I don’t know about you, but we love to travel so much we pretty much plan the next vacation destination almost as soon as we get home from the last one. Like us, you should consider broad concepts of “where do we want to go?” before the New Year. Many people have gathered for the holidays so this is a perfect time.
Is there a special event you want to attend, like a concert or your favorite team’s games? Do you love the beach or the mountains? Do you want to go to a city or explore a rural area? Is this the year you will decide between the driving tour of the American Southwest or maybe the week in Europe that has been calling you for eons. Get the basic concept agreed to by your travel partners. Then you know the time factor needed.
So once you have a general concept of how long you want to go on vacation, you need to figure out when that will be. For many people who have to give considerable notice for time off from work, it is a smart idea to plan your vacation at least before January 1. That way, the request for time off can get into your boss or Human Relations department so early in the new year that no one else has dibs on that specific time.
Once you know the dates, you can really begin to have fun. The real planning can start!
If you are driving or even if you are flying and then renting a car, use a mapping program like Google maps or MapQuest or RandMcNally to plan your trip with all the intermediate stops. This will help identify travel times between locations. You may want to plan short drive times to leave enough hours to explore your destination, or perhaps you need to cover a lot of ground so will plan a long day in the car. Remember, when you drive to plan to stop every two hours for a stretch and pit stop as well as a gas up break every four hours. Plan an hour for a lunch break. You might want to drive without so many breaks but if you have kids with you or anyone who needs to stretch and move around a bit to keep joints limber, the breaks are a good idea. So remember, if the mapping program tells you it is four hours between Point A and Point B, planning an hour for lunch and stretching and gas-up breaks means you will be “on the road” for six hours.
Once you have the basic trip laid out in daily segments you will be able to see if anything needs to be modified in order to keep within the time frame. If you can’t take more time off to fit everything in, something, sadly, will have to be postponed for another trip.
Finally, you know what is workable…now how do you figure out what to do, what to see, where to sleep and eat? A few years ago my trip planning started at the library, borrowing guide books. I would then call the toll free numbers for state travel offices and those offered by regional tourist bureaus and order local information to be mailed to me.
Now, the internet is an amazing resource. Anyone with a business that is trying to attract attention has a website. The best part, with time and diligence searching beyond the first 4 or 5 pages, amazing hidden treasures can be discovered that were almost impossible without a local contact before. This is when you can plan for each member of your travel party to have some experience that they will love. The proliferation of websites has made travel planning, easier….and harder.
Easier because so much more information is readily available for places to stay, things to see and do, including costs and operating hours, special events, restaurants, you name it, you can find it.
Harder, because you have to wade through a lot to find that special thing that will make your trip stand out head and shoulders beyond the common vacation. And that takes time.
The time needed to plan a stellar vacation is the reason I start serious planning for a summer vacation by February. Sometimes, even that is late. For example, when I was trying to make reservations for a Bed & Breakfast in Oxford, England, I lost my first three choices because I waited until March to contact them.
So, this gives you the broad strokes for starting the trip plan for your vacation. Talk to your travel buddies in the next few weeks to discuss options for this summer’s travel. Use the dinner table to talk about things that you appreciate, and remember to include that you can take the time as a loving group to go explore another part of the world together.
And, if all this sounds like too much work, let me know if I can help. I really can. If you haven;t read through the information about how my custom trip planning service works, please check out those pages on this website. Thanks!