There’s no getting your money or your time back from a bad vacation, but if you put a little planning into it, you’ll more than likely bring back some amazing memories and the desire to head out again! Unfortunately you can’t foresee every little thing, but these tips will help you avoid some of the worse headaches.
1. Decide on the kind of vacation you want to take.
First things first: do you want to go on a total rest and relaxation getaway, do you want adventure, is it a family thing, a couple’s deal, city or countryside?
2. Pick the best destination.
This is a corollary to tip number one. Sounds basic, but if you’re looking for R&R and plan on visiting 5 countries in 8 days, you’re going to be running ragged. Likewise, if you’re taking kids under the age of 10, you’re going to want to make sure there’s plenty more to do than visit museums and go to the theater.
3. Would you rather be part of a group or travel on your own?
This depends on your level of travel comfort, meaning, if you’re good exploring an unknown destination on your own, then by all means, hop on the Internet and research away! It’s more adventurous and some people find it exhilarating, but if you want to make sure every single duck is in a row and you’ll be guided everywhere, call your travel agent and book a tour. Actually, we recommend calling a travel agent even if you want to travel on your own; you’ll be surprised at the awesome, off-the-grid tips they can give you (just make sure you book your hotels, etc. through them—it’s the polite thing to do if they give you great advice!)
4. Start your planning early.
Yes, it’s still true: tickets are still cheaper if you buy them several weeks in advance as opposed to two weeks or less. It’s hard to pinpoint the best day to buy, but it’s safe to say traveling and/or buying on the weekends is more expensive. Airlines are sneaky that way. That isn’t to say you can’t find screaming deals at the last minute, if you’re a last-minute kind of person, that is.
5. Find the best accommodations.
Again, sounds basic, but if you’re planning on a romantic couple’s getaway, an all-inclusive family-friendly resort in Cancun might not be your best choice—all-inclusive adult-only properties abound in the Mexican Caribbean and many are very much all about quiet time (ha). If you’re all about exploring the destination, maybe an all-inclusive isn’t the best idea, since it might preclude you from wanting to spend extra money on checking out local eateries. No matter what, though, we highly recommend checking out reviews from past guests; you might be pleasantly (or otherwise) surprised by what they have to say.
6. Do your research.
This is where Google, online reviews and yes, a call to your favorite travel agent are all key. Search for “top 10 places to visit” for your destination, “must-sees” or “top attractions” or “top restaurants”—or all of the above. The worst thing is getting home and finding out you missed out on something super cool that was ten minutes from your hotel.
7. Have your papers in order, part one.
By “papers” we mean your passport (usually has to still valid six months out from your travel date or more) and any visas you might need. You might also consider signing up for TSA Precheck or Global Entry—they are well worth the investment if you’re even a semi-frequent traveler.
8. Have your papers in order, part two.
This all about finances: avoid foreign fees by taking a debit or credit card that doesn’t charge the usual 3% (you’ll need to call or read the fine print to find out). This fee applies even if you get cash from an ATM, on top of the ATM fees. Check with your bank on what’s your best bet and to make sure your debit card will work abroad. Also, put in a travel notice so they don’t freeze your account when you charge something in Tanzania or Belfast as opposed to your usual transactions in Pensacola or Los Angeles.
9. Have your papers in order, part three.
You’re going to want to have hard copies of everything related to your trip: passport, ID cards, credit/debit cards, emergency contacts, itineraries, medical info (if needed), travel agency contact, hotel, etc.) Taking a picture with your smartphone is a good idea and yes it goes to the cloud, but smartphones can be lost, damaged or stolen and poof! You might want to leave a copy with a friend, in case of emergency. It’s all about the worry-free vacation.
10. Speaking of “worry-free”…
This is very important: sign up for an emergency medical evacuation membership, even if it’s a short trip. We’re not kidding when we say: “It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” All you have to do is check out a few of our testimonials to see why. Yeah, these folks didn’t expect anything to happen, either, but it did, and they were well taken care of.
Tags: Global Entry, travel planning, travel tips, TSA PreCheck, vacation planning