No matter where your summer travels may take you, there’s a level of planning and preparation that goes into making sure you make the most out of your vacation. It goes beyond packing — it’s airport transportation, passports, travel gear, reservations, event tickets, and so much more. Add children into the mix, and it’s a whole different level of planning!
Planning your summer vacation — and actually enjoying it — can be a joyful thing if you take a little time to prepare in advance. We’ve created a Summer Vacation Planning Checklist below to help you feel organized before you go and relaxed while you’re there. No last-minute Target trips the night before you leave, no panic packing. Just joy!
And because we wanted to be sure to we left no stone unturned, we spoke with travel consultant Nancy Dodson with Strong Travel to be sure we give you all the inside tips and travel hacks. Who better to give you an inside look at the busy travel season?! Her top piece of advice: “Plan a trip as far in advance for the best results and the most options.” If you’re able to do this or have done it for this upcoming summer, wonderful! If not, there’s still time to plan a memorable trip for you and your family.
Keep reading for our tips for planning your summer vacation! Save it to your phone, tablet, or computer, or print it off and stick it on your refrigerator. Just be sure it’s somewhere you can see it so it’s top of mind!
DOSAYGIVE’S SUMMER VACATION PLANNING CHECKLIST
PLAN YOUR TRIP
1. Consider and set your budget.
Knowing how much you want to spend is helpful when looking at destinations, hotel rates, and airplane fares.
2. Book flights and hotel.
If you’re traveling with children, consider hotels and resorts that have child-friendly activities and dining options. If you plan to use miles to book flights, book as early as possible for the best options — and always compare airline fares! If you plan on taking a road trip, map out your route and determine if you will need to stay overnight on your way to your destination, and create a rough budget for gas.
Planning on renting an AirBnB? Be sure you read ALL of the fine print before you book so you don’t have any surprises when you arrive.
3. Book dining reservations, excursions, and appointments in advance.
This ensures you see everything you want to see, get the times you want, and can make plans for childcare if the adults are going on an outing.
4. Make sure you have all the necessary travel documents.
Make sure your driver’s license is not expired, and double-check those passports! This is especially important right now as passport applications and renewals are taking longer. If you want to apply for Global Entry for international travel, now is the time to book appointments.
Another tip from Nancy: Be sure your passport has at least six-month validity beyond the return date of your trip (meaning that its expiration date doesn’t expire within six months after you get back). Many countries will not allow entry if this isn’t the case. Also, if you plan to rent a car when you’re abroad, be sure to apply for an international driver’s permit.
ONE MONTH IN ADVANCE
1. Create a travel packing list.
Take inventory of what you have on hand and fill in any gaps. Purchase new swimsuits, jackets, or any seasonal items that children may have outgrown. This is also a good time to give your luggage a once-over to ensure you don’t need to buy any new pieces.
2. Get an advanced supply of prescription medication.
Speak with your doctor to ensure you have any necessary prescriptions filled and on hand.
3. Get travel insurance.
Depending on where your vacation takes you, this will not only give you peace of mind but protect your investment.
4. Book transportation.
Rent a car if you need one — this can be done mostly online now, making this task a breeze. If you’re traveling internationally, book airport transfers, cars, and train tickets in advance. Apply for an international driver’s permit if needed.
5. Make arrangements for mail pickup, pets, house sitting, etc.
Whether your family or neighbors will help out or you’re hiring a service, giving them advanced notice ensures you cover all your bases while you’re gone. Go the extra mile and buy a gift for anyone helping you out while you’re gone as a thank you!
6. Check baby gear to ensure you meet airline and travel requirements.
If you’re flying with little ones, be sure your car seats are FAA-approved (and purchase new ones, or borrow from a friend, if not). Most airlines will check your stroller at the gate if you choose to bring one. Be sure you have an idea of what you’ll need for your flight — bottles, baby food, diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, pacifiers.
1 WEEK BEFORE
1. Notify your bank and check your cell phone plan for international calling.
You want to avoid any potential snafus while you travel, and this task will take less than 30 minutes and give you peace of mind!
2. Confirm your reservations.
Double-check your email confirmations or call the hotels or restaurants. And if you have any food allergies or are traveling for a special occasion (anniversary, birthday, etc.), now is the time to let the hotel and restaurants know! Many hotels will leave an in-room amenity to welcome you if they know you’re celebrating with them.
3. Start packing.
Set aside a section of your closet for the hanging clothes you plan to bring, keep folded clothes out, and take any items to the dry cleaner you plan to bring with you. By starting this a week before, you avoid panic-packing and forgetting something! Tip: Be sure to look at toiletries to see if you need to buy any travel-size items (especially if you plan to carry on).
4. Check weather and travel conditions.
See what the weather will be like at your destination and plan accordingly. If you’re traveling overseas, check to make sure there aren’t any union strikes that could delay or hinder your travels, too.
2-3 DAYS BEFORE
1. Organize your travel documents.
Print off boarding passes, make copies of your car insurance (if you plan to rent a car), and set aside passports or other forms of identification.
2. Share your itinerary and travel plans with family.
Send your flight information, hotel reservations, and any other pertinent travel details to family so they can reach you if necessary.
3. Gather travel items for children.
Parents, regardless of whether you plan to fly or drive — children will love a few comforts from home! From activities to keep them busy to a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, be sure you set these aside to ensure they make it into your luggage. Read our post on Road Trip Activity Ideas for Children here! Many of these suggestions would be great for planes, too.
4. Charge your devices.
Laptops, tablets, phones — make sure they’re all charged, and pack an extra charging cord for the airport or plane.
5. Tidy up your home.
There’s nothing like coming home from a vacation to a clean house! Do any last-minute loads of laundry, too.
1 DAY BEFORE
1. Take out the trash and clean your refrigerator.
Another simple task that is easily overlooked! If you have tweens or teens, this is a great chore they can help with.
2. Check in to your flight and download your boarding pass.
Most airlines will email you letting you know when your flight is available to check in. Save your mobile boarding pass to your phone to make the airport a breeze.
3. Finalize packing.
Pack your personal bag that you’ll have with you on the plane, making sure you have everything you need for the flight (snacks, a book, charger, AirPods, etc.). Double check your luggage too, and make sure your children’s bags are packed with everything they need (save for toiletries they’ll need that night and the next day). Put your bags by the door so you don’t forget anything on your way out!
4. Lay out your travel outfit.
This will take the stress out of figuring out what to wear! Consider wearing layers in case it’s cold on the plane.
THE DAY OF
1. Pack your toiletries.
Don’t forget your toothbrush, glasses and/or contacts, and any other personal items! Leave a Post-It Note on your mirror to make sure you don’t forget!
2. Double check that you have your travel documents.
Do one more check of your personal bag to make sure you have your ID, passport if needed, and any documentation for your children.
3. Get your house ready.
Turn on any lights you plan to leave on while you’re away, adjust your thermostat, and close your blinds. You might also send a quick text to a neighbor reminding them you’ll be out of town so they can keep an eye on your house.
4. Grab your bags and enjoy your trip!
We hope you find this helpful as you’re planning for summer — no matter where your travels take you. And thank you again to Nancy Dodson with Strong Travel for all of her wonderful, expert advice!