Last year my family of five took a major vacation to Walt Disney World. It took my husband and I (mostly me) the greater part of six months to put the trip together. Then, when I couldn't contain myself any longer, we announced the trip to the kids a mere seven days before our departure.
They were the longest seven days of my life. My daughters asked me when we were leaving from the minute they got up in the morning until the minute they went to bed at night. The vacation countdown was all they thought about. How could we have made those seven days exciting instead of exhausting?
Where should you go on your first day? Second? What should you do if it rains? Where's the nearest tourist attraction or museum? Answer one question every day on your count down to the vacation - ten days before departure? Include ten questions on your list. Make sure to add some fun, child-friendly questions that will help get the kids excited about your destination: Where's the nearest ice cream shop? Is there anywhere nearby to play miniature golf?
Create a countdown calendar.
Creating a vacation countdown calendar, especially one that's destination-themed, is a great way to control the chaos with your excited kids. Are you and your family beach bound? Use watercolors to create a beach scene with the kids. Use a ruler to create a calendar over the image once it has dried. Let the kids take turns coloring down or crossing off the days as you approach the day of your departure.
Stock up on resources about your destination.
Research your destination before you announce your vacation to your kids. Create a box filled with library books, coloring pages, printable activities, local pamphlets, and other things you can do or enjoy as you prepare for the big day. Are you planning a day at a local national park? Take the kids to visit the website and print out any information they might be interested in reading about local wildlife. Coloring pages with animals you could encounter are great for the youngest travelers. Make the library your friend, too - visit with the kids and see if they can find both fiction and non-fiction resources about your destination.
Make it pack-tastic!
Vacations aren't all fun and games (oh how I wish they were)! My daughters wanted to pack for our trip as soon as we told them about it, but my husband and I tried to channel their packing excitement. Help the kids create color-coded packing lists that include essential items and quantities as well as carry-on items/car entertainment and anything they'll want to read/do/play once you reach your destination. Pack one bag a night, and get the kids involved in helping sort and organize the laundry for the trip (if they don't do that already). It might not sound like fun, but packing with music blaring and talk about your destination in the background can make even the most mundane of activities fun!