Published on 06/27/18

Plan ahead and pack the essentials for a safe, stress-free vacation

By Keishon Thomas

We are well into longer, hotter days and children are out of school and eagerly anticipating family vacation. Whether you attend a family reunion in a rural area or head to the big city, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers the following tips to help you have a fun, safe vacation.

Make a list: Write down what you need to pack and include everything, from your medications to vehicle maintenance, to ensure you cover all of your bases. You may still forget something, but I always feel better when I miss a few small things rather than critical items.

Mail: Before you go, request that the local post office hold your mail. An overstuffed mailbox with newspapers strewn about is like advertising that no one is home.

Tell someone: Let someone know that you are going on vacation, but do not tell your 1,000 Facebook friends. Tell a trusted neighbor or friend that you are leaving and ask them if they would be willing to keep an eye on things while you are away. This will ease your mind and allow you to enjoy your vacation.

Speaking of Facebook, it is probably not a good idea to post that you are away or will be away for an extended period of time. Remember, not everyone is as honest as you are. 

Medication: Order any prescription medication in advance. I also pack antacids, Children’s Motrin, Benadryl and pain medication. I also include insect repellent because my youngest son has reactions to insect bites.

Entertainment: Make sure everyone has something to entertain them. We frequently drive long distances, and I have found that a preloaded playlist helps to keep everyone occupied — it can even prompt a family singalong. It also allows me to share “real music” — oldies — with my children.

Snacks: Provide healthy snacks for everyone. Nuts, fruits and applesauce are all great snacks for trips. Taking snacks from home also helps to minimize the unhealthy food you might buy on impulse. Don’t forget to bring a cooler with plenty of water to stay hydrated along the way.

Breaks: Are you traveling with younger or older family members? It’s imperative to make stops for stretching, bathroom breaks and physical activity. My 5-year-old is a ball of energy. He needs to run around and stretch his legs. I also benefit from stretching after long intervals of riding. I am no longer under 40.

Research: Research your destination online. The hotel, attractions and restaurants can be investigated prior to leaving for vacation. My family loves hot dogs (hangs head in shame), so in every city we visit, we search for a place that specializes in hot dogs. We have found great spots in a number of cities.

Be “in the moment”: While it may be tempting to catch up on emails, post every fun activity on Facebook or surf the internet, don’t do it. Be in the moment! I am often asked, “Did you take a picture?”  I prefer to be in the moment, enjoying our silly inside jokes and experiences that we may never have the opportunity to do again. My poor teenagers balk at the idea of going too long without technology; however, they still follow the example set by their parents. So, unplug from technology.

Be safe, enjoy and have an awesome summer of travel.

Keishon Thomas is the University of Georgia Extension family and consumer sciences agent in Bibb County.

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