Planning ahead is key to a great vacation.
At first, planning a vacation can feel overwhelming. While there are many components to this task, it can also be a lot of fun and your hard work and research often add to the anticipation of the vacation. Break the process into simple steps and you might find you enjoy the planning as much as the trip itself.
Set a Budget
Few people can simply take off on a trip without taking into consideration the money they will be spending. Creating a budget is one of the most important steps in planning a vacation. First, take a look at your finances and set a general number for how much you can and want to spend on your trip in total. The easiest way to organize your spending is to create a spread sheet and assign each component of your trip a dollar amount. The figure you determine for the cost of your vacation should include several different components of the trip. List transportation either for flights including baggage fees or for car travel including gasoline and any maintenance needed before the trip. You'll also want to include the transportation cost once you get to your destination in the form of taxis, train or public systems. Then list lodging costs. Food should be included unless you are staying at an all-inclusive resort. Set a daily amount for meals including any special nights out. Entertainment is another category and should include any show tickets or admission to attractions such as theme parks or museums. Finally, create a miscellaneous category that can serve as a buffer if you go over budget in another area or for unexpected costs such as shopping for a souvenir.
Choose Your Destination
Now that you know your budget you can start narrowing down your destination choice. You'll be able to realistically determine if you can afford that exotic trip or if you need to scale back a bit and choose a less expensive location. This is the point where you'll want to begin researching the cost of specific cities if the currency is different from that of your own. For example, cities like Dublin tend to be more expensive especially with the exchange rate; however, your money may go further in a city such as Budapest.
Set a Date and Book Transportation
After choosing where you want to go, decide when you will be going. At the same time you will also want to look at transportation options. If your schedule is flexible, you may be able to find less expensive rates for flights on different days of the week. Once you get an idea of flight prices you can choose to book them right away if it fits your budget, or if you are more than six months away from your trip, watch them for a while. Check the prices at different times of the day to see if they drop and which can save a few extra dollars.
When booking accommodations, consider two factors: value for the money and traveler reviews. We all like to get a good deal, but check out travel websites and read about other's experiences to see if the location would be to your liking. Pay attention to the area of the lodging and determine if it is close enough to local attractions for you. Also consider perks such as a free breakfast, a gym or spa if those things are important to you and your vacation experience.
Research Local Attractions and Restaurants
Now that you have your vacation set with transportation and accommodations, begin researching what you plan to do while you are at your destination. This is the point where you check out all the details. While a vacation does not need to be planned out entirely, have an idea of some of things you want to do, such as visiting museums including when they are open and their cost. In addition, you can seek out some favorite local restaurants so you will have options in case you get there and nothing immediately catches your eye. It helps to know the types of cuisine available and the best places to get it within a city. At the same time, be flexible and give yourself plenty of options. Once you arrive at your destination you may decide to change your plan all together and go with what looks fun and exciting.
Lori Rice is a freelance health and travel writer. With a Master’s degree in Nutritional Sciences and a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition, Fitness and Health, she strives to positively influence the wellness of her readers. As an avid traveler and current ex-pat she enjoys sharing her experiences and tips with other enthusiastic explorers.
solo vacation image by cyrano from Fotolia.com