Ben Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So true! I think doing a little planning before a trip makes for a much better travel experience. Here are 5 things you can do to help you have a successful vacation.
1 – Set a Budget
I wish I was rich and didn’t have to worry about setting a travel budget, but I am not. I like to put my budget into a spreadsheet listing out each aspect of the trip. If you don’t set a budget you could find that you come home having spent way more than you anticipated.
I start by creating an overall goal budget and then I add a little more for whatever unplanned thing that comes up during my trip. There is always something. I like to break the total budget into 2 major portions. 1) The bones of the trip which is the big costs of transportation and lodging and 2) Trip Spend which is all the things you spend money on during the course of your trip. By considering these Categories, I am usually able to stay pretty well within my budget when traveling.
Create subgroups for airfare, shuttles, rental cars or fuel if you are driving. Also consider Tolls and Parking costs or if you will be grabbing an Uber during your trip.
List the cost of where you will be staying such as an AirBnB, a condo or a hotel. If you are staying in a hotel, remember to figure in Resort and Parking Fees if they apply. Don’t forget to include any layover or transitional lodgings.
This category should have many subcategories.
- Entertainment and Activity Costs
- Shopping & Souveniers
2 – Identify the Optimal Time to Book to Get the Best Deal
In order to have more money to spend on your trip, you want the best deals on Lodging and Transportation costs that you can. To make that happen, you have to book them at just the right moment to get the best deal.
Your anxious and excited about your trip. You have found a hotel or car rental company you like and you really want to make the reservation. If you pull the trigger too soon, you might miss out on some great deals later on.
But if you do book too early and the price drops later, you may be able to change or rebook at the lower price. Just pay attention to the change and cancellation policies when you are making your reservation.
If you happen to wait too long hoping there will be a better deal, room selection can decrease and the prices often end up creeping up instead. Not much you can do then except learn to jump a little sooner next time around.
Like Goldilocks, you want that booking window that’s Just Right! You have to try to hit the Sweet Spot right in the middle. The hard part is there is no flashing sign that says Today’s the Day! I have been there many times trying to decide if this is the best it gets or if I should wait just a bit more. So I try to have an amount in mind that I think is reasonable and when the rate is at that level or less, I book right away. Sometimes the rate just never drops to your magic number and you have to book anyway. The crazy thing about travel is that the rates change so frequently you can’t count on them holding there for long once you find a good one. When you see it, BOOK IT!!!!!!
I missed a great airfare rate this year while waiting just 48 hours for my points to transfer over from another program. It ended up costing me about 2,000 additional points and I had only transferred the exact number of points I needed. Then I had to scramble to come up with the difference. It was super frustrating.
3 – Make a Travel Plan
What I mean by a Travel Plan is a checklist making sure you have connected all the logistical dots in your trip. It’s easy to forget that you needed a hotel night for that layover or forget to reserve a shuttle pickup from the airport. I find writing it down or creating a plan on my computer makes it visual and helps me see where I may have missed something.
- Arrange your Transportation to and from the Airport or Find the best Airport Parking Option. Remember to consider these arrangements for both your home airport and the one at your destination.
- Be sure to secure Lodging for any layover or transition nights
- Book the Lodging for your stay
- Reserve your Rental Car if needed
- If traveling outside the US, make sure your Passport is in date and has enough months left before expiring to meet travel requirements. Also make sure there are enough pages for the number of stamps you will need.
- Book any bus passes, train tickets, show tickets or city passes that you can before you go. With Tours you can either book them ahead or wait to see if there are coupons or deals when you get to your destination. If you don’t prebook them, remember to budget for that expense during your trip. (Check places like Groupon for added money saving deals).
- For safety purposes, make sure someone has your general itinerary and contact information
4 – Review Your Packing List & Procure any Special Items You Will Need
I am going to use our upcoming trip to Hawaii as an example for special items you may need for your trip. The great thing is that most of these things are seasonal and should go on sale before we go, plus we will be able to use a lot of these items again and again which makes them a good investment.
- Snorkel gear….nope not renting it. Just taking masks and breathing tubes, but taking my own.
- Waterproof camera for underwater photos on our snorkeling adventures
- Reef Safe Sunscreen….the only kind allowed in Hawaii and not what I normally have on hand.
- We plan to do some hiking and there may be places where we have to tramp through some water or mud. So I need a pair of good quality waterproof hiking sandals like Chacos.
It’s good to buy these things at home before your trip because you could waste a lot of time trying to find them at your destination and probably pay more for them too. Most touristy destinations either really rock you with their convenience prices or sell you low quality products that probably wont last at an affordable price. If you are flying, and what you need is large or heavy, you will have to determine if you want to bring it, rent it or buy it there. Since we are flying Southwest to Hawaii we can have 2 checked bags per person, so we are designating 1 checked bag for our snorkeling gear, swimwear, clunky sandals and such.
It’s also a good idea to review your packing list to make sure you have all the regular goodies you need to take. If you don’t have a packing list, there are tons on the internet that you can pull up and use. Just customize it as needed.
Very Important! Don’t forget to calculate if you will have enough medication for the trip and pack it. Always take a few days extra in case you run into travel delays.
I once went on a trip with a Pharmacist (oh the irony) who forgot his important medication. We spent a lot of prime vacation time trying to get a prescription for him at our destination. He was lucky we were somewhere where we could still get the medication. If you are traveling somewhere remote, that might not be an option.
5 – Take Care of Your Home
There are a lot of things to do before you go to take care of your home. Nothing spoils your excellent vacation like coming home to a problem. Here are a few things you should do before your trip:
- Go online or to the post office and put a hold on you mail
- Also put a hold on your newspaper if you still get one
- Adjust your thermostat
- Any scheduled UPS or FED EX deliveries coming? See if you can put a hold on them or have a trusted friend grab them so they don’t get taken by Porch Pirates
- Find care for your pets and plants (I always forget to make a plan for the plants and they end up dead)
- Pay all your bills that are due before you return
- If you have a trusted neighbor, let them know you will be gone and ask them to just keep an eye out for anything irregular (like a moving truck loading all your stuff)
- I make sure the garbage is out, the dishwasher has been ran and any towels have been washed and are dry so things don’t get funky.
- Check all your window and door locks for a sense of security
I’m sure there are a million things other people would add to these lists but you have to start somewhere. Just being aware you need to think about these plans is a step in the right direction. I always have a better trip when I am well prepared.
Dream, PLAN, Save, Adventure!
Links to a Few Posts about Packing & Planning
- Packing for a Trip
- Preparing & Packing
- Packing Shoes
- What to Pack in a Travel First Aid Kit
- Packing Fun
- Planning a Big Trip Can be an Emotional Roller Coaster
- Doing the Research Before a Trip