We just love this photo from Peanut Blossom (and their great packing tips) If a picture is a worth a 1000 words, this one speaks volumes about getting ready for a family vacation.
Prepping for any trip is stressful. Parents on vacation countdown have a LOT to remember. First things first, please remember, vacations are suppose to be FUN. Give yourself time and a plan for getting all your ducks in a row. Procrastination will only leave you feeling burdoned and overwhelmed in the end. Your stress will effect the kids and make everyone miserable Setting goals and having a deadline for completion often helps to keep everybody sane.
ONE MONTH PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
Step 1. -Download a vacation countdown app as soon as you confirm your reservations. This works as a nice little reality check so that time won't get ahead of you. It also reminds us each day of something fun to look forward too.
Step 2. -While you're downloading apps, get yourself some tools to help you get through the airport and onto your plane with ease. My favorites are GateGuru and Ifly but there are plenty out there to choose.
Step 3 - Prep the kids - Often when we parents are busy and stressed it's easy to overlook the little ones. Use age appropriate preps and chores gets them invested and on board. Use stories and role playing with little ones about what they can expect, especially if this is their first airport adventure or plane ride. With teens and tweens, bribery works well like extra souvenir money for completing specific prep tasks on time
Step 4. Make your airport travel arrangements. Book your car service to take you roundtrip from your home to the airport. If you plan to drive yourself and park at the airport, make advanced reservations. Do a google search for "airport parking (your local airport)" and you should find plenty of options along with discount coupons. If you have a best friend or relative that "owes you one" who will drive your family to the airport even better. Do a google search for "cell phone parking (your local airport)" and email your chauffer this information to help coordinate your ride home.
Remember you will need to be AT THE AIRPORT at LEAST one hour prior to domestic departures for flights within the U.S. Arrive at LEAST 2 hours prior to any international flights. Be sure to factor in your airpor drive times, especially if your flights happen during commuter time.
If you have a very early morning flight, you may want to consider a Park & Stay package. We can arrange a hotel stay at an airport hotel for 1 night prior to your flight which includes parking while you're away. Park your car, get a good night's sleep and the hotel courtesy shuttle bus will drop you at the airport bright and early in the morning. On the way home, take the courtesy shuttle back over to the hotel, get your car and away you go.
Step 5. -BEFORE you start to pack it's important to know every airline has their own rules and fees when it comes to luggage, strollers, car seats, golf clubs, etc (and they are always changing). Be sure to double check the baggage rules and fees ahead of time to avoid costly mistakes. This will give you time to plan exactly what gear your family will need to take. It will also give you time to purchase any gear you may potentially need (suitcases, umbrella strollers etc).
Most airlines charge for checked luggage. If you're bag is very large or weighs more than 50 pounds, most airlines charge a premium fee for this. Use your bathroom scale to double check and avoid surprises.
Generally each passenger is allowed one carry on bag and one personal item. Think of a carry on bag to be comparable to the size of one standard flully bed pillow. Carry on bags must be able to fit in the storage compartments above your seat. Personal items are things like purses, laptop bags or kid size backpacks. Personal items MUST be able to fit UNDER the seat in front of you. BE SURE to keep very important items like medication, cash and your child's lovie with you at all times in your carry on gear.
Kids luggage - If you pay for an airline seat for your baby, they are entitled to the same luggage rules as adults. In this case, their diaper bag could count as their carry on. If your baby is flying free, then they are not entitled to a carry on and would need to pay for luggage. Parents will need to carry all diaper bag necessities in their OWN carry on bags. For older kids we just love these fun ride on, carry on suitcases that help to make getting thru the airport more fun.
Step 6 - Start collecting, selecting and gathering everything that you are thinking of taking with you. Take that last minute trip to Target for travel size toothpaste, sunblock and new shades. Start laying out the clothes you "think" you want to take. Put everything into one place. Instead of spreading everything out on the guest bed, try a shopping bag for each person. This helps to confine and limit your wardrobe selections.
ONE WEEK PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
Step 7.- PACK YOUR BAGS This will give you plenty of time for last minute laundry and weather forcasts. It also allows you time for editing. Packing only the essentials will save you extra luggage fees, angst and low back pain. If you plan to do any specific activities like disney walking, jungle hikes or skiing, make sure you have appropriate gear. Sort and pack kids gear in large ziploc bags for easy morning assembly and a return spot for dirty, stinky laundry.
Speaking of ziploc bags - pack your bags with airport security in mind. Make sure all carry on liquids and laptops are packed with easy access in mind. You will need to take these out of your bag and put them thru the Xray machines at airport security check points.
The last item needed for packing is a photo copier. Make two photo copies of your etickets, passports, or ID's. Put in the bottom or lining of your suitcase and leave one copy with a family member or trusted friend. This way you have a plan B and C in case of emergency.
Set all your suitcases and carry ons together in ONE spot. Count them so you know exactly how many bags you will be checking and carrying onto the plane. Having this number in mind will help you keep it all together. Give your toddler the job of "bag inspector" to keep count of the bags and you should be in good shape. Take a photo with your phone in case you need it to identify your bags later on. MAKE SURE all of your bags are labeled, including carry on bags, with at least your name and cell phone number.
Step 8 - Contact your credit card company and let them know you'll be on the road. Credit and debit cards are usually the easiest form of payment when you're travelling. If you live in DesMoine and suddenly your bank sees charges coming in from Peru they will freeze your accounts as a matter of security. They won't realize the charges are coming from you while on vacation. You will end up stranded with out funds. This is why you have to let them know. You can either call the toll free number on the back of your card or go to their online website to do a travel notification. While you're at it, it's a good idea to get your credit card company's direct dial customer care number (NOT their 1-800 number) if you are traveling internationally. Most 800 numbers do not work from overseas to report lost or stolen cards.
24 HOURS PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
Step 9- Print Your Boarding Passes - When you make your reservations, chances are you were given E-tickets. Etickets are computer print outs with all of your travel information. In order to get onto the plane, you will need to show or register your etickets and get BOARDING PASSES. You will not be able to pass through airport security or get onto your plane without Boarding passes.
Go ONLINE directly to your airline's website and look in the menu for CHECK IN. Generally you will need your last name and airline confirmation number (PNR number which is a series of letters and numbers usually found in small print on your eticket). Follow the steps and complete your check in for departure. Many airlines will allow you to download your boarding pass to your phone which is fine. It's still a good idea to have a print out as back up JUST in case. You can pay any luggage fees in advance. When you arrive at the airport, you can do a self check in by scanning your printed boarding passes or phone at the airline departure desk, drop your bags and head off to do your Security check.
Remember, you can do your online check in 24 hours to your return trip home. Most hotel business centers have printers or ask the hotel concierge or desk clerk for help.
HEADING OUT THE DOOR
Step 10 -The list of ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE ITEMS for getting on the plane....
1. Passports or ID
3. Etickets/boarding passes
2. Money/credit cards - wallet
4. Medications/eye glasses
5. Baby gear (food/diapers)
6. Count your suitcases and carry them out the door
If you forget anything else it may be a bit inconvenient but please don't let it spoil your trip. No doubt you'll be able to find everything else you want or need where ever you're heading. There is even luxury shopping in Outer Mongolia these days.
Whew!...no doubt you REALLY need that vacation right about now. Lock the door, put out the cat and you're on your way to the airport....Bon Voyage!