Planning a Family Vacation Without Losing Your Mind (plus FREE packing list printable!)

Summer is here! Schools are letting out and everyone starts thinking about pool days, park time, and family vacations! When you’re planning a vacation with kids, it can be easy to stress about lots of details: where to sleep, what to eat, what to bring, etc. I have a list of ten things to help you plan a family vacation without losing your mind (plus a free packing list printable, so keep reading!)

1. Don’t overplan.

Kids are unpredictable. You may arrive at your destination only to find that your kids are content with doing one activity the entire time you’re there! Have a few preplanned outings or activities, but keep your schedule loose and allow for flexibility.

2. Bring snacks.

This is basically a given when you’re traveling with kids, but it will make your life easier. Rather than having to search for food to eat when those inevitable hangry meltdowns occur, pack some healthy snacks that your kids enjoy. It also helps for those “You want me to eat WHAT?!” moments that happen a little more often when traveling. ;)

3. Schedule nap/rest times.

When you’re away from home and filling your days with activities that aren’t the norm, your kids are going to need some down time. And let’s face it – so are you! Plan to spend at least an hour each day (or more, depending on the ages of your kiddos) resting and doing quiet activities like reading, card games, or taking naps. This will help everyone to recharge and have more energy – and fewer meltdowns!

4. Pack light.

Unless you’re vacationing in a remote village somewhere, you probably don’t need to pack everything you own. Many hotels and water parks have laundry available, so you don’t have to worry if baby goes through all five outfits in the first day. When my kids were younger, I would pack lots of toys for them to play with, only to discover that they were so excited to be in a new place, they barely looked at their toys! So bring the bare minimum and know that you can always grab extra supplies at a nearby store if you find you absolutely need them. You’ll be happy to carry fewer suitcases!

5. Pack a few familiar comforts.

Whether it’s a lovey, an essential oil diffuser, or a cozy bathrobe for snuggling in after swimming, everyone likes to feel at home when they’re away. I always let my kids chose one stuffed animal or blankie to have on long car rides or in hotel rooms. That familiar feeling tends to help everyone sleep a little better!

6. Make a list.

I just looove lists. Whenever we take a trip, I make a huge list of everything I need, so we don’t forget anything. I really adore checking off boxes. :) I have a great packing printable for you free at the end of this post!

7. Choose a kid-friendly location.

Not all vacation spots are made for kids, so choose wisely. We love vacationing in the Wisconsin Dells, because there’s something for everyone. The Kalahari Resort is family friendly and has activities for all ages. They have both indoor and outdoor waterslides, so you can have fun even when the weather isn’t that great.

The Kalahari Resort here in Wisconsin recently added an awesome new outdoor waterslide, which just opened this Memorial Day. The new ride “The Smoke That Thunders” looks amazing! You can pile on these big rafts with your family and friends and thunder down the epic waterslide. I can’t wait to try it!

Over the years, my family has traveled to the Wisconsin Dells many times, and the Kalahari Resort is perfect for families with multiple ages. Since there’s such a wide variety under one roof, you don’t have to get in your car to go elsewhere unless you want to. One-stop vacationing is my jam. Because once I’ve gotten everyone out of the car, I really don’t want to get back in unless we’re going home! Mom can hit up the spa (um, yes please!!) while the kids are playing arcade games, then we can all meet back at the waterpark. There are water activities appropriate for every age level, so no one feels left out. That’s important for a big family like mine. ;)

Since there’s so much to do in one spot at the Kalahari Resort, you really don’t need to pack much. They have towels, food, fun activities, arcade games, and more. So you just need to pack a few personal items! I’ve made a free printable to help your packing go a little smoother.


If you’re not close enough to drive to the Wisconsin Dells Kalahari location, be sure to check out the Sandusky, Ohio location!

What packing tips do you have to help keep your sanity?




The Stay Dry Tote — Tutorial!

This summer [whenever summer decides to arrive here… ] we’re planning on spending a lot of time at the wading pools.  They are perfect for my boys and I – small, not crowded, shallow enough that the boys can play freely, and free [the big selling point!]

