Define the purpose of the trip. Are you looking for pure relaxation, cultural activities, active pursuits like hiking and biking, shopping, nightlife, kids activities? Choose your destination and hotel/resort/cruise based on these desires.
Involve everyone in the planning. Each person should contribute one must do thing for them during the trip that everyone can share in.
Plan your travel days to be part of the vacation. Instead of finding the shortest connections for your flights and having to run through the airport to make the connection, give yourself enough time to get off the plane and have some lunch. Wander around the airport and get some exercise. A lot of airports have interesting art or exhibits you can look at. Take family or group photos at the airport. This way you won’t feel like you’ve “lost” part of your vacation to travel days.
Packing. It is really true that you should take half the clothes and twice the money than you originally planned. Take clothes that coordinate with each other and that you can wear more than once. Wrinkle proof fabrics. Shoes are big space takers, I take my walking shoes, some flip flops (because I always go somewhere warm) and one pair of dressier shoes. I also roll my clothes – they fit better in the suitcase, and if you flatten them out well first, then roll them they don’t wrinkle. My hero is my Aunt Ann who can take a carry on for a 6 week Safari trip – when I grow up I want to pack like her.
Join Loyalty Programs. Hotels, airlines and car rental companies all offer these and some even give you some perks on your first stay. Even if you don’t travel often, it’s worth the couple of minutes it takes to join.
Read the fine print! If you are booking your own travel make sure you read all the fine print. If you are using your travel agent, make sure they tell you about any exclusions, as well as inclusions. Have them send you a copy of the terms & conditions for the supplier they are using. Check for resort fees, parking fees, taxes that might not be included, airport transfers, that sort of thing.
Look for Value not price! I can’t stress this enough. This is your vacation that you have saved all year (or more) for, you’ve planned and researched for hours. Choose a hotel or resort property that offers you the most value for your money. If you are taking the kids it should have a great pool and activities that they enjoy (no one wants to hear “I’m bored” for a week!). Look for free nights, breakfast included, etc. (This is where your travel agent can be your best friend, I might have specials that you will never see.) Don’t end up at the budget property with the broken floor tiles, refrigerator door hanging off the hinges, and the local’s dogs swimming in the pool. Yes – that happened to one of my clients because she insisted on saving $100 for a week. She always takes my advice now!
Pre-book any excursions that you really don’t want to miss out on! But don’t over schedule. Leave some time for relaxing, exploring with no time frame, and just seeing what the day brings.
Buy Travel Insurance! I know what you’re thinking – we will go no matter what. Then, on the way to the airport your taxi gets in a fender bender and you miss your flight. What are you going to do? Or, you get to your destination and your luggage went somewhere else? Or…….well, there are a million things that can happen so why not protect your investment?
Use All of Your Vacation Days! You’ve earned them and you need them. You will be more productive if you take them (even if you just stay home). American’s earn fewer vacation days per year than other industrialized countries AND THEN YOU WASTE THEM. 448,000,000 days were wasted last year. (That is 448 MILLION days) That is like giving $67 Billion (yes, I said BILLION) back to your employers. Do you love them that much?
Bonus Tip – Use a qualified Travel Agent. Again, I know what you’re thinking. She is a travel agent so, of course, she wants me to use her services. And I do, if you’re planning a vacation to a tropical destination, taking a cruise, or going pretty much anywhere in theWestern Hemisphere. If not me – find another qualified travel professional who specializes in the area you are planning to travel. Most of the time it won’t cost you any more than booking it yourself, it will save you hours of research, and you have an advocate if you have a problem. Even if you do have to pay a planning fee – isn’t it worth it to make sure that your precious vacation that you have saved & planned for comes off perfectly and stress free?