Travel Planning 101
Travel Planning a vacation can feel overwhelming. Just thinking about all the details can take the fun out of it. Leave the stress behind by using these five steps as a guide to simplify your travel planning. You will be on your way to an amazing and memorable vacation!
1 – What activities do you want to experience?
Whether you are planning a solo getaway, a couple’s trip, or a family vacation, you first need to decide what activities you want to do while you are away. Do you want to scuba dive? Snow-Ski? Para-sail? Rock climb? Fly fish? Lay on a beach? Eat? Shop? See historical sights?
If you’re traveling with your spouse, friends, or family this should be your first discussion. Finding out your spouse wants to spend a whole day shopping or playing golf while you’re on vacation is not ideal if you had complete opposite plans. Starting the planning with a clear understanding that dad may want to golf or spend time early in the morning fishing, mom may want to shop or visit a spa, and the kids may want to snorkel all day makes planning a lot easier!
Deciding what you want to do is the first step. So, without worrying about where to go, figure out what experiences you want? This will narrow down the list of potential vacation destinations.
2 – How long do you have to escape:
When I plan a family vacation my second step is always figuring out how many days I have to get away. Everyone involved gets out the calendar to discuss. This is usually just my husband’s calendar, the kid’s school calendar, and my own. If we have just six days to spare, then a half-day of travel, or a 3-4 hour flight, on each end is reasonable. A full day of travel for a 6-day family vacation is not usually worth it. That much travel cuts the actual vacation time down to 4 days. If we have two weeks or more, a full travel day on each end is fine.
Remember, when traveling with kids allow about the same amount of time you spend traveling for recovery. For them and YOU! (See BLG blog post: “Travel Time – Kids and Different Time Zones”) There are lots of ways to make traveling easier, but it still takes a toll on everyone. Once you have decided on your timetable and how far you’re willing to travel, you are ready for step 3!
3 – Find that flight:
The perfect airline flight for a family vacation is all about time and money. Air travel can be the single most important factor on where and if you go on a vacation. Airfare can take up half or more of the family vacation budget. Finding the most cost effective airline flight not only saves your travel budget, but also allows room for nicer accommodations, more activities, souvenirs, or better dining experiences.
Back in step 2 we talked about travel time and how it effects your decision on where to go on you vacation. Finding locations that you can get to with either a direct flight or one connector can cut down the travel time and get you more time at your vacation destination. If you are in Texas you can get most places in the Caribbean within a half day’s travel. Getting to Hawaii would be a totally different story and end up taking a full day just to get there.
Pay close attention to what days you are traveling on. Being flexible with your travel dates can make a huge difference on flight costs. Flying on Friday and Saturday tends to be more expensive then a Tuesday. Also, the day of the week you are actually searching for flights to buy matters! The price of airline tickets change daily. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s are typically the best days to find flights. Try searching the same flight each day over a week’s period and you’ll find the day that is the cheapest. Tools such as Google Flights (https://www.google.com/flights/) is a great way to see which day and what locations are priced best.
4 – Choose the environment that will surround you:
You know the what, when and how of your trip! Now think about the environment you want to do it in? Do you enjoy sightseeing tours with a guide or doing your own research and checking things out by yourself? Are you looking for 5 Star dining or local Ma and Pa cuisine?
If you’re lying on the beach, do you want to be isolated or surrounded by other beach bums? Do you want a person bringing you a cold blended drink with an umbrella or would you rather hike down a cliff carrying your own picnic in a backpack to a private deserted beach? Some islands are well developed and provide many amenities. Others are remote and have a rustic local vibe. European cities are amazing and have lots to see, but surrounding villages and towns offer a totally different experience. Decide now what environment you want for this trip.
5 – Where will you lay your head?
Choosing lodging piggybacks on what experience you want. Are you looking for a resort with luxury amenities? A hotel that provides breakfast? Or a private home or condo to rent?
When I travel I prefer to avoid big resorts and stick to local homes or condos to rent. This is my choice for a family vacation because my family would rather cook some of our own food to save some money and also we like to eat at small local restaurants. We want to be immersed in the culture and vibe of the new location. There is always a bit of a struggle making decisions about where to go, finding your way around, gathering local advice and recommendations. You MUST also do research before you arrive to set up local contacts for excursions and activities. For example, when traveling in the Caribbean, we always make contact weeks in advance with a recommended dive shop. They are expecting us and are always helpful with other island advice.
If you would rather narrow down the decision-making and just RELAX, a resort is what you’re looking for. Resorts are experts at arranging excursions and outings. So this means less legwork for you before you go! Now you are ready to plan your next vacation!
If you would like help in planning your next Family Vacation or better yet Servcation™, please feel free to contact us and we’ll be glad to help! – BLG