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How to Plan a Vacation

So you’ve got some vacation days saved up and you’re ready to travel somewhere, but where do you begin? Travel agents can help you arrange your transportation, hotels, tours, and trip insurance but you’ll need to decide on a few things first…

Where do you want to go and what type of vacation are you wanting to take?

We all have varying ideas of an ideal vacation. For some, the perfect vacation is laying on a beach, sipping on fruity drinks and reading a good book. Others may prefer a luxury river cruise, soaking up the arts, history, and culture of several popular European cities along the voyage. For the adventurous travelers the idea of an African safari or trekking Machu Pichu could be the dream.

There are guided vacations for those that like to travel with groups and would like the enrichment of having a personalized tour experience. For those that enjoy traveling on their own and making their own agenda there are ways to customize your vacation just the way you want. The possibilities are truly endless and one of the most exciting things about traveling.

How long would you like to travel and what time of year?

It’s easy to get carried away with the idea of a dream vacation without considering some key factors like how long you want to travel and the best time to visit a destination. These are very important things to consider before you start to plan your trip.

A packed itinerary may seem doable in theory… You may think you’ll have plenty of time to see and do everything on your list, but to avoid disappointment it is best to look at your plans realistically. Try to give yourself plenty of time between each sightseeing location and budget time for meals, resting, and transportation if necessary. Prioritize the most important things you want to accomplish and do those first. If you have free time left over, you can then start to fit in extra activities. It is tempting to sometimes plan for multiple cities in your itinerary, trying to squeeze as much in as possible in a limited time. This is almost guaranteed to cause travel burnout. The longer the list of things you want to see and do, the longer you should plan to stay in each destination, so you won’t feel rushed or stressed. Afterall, this is your vacation, leave your stress at home and try to enjoy the moment.

It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with local festivals, celebrations, and holidays taking place where you’re going so you can plan ahead for certain activities and avoid crowds. Weather is also an important part of the planning process. Although the day-to-day weather forecast may be unpredictable if planning your trip in advance, you can expect general weather and temperature patterns with a little bit of research ahead of time. Keep in mind that certain destinations have an “off season” and you may not be able to participate in various activities if you choose to travel at that time.

What type of hotel do you prefer?

This may seem like a detail you can put off until later in the planning process, but it’s good to know what level of comfort and price you are looking for in your lodging plans from the start. Do you prefer a certain hotel chain over others from positive experiences in the past? Are you a rewards member and could benefit from staying at a particular hotel brand? Maybe you are celebrating an anniversary or honeymoon and want to treat yourselves to a luxurious suite that you splurge on only for special occasions, these are factors to always plan for and discuss with your travel agent from the beginning of your travel planning.

Another consideration that often get misunderstood is the difference in quality that varies from country to country. What is considered a three star hotel by the United States standards would typically be considered a more luxurious four star hotel by most European countries’ standards.

Do you have any specific tours or activities that you want to experience?

Planning a vacation can be overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. One of the most helpful parts to creating the ideal trip is knowing what you and your travel companions want to do while at your destination. Before you contact your travel agent to plan a trip you need to know why you want to travel and what you want to do when you get there. As helpful as travel agents are at organizing your travel itinerary, they are not mind readers. Do some homework before your scheduled travel planning appointment and have an idea of what kind of activities and tours you will be interested in. Giving your travel agent some guidance as to what you’d like to do on your trip will spare you and your agent a lot of wasted time and disappointment.

If you are not familiar enough with a destination and the activities and sights to be seen, consider a guided vacation. Guided trips are a great way to get a fulfilling experience in a new place as your itinerary has been skillfully crafted by experts that know each specific destination inside and out. You will have each activity pre-arranged, so the only thing left to do is enjoy! Guided vacations ensure that you don’t miss out on any essential sights to be seen or popular activities.

Once you have a clear idea for your vacation and can answer all these questions you are ready to start planning your trip. Your travel agent will be able to assist with the details and arrangements of your trip, alleviating any stress and ensuring that you are prepared for a great vacation. So, where to next?