When I was a kid, whenever someone would ask my mom if she was excited about an upcoming family vacation, she’d answer, “I’ll be excited when I get there.” Now that I’m a mom, I get it. The planning and preparation for a family vacation is A LOT. And let’s be honest, most of it falls on the shoulders of moms. With all the family vacation preparation and planning we have to do, it’s hard to get excited about an upcoming family vacation because it just feels like so much work.
Over the summer TODAY show host Dylan Dreyer shared a photo that captured the pre-vacation planning struggle many moms face.
“Packing 3 kids for @acchampionship in Tahoe takes a lot of organizing,” Dreyer wrote in an Instagram post. “Packing 1 man apparently does not (swipe to last picture).”
Related: You *can* go on vacation with kids and actually relax—here’s how
Moms everywhere nodded in agreement because we have see the same thing play out in our own homes. Family vacations are wonderful, but the pre-vacation preparations can be a real buzzkill. There are ways to alleviate the burden, however. Your partner is more than capable of helping, and even your kids can help out too.
5 ways to get your family involved in vacation preparation
1. Have your kids pack for themselves
Of course, this doesn’t work for babies and young toddlers, but kids as young as three years old can help with the packing process. Give them a clear list of what they need to pack and ask them to put it in a suitcase. You will likely need to double-check to make sure they don’t have two pairs of underwear and 15 pajama bottoms, but kids are able to help with packing more than many parents realize. Yes, it’ll be messy and imperfect, but that’s okay.
Not only does engaging your kids in the packing process take a few chores off your vacation prep to-do list, but it is also teaching your kids valuable lessons about being a conscientious traveler. It teaches kids responsibility and ownership over their own things, since they can’t blame you for forgetting to pack their favorite swimsuit. And it builds a ton of self-confidence.
2. Divide up vacation preparation and planning responsibilities
If you are able to share vacation planning responsibilities, have one parent handle the pre-vacation planning (finding the destination, booking airfare etc.) and the other handles during-vacation planning (making reservations, planning activities, etc.)
In my family, I often handle the pre-vacation destination planning and my husband handles all of the during-vacation planning. Once we’ve decided where we’re going, I’ll scope out deals on airfare and my he’ll research restaurants, hiking trails and other activities to do while we are on vacation. He’s also the family photographer, snapping tons of videos and pics while the rest of us are relaxing and enjoying our vacation. We each have our roles and don’t take on the full vacation preparation responsibilities.
3. Have each family member choose an activity
When our family travels with extended family, we each take turns planning part of the vacation. For instance, one night my family will make dinner plans, the next night my brother’s family will, then my sister and so on. The same thing can be done when it comes to planning how you’ll spend your days on family vacation.
Depending on your kids’ ages, you can also tell them to each pick an activity or two. Have them research the activity (YouTube has great inspo videos), give them a budget, and then let each person pick an activity. Not only does it take some of the planning work off your to-do list, but each person in the family feels invested in the vacation.
Related: The 8 best mother-daughter trips, according to travel experts
4. Turn that OOO on early and use it
Work stress can be a major vacation killjoy. Take a page from Elsa’s book, and let it go. Let people know you’ll be away from the office, delegate any urgent tasks, and then make friends with your OOO response. Most things can wait until you return.
5. Let others do the work for you
There are plenty of checklists and vacation prep lists on the internet. Check out our road trip activities guide. And download a few playlists or podcasts—even if your family isn’t quiet, at least you won’t be able to hear them.
Vacation prep will always be a bit of a hassle, but you don’t have to do it alone.