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Vacation: The Smith's Planning & Organizing Tips for a Stress Free Trip

Oh my gosh... where do I even begin? We decided way back in 2005 after our second child came along that the idea of a "family vacation" was very important to us. However, my husband owns a landscape business and does snow removal in the winter which provided a little challenge in planning vacation. We finally decided that October was perfect for us OR perfect until our kids got into junior high and high school.

Generally we would travel from weekend to weekend the week before Columbus Day. Our school has a Superintendent's Day the Friday of Columbus Day weekend so it was the perfect time to travel for us once the kids were school age. The kids would only miss four days, rather than the entire week. The bonus was the week they returned to school would also only be four days. Fast forward to 2017, we have a seventh and ninth grader and they were boycotting missing more than two days of school.

I explained to Ben that the days of October travel for the Smiths may be over. It didn't seem all that worth it to stress the kids out for what was suppose to be a relaxing time away as a family. However, Ben refused to believe that our October vacation may need to be scrapped. He would show me almost daily all the houses in the Four Seasons development in Duck that were still available for the week. Although I understood his desire to want to continue this tradition, I didn't think it was going to happen. Last year's vacation was great minus the fighting with Camryn about the assignments she needed to complete for school. It was a total downer and didn't seem all that worth it to me given that I was the one who had to be the "bad guy" to make sure it got done.

As the weeks went on, the talks about our family tradition/vacation continued. How were we going to make it work for all of us. I started looking at VRBO and realty companies in the Outerbanks who offer flex booking. I happened to check out Sun Realty and voila... FREESTYLE BOOKING. I found what I thought were the perfect three bedroom condos on the beach, outdoor pool, indoor pool, fitness room, etc. The perfect solution, right??

When I proposed the idea to Ben, the thought of a shorter vacation for MORE money was crazy to him. He continued his push for our normal week. I continued to side with the kids and the idea that a full week was out. Did I mention I am Italian and Ben is Irish?! Compromise does not come easy in our house. After much debate, looking at the options through Sun Realty and making sure the kids were ok missing two days of school, we booked October 6 through October 11. (Find your destination & book your accommodations.)

Then began all the planning to make sure everything else was taken care of before we departed:

  • Email Camryn's teachers to let them know we would be out of town and request her assignments for the trip. Brennan, as a ninth grader, took it upon himself to inform his teachers and to round up his assignments. (If you have children who will be missing school, advise the teachers with enough time in advance so they can gather work for them. Then make sure your children actually bring it along and complete it!)

  • Check in with our house/pet sitter to make sure she could cover the dates for us, all set - Thanks, Sam! (Be sure to PLAN AHEAD if you have pets to make sure you have proper coverage while you are away. We've never boarded our pets but rather have someone stay at our house.)

  • Make sure everyone has a list of what to pack & their suitcases. It's also important to check the forecast to make sure the right clothing & items are packed. (Check out our simple packing list & don't forget to check out the forecast for your destination.)

  • Ben and I clear our schedules for the dates of travel. (Be sure to get approval for your time off from your employer and/or if you're self-employed, let those who you work with know of your plans/travel dates.)

  • Get the house in order for Sam & prepare memo of coverage of the animals based on her schedule. [thanks to my parents for covering when Sam was at class] (Make sure you leave your house clean & in order for one less thing to worry about when you return.)

  • Clean out the car to make for comfortable travel.

  • Purchase drinks and snacks for the ride. (Make a list & a quick trip to the store for all the essential snacks/drinks if traveling by car.)

  • Small Bucket with empty grocery bags for trash and/or any motion sickness. [Dramamine usually does the trick but just in case] (For trash and any unwanted illness, bring along a small bucket with small grocery bags layered inside... it's perfect when you stop for fuel to take out the top layer that is filled with trash and toss in the garbage.)

  • Make sure the WiFi in the car is working and the kids' electronics are charged. (WiFi is great but if you don't have WiFi, be sure to bring along travel games, coloring supplies and/or a portable DVD player for the kiddies.)

  • Prepare a tentative plan of our days while away so our time is used and enjoyed wisely. (If you haven't been to your destination, do some research prior to arriving to get to know the area & things you may want to do. Then make a list!)

  • Finally, pack up the car & ensure we have all that we need to head out. (Be sure to pack the car wisely so there is ample space for all those riding along.)

And... We're off, almost. The kids had games on Thursday afternoon so our plan was to pack up the car, go to their games, grab a couple pizzas for dinner, let them shower and head out. Rather than use/waste Friday as a travel day, I proposed traveling and volunteering to do the majority of the driving on Thursday evening. I am not sure why I ever thought that would be a good idea but it worked out.

We strolled into the Walmart parking lot at 5:30 am, slept in the car for nearly two hours and started our adventures. A little tour around Duck for Grandma Molly (the kids wanted to show her the houses in Four Seasons where we've stayed in previous years); breakfast; a little stroll through Manteo; hop in line at the Kill Devil Grill for Friday Fried Chicken at 11 a.m. for their 11:30 opening (if you don't hop in line early, you'll miss out. A little insider tip!); head to Sun Realty to check in; and FINALLY, arrive at our condo.

The adventure doesn't truly start until the car/bags are unpacked and a trip to the grocery store is complete. Then lots of relaxation, fun and memories to last a lifetime!

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