Packing, planning and executing a summer family vacation is not a part of the process that I look forward to. It is tiring and even stressful.

One time I waited until the last minute to wash clothes, fold, pack my children’s suitcases, clean the house and load the van in the wee hours of the morning.

Exhausted, stressed and cranky, we pulled out of the driveway at 3 a.m. It did not feel as though we were headed for an exciting and relaxing vacation in Orlando, Florida. It felt more like I’d completed the dog shift.

While we thought leaving early would mean some quiet time in the car, it did not. My children were wide awake, chattering and eager to get to Disney World.

This summer, I am making some changes and planning our vacation a bit more efficiently. Following some advice from a seasoned mom traveler, I’m hoping our upcoming Texas trip will be less stressful and exhausting and more leisurely.

The first change I’m making, on the advice of this mother of two, is to pack early.

With three children of my own, packing involves washing, folding, sorting, and sometimes rummaging through the attic for last year’s swimsuits and water toys and deciding how much to pack for each child.

My children are fully involved in the process this time. They each have a printed list of toiletry items, underclothes and everyday clothes to pack into their suitcases.

Packing an entire suitcase the night before a trip is a certain stressor, my travel expert reminded me. That strategy has left my suitcase overpacked or messily arranged on past trips. The answer is simply to lay clothes out early and decide what I want to wear days ahead instead of hours before a trip.

The other stressbuster is to leave most work at home. Too often, I have carried my laptop to the poolside while the family is having a blast. This year, I am striving to keep work to an hour or two.

Another way to relieve stress before traveling is to straighten up the house days before the trip, a friend told me. Leave nothing more than a bed to make and a few dishes to wash on the eve of a trip.

While traveling with children does take extra effort, there are ways my husband and I can enjoy some time alone. Because most of our trip will be centered around amusement parks and swimming pools, my Texas cousin offered to babysit one evening so my husband and I can go on a date.

My only other complaint about traveling is one that can be easily fixed. Now that hotel suites and condos often come equipped with kitchens, cooking can be unavoidable. One vacation year, I cooked nearly everyday — breakfast and lunch. This year, I’m going to shop smart, pick up frozen breakfast sandwiches and order a lot of pizzas.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at