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10 Travel Tips for an Epic Family Vacation – Pittsburgh Lifestyle Photographer

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10 Travel Tips for an Epic Vacation!

1. Pack Light

I know this might be counter-intuitive because I know we all want to be prepared, and bring everything we might possibly need for a trip, but trust me! From my extensive travel experience, the best memories are never made because of the stuff you brought. Simple packing lends to a cheaper trip, and it’s easier to manage your belongings, and reduces the chance of losing something.

2. Pack Clothes You can Wear Multiple Times in Multiple Ways

In order to pack light, I bring multipurpose clothing, simple colored shirts, and easy-to-wear shoes. Wear simple, solid colored clothes and plan to wear layers. For example, overalls, and jean jackets are great ways to spruce up an outfit. Bring a couple plain t shirts, they are perfect because they don’t take up much space, and you can wear it with skirts, pants, shorts, and overalls. Any outfit, any weather. I know sometimes it is tempting to bring all of your most wild and fashionable outfits, but I’ve discovered it really is in your best interest to keep it simple. Our family often choses a color scheme or two to have specific outfits for each family member that will look great in photographs.

3. Stay Organized

Know where you are keeping all of your important and valuable possessions, and always check that they are still on you every time you leave a location. In order to evade the nightmare of losing cash or a passport, the best solution is so be organized and smart about your packing and the bags you bring. I count our family’s bags every time we change locations.

4. Research Your Locations 

Our family’s favorite travel books are Rick Steve’s travel guides. I recommend reading one of his books on the location you are planning on visiting so you have the inside scoop on the best restaurants, best places to visit, along with pricing and times for the places you’d like to visit. Always travel prepared, but still allow for some spontaneity in your travels. 

I also love finding travel inspiration from Instagram. It helps me find the coolest places for pictures, along with an idea of the restaurants in the area. For example, for our family trip to St. Louis, we found a lot of ideas on where to visit and what foods to try while visiting. 

5. Leave Space for Souvenirs

The worst feeling is finding that your treasures can’t fit in your suit case. This is why I always leave home with extra space in my suit case allotted for special finds during my adventure.  One hack I used on my most recent trip was putting my carry-on inside of my otherwise empty checked bag, and checking it in on my way to the Czech Republic. Then, I took out the carry-on and filled the checked bag with all of my souvenirs and some dirty laundry, so I had a whole extra suitcase for our family’s souvenirs! 

6. Pack Essential Oils

I bring a small pack of my most favorite oils when I travel. Lavender is great for falling asleep and for skin inflammation. OnGuard for fighting off colds and helping your immune system in general. Especially if you are going to be using public transportation. Frankincense is great for dry skin that can be from wind burn or sun burn, it also helps to alleviate stress and relieve pain and indigestion. Peppermint is a great oil for is you are getting the sniffles or congestion, headaches, nerve pain, toothaches, and allergic rashes. Another favorite of mine is Balance because it helps calm young children.

7. Don’t Forget an Extra Camera Battery

This goes with all camera supplies. Don’t forget extra cards, and a charger for the batteries. The worst thing is having a camera malfunction, so triple check you have extras of everything packed and ready to go. Also remember charging cables for you other electronics and charging adopters.

8. Bring Lotion in Your Carry-on

I like to fill both sides of a contact lenses case with lotion, because the air-plane cabin can get incredibly dry. Also, remember to bring a chapstick or two. 🙂

9. Wake Up Early to Beat the Crowds

My best advice is to worry about sleeping when you get back home. Sleeping-in is not for world travelers! For example, when I was in Prague, I woke up at 6:15 so that I could make it to Prague Castle at 7:00 in the morning. Our family enjoyed walking around Prague in the morning without the heat and before all the tourists were out. So wherever you are traveling, I recommend waking up a little early to enjoy some time without the crowds. 

10. Don’t Buy the First Thing You See

Try to avoid getting stuck in all of the tourist traps. If you see a restaurant, walk a couple more blocks and try to find the restaurant with the most locals. It’s there that you will find the best, most authentic food. This is the same for shopping. Avoid the tacky tourist stores, but wait to buy souvenirs at the small village stores, or the locally owned shops


Hi, I'm Laura Mares! I'm thankful to be a wife, mother and Pittsburgh lifestyle photographer. I photograph because I believe that life is simply beautiful and every person has a story worth telling. I'd love to tell yours.

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