As my sister and I prepare for taking a cruise vacation next year, I’ve discovered several ways to make traveling and vacations a little bit easier. Here are some ways to ease the stress of planning your next vacation.

First of all, Plan In Advance

I probably go a little overboard on this, but I am a planner. Whether it’s the lodging, necessary funds, or even what outfits I need, I like to plan it all out well ahead of time. When our family travels, I have the hotel(s) reserved at least a couple months early, know approximately how long the trip will take, how much the food will cost, etc.

Read Up On Your Destination

Whether you’re simply vacationing in your state, or going somewhere a little more exotic such as the Caribbean, knowing what the area offers will make your vacation that much smoother. Many cities offer free guides, and several cruise lines also offer free brochures and informational booklets so you can see what they have to offer.

Make a List

This is another travel prep tool I overuse at times. I make a list of clothing and accessories to bring, electronics needed, and those last-minute items to grab on the way out the door. These include toothbrushes, wallet, cell phone and cooler. Then, of course, place the list in a conspicuous area. It is amazing how many times I would have left on vacation without one or more of these necessities, if not for having a list on the front door. Be sure to double-check the list too, and check off each item as it is added to your suitcase or car.

Prepare for Any Situation

Vacations don’t always go as planned. Especially if you’re traveling with children. Whether it’s an flat tire, a detour that takes an hour longer than your planned driving time, or maybe something as simple as losing a button from your blouse while dining out, you can always be prepared. I like to keep a small sewing kit in my purse for those wardrobe difficulties. Having roadside service, or carrying a spare tire and tire jack in your trunk, will easily turn a flat tire into a simple fix. And prepare for detours by keeping a map and a GPS in your car. (If you’re traveling with children, I also recommend snacks, drinks, and maybe some games to keep them happy during the extra driving time).

Save In Advance

Don’t just plan, save. Vacations are always more fun when you have the money saved up, and it’s also a great way to teach children about saving. In preparing for our vacation, I have been setting aside a certain amount every month. Then, I try to spend less on other things (cut out the Starbucks and Taco Bell), and see how much additional money I can add to the vacation fund each month. Set a bank out in your living room, and have the children add to it throughout the month. Put it in a savings account or safe place in your home.

These are just a few ideas for making the days leading up to your vacation less stressful. Over the years as we have traveled, I have discovered time and time again how much the preparation affects your entire trip. Most importantly though, be safe and enjoy the time with your family.