For most of us, we have two or three weeks of vacation a year. Precious weeks that we dream about and savor like the last few bites of a really fantastic cheesecake. So how do you plan a vacation to maximize those priceless days? With these five simple steps:
Plan A Vacation: Step 1 – Decide Where You Want to Go
If you’re like most people, you have a bucket list. It’s filled with places you aspire to go to and things you hope to do. Have you started checking some of those off? Have you even taken the time to write them down? Each year I pull out my own bucket list and find two or three things I want to check off (usually revolving around travel.)
I pay particularly close attention to locations that are near each other so I can see even more. This is especially easy to do in Europe, where other countries are an effortless train ride or short flight away. For instance, when I was in Poland I was able to get to Copenhagen (an hour flight away) for only $28! In addition to knocking one more thing off my bucket list, it enabled me to fly home for $1,000 less than I would have from Krakow. Jackpot!
Plan A Vacation: Step 2 – Find Your Flights and Accommodations
There are a lot of travel sites out there, so it can be hard to determine which are best to score amazingly low prices. I’ve narrowed them down for you here so you can put that extra money to work while you’re on vacation. After all, what better way to celebrate a great flight deal than using that extra cash on a fancy dinner! If you’re not a do it yourself’er though, consider using a travel agent to help plan these details for you.
Insider Tip: If you’re searching for the cheapest way to get somewhere, it’s often more cost effective to fly into a major hub near where you want to go, rather than flying directly there. (Even better, choose two or three major airlines that are reasonably priced with large footprints and try to always fly those. It’s a great way to rack up frequent flyer miles for additional discounts!) Once at a major hub, transportation to your final destination by train, car, or puddle jumper are fairly inexpensive.
Plan A Vacation: Step 3 – Decide What You Want to See and Do
So you’ve decided where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and where you’re going to stay. Now comes the fun part – deciding what you’re going to see and do when you get there! Two apps I use all the time when planning my itineraries are Google Maps and Visit A City.
Google Maps has a great feature where you can star different locations and landmarks for future reference. Any time I see a photo of a really amazing place, I find it on Google Maps and star it. Then, when I’m going on a trip, I pull up where I’m headed and reference those places so I don’t miss anything. It’s also a fantastic way to plan when you’ll see things. You can group things together by area, rather than bouncing back and forth all over the place (wasting precious time.)
Visit A City is one of my new favorite apps. You can pull up suggested itineraries for different places around the world. These suggestions are based on the length of your visit and what you’re most interested in (museums, food & wine, relaxation, family fun, etc.)
For more great travel apps to help you plan your next vacation click here.
Plan A Vacation: Step 4 – Get Packin’!
Now you’re planned, prepped, and ready to pack! I know how tempting it is to bring everything you own on vacation, but you’re not traveling to the moon. Repeat after me – less is always more.
I’m a huge proponent of never checking baggage, even on long trips. Not only does this save my suitcase from being destroyed, but it also saves me time and headaches while traveling. No waiting in baggage claim or losing my suitcase (the worst!) Think it’s impossible to pack enough in a small bag for your next vacation? Try the seven simple steps I use to ensure I always carry-on during my own travels.
Plan A Vacation: Step 5 – Capture the Moment
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I come back from every trip with a mouthful. As an obsessive shutterbug, I never leave for a trip without my camera. For me, finding the perfect moment or landscape to photograph is one of the best parts of travel! But even if you’re not quite as passionate about photography as I am, it’s still important to capture a few images on your next adventure. Pictures help you re-live those magical moments, remind you of everything you did (because after a little wine, things can get fuzzy), and they’re great for photo albums and holiday cards!
With advances in smartphone cameras these days you don’t even need expensive equipment to capture some great shots. With the help of a few photo apps, you can take great pictures with your smartphone! So whether you bring photography equipment or simply your phone, make sure pictures make their way into your planning. After all, how else will you make your friends and family jealous? Wink wink.
And just like that, you’re all set for your next vacation! With these simple steps and a little forethought, I have no doubt you’ll be able to plan the vacation of your dreams!
Some of my favorite planning resources: