Picture it: You and your favorite person sipping cocktails poolside, warm sunshine, the scent of suntan lotion wafting through the air, fabulous music courtesy of a steel drum band, your to-do list consists of “relax,” “sleep late” and “eat out,” you’re far far away from reality - you’re on vacation!
Makes you want to plan a vacation, doesn’t it? Me too! Here’s my list for planning a vacation:
1. Set a Budget
This is my least favorite step – but it must be done first. This will determine everything else. Figure out how much you can set aside comfortably to spend on this vacation. You don’t want to stress yourself out by spending out of your means and then jeopardize how much “fun” you can have on your trip.
2. Decide Travel Length
Your budget will help you figure this out but also think about what sort of activities you’ll be doing when you set your trip’s length. I will never turn down a chance to lie on the beach -- but a beach vacation can get boring. I can’t really do it for more than five days. But if I were traveling to Europe, I’d want more time to see all the sights and really absorb the culture.
3. Do Your Homework
This is my favorite part! I’m a research nerd at heart – maybe that’s why I became a journalist. I troll discount websites like Expedia, Travelocity, JetSetter and LuxuryLink for inspiration and deals.
I go to Barnes and Noble or the library to look through travel books and magazines to see what are the best locations to go at that time of year and for info on “hot spots.” I check weather, flying or driving times, cuisine and activities. I’m pretty much obsessed with Rick Steves and his books and videos. I’ve used his guides for more than one trip, and they are always spot on.
If I have time I’ll visit a travel agent. Even if I don’t book with them, I feel like they give you good insight into what’s worth it and what’s not. They probably hate when people do this, but I think it’s a great researching tool.
4. Get Recommendations
Talking to friends and family to get feedback is key. This is probably the best way you can get a feel for a place without going. I like to go on trip review sites like TripAdvisor and Fodor’s because they have endless recommendations from people all over the world. The only problem with these sites is that I don’t know these people. So what might be a great vacation for one person might not be a great one for me.
5. Devote Time to Your Search
If you take your time making this decision you’ll be happier in the end. The more time you give yourself to plan - the better. You never want to say “I wish I would have checked that out first.” Do a little research each day so you don’t get overwhelmed. Make a list of the resorts or locations you like best and compare them. A pro and con list also comes in handy when trying to narrow down your choices.