The greatest secret to the success of a vacation is in the planning. While it sounds daring to just throw your clothes in a bag and “wing it”, the reality is that it takes a calculator, a pencil, and even a map to plot an easy and stress-free vacation.
1. Make a realistic budget, and stick to it!
You don’t want to spend sleepless nights worrying how to pay off your credit card. How much can you afford to spend? Then list down what you will have to pay for, from obvious expenses like room, board and transportation, to things like food, airport fees, and souvenirs and shopping.
To get a realistic gauge, find out the cost of living of the area and visit travelers forums to get a general idea of how much others have spent. Also consider hidden costs and the nature of the vacation.
For example, a hotel may look cheap, but it may have such a limited range of accessible restaurants that you’ll end up spending a fortune on food. Or, you may be visiting a shopper’s haven where the bargains are too great to pass up. You need more money to splurge here than if you had just gone to a beach, where the sun is free.
2. Keep a realistic itinerary
Some people turn vacations in a frenzied attempt to see everything in three days or less. The thing is, if you try to cram too many sights, you’ll be running from one place to another without really absorbing what you hear. You may also be exhausting yourself to the point that you need a vacation to recover from your vacation!
Research on the places you want to visit. How much time do you really need for each? Some places are just beautiful backdrops where you’ll need less than an hour to take the requisite photos. Others, like museums, should have an entire afternoon.
3. Start planning three to four months ahead
This gives you time to look for discounts or negotiate for better rates, and make arrangements for the work (or pets!) you’re leaving behind. You also have time to save, in case you realize your allotted budget isn’t enough.
4. Find out about the place’s quirks
Be informed! Know the climate, the kind of clothes you need to wear, and prepare for the little quirks of the place. For example, you may find out that it costs a fortune to develop film or photos in the resort you’re visiting.
At least you’ll have an extra memory card! Other things to look out for: accessibility of transportation, how many people in that area can speak English, the number of ATM’s or how many of the establishments accept credit cards. These details may not seem important as finding a good hotel, but can quickly become annoying and stressful inconveniences!
5. Don’t go there with too many expectations
It’s okay to be excited, but many tourists are just too easily disappointed and frustrated. Remember, no matter how “imperfect” a vacation is, it’s still a chance to discover a new place and culture, and get out of the rut of the everyday. It’s useless to keep comparing it to “how things are back home” or rant about how it’s fallen short of the promises in the brochure. You’re already there. Make the most of it.