Organizing for a Stress-Free Vacation

VacationVacations are supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation – family fun in the sun, a romantic get-away or a memorable adventure with friends. You just want to leave schedules and commitments behind and enjoy your time away. So why does it seem like so much work just to get ready to go? Planning for a vacation can feel like a job in itself, particularly when you are organizing a family or large group or for a lengthy excursion. Utilizing some basic organizing solutions and well-designed checklists can make vacation preparation more manageable, leaving you with plenty of energy to enjoy your trip.

If you’re planning to travel outside of the United States, check the State Department list of travel advisories well ahead of time so that you can be prepared for potential issues at your destination. The Centers for Disease Control website lists suggested, recommended and required vaccines based on where you’re traveling. Be sure to schedule vaccinations 4-6 weeks before your departure, as most take time to become effective and some require a series of injections. And to help protect your wallet, stay in the know on currency exchange rates with OANDA mobile currency converters.

At least one week before your departure, pull together all of your trip details. Online tools and apps such as TripIt will compile all of your travel information into one place and build an itinerary that’s accessible online or on the go. You can store contact information, confirmation numbers and more. TripTracker and FlightTrack will give you real-time flight status updates, weather reports, maps and hotel and car rental information for your destination. Though storing your trip information in your mobile device makes it quick and easy to access, keep a printed copy of confirmations in a binder or folder in the event your phone is lost, stolen or malfunctions. You can also use this to hold brochures, maps and hard-copy tickets for travel or events.

Road trips strike fear into the hearts of many a traveler, but with organization and planning, getting to your destination can be a fun adventure too. Up-to-date road maps or a GPS device with current maps are essential; getting lost is frustrating and a waste of your valuable vacation time. To find gas stations, restaurants, hotels and other stopping places along the way, check out Maps Buddy, Poynt and Urban Spoon.

With your travel details under control, it’s time to start packing. Preparing and packing for a beach vacation or camping trip usually means lots of things to remember. Did I pack the sunscreen? Who’s bringing the citronella candles? Free checklists from Practical Spreadsheets ensure you have everything you need. They’re even designed for several families vacationing together so that you can keep track of who’s bringing what.
Download the Vacation Checklist here.
Download the Camping Checklist here.

Being organized for your trip is a major part of enjoying a stress-free vacation, but making sure things at home are settled and secure is also important. Here are a few tips to get your home ready for your departure – and your return:

  • Make pet care arrangements several weeks ahead of time, particularly during busy summer and holiday periods; kennels and pet sitter schedules fill up fast!
  • Let trusted neighbors know you will be away and for how long. Ask them to keep an eye on your home and to collect newspapers and mail, unless you’re suspending delivery.
  • Install timers on lights and perhaps a radio or television so that your home doesn’t appear to be empty.
  • Lock all exterior doors and partially close shades or blinds to keep valuable items (such as televisions, stereos and computers) out of view.
  • Remove all perishable food items from your kitchen and refrigerator and empty all trash cans before you leave.
  • Set thermostats to an energy-saving level and unplug appliances.
  • Sort through mail, pay bills and declutter countertops before you leave – it makes coming back home so much more welcoming! Catching up on laundry and changing bed linens also makes your return a more restful one.

Organizing for your vacation takes a bit of effort, but it will pay off big when you can relax while you’re away and return home rested and rejuvenated.

Guest author Terri Stephens is the founder and Chief Professional Organizer of Real Order Professional Organizing, LLC. Since 2003, she’s helped busy homeowners with their clutter and organizing needs in metro Atlanta and surrounding areas. Terri is also a Senior Move Manager and helps older adults and their families with later-life moves.

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