I am very methodical when it comes to planning vacations. They are, after all, an escape from the everyday, and I want them to be perfect. Here are my top travel tips to ensure the BEST vacation.
1. Do your research
EXAMPLES – lodging, places to eat, things to do, shopping, currency, language, local weather, local events, culture
Too many people try to take vacations without spending any time researching their destination. It definitely pays to take a few hours (or however long is necessary), and research your destination on the internet or in travel books at your local library. Find out about the weather, necessary documents for travel, the culture and customs (if traveling to another country), local attractions, dining, shopping, etc. Information is power – the more you know about where you are going, the better you can plan, enjoy, and relax on your trip.
2. Book ahead
EXAMPLES – air travel, car rental, lodging, fine dining, tickets for attractions
This travel tip especially concerns the first three examples – air travel, car rentals, and lodging. You cannot guarantee a pleasant vacation if you’re just going to wing it. Sure, anyone can pick up and travel sporadically, but I can guarantee that their travel plans will have problems. Not only do you take chances when you don’t book ahead, you will be spending more time arranging your vacation, while on vacation. Don’t waste time on your precious few days trying to plan the vacation you’re currently on. The planning should be already done.
In regards to booking dining plans and tickets/fees for activities, only book them if
- You absolutely will be doing this at this certain date and time, or
- The tickets/fees/reservations don’t require a fee upfront (partial or full payment). Also, as long as the tickets/fees/reservations are fully refundable (under any circumstances, as travel plans can change), you are safe to book them ahead of time.
3. Be flexible
EXAMPLE – be willing to change plans, even cancel if necessary
With travel comes problems. Reservations will be lost, plans will be cancelled, bad weather will arise, and people will get sick. It happens..and it’s ok! Just be sure to travel knowing that you may have to change your plans due to circumstances that are not under your control. You must be able to prioritize and change your plans accordingly. If you remain inflexible when situations arise, your group’s happiness and future willingness to travel is at stake.
4. Spend the extra money if comfort and/or happiness is at stake
EXAMPLE – drive vs. fly, skipping meals to save money, economy lodging vs. comfortable lodging
When it comes down to it, vacation is all about family, shared moments, and fun. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to travel as cheaply as possible, and I’ve been burned as a result. Want to rent the cheapest car? Sure, as long as your family and all of your luggage fits comfortably. Want to stay at the cheapest hotel? Find out if it’s up to your standards. A horrible night of sleep on a horrible bed is never a good idea when traveling. It’s never worth that small amount of savings, if you and your family are uncomfortable, miserable, hungry, or tired. If your family spends all day walking through and touring Washington DC, everyone is likely exhausted and doesn’t want to walk back to the hotel. Sure, it will cost a few bucks to hire a cab or Uber, but the crew will be much happier overall. Understood, travel isn’t cheap. So if you have to bump your trip back a few weeks to save some more money to allow for comfort, it’s worth it. Not only will you travel more comfortably, but there will be less stress, less conflict, and more smiles.