Planning your vacation is very much a mindset. How you approach the planning will often be an indicator of how well the trip will go. As your travel planner, I strive to take all the burdens of travel planning off your plate so you just have to enjoy the trip. But it is still very much a collaboration between the two of us and when you come to me to create your family’s dream trip, there are certain things to keep in mind.
Don’t mistake cheap for value
Remember, price is what you pay. Value is what you get. When people come to me to plan a vacation, I tell them that I will strive to get them the best value for the price. That means the rock bottom price you saw advertised on Facebook may not be such a bargain after all. Things to consider when planning your vacation are what does that price include? Does it include meals, transportation, gratuities, internet? What about insurance? Is that cheap hotel close to your desired location, or will you need to pay extra to get around? A client once showed me a 4 night Las Vegas vacation for $295. That cheap price that looked like such a great deal included airfare from an airport 4 hours from his home in a hotel far off the Strip – all of which did not mesh with his vision of his Vegas birthday celebration. Let your travel advisor guide you
Don’t book a trip just because someone you know liked it
There is no such thing as a one size fits all trip. When I first speak to clients about their trips, I find out their likes, their dislikes, where they’ve been, where they want to go, what they envision their dream trip to look like, and then tailor an itinerary based on those wants and needs. And those wants and needs may not mesh with the resort that your neighbor up the block loved. That’s because your trip should be unique to you. I had a client once insist on going to a resort in Mexico that her friend visited. It was a large resort and I did not believe it was the right fit for her family based on our discovery call. But she insisted and guess what? They didn’t like it because it was too big.
Don’t be unrealistic about costs
There was a time when you could fly to Europe for $250 round-trip. Those days are gone. Having a realistic budget will alleviate a lot of stress and angst. The time of year you want to travel, the type of vacation you want to book, and how far out you book will determine what you spend. You are not going to get an all-inclusive resort for a week over Christmas for your family of 5 for under $5,000. I once had someone come to me and tell me they wanted a 10 day guided tour of Ireland for 2 people for $2,500 total, including airfare. That’s just not even remotely possible. Trust me, I wish it were.
While there are places around the world where your dollar will go further, it doesn’t necessarily mean dirt cheap (and remember what we said earlier about price vs. value). So when you sit down with your travel advisor to plan, have in mind a realistic budget you can live with, and don’t forget to take into account the extras – tours, food, souvenirs, emergency cash. Be prepared to adjust your plans to accommodate your budget if needed.
Don’t book cities and attractions “just because you’re there”
Also, known as don’t overdo it. When planning your trip, do not cram your schedule. Don’t pack multiple tours in a day, and don’t pack every single country or city into your itinerary. I realize that if you are in the Hawaiian islands you want to see them all, or that if you are in Europe, you have so many countries within mere hours of you. But, trying to see 4 different countries in 10 days, “just because you’re there” is a recipe for misery. Think quality vs. quantity. You don’t want to run the risk of “if it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium” syndrome. Pick out the destinations or attractions that truly mean the most to you, and make the trip one that you will savor and remember.
Don’t forget to consider the whole family when making plans
It’s very easy for the lead planner in a family to just take over and plan a trip they think everyone will like or plan the activities they think everyone should do. Don’t. Consult the whole family and make planning a group activity. Help the littlest children do some research by finding age-appropriate websites or books and let them have a hand in the planning. For older kids, assign them a day of the trip and a budget and ask them to suggest activities. You will be helping to shape lifelong travelers and might be pleasantly surprised at what they come up with.
Don’t be pretentious
People like to divide those who travel into 2 categories – tourist and traveler. It’s been said that a tourist sticks out, has expectations, and will be upset if those expectations are met, and doesn’t know where they’ve been. A traveler supposedly blends it, has no expectations, and doesn’t know where they’re going. Those who consider themselves travelers look down upon tourists. Stop that right now and stop focusing on what other people do. A person can be both. A person can stay in an all-inclusive resort and explore off the beaten path. A person can stay in that boutique hotel and eat only at chain restaurants. Some people never want to leave their resort. There is no right or wrong. Just be the person who likes to travel and enjoys themselves wherever they are.
I know – easier said than done. But let’s face it, baggage fees are expensive, and no one wants to drag excess luggage across paved cobblestones of Rome, or figure out where to store 4 suitcases in a cruise cabin. What’s that they say? Pack your bag, and then take out half. Have a serious conversation with yourself. Do you need 3 pairs of heels when going to the beach? Is the laptop necessary? It may be panic-inducing at first but think of it this way. You will have more room for souvenirs on the way home.
Don’t stand out
While you might be a tourist, don’t act like a tourist (this is different from what I stated above). Even though it’s obvious you are not a local, make every effort to not stand out. Leave the 5-carat diamond at home when you go to Barcelona. Make sure your clothing is appropriate to your surroundings. Your normal clothing is just fine in major European cities. There is no reason to wear that 50-pocket safari vest in London. But be sure you are adhering to the local customs of religious modesty if necessary. For example, if you are visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem, or sightseeing in Marrakesh, cover your shoulders and legs so you don’t shock the locals and receive unwanted attention.
Stay considerate of your destination’s culture and learn basic words and phrases. Besides the fact that it will be much appreciated by the locals, you will save yourself a lot of time and unnecessary struggle.
Don’t forget to be spontaneous
Leave some room in your schedule for downtime and unknown adventures. Planning your vacation is not a death march. Keep a day in your itinerary free of pre-planned activity and decide what you want and where you want to go until you wake up. Maybe you want to go back to the same restaurant you ate in the day before or heard about an interesting tour from another guest at your resort that you’d like to check out. Or maybe you heard your favorite band is staying at a certain hotel in your city before a concert and you want to go hang out in front (yes, I, a middle-aged woman, did this in Rome for U2 one evening – my kids were mortified and now tease me relentlessly about it). You’ll be glad to have that wiggle room to get up and go.
Don’t stress about things over which you have no control
Planes will be delayed. Wrong turns will be taken. Your tour might be canceled or perhaps it just took longer than anticipated to get somewhere. It’s ok. It’s all part of the experience. Anticipate possible changes and accept that there is always the chance plans will change. By doing this, you will be less stressed when you find yourself having to make back-up plans. Heck, I broke my leg in Jamaica. I can promise I didn’t see that coming! Spending my 50th birthday in a Jamaican medical clinic wasn’t on my original itinerary, but now I have a pretty funny story to tell.
As your travel advisor, I will help you avoid these pitfalls so your vacation is rewarding and memorable. So, when you are ready to plan your next great adventure, give me a call. After all, the only thing better than taking a vacation is planning one.
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