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Preparing Your Family for Optimal Vacation Enjoyment (Printable Checklist Included!)

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

Simple to-dos to set your family up for ample joy + wellness on your next vacation.

Pinterest photo of Preparing Your Family For Optimal Vacation Enjoyment

You’re days away from bidding regular life adieu. While you've already put in ample effort to plan the trip, there are additional tasks to tackle to ensure everything goes smoothly. From feeling your best, to ending up in your destination with all the essentials, these to-dos will help you create a family vacation that's brimming with health, happiness and ease.

We used to skip many of these travel chores, which has resulted in a toddler with tummy issues on a packed airplane, a hotel that thought we were coming the following month, and being stranded at a gas station in the middle of New Mexico because our credit card company didn't know we were on the move. Be smarter than us.

* Click here for a printable checklist.

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Adjust your sleep schedule to the new time zone.

Bedside table with flowers and white bed used to adjust your sleep schedule before a trip

That jerk jet lag can rob you of vacation days, especially if you have young children struggling to adapt to a new time zone. To prep your family's circadian rhythms for the region you'll be inhabiting, start shifting when you go to bed and wake up - to align with the time zone you’ll be in - about a week before departure.

For example, when we go to Brisbane, Australia we have to prepare for a 17-hour time change. Yikes. To set our family up for jumping forward in time we go to bed two to three hours later each night for about a week. As we usually make this continental hop when Eric and Hudson are on summer break, this change is doable, as they don't have to get up for school. If you don't have this luxury before a trip, just shoot for a one or two hour bedtime shift the week before you leave.

Another strategy for getting your circadian rhythm in sync with the new time zone is exposing yourself to direct sunlight, if it's daytime when you arrive at the new location. When you awake the next morning, get in the sun as soon as possible to give your body the message that it's time to be awake.

If you arrive in the evening, do everything you can to make yourself and family sleepy, such as avoiding a big meal, getting into pjs and low lightening as soon as possible, and listening to soothing music or a sleepy-time relaxation recording. Melatonin can also be an effective sleep aid if your doctor gives you the go ahead.

Prep your digestive system for travel.

Bowl of healthy food that helps prepare the digestive system for travel

If you’re heading to an area that primarily serves heavier foods that might be tricky to digest, prepare your digestive system by loading up on probiotic-rich supplements and foods like Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha. Fiber-filled foods such as lentils, chia seeds, avocados, pears and almonds are also beneficial, as they'll keep everything moving. Few things are as sh*tty as constipation on vacation.

In addition, drinking your body weight in ounces (for example, if you weigh 120lbs, drink 120 ounces) every day will help your system stay flushed and optimally functioning. And, staying hydrated helps minimize jet lag symptoms.

When you've reached your destination, continue to nosh on probiotic and fiber-rich foods (or supplements), in addition to lots of fruits, veggies and water. Minimize hangovers by having one or two cups of water for every cocktail.

Load up on immunity boosters.

Ginger, turmeric and other herbs that boost your immune system before a family vacation

Nothing derails a vacation quicker than illness (and maybe a hurricane.) Help to prevent this major drag by adding garlic, turmeric or ginger to your food, in addition to eating spinach, yogurt (no added sugar), berries, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes. Green tea is another immune boosting wizard.

You can also stave off illness by being vigilant about hand washing, taking a daily dose of an immune booster like Emergen-C or Airbourne, and drinking lots and lots and lots of filtered water, before, during and after your trip.

Stay active.

Woman doing yoga and staying active while vacationing

When we're overwhelmed with travel to-dos it can be easy to skimp on exercise. However, staying committed to your physical movement of choice before your trip will help you stay committed during your trip, helping to enhance your energy, mood, metabolism and digestion.

Practicing a few yoga moves each morning and evening can be especially beneficial, as this will promote the health of your muscles and ligaments, in addition to supporting the movement of your bowels (we're kind of obsessed with regular BMs.)

Confirm your bookings.

Laptop, planner and notepad used to confirm travel bookings

Triple check that your bookings for flights, cruises, accommodations, car rentals, and so on are set for the correct days and times. And just in case there's a mix up, or you can't access emails when you're en route, print out your confirmations and store with your other travel documents.

Pack your bags, and double check each family member’s packing list.

Luggage filled with all the items on a traveler's tropical packing list

Ideally, you can have all your bags packed at least 24 hours before departure, giving you time to ensure everything on your packing list is checked off. While you might need to use certain toiletries up until you leave, try to pack as many items as possible ahead of time.

And then there's your family's bags. Don’t want your trip derailed by a 13-year-old who forgets her phone charger? Or a partner who misplaces their ID? Help them help themselves by confirming they have the essentials.

Prepare luggage.

Many pieces of luggage that can be used for different types of trips

Ensure packed bags don’t have old barcode stickers that could cause mix-ups at the airport, and affix sturdy tags with your name, phone number and email on all bags. In addition, check the luggage allowances for the airline, train, bus or other transportation option you'll be using to verify your bags don't exceed the weight and size limits.

Have a tidy home to return to.

A clean room with a globe and neutrals and greens that has been tidied up before a trip

The blues of returning from a trip is amplified when you walk into a chaotic home. Do yourself a solid by tidying up before you leave, and encouraging family members to do the same. (We're not above bribery when it comes to getting our kid to pick up his toys.)

Set travel notifications for credit and debit cards.

A wallet with credit cards that have travel notifications set

Prevent the embarrassment of declined credit cards by alerting your credit card companies and bank to your travel plans. You can often sign in to your online accounts, navigate to the "travel alert" (or something similar) tab and easily insert the date range of your trip and the locations you'll be visiting.

Make sure everyone knows the departure plan.

Clock above a bookshelf that is used to make sure a family leaves for their vacation on time

Miscommunication can screw up a trip before it even begins. For example, we had a family member misunderstand the time we had to leave for the airport, resulting in us almost missing our flight. Ensure everyone is ready to go at the correct time by letting them know when you plan to pack the car, and when you’ll be pulling away. (And make sure everyone pees before you leave!)

Get plenty of sleep the night before.

Sleeping child on bed who is getting plenty of rest the night before a vacation

Start your trip off right by minimizing fatigue. If possible, get your family to bed early enough for each person to get their regular allotment of sleep the night before you depart. If they resist, throw these facts at them: sleep reduces stress, makes you happier, enhances your memory, helps you lose weight, boosts your metabolism, and does other really cool stuff.

Go through the House Prep Checklist found here.

* Click here for a printable checklist.

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