Vacation planning is exciting, but it also can be a bit stressful. Having an organized travel plan is a great way to ensure that your vacation is stress-free. You don’t have to plan every minute of your trip, and most people find it enjoyable to keep a certain level of spontaneity, but having a little structure helps make the most of your valuable vacation time.
I realized quickly when planning trips for my two daughters and me that being organized and prepared helps me get the most enjoyment out of my vacation. There are so many ways to plan a trip, but here are some things that I have learned and incorporated into all of my travel planning.
Once I know the timeframe of my vacation, I usually start with a budget. Then I research destinations. This way, I can compare prices for flights and accommodations and determine which destination will be the best option for my vacation. There are so many fabulous choices. Choosing a destination can be one of the most difficult decisions, but it is important to consider your travel companions and their interests.
Things to consider:
What do you want to do? Are you relaxing or adventuring, or a little of both?
What is the best time of year to travel to a specific destination?
Consider what you want to do and how the weather might affect your plans.
Consider the crowds and the extra expense of traveling during the most popular times.
Investigate travel options and requirements - what airline will you use? Will a car be necessary?? Is there public transportation? Will you hire a private tour guide or join a group tour?
You can research just about everything online. Also, it is helpful to ask friends and family for any suggestions they have. The best recommendations are not always the first thing that pops up online. Talk to people!
Create a bookmark folder and/or a Pinterest board with a title that is easy to find. For example, Hawaii 2024. Save everything of interest so you can refer back to it as you begin narrowing things down.
Things to research:
Flights - I start by looking at flights to get a sense of what is available. Typically, I don’t book a flight until I know some information about the available accommodations. Sometimes, I start with a Google search to get an idea of what airlines have flights to my location, but ultimately, I prefer to book directly with the airline. I have my favorites, and I join all of the loyalty programs. You should join them, too! The perks accumulate over time, and you have nothing to lose by joining these programs.
Accommodations - Hotels, Airbnbs, VRBO, etc. Look at them all! Investigate specific locations, read reviews, and watch for recent renovations that might affect your stay. Again, I might start with a Google search to see what is available, but I always book directly with the hotel whenever possible. I recommend joining these loyalty programs, as well.
Weather - Is it hurricane season? What might you expect for temperatures? Is it what you envisioned for your trip?
Culture -Will language barriers or any unknown customs be a challenge for you? Are there any holidays or special events that may affect your plans?
Activities -sightseeing, tours, events, and other things to do and the best time to do them.
Food - Restaurants, grocery stores, food delivery. I always make at least a few dinner reservations well in advance.
Now that you have narrowed your options, you are ready to start booking. First, create a folder where you can keep all of your confirmation emails. I create a color-coded label, as well. When you receive booking confirmations or any correspondence regarding your trip, file it in this folder right away.
Depending on the complexity of your vacation, it might also be helpful to make a simple spreadsheet to outline the details for each day of your trip. I recently planned a trip that took us from Bozeman, MT, to Yellowstone National Park, then to Cody, WY, and finally, back to Bozeman. This trip involved five separate accommodations and a different tour or event in each location. It was a lot to manage! Having addresses, phone numbers, confirmation numbers, tour times, dinner reservations, and costs all documented in one place was very helpful. Additionally, I used this to track what was paid for in advance and what was still due. Also, remember when you travel, you don’t always have internet or cellular access. Print it out and put it in your travel bag. You may not need it, but if you do, you will thank me!
Of course, there is always the option to cancel your plans and just sit by the pool, but planning in advance eliminates the stress of trying to figure it all out on the go.