Last year, my husband, my son and I took a weekend trip to Tennessee to see my husband’s family. Since my husband and I are both high-anxiety people, we were pretty stressed for a couple weeks leading up to the trip. It was a 10-hour car trip each way from our home in the Midwest, and traveling with a four-year-old was not our idea of a great time. However, despite our worries, with many lists, careful packing and plans for what to do in the car, the trip went quite well — even the car ride part.
If you’re planning a trip to see your family over the weekend, depending on your family and your relationship with them, this could be (to loosely paraphrase a popular literary quote) the best of times, or the worst of times. Adding a long plane or car trip can add to the stress, especially if you are traveling with children. No matter what your particular situation is, being prepared is crucial, and can greatly reduce your stress.
Making a plan before your trip will ensure that things go as smoothly as possible. The following are seven things to do before your trip. They may not guarantee familial harmony or a perfect road trip, but doing them will set up your trip for maximum success and minimal stress. The less you have to worry about during your trip, the better.
Clean your house beforehand
This one is optional, but if you clean your house before your trip, you’ll get the awesome benefit of coming home to a clean house. If you don’t clean before you go, you may walk in the door when you get home and become immediately discouraged and stressed by all the housework that needs to be done. The simple solution is to do it beforehand.
You can even use your upcoming trip as a good excuse to get spring cleaning done. Starting a week (or even two) before your trip will allow you to spread out all of the tasks that need to be done into manageable chunks. Making a list before you start, and assigning certain tasks to specific days, can be very helpful. Also, it feels good to check things off a list! Before our trip to Tennessee, we had cleaning lists and packing lists. It was great to check something off of each — closer to the goal!
When you’re cleaning, don’t forget things like washing your bed sheets (coming home to clean sheets is awesome), making sure you have clean towels, and clearing any expired food out of your fridge and pantry. No one wants to come home to rotten food smells!
Make arrangements for your home during your trip
Before you go, make sure everything at your home is in order. For your mail, either call the post office and have them hold it for a few days, or have a friend, family member or neighbor you trust get it for you. Make sure any pets you are not taking with you on your trip are taken care of. Set your thermostat to around 55 degrees Fahrenheit if you need to heat, and to around 79 if you need to cool. You don’t want to turn your thermostat completely off — that may actually increase your energy costs.
Also, make sure you bring plenty of cash, call your bank and tell them that you will be traveling (to avoid surprise debit and credit card holds), and pack any chargers and a hands-free headset (very useful if you’ll be driving). Take all trash outside before you go. Many of these things are common sense, but a reminder never hurts.
Kick your immune system into gear
Few things are worse than getting sick when you’re traveling. To lessen your chances of catching a bug, make sure to take good care of your immune system. This should be done year-round, but it’s especially important in the weeks leading up to a trip. Get plenty of fruits and vegetables on your plate, drink lots of water and add natural antimicrobial foods like garlic, lemon and ginger to your meals. My go-to is to eat plenty of kimchi: cabbage, ginger, garlic and probiotic to top it off equals a great immune system boosting food.
Also, check out these suggestions for other ways to keep your immune system as healthy as possible.
Check the weather and plan accordingly
It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s easy to forget to check the forecast in all of the hustle and bustle of planning and packing. Make sure you check the day before you go, as forecasts aren’t very accurate until a day or two out. Once you know the weather, you can pack accordingly.
That said, make sure to pack a few things in case of different weather, as well. As we all know, forecasts aren’t always accurate, even on a given day, so pack a raincoat, a sweater and anything else you need, even if the weatherperson says sun, sun, sun. When we went to Tennessee, we expected it to be quite warm. It was, but it was also chilly in the evenings, so we were very happy that we had our jackets.
Pack more than you think you need
This doesn’t mean you should throw the entire contents of your closet into a suitcase, but it’s good to be prepared. Even if you’re a minimalist (like me), you’ll want an extra shirt or two in case one gets dirty, an extra pair of pants, a few more socks than you’ll need and a few extra pairs of underwear. It’s much better to have these things and not need them, than to not have them and be stuck with no clean shirts. I always end up packing too many shirts, but it’s better than not having one!
When packing, it’s a good idea to ask your family if you’ll be able to do laundry where you’re staying (assuming you’re staying with them). If they’re okay with you using their machine, you may not have to pack as much.
Bring a ‘survival backpack’
This isn’t a survival backpack in the traditional camping sense. It’s more of a backpack full of things your family might need if one of you gets bored or antsy on the trip. Make sure kids have plenty of books and activities, and make sure you bring something for the adults to do in the evening once everyone is in bed (cards, books, whatever you like to do).
For our car trip with the little one, we packed him his own backpack filled with coloring books, puzzles and toys. I held the backpack and gave him one book, puzzle or toy at a time. When he got tired of playing with one, voila, another came his way. This kept him quite calm despite the length of the drive.
Bring a gift
Bringing a gift when you visit someone is a great gesture that shows that you care. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but don’t arrive empty-handed. You could bring a bottle of wine, a bag of coffee, your family’s favorite tea or a dish that you prepare. When we went to see my husband’s parents, we brought ornaments that we decorated ourselves (it was shortly before Christmas). If you’re out of gift ideas, a card works, too. Just as long as you have a little something.
What do you do before you go on a weekend trip to see family? Please share your pointers!
— Tanya Mead