November 22, 2011
There are a million reasons preventing you from planning the getaway of your dreams: You can't leave your boss for more than 12 hours. Your fear of flying is paralyzing. Its too expensive. No one will travel with you...it goes on and on.
The thought of planning a vacation can be downright stressful. But the results of proper preparation can result in a new and memorable experience that will rejuvenate your weary soul. Keep the following guidelines in mind when planning your next getaway, and you'll discover that it's not that challenging to get out of the city after all.
First and foremost, what are you looking for in a vacation?
Time to brainstorm! Take a few minutes to truly think about where you would like to visit and what you would like to do. If miles of snow and bone-chilling weather excite you, then perhaps a ski trip to Colorado or Big Bear should be in your future.
Tip: Wander into the travel section of a bookstore and start reading for inspiration.
Who's tagging along?
So you've decided to head to the sunny tropics to escape from the bitter winter cold. Now the question is: who's going with you? If you know your boyfriend hates the beach, please don't handcuff and drag him with you. Instead, go with those who would enjoy your vacation as much as you would. This might be the perfect time to bond with your mom or to plan a girls getaway. Whomever you are traveling with, make sure that you can tolerate spending a lot of time with them.
Tip: Don't dismiss traveling alone. There are many organized travel tours that allow you to travel with groups who share the same interests as you.
Where to stay?
From luxurious hotels to hostels and everything in between, there are many options for lodgings. Your vacation goals, budget, and personal preferences should guide your final decision. Hotels, especially international chains, tend to have more accommodations that make a city feel less foreign and more like home. Bed and breakfasts and boutique hotels tend to have their own unique personalities and special quirks. Hostels tend to be the cheapest, but are also the least private.
Regardless of what type of lodgings you stay in, it's important to look for places that are in close proximity to the activities you want to do. Staying in the suburbs when all of the action is downtown will mean higher transportation costs and will waste your precious time. Also, have a Plan B for lodging in case the first place you booked does not meet your expectations for whatever reason.
Tip: Use the hurting economy to your advantage. Call hotels to book your reservations and see if you can negotiate the initial price they give you.
All of that is fitting where?
In most foreign cities, it's best to blend in as much as possible. Don't take the risk of being thought of as a rich, naïve tourist, and thus the target of a robbery. Leave the Louboutins, valuables, and expensive jewelry at home, and opt for a more nonchalant look. Research the fashion trends of where you're going. For example, if you are going to a more conservative locale like Mexico City, jeans and stilettos will be more appropriate when going out than that bright pink mini-skirt you wear in Hollywood. Also, check the weather forecast a few days before leaving to make sure you have the right clothing and that you will be as comfortable as possible.
Tip: Don't pack your suitcase to the brim... leave room for souvenirs!
Research, Research, Research!
It's important to know as much as possible about where you're going! Guidebooks often give great insight into a place's history, culture, and main tourist attractions; but for the real skinny, talk with friends, colleagues, and family members who have already traveled to your destination. They may even be able to refer you to acquaintances that live there. If you have the time, visit a consulate office in your local city to get other ideas.
Tips: Check out websites that give insightful user reviews, such as tripadvisors.com and yelp.com.
Know Your Budget.
Now that you have a destination, it's important to figure out how much this will cost. Get an estimate, and then adjust accordingly. Maybe you cant afford to celebrate New Year's in Rio this year, but that doesn't mean that you can't start saving for 2011. Or, maybe that means you should opt for somewhere that still has an exciting, beach feel, like Miami or San Diego.
Tip: Standard costs to consider are: airfare, lodging, food (breakfast, lunch, dinner), entertainment/activities (museums, tours, etc.), transportation, souvenirs, incidentals (extra toothbrush, etc).
Whatever You Do, Always Keep an Open Mind.
Be flexible and patient. Perhaps you were planning a marvelous tour to Northern Mexico, but the insurgence of violence related to the drug wars is giving you major doubts. That's OK. You can either wait it out, or find another destination to consider. The possiblites are truly endless!
Tip: Follow travel trends on Web sites like Bing.com. Staying up on current events/world news is also essential prep work.