How to Organize Your Family Vacation

Ahhh, summertime in the South. For many of us, that means multi-generational, family beach trips. And that means divvying up who’s bringing what and who’s cooking when.

My family’s annual beach trip is in its 75th year this summer. It began two decades before I was born. I guess we could it call the Diamond Anniversary Beach Trip.

This year, we will have fourteen adults and five children between two houses. That’s a lot of mouths to feed and food to coordinate!

Thankfully the internet and particularly Google Drive is making the back and forth tweaking of “the beach list” easy. Google Drive is an amazing free service for anyone with a Gmail address or a Google account.

It’s cloud storage, a word processing program, a spreadsheet program and more, all rolled into one.

The way we use Google Drive for our beach trip is that one person creates a document or spreadsheet with columns which list the items each attendee has agreed to bring. On a second page, the daily mealtime cooks are listed.

Then the document is either emailed as an attachment or shared with the other participants, depending on whether they have a Google account or not. Why? Because if they have a Google account they can edit the original document and the changes are immediately available to everyone else with whom it was shared. Those without a Google account email their adjustments to the original sender who revises the Google document for them. 

Having the list in Google’s cloud storage makes it easier each year when we begin the list discussion. We start with the previous year’s document on Google Drive, copy it and rename it with the current year and eliminate wracking our brains to remember what we did the year before. Plus, my aunt in her wisdom, always revises “the beach list” immediately following our trip with extra items we needed and bought or menu changes that were made.

Each year’s list gets easier and easier to compile.

How to share and edit your vacation list with others

  1. The person starting the list (you) needs to have a Gmail address or Google account.
  2. From, click on the little boxes in the top right and then Drive.
  3. Click the Create button and select either Document or Spreadsheet. My family has switched to using a spreadsheet because it’s easier to add and delete items in each column, but either will work.
  4. The document or spreadsheet will open, ready to be edited. Be sure to rename it from “Untitled!”
  5. When you are ready to share with others to contribute, click on Share in the right corner.
  6. Enter email addresses in the Invite people box and click Done. (The words Can Edit should be to the right of the box.)
    You have a decision to make at this point:

    • You can just invite people with Gmail addresses because you know they have access to Google Drive and email your non-Gmail collaborators an attachment of your document. (This was my choice for the older members of our family who don’t use Gmail.)
    • Or, invite everyone (Gmail and non-Gmail). The non-Gmail invitees will be directed to create a Google account if they don’t already have one. They can even do this with their non-Gmail address. This is preferable if your group is willing and able to oblige.
  7. Each invitee will receive an email invitation and the document will be in their Google Drive account under Shared with me.
  8. Changes are automatically saved and updated for everyone sharing the file.

How to email your vacation list as an attachment

  1. Click on File > Email as attachment… in the menu bar.
  2. Select Attach as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel.
  3. Enter email addresses, a message and click Send.
  4. These invitees should be directed to send their changes to you to enter in Google Drive.


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