Planning the Ultimate Vacation

Having a bad week, month, year? Feel burnt out? Need inspiration, or just a change of scenery? Want to escape the daily grind? If you answered yes to any of these questions you need a vacation, my friend! Just imagine laying beachside on a tropical island, the warm sun on your face and a margarita in hand as the ocean breeze gently caresses your face. Or envision strolling down a picturesque cobblestone street that leads you to the most charming hidden cafe in Paris. Or maybe you’re in the jungle, scaling waterfalls and scouting for howler monkeys.

No matter where you find your Margaritaville state of mind now is the time to start planning that next getaway. If you’re not sure where to start – how exactly does one scale a waterfall in the jungle anyway – do not worry, this guide will take you through the steps of planning your next dream vacation… stress-free.

1. Determine Your Budget
This goes without saying, but it is imperative to know your overall budget when planning a trip. Where you go, how you get there, what you do, what sort of accommodations you stay in, and how long you can be there are all dependent on your budget. Once you know how much money you have to work with, you can then start to research the most important decision of this entire process – where you will be going.

How To: Use the Trail Wallet app to keep track of your travel expenses before and during your trip. You can easily add receipts, categorize expenses, and view daily spending.

2. Buy A Plane Ticket
Research the places you are interested in going and the cost to get there. Typically, one of the most significant expenses of a trip is the airfare; therefore, it’s vital to budget appropriately. If you want to keep your trip under $2,000 and the plane ticket is $1,500, that doesn’t leave you much room for anything else. A good rule of thumb is to keep your airfare costs under 20% of your total budget.

How To: Compare. Compare. Compare. Destinations, days, airports, websites – play around with these factors, and your efforts could save you hundreds of dollars. Cheapoair.com is an excellent site for finding fantastic travel deals.

3. Travel Documents and Vaccinations
Depending on where you are traveling you may need a passport or visa, and this process can be lengthy (for some countries it can take weeks or months), so as soon as you decide on a location, you should get started on this. You may also need to receive certain immunizations if you are traveling to an area with higher incidences of certain diseases. If you do need to get vaccinated, it is essential to start this process 4 to 6 weeks before travel to ensure the vaccines take effect.

How To: The U.S. Department of State provides information on how to obtain a passport and PassportInfo.com will tell you if a visa is required for the country you are entering. Check here to see if any vaccines are required or suggested for the area you will be visiting

4. Decide What You Want To Do
With your budget established, flights booked, and travel docs getting organized – it’s time for the fun part – figuring out how you are going to spend your days! Obviously you will have some ideas already, otherwise, you wouldn’t have chosen that location, but now is the time to dig even deeper and learn more about your travel destination.

Do you need to need to book any museums, exhibits, or activities in advance? If so, do it. Are there any festivals going on while you are there that may interest you? What are some lesser known things to do and see that would make your experience even better? Take time to research the place you will be visiting, and it will not only give you more options, but it will also give you a better understanding of the area, it’s history and culture – making your time there all the more enriching.

How To: TripAdvisor, Pinterest, Viator and the always reliable Google are excellent sources of information on different travel destinations. Lonely Planet guidebooks are also an excellent resource, and handy to take with you.

5. Book Transportation
Once you’ve decided how you are going to spend your time, you may find you need transportation for certain activities. Maybe it is an overnight train from Prague to Amsterdam or a tuk-tuk from the city center to an ancient temple in the mountains. Perhaps part of the trip is soaking up the countryside – but by car, bus, or bike? Now is the time to figure out the times you will need to get from one place to the next, and how you are going to do it. Most planes, trains, and buses require advanced booking so be sure to book as soon as you know the dates.

How To: Sometimes your hotel can arrange transport, so always inquire with them first. If not you may need to book online, and depending on which city or country you are in, there are different sites to compare and book transportation. If you will be traveling throughout Europe use GoEuro.com to compare flight, bus, and train rates or if you’ll be in SE Asia use 12go.asia. For more specific destinations and recommendations, TripAdvisor is a great resource.

6. Book Accommodations
One of the final steps, now that you know where you are going, what you’re doing, and how you’re getting there is to start looking into lodging options. If your trip is all in one place, this step will be relatively quick and easy, but if your adventures are taking you to multiple locations, you will have a little more work to do. Make sure the places you book are close to the activities you will be doing, and read reviews on the hotel and the surrounding neighborhood.

How To: Again compare. Hotels.com, Agoda.com, and Booking.com, are all great sites to find deals, but sometimes it is cheaper to go through the hotel directly –  you just need to shop around. Or check out Airbnb for a more authentic experience by staying in the home of a local.

7. Pack and Purchase Any Necessary Items
Everything is booked! Congratulations! You know where you’re going, and what you’ll be doing, so now your final step is to decide what you need to bring. The 4 major things to consider when packing are 1. What will I be doing? 2. What will the weather be like? 3. How long will I be there and 4. Will I have access to laundry? Knowing these things is crucial, especially when it comes to clothing. It is way too easy to overpack, and the last thing you want is your luggage weighing you down. Give yourself options but keep the wardrobe simple. Make a list of any other travel items you will need. If you are going to another country be sure you have the correct electrical adapters or converters. If you always get nauseous on trains, get medicine! If you get blisters easily, stock up on band-aids. Go over everything you will be doing and brainstorm the little items you may need.

**This is also a good time to notify your phone carrier, bank, and credit card companies of your travel plans.

How To: A great place to find sample packing lists is Pinterest – readers share accounts of their travels to an area and give feedback on what they brought and what they wish they had. Another great source is the Packpoint app. It creates a packing list for you based on the location and weather. From there you can customize the list based on where you are going.

There you have it. Follow these steps and before you know it, your vacation will be booked, and you’ll be counting down the days until takeoff…and you’ll have yourself to pat on the back for coordinating the trip of a lifetime.

I’m Sarah, and I love exploring our planet and learning from its many wonders. You can follow my adventures and insights on Instagram @sarahthewanderess and my blog TheWanderessWriter.com. Happy Travels and Fins Up!