Do you need a vacation from planning and packing for your vacation? Does the idea of coming back to the missed days of work make you want bring your laptop to the beach?

“Vacation stress” may sound like a contradiction in terms. But any kind of change — even a fun one — can trigger stress. Add children to the mix, and you can have a recipe for more work than relaxation.

According to bestselling author and family researcher Bruce Feiler, family vacations are where the “most fertile, ferocious fights imaginable can happen.” Vacations can throw together the dreaded combination of money, stress, planning and navigation. Add on other common stressors like delayed flights, lost luggage and bad weather, and the perfect family meltdown can be brewing before you’ve even left your zip code. 

The secret to a successful vacation can be thorough planning. It’s not just about making flight reservations or reserving a campsite.

Don’t Let Work Worries Scare You Away from Vacations

Good planning includes tying up loose ends at work and ensuring your bases are covered while you’re away. The better organized the work aspect is, the more relaxed and less harried you’re likely to feel before, during and after your days off.

Vacations scare some employees who worry the work world will end without them. Worse yet, they fear higher-ups will think they lack commitment. Perhaps that’s one reason an estimated 500 million American vacation days go unused each year. But if you have days off, take them.

Sure, three weeks in Paris may not fit into your work goals — or your budget. But a heavy workload or tight budget doesn’t mean you have to lose vacation time.

Schedule a long weekend a few times a year and stay fairly local. Kayak a lake or hike a park. Stay at a nearby bed and breakfast for a few days. A new challenge or change in routine can reset your internal processor. When you return to the office, you may do so with renewed energy and purpose.

Make Checklists

A checklist can help you get organized before you leave and help relieve stress. According to Feiler, to improve family efficiency, create different checklists for different times in the vacation planning process.

Create one for a few weeks before, the week before and two days out. You can even make one for the few hours before your departure. Your checklists should have specific action items. And try to keep them to only seven items each. Target things that often go wrong, like forgetting to cancel the mail or bringing a mobile phone charger, or more importantly, making sure everyone uses the bathroom before you hit the road. 

Get Everyone Involved in Planning

Planning doesn’t have to be a burden. Make it a family event and use it to help build excitement about the trip. Before you pack up the family, involve older children in decisions about where to go and what to do on vacation. Kids can help with making and following checklists, too.

Will all of the planning add up to a stress-free vacation? Maybe not — things often happen that are out of anyone’s control. But putting in the effort upfront can help you and your family get away to a place and time for building lasting memories.