10 Sanity Saving Tips for Planning a Stress Free Vacation

Planning a vacation can be the most stressful part of the whole trip if you are not prepared. Being a family with a child with sensory needs, we have to be very careful how we plan trips and extended vacations. However, since we are hoping to go on an Epic Summer Vacation, we are looking for tips for a stress free vacation as part of an Ultimate Guide to Road Tripping. Today, Tammy of Study at Home Mama is going to share some sanity saving tips for planning a stress free vacation.

How to Plan a Stress Free Vacation with Kids

I’m not going to even pretend otherwise: I am a PLANNER.

I enjoy the process of planning things almost as much as I enjoy the party, vacation, or meal that I am planning. I’m one of those “Pinterest Parents,” but it works for me!

As a single parent, planning our vacations down to the last detail makes everything smooth and stress-free for me, and today I want to share with you my top tips for planning a stress-free vacation, even if you’re not a planner!


1. Know the WHY

What is the purpose of this vacation? Relaxation? Attending a specific event? Education? Indulgence?

Knowing what your purpose and goals are can help you prioritize what you spend your time and money on ( and you can have more than one purpose).

For example, our recent trip to Chicago was all about food and education. Knowing this, I prioritized our hotel’s location over it’s amenities, and picked out only a couple of stores to check out, knowing that shopping was not a priority on this trip.

2. Keep your child’s routine

Change is one of the best parts about vacation, but it can also have some devastating effects on your child’s behavior. Try to keep the main elements of your family’s routine in place so that your child is set up for success.

Know beforehand where you will be having meals, and how long it will take you to get there. If eating at a restaurant, get there 20-30 minutes before you would usually eat just in case there are delays.

If your child still naps, create a realistic plan around that. Can they sleep in a stroller or Ergo carrier? Can you easily return to the hotel and have them lie down? I wouldn’t hesitate to bring a light blanket and lay it down in a clean park for a nap on a warm day.

3. Call Before Making Plans

I often find that museums and restaurants have up-to-date websites, but every once in a while something falls through the cracks. Call the location to confirm that there won’t be any closures or that the event you are coming to see is still happening. Book tickets and make reservations whenever possible.

4. Look at the map… or use Google Maps

Know where things are in relation to each other. Depending on your personality, that either sounds obvious or over-the-top, but knowing where things that you want to visit are located can help you create some loose plans for your vacation.

For example, knowing that Museum Campus in Chicago has three major kid-friendly attractions within short walking distance, it makes sense to plan to do those on the same day. Knowing that you can get deep-dish pizza about a 20 minute walk away from those attractions will allow you to plan if you’re going to eat at the museum, pack a picnic, or head over for a slice 45 minutes before lunchtime.

5. Outline Your Days

I like to have complete “days” planned, even if I’m not always set on which dates certain days will fall on. So, while I know I’ll have a “Museum Campus day,” and I know what the basic itinerary for that day will include, I don’t decide in advance which date that will be unless there is a specific reason, like a special event or reservation.

For example, I know that on “Museum Campus day,” we will have breakfast at the hotel and catch the 8:30 bus over to the Field Museum so that we can be there for opening at 9am and get a full 3 hours of exploration in before having a picnic lunch on the grounds, and spreading out a blanket for my daughter to nap on. The rest of the afternoon will be spent first at the Adler Planetarium and then the Shedd Aquarium (because the Planetarium closes an hour earlier). After that, we can pick somewhere fun for supper and not worry about being late for bedtime.

6. Plan a Rainy Day

Okay, maybe planning out a rough itinerary is not for you – but definitely planning for at least one rainy day will stop you from feeling like it’s raining on your parade.

7. Pack Your Bags… A Week Before

Ok, another weird tip but here’s the thing: aim to pack your bags a week before you leave so that you’re not scrambling and forgetting important things. Believe me, you will think that you are done packing and then two days later you’ll remember something vital that would have put a little kink in your vacation… you’re welcome.

If there are any items that can’t be packed yet because you’ll be using them (cell phone chargers, running shoes), make a list of those items to check the night before.

8. Plan the Home Stuff

If you have pets or gardens that will need attention, arrange that well in advance, and ensure you cancel any subscriptions or services – like grocery deliveries, newspapers, etc.

Also, plan to prep the house for your return. Give away groceries that will go bad by the time you return, and maybe even make your meal plan and grocery list in advance so you’re not scrambling when you come back from vacation. Make your return home smooth.

9. Pack the Essentials, Lightly

If you’ll be doing a lot of walking, you’ll want to pack light, but being on vacation can also be disorienting and things that you’d easily locate in your hometown might take a bit longer. Plan to carry snacks, water, and a change of clothes for kids, but try to figure out how to do that so you don’t feel like a pack mule (and give yourself away as a tourist). Older children can carry their own items in a small backpack.

10. Be Flexible

If you’re traveling with kids, there will be hiccups along the way. But – YOU’RE ON VACATION! Laugh off the inconveniences and try your best to roll with the punches.

Accept beforehand that some of the things you are most looking forward to might not happen. Give your children grace to have their worst behaviors on vacation, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised most of the time!

I hope you enjoyed these 10 tips for planning a stress-free vacation. I want to hear from you – what are your top tips for vacation planning?

Tips for Planning a Stress Free Vacation

Did You Miss Yesterday’s Tips in the Ultimate Guide to Road Tripping?

Ultimate Guide to Road Tripping Tips for Taking Kids on Extended Vacations


Jennifer is a Canadian psychologist and single mom staying home full-time to homeschool her daughter. She shares hands-on learning ideas, parenting inspiration, and recipes daily on her blog, Study at Home Mama.

The Ultimate Road Trip

We don’t take vacations. No, scratch that… we avoid vacations. The term “vacation” should instill release, comfort, hope and so many other feelings, however in our home it is quite the opposite which is probably why we haven’t taken a family vacation since we got married. However, when the idea of traveling in an RV was mentioned, all of our ears started to perk up. Family vacation might actually be possible. Family vacation might actually be a dream come true.

Vote for Our Adventures

Now for the fun part! You can send me and my family on our dream adventure! Just for voting EACH DAY you are also included in a drawing for $500. How fun would that be to use towards anything you want? So what do you say?

Vote Here

Help start our adventure and get a chance to win $500 towards your next adventure byclicking here and voting for “Lemon Lime Adventures”.

Can you help me? Better yet, Why don’t you go with us! Well, virtually at least! I plan to blog about tips, strategies and adventures of traveling with a child with sensory needs. I hope to build a wonderful resource for all of us trying to figure this adventure out together! In the comments, tell me you favorite sensory friendly stop or tip along the route!



Discover how to get siblings to get along even when all they do is annoy each other with the Sibling “Get Along” Poster Pack!

2 thoughts on “10 Sanity Saving Tips for Planning a Stress Free Vacation”

  1. Pingback: 10 Simple Tips for a Successful Family Road Trip - Lemon Lime Adventures

  2. Thanks for sharing these tips and ideas. For me vacations with kids is always a big challenge but after reading this I think it’s not that difficult.

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