One common theme that appeared in almost everyone’s Vision Board this year is travel. In order to make it happen you have to have a plan. Whether your goal is to take one or four vacations, a road trip or an Alaskan cruise, by using this 2015 Travel Planning Guide you will get to your dream destination. Are you ready to plan the trip of a lifetime?!
Many people have grand ideas about places they are going and things they are going to do when they get there, but at the end of the year those dreams are lost. Why? Because if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.
Don’t just talk about travel, be about travel and start your vacation planning today!
2015 Travel Planning Guide:
- Set Dates: What dates can you travel?
Make a list of the ideal dates you want to travel. Determine the best time to travel by reviewing your previous year’s calendar. Make a note of all the events that occurred last year and you need to be part of this year. School or work related. Cross these dates off your list.
Do you have any upcoming weddings or celebrations you are already committed to this year? Cross those dates off your list. However, if any of these activities are out of town, you should consider creating a vacation out of it.
How many days would you like to spend? Think about your minimum and maximum. The best vacations are usually 4-6 days depending on your budget and travel distance.
How much vacation time can you schedule from work? Find out how much time you can take this year. Factor in major holidays your office and school is closed.
- Budget: How much can you spend?
The average family spends about 10% of their salary on vacations throughout the year. If you’re a travel junkie like me, you may spend up to 25% of your salary. To make things simple, consider a budget of $1,000-$1,500 per person if you are flying or cruising. You will need to increase this for international and Disney trips. If you are taking a road trip then you will have lower cost.
Figure out what you spent on travel last year. Can you afford the same amount this year? Do you anticipate any additional funds that can be used for travel?
Review your credit card and bankcard account statements. Most cards offer some kind of travel rewards you can use toward airline tickets or hotels. If you are not earning rewards then you may want to consider signing up for a card that gives you points.
Do you have any unused airline tickets or credit vouchers you can put towards a new ticket? Most airlines will allow you 1 year to redeem a voucher or old ticket.
- Destination: Where do you want to go?
What is your ideal destination? Would you like to stay in the US or go International? Cruise or stay on dry land? Warm climate or cold? Beach, bustling city, or both? You can have it all if you choose the right place.
Ask your children what are their dream destinations. Review their Vision Board to get an idea of what they want to do this year. Is it snorkeling or Horseback riding? Factor this when choosing a family vacation for everyone to enjoy.
Do you have any friends or relatives that live out of town? Check out their new city online and see if it interests you. It’s always great to have someone show you around town.
Do some research on the cities that interest you and cross-reference it with the dates you want to travel. What’s the temperature like that time of year? Are there any carnivals or festivals that you need to factor in? Keep in mind that big events can also drive up travel costs.
Some other things you want to consider when finalizing a destination is:
- Accommodations-find out what your hotel or rental options are.
- Travel time-how long is the flight or drive ?
- Transportation-Do you need to rent a car? Is there a reliable and safe public transportation?
- Activities-What can you do when you get there? Nearby attractions. Is there enough fun things to interest you and your travel companions?
- Safety and Security-If you’re traveling outside of the US. Check the Department of State for any travel alerts.
- Exchange Rate-check the value of the US Dollar if you are leaving the country. This can increase your expenses. Here is a reliable currency converter.
- Visa Requirements-you may need to apply for entry in advance and this can sometimes be a big expense. Check with the Embassy of the specific country you will be visiting. Here is a listing of Foreign Embassies inside the US.
4. Book Your Trip!
Now that you have the dates, the destination, and budget it’s time to confirm your vacation.
Here are your three options:
- Online Booking-This is popular because it gives you the option to create your own itinerary and pay the cheapest prices. It may take some effort to shop around for the best deals though. I’ve experienced some really good rates booking online. Some deals, however, look better on paper. If something goes wrong with your trip, like the hotel is sold out, online travel companies have been known to leave you hanging.
- Travel Agent-Yes there is still a such thing as Travel Agents. They are good for creating custom itineraries and offering a package deal with affordable payment options. It may cost a little more than booking online and they typically require some sort of down payment per traveler. Travel Agents are knowledgeable about certain markets and provide you with more customer service because they want to keep you as their client.
- Direct with Supplier-You can also choose to book directly with the hotel, rental car, and airline. They may not offer you the cheapest rate but they sometimes have specials or promotions on their websites that may include free breakfast or a room upgrade. It can be a task for you to keep up with all various terms and agreements.
Congratulations you’ve just booked your travel! You should be very proud of yourself. You are on your way to an AMAZING experience in a new city. Take lots of pictures. I wish I was going with you!
As you X out the calendar days leading to your departure date, here are some things you should spend your time researching:
- Background knowledge of your destination-Research it on Frommers. Any languages culture, or customs you need to be familiar with?
- Vaccinations need to be scheduled immediately.
- Do you need to apply or renew? Get it done now.
- Visa applications. What is the process to apply for entry into the country?
- Frequent Flyer Programs-If you’ve booked an airline ticket register everyone for the miles program.
- Rewards Program-Use a credit card or debit that earns you miles or points on things you purchase regularly.
- Reservation or Tickets- Check to see if there are any shows or performances you would like to participate. There’s nothing worse than showing up in a city only to find out your favorite artist is performing. Also see if you could book dinner reservations. Some of very popular restaurants are booked months in advance.
- Exhibits or Festivals-Check out the museums or cultural sites to see what’s happening during your visit. It’s good to have this information in advance so you can bring your Carnival attire with you!
- Airport transportation-Find out the best way to get from the airport to your hotel or resort. Some hotels offer shuttle services or can recommend a car service.
- Childcare-If you’re traveling with small kids and plan to have one evening out with your husband, you need to know if the resort offers childcare. Is it complimentary or at a cost? What are the hours? In room or at a center? Get more details and determine if it’s an option for your family.
- Concierge and Guest Services-Know what complimentary services your resort or hotel offers. It could be a nightly happy hour with live music, transportation within a specified radius of the hotel, or discount vouchers to nearby attractions. Don’t miss the perks that come with your reservation.