The countdown has begun to the family vacation this summer. If you’re a traveling mom, it’s time to take a sanity check and think about stress-free tips for making your family vacation time fun and less stressful, whether you’re taking a day trip to the beach, visiting relatives across the country, or traveling to a different country.

The key is to prepare in advance so you’re ready to go before school’s out for the summer. Glance at the checklist below and take a sane approach to prepare for the fun ahead.

Follow this checklist so you’re ready to go whenever the weather cooperates, the mood strikes or you just gotta get out of the house.

Summer Fun Folder. Fill a colorful manila folder with coupons, tickets, newspaper clippings, and other information about local daytrips and activities. Make a family list of the things you really want to do and staple it to the inside. Start tentatively planning dates so things don’t fall through the cracks.

Suntan Lotion. Collect what’s on hand and check expiration dates. Take advantage of the pre-season sales to stock up. Purchase extras to send to camp or daycare for midday touch-ups. Remember, sun protection is critical for preventing skin cancer and other conditions. Even if you don’t burn, any skin that is unprotected from the sun’s rays is at risk for serious damage.

Bug Spray. While you’re gathering the suntan lotion, collect bug spray, too. Toss what’s expired and purchase a new supply. Note that some repellents work better against certain insects than others. Keep a variety on hand if you hang at both the beach and the backyard.

Hats. Everyone should wear a hat to protect their scalps and keep ears from burning. Start a hat collection with your family. Purchase hats from your favorite vacation spots, keep them in a bin near the door, and let everyone choose their “pick of the day” as they head out. 

Beach Towels. Recycle old, worn out towels into rags for cleaning and take advantage of early season sales to purchase new ones. Organize summer towels on a separate shelf so they’re easily accessible. Always keep extras on hand; even a backyard water balloon fight depletes towel supplies quickly.

Bathing Suits and Flip Flops.  Have a try-on day, get rid of suits and shoes that no longer fit, and purchase new ones. Check out overstock Web sites for discounts on last year’s models.

Beach Toys and Beach Chairs. Now is the perfect time to pull out all the buckets, balls, and shovels and toss away anything that is broken. Replenish your stock at the local dollar store while there is still a selection. Purchase a netted ball bag and keep some buckets, shovel, and a Frisbee in the back of the minivan or SUV to save time. 

Snacks. Stock up on non-perishable snacks and treats that are easy to pack for a day trip or take in a carry-on. Put them in a “no touch zone” so they don’t find their way into backpacks during the last weeks of school.
· Ready-to-Go Bag. Pull out your beach bag or treat yourself to a big, roomy tote. Fill it with the essentials: suntan lotion and bug spray, a few towels, a change of clothes. Keep it on hand for those last minute pool invitations or late afternoon swims at the lake.

Car Checkup. If the car needs a tune up or oil change, do it now so you’re ready for a road trip whenever you feel the urge to go on an adventure.

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