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The Mom's Guide to Summer Vacation

Photograph by Getty Images

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God … summer is almost here! And this, my friends, is TOTALLY FREAKING ME OUT.

Our kids may be excited about the break from their school year routine, and some lucky parents are looking forward to playing with their offspring for three carefree months, but other parents—like me—are anticipating the summer with all sorts of dread.

RELATED: The Summer Slowdown

Now, I really want to love summer vacation, but, as a busy working mother, I don’t have the luxury of taking the time off to rest, relax and play. Perhaps when I win the lottery, but for now the summer isn’t a break, it’s a time of scheduling mayhem and time management madness. And it’s just now starting to hit me that I'd better get my act together and start planning for my daughter’s summer vacation. Are you in the same boat? If you are one of those totally efficient and organized parents (or one of those who can take the summer off), well, you can just skip the rest of this. You either know all this already or you are just super lucky. But me, I so totally need this checklist to make sure I’m ready for our summer.

Find Day Camps

Hopefully you live in a place that has a whole bunch of summer camp options to choose from. In my city we have oodles, including skateboard camps, animation camps, LEGO camps and even a surgery camp (where kids play doctor). Try to sign up for a variety of camps—if possible—so that your children won’t get bored.

Sleep-Away Camps

I’m not at a point yet where I could send my child to a camp far away from home. Actually, I’m not sure if I’ll be ready for this until she goes away to college! But for some—both kids and parents—this is a great option for a week, a couple of weeks or even a month.

Summer is the perfect time to lazily read the days away.


Before summer vacation starts, email the parents of all your kid’s friends. Find out what their summer schedules are, so not only can you coordinate day camps, but you can also schedule playdates throughout the break. Last year, a group of us parents even organized an entire playdate week. There were five girls, and each day a different parent took the kids on an adventure. It was like a free (and fun) day camp.


Before vacation starts, stock up! Go to the library or your local bookstore, and buy or borrow a whole bunch of books. Summer is the perfect time to lazily read the days away. Also, make sure to head to your local craft store and pick up construction paper, glue, glitter, pens, rainbow loom supplies and craft kits so when your children utter the dreaded words, “I’m bored,” you have a project-based reply to keep them busy.


Schedule at least ONE vacation. While it would be lovely to “summer” in the Hamptons or jet off to Paris for a couple months, this is a reality reserved for those 1 percenters. If you can swing it, go out of town for a week or a long weekend. Maybe pack up the car and go on a road trip, or try your hand at camping. The worst is when your kids go back to school and the students are all comparing where they went and your kid’s answer is “nowhere.”

RELATED: The Cost of Summer


If your family isn’t close by, you should import them! Not only do your kids get quality time with their relative, but think of it this way: It’s free child care! You can do errands or work while your mother, mother-in-law, aunt, uncle, sister, brother or cousins watch your kids. Bonus points if your relatives have kids of a similar age; then you have a automatic playdate right there.

What have you done to get ready for summer?

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