Things to Remember When Making Vacation Plans

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You want to get a good deal and have a great vacation, but you’re not a travel agent and are worried about messing up what is supposed to be a relaxing getaway.

Don’t let your worries weigh you down. With a little bit of web research and some patience, a couple of hours are all you need to plan a fabulous vacation.

Your basic checklist for a relaxing retreat includes the following factors:

  • Vacation destination
  • Transportation
  • Comfortable and safe accommodations
  • Tasty food
  • Activities

Choosing your destination should be the first decision you make. Consider the time of year you are traveling and how busy certain locations get. Summer and winter months tend to be the busiest times, which could make finding a last-minute hotel difficult. Furthermore, you need a destination that accommodates everyone traveling with you. For instance, young children need a lot of stimulation, and may not enjoy museums or looking at architecture. Likewise, adults don’t want to be surrounded by screaming children all day at a children’s theme park. Pick a destination that balances out everyone’s needs.

Transportation to get to your destination is only half the problem. You need to choose a place that is fairly easy to get to, and that can provide you with a rental vehicle or reliable public transportation.  Driving in an unknown city or country can be unnerving and costly. Review methods of public transportation for whatever location you plan to visit. Additionally, it’s a good idea to find out if there is a discount card available for cheaper rates. For example, London has an “Oyster Card” that reduces the cost of buses and underground fares to a flat rate.

Be picky when picking your accommodations. It may only be a place you sleep at, but it will also be the place you leave your possessions. Refer to the star system that is assigned to most mainstream hotels. Although the star system is related to comfort and service, it can reflect hotel safety as well. Likewise, read customer reviews, but keep an open mind. Don’t let one bad review ruin your opinion about a hotel. Also, keep your mind open to accommodations beyond hotels, such as using a rental property, or a bed-and-breakfast. Sometimes these locations are cheaper and cozier. However, renting them last minute is not always possible.

The best part about being on vacation is eating whatever you want. After choosing your hotel, review local restaurants. Some hotels even list nearby restaurants on their web page. Different web sites dedicated to either tourism or particular cities also have listings of restaurants with helpful pricing guides and ordering advice. If you do nothing else, at least figure out some place to go for breakfast. Even if your hotel serves a continental breakfast, you and your family may want to sleep in or have something more filling. Driving around aimlessly first thing in the morning while hungry is never a pleasant car trip.

You’re on vacation to relax and have fun, so you better have some places and ideas in mind. Many destinations are tailor-made to fill up your day with activities, such as theme parks. If you’re visiting a town or region, on the other hand, you will need to know what’s in the area. Most major tourist attractions advertise online, and can be found by entering the name of your destination followed by the word “attractions,” or the phrase “things to do.” Explore different web sites and find out the address and phone number of each possible location, the hours of operation, and the cost involved. Some web sites offer coupons or discounts for those who buy online. Similarly, some cities offer discount cards that can help save money at multiple locations around town. Always review the details involved in any discount program before purchase.

Tips for Every Traveler:

Price shopping: With sites like Travelocity, Expedia, Hot Wire, and Priceline, just to name a few, price checking has never been so easy. Opening up multiple windows/tabs with these different travel discount web sites can help you compare prices on flights, hotels, vehicle rentals, and even activities. Get the best rates you can, even if you have to use more than one site.

Pre-ordering tickets: While it is generally cheaper to purchase tickets online for activities, be mindful of the stipulations. For instance, if you buy tickets that are only good for certain days, you are stuck planning your entire vacation around those days.

Break time: It’s easy to plan your trip and fill up every day with different activities. Give yourself leeway time for the day you’re arriving and the day you’re leaving. Traveling takes a lot out of people and you need some time to recuperate. Likewise, keep your activities flexible instead of finite. If you bring a list of possible places you could visit then you can choose which days you feel like doing which activities. On the other hand, if you buy tickets ahead of time to fill each day with a different activity, you are forced to go to those activities OR lose out on the money you already spent.

Maps: Try to bring multiple maps with you when going to a vacation destination. If you can’t purchase maps ahead of time, buy them when you arrive. Getting turned around and lost in an unknown location is massively frustrating and takes away from your relaxation time. Always carry a street map with you, and if possible a map of public transportation routes. Furthermore, printout round-trip directions from your hotel to each location you are thinking about visiting.

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2 thoughts on “Things to Remember When Making Vacation Plans

  1. I’m totally amazed at how you switch from one topic to another with ease and write like an expert. 🙂
    On travelling though, besides the basics, I actually like to do the following thing:
    1. Get a good guidebook – usually Lonely Planet
    2. Decide what kind of travelling I would like to do. there are several in my categories : Chill out travel, shopping, eco-adventure, archeological, cultural, foodie, research-write-a-book travel etc. So when it’s archaeological travel (my fav) I spend more time in ruins and temples. if it’s about culture, I spent more time in museums and talking to people in the streets, if it’s foodie travel, spent more time dining and sampling good food!!!
    3. Chart my day to day itinerary and how much I should spend, based on info given by the guidebook, incl buffers for the unforeseens.
    4. Travel light, pack essentials. Clothes, cameras .. No point paying for extra luggage and overloads. These days budget airline charge you for every piece of luggage you carry with you. So make sure cabin bag is really a cabin-fitted-sized bag, else you will be charged! Arrghhh. how I love and hate budget airlines!

    Going anywhere for summer?

    1. Excellent additions to my post! I usually read plenty of guidebooks and bring the better ones along as well. The thing I dislike about most guidebooks is that they are focused on certain elements of an area, but they are still meant for the general public. In other words, if you are into any activity that is considered even remotely “extreme,” those listings are not generally included.

      For example, this summer my husband and I traveled to San Francisco and wanted to visit some Goth and punk clubs. While the guidebooks I had established different “nightclubs and bars,” none of the listings really gave us what we wanted. I tried going online, but there’s so many clubs in San Francisco that I felt overloaded and unsure of how to find which club would be right for us.

      Beyond our weeklong excursion to SF, which is only two hours away from our house — ergo no flying required — I’m not sure if we plan on going anywhere else. There are talks amongst my local friends about camping, but we will probably stay within the area.

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