drag out the suitcases!

Happy trails!