Assemble a document folder.
When you make your reservations, grab a folder and label it. Put hotel reservation numbers, car rental info, phone numbers, maps, brochures and other planning information into the folder. You won’t have to scramble for this info when you need it – you’ll always know right where it is (a lifesaver while traveling amid the hubbub of several young ones).
Make a packing list.
It’s so easy to forget a thing or two (usually a critical item like a toothbrush or contact lens solution!) The chances increase if you’re packing for several people. The key here is to separate the thinking part of packing from the action part.
Make a packing list several days ahead of time. Your brain will percolate on it in the background during the days leading up to your trip. As things pop into your head that you’ve forgotten, add them to the list. Then when you pack, you can just go straight off the complete list without wondering what you’re leaving out.
Reserve the day just prior to departure for getting ready for the trip.
On that day, pack your bags, prepare your vehicle and otherwise prepare for the trip. (Once preparations are complete, you can relax and do other things. But get your preparations done FIRST.)
For the week leading up to the trip, strive to keep your family rhythm regular.
Keep things calm and familiar for your children. This will minimize any trip-related stress and make for a more successful trip. This is definitely not the week to change or disrupt family routines, or to start new projects. (Your trip is your current project.)
Use online check-in if your airline offers it.
Many airlines now have online check-in as an option. Up to 24 hours before your flight, you can go online and print your boarding passes. This can be a real time-saver that allows you to just walk past some of those long lines at the airport.
Leave in the afternoon.
There’s a lot to do to prepare for traveling with little ones. No matter how much prep you ahead of time, there are some morning tasks that can’t be pushed to the night before. (Breakfast, for instance.) And of course, tasks go much more slowly when you’re simultaneously caring for small children! Planning to leave later in the day can help you avoid a rushed, stressed early morning and a bad start to your vacation.
Another reason to leave in the afternoon is that it’s really, really nice to come home to a tidy house after a trip. You’ve packed the day before, so give yourself the morning of the trip to do your regular housework, clean up the breakfast dishes and so forth. When you depart, leave a tidy home behind you.
When you return, you’ll be able to unpack, get settled, do laundry from your trip, etc. – without simultaneously confronting a pile of undone work from before you left the house. This is much more pleasurable than coming home to a house that looks like a tornado hit it while you rushed around just before leaving.