Look at my little wading pool baby!

When we go to the wading pool, we bring along little bath toys.  However, when we are heading home, the wet toys get thrown into the bag, getting everything else wet too.  I can’t even tell you how annoying that is to me.

This year we will not have this problem, though, thanks to the Stay Dry Tote.  It is lined with vinyl, so that all the wetness stays in the bag.  It’s made from a random rummage sale fabric that reminds me of waves (and was $4 for 4yds!), with upcycled jeans pockets on the outside.  It’s the perfect size for my three-year-old to carry by himself [because this prego mama’s going to have her hands full!]

Mine is made to really only hold small toys, and not much else, but you could easily make yours bigger to fit whatever you need.

I know you want to make your own!  So here’s how:

1. Cut two pieces of fabric for the main pieces of your tote.  I didn’t measure mine at all, I just drew onto the fabric what I thought would be a good size and shape.  Just make sure your two pieces are the same size.

2.  Cut two pieces of vinyl that are an inch shorter than your fabric pieces.

3.  Cut two rectangles of fabric for your straps.  Again, I didn’t measure these.  I just held up the fabric to my three-year-old to see about how long they should be.  You will be folding these pieces of fabric in half, so make sure it is twice as wide as you want your straps to be.

4.  Grab an old pair of jeans and use a seam ripper to take off the pockets, if you’d like some on your tote.  You could also make fabric pockets, but I knew my son would think these pockets were much cooler – and it’s faster!

5.  Sew the pockets onto the outside of one fabric piece.  I overlapped my pockets onto one side, but you could also put one on each side (or just use one pocket).

In doing this, one of the pockets gets sort of divided into two small sections, which are perfect for holding sunscreen, granola bars… or matchbox cars, depending on who is packing the pockets. ;)

6. Take the two main fabric pieces, put the right sides together, and sew along the curved edge – but NOT along the top edge.  I used a serger, but you could zig-zag this on your sewing machine instead.

7.  Take one piece of the fabric for the straps and fold it in half, right side in.  Sew along the edge.

8.  The fabric for the strap will now be an inside out tube.  Attach a safety pin to one end, and use it to help you turn the tube right side out.  Repeat steps seven and eight for the other strap.

9.  Press the straps so that the seam is in the middle.

10.  Press the seams of the tote.

11. Fold the unfinished edge at the top of the tote down about 1/2 inch and press.

12. Insert one end of one strap, under the edge you just pressed.  Do the same for the other end of the strap – on the same side of the tote.  When you insert it, the seam will be facing down.

13. Fold the strap flush with the edge and press.

14. Fold the top edge over again another 1/2 inch, then press.  Pin the strap in place.  You can double check at this point that the strap is laying correctly, isn’t twisted, and is in the right place.  Repeat steps 12 – 14 for the other strap.  Make sure you fold, press, and pin your edge all around the top of the tote.

*You won’t want to press it again after this, because the vinyl could melt [not that I’ve done that before or anything….]

15. Sew the two pieces of vinyl together.  I serged it – which turned out to be tricky for me, because I had a hard time finding good tension for the vinyl, but you can zig-zag it also.  Make sure you use a short stitch length on your sewing machine.

16.  Put your vinyl inside your tote.  Check how it fits, because now is the time to trim it if you need to.  You want it to fit underneath your pressed edge, right up to the top.  If it seems too big at all, you can trim it and re-sew if necessary.  Pin the vinyl under the pressed edge.  When tucking it under the straps, be careful they don’t shift out of place.

17.  Top stitch around the top of the tote.  Be careful that you keep the straps laying flat and not in the bag at all.

Now you are all set to enjoy your new Stay Dry Tote, keeping your water toys from getting everything else wet!  And bonus for a bag that a three-year-old is is super psyched to carry around… at least for now.

And now that we have our Stay Dry Tote, we are ready for summer!  Even if we did have to turn our heat on yesterday. [Seriously.]

If you make one, I’d love to see a picture!

Linking up here!