Summer is getaway time for a lot of families. Time to discover the great outdoors. Time to ramp up the fun. Time to let loose.
To make sure it's the best time it can be, a little planning is in order. Here are 10 things to consider to make sure your vacation is the best. (And five things to avoid that can ruin it.)
1. Budget well
Which is to say, figure a budget and add in a lot more. There are always unseen expenses. Parking. Tickets. That hideous souvenir. It's all more palatable if you plan to spend more than you hope to spend. You can get started with this printable Budgetworksheet.
2. Break up the driving
Whether you're taking the family SUV or renting a car, nobody wants to spend vacation on the road. So if you have a lot of driving to do, take breaks. And try not to pile up back-to-back days with the whole family in the car. That's an anti-vacation.
A great way to cool off after a long day of sightseeing is jumping into your hotel's pool. (Photo: Anna Omelchenko/Shutterstock)
3. Find a pool
This is a no-brainer for parents. But even if it's just you and the spouse, a nice dip in some cool water — maybe while drinking something frozen — can take the heat off a long day of fun in the sun. Hit Google Maps' satellite view to make sure that hotel pool isn't a pit.
4. It's OK to be alone — With the heat and the close quarters and all the excitement, it's OK to take a little "me" time. In fact, it's crucial. And let the non-adults take some, too. "Everyone needs a break sometimes, especially teens and young adults," says the Family Travel Network.
5. Have breakfast in
One of the biggest hassles of vacationing, especially in a new place, is finding a place to eat every meal. Many budget hotels include breakfast now in their rates. But if there's no freebies, it's smart to grab some cereal and milk for the room. It's cheaper, too.
The family that tries extreme adventures together, stays together. (Photo: Ammit Jack/Shutterstock)
6. Try something different
Put some money aside and try something new. Zip lining, skydiving, parasailing. Horseback riding. Kayaking. Just plain sailing. Vacations are where memories are made, so you might as well do something daring, something you'll never forget.
7. Pack smart
A couple travel ideas that ring true come from the The Everywhereist: Don't pack something you haven't worn before (you need to know it fits), pack lots of underwear, always pack a hat and don't bring anything you can't afford to lose, "either financially or emotionally."
8. Schedule a cushion
Nothing dampens the high of a vacation like knowing that you have to jump right back into work when you return home. So, if at all possible, get back a little early to unpack, unwind from the travel and get yourself psyched up to dive back into that cubicle.
It's a good idea to have plenty of water available for your entire family throughout the day. (Photo: Iakov Filimonov/Shutterstock)
9. Always have water handy
It's summer. So unless you're headed for Antarctica, it's probably going to be hot. Maybe really hot. The last thing you need, or anyone else needs, is to invite dehydration. So bring water. Drink it. Remember, even warm water's better than no water.
10. If you're wavering, do it
Wondering if it's worth going to the observation deck? Whether that extra 20 miles of driving is going to pan out? Whether everyone will dig that tar pit? Just do it. Better that than always wonder. And if it's lame? Heck, it might make for a good story some day.
5 vacation breakers
You've got the basics down, but it's always good to look at it from another angle. Here's a list of vacation don'ts:
Whether at the beach or in the mountains, a sunburn can creep up on you and kill the fun. When it's a young one who is burned, everyone feels it. Pack the right kind of sunblock.
2. Unexpected expenses
The car breaking down. A trip to the ER. A lost wallet. Even the best-planned budget can blow up. So, again, think bigger. And know even that may not be enough.
This beach doesn't exactly exude peace and solitude. (Photo: Chris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock)
The beach is packed and the parks are stuffed with red-faced tourists. Nothing kills the buzz of vacation like waiting in line. Check travel sites like this to avoid the biggest crowds.
Having fun is hard work. Swimming. Hiking. Just sailing. Many people need a vacation from their vacation. So take some time to relax. It's kind of what vacation is all about.
Forget the email. Ignore the texts. You're on vacation. Set an out-of-office memo before you leave. If your boss complains you're not available, it might be time for a new boss.