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So, you want to take your family on a vacation. Good idea. There are a few things you'll need to do before you leave.

If you're not sure where you want to go, take a family poll. Decide which can be done on your allotted vacation time and which would be better for a weekend trip. If you can't come to a general consensus on the choices, put them all in a hat and draw. Keep the rest on your refrigerator for the next chance you have to get away.

Set the date you will be gone. Make sure this doesn't interfere with others' schedules. For example, baseball season for the kids.

Now it's time to make the plans. You need to gather all the information about where you're going. If you're traveling in the US, call the tourist office in the state you will be staying. Have them send you tourist information, not only the region you're staying in, but also the whole state. Next contact the Chamber of Commerce in that area or the nearest town for information of places to stay.

The Internet is a great resource for finding local hotels and motels as well as Bed and Breakfasts. You can also find maps on the Internet with directions from your door to the address where you will be staying. If you are using a travel agency, they will do all this for you. Compare the costs before making a decision.

If you will be driving, have the state you are going to send you a state map. Most will send these for free. You may also want to call the tourist's offices of the states you are travelling through for a map and information on any place along your route that your family may want to visit.

Next, contact the hotel you are going to be using. Call them to make your reservation. Let them know if you need any special services, crib, wheelchair access, etc. Keep a pen and paper handy to right down check-in times, reservation numbers and any other useful information they can give you. If you are travelling by plane, make your reservations now also.

If you have pets, which you are going to want to board, call the kennel as soon as you know when you're leaving. If they don't have available space for those dates, ask them to refer you to another kennel. If all else fails, you might want to try a dog sitting service in your own home. Ask them what shots the animal needs and then call your vet to make sure your animal is up to date. It's usually best to drop them off the day before you leave and pick them up the day after your return so as to avoid rushing around and forgetting something. Be sure to leave the kennel an emergency contact number or name of someone close that you trust and who knows the animal well enough to help if needed.

Decide how much money you will need for the trip and start saving here and there so as not to take your last two checks with you and miss paying some bills. Don't forget you'll have to pay the kennel on your return. Traveler's checks would be a good idea.

Next, make two lists. One of stuff you have and one of stuff you'll need to get. If it's a summer vacation, sunscreen and mosquito spray should be at the top of the list. Make two lists. Have each family member do the same. You may find what someone wants another already has. You can be buying stuff to take with you here and there.

If you are travelling by car, make sure your tires are in good shape. Take your car in for a tune-up and an oil change. It can't hurt to take a cell phone if one is available to you.

A month before you leave, contact your hotel and speak to the manager. There may be a discount he can offer you. Verify your reservations and pertinent information.

Two weeks before your are ready to go, contact the newspaper office to hold your delivery and post office to hold your mail. Also find someone you know well to go by your house and make sure it looks all right. Purchase a timer to turn on and off your lights or television to turn these on at intervals. At this time, contact a friend to check on your house while you're gone. Leave them a number where you can be reached in an emergency.

The week before you leave, pack your bag. If there is something you still don't have, you have time to get it before you leave. If there are things you need to wear in the next week, keep track of them so you'll have everything you need. Be careful not to overpack. There will always be a washer and dryer within the area.

The night before you leave would be a great time to pack your car. Maps and information up front. All you need to do is keep out the clothes and accessories you will need the next morning. Pack these all in the same bag to throw in the car. Keep a small bag of essential items in a separate bag for easy access on the trip. For example, food, diapers, etc…

The day you leave, it's a good idea to turn off the pilot light on your hot water heater. Check all windows and doors. Unplug any nonessential items (leave the refrigerator and freezer plugged in as well as the answering machine, just in case.)

Now it's time to go. Lock the door on your way out. Have a nice vacation!