Planning a Vacation

There are several different approaches to planning your perfect vacation. Perhaps budget is your biggest concern; maybe you’re in great need of relaxation, or it might be time to add some romance back into your relationship. It could be that a particular destination is important to you, or your leisure time could be an opportunity to indulge your favorite hobby. Then again, you may just desire a new experience. It’s important to identify your current needs and frame of mind when you begin your vacation planning.
Start with a budget in mind
If you know exactly what you can spend on a trip or vacation and you feel restricted in what you’re able to do, let yourself be creative. There are many opportunities to stretch your dollar and create a wonderful experience even on a limited budget. For instance, consider traveling in the off-season. Tour Europe in the winter or the Caribbean and the South Pacific in the summer. To help offset transportation expenses, accumulate air miles with your credit card over the year and use your air miles for your airfare. And when you do, be adventurous. Once the cost of the airfare is taken care of, it can be very reasonable to travel in another country.
There are also wonderful destinations close to home, e.g., our national parks, which offer reasonable accommodations and opportunities for family time. If you book directly with the parks, you often have to book your vacation a year in advance. But many of the travel wholesalers hold a group of rooms for the entire season which are available through them in a package tour. Your travel agent can help you find one that is perfect for you, your family and your budget.
Perhaps you can consider taking a three- or four-day cruise from a port that is driving distance from your home. Your meals and entertainment are covered in your cruise cost, which can be extremely reasonable.
When you plan your vacation can greatly impact the cost. If you can, plan your getaway 6-8 months in advance when prices are lower. For instance, if you want to go to Europe, now is a great time to start planning a trip for November or December. A five-day trip to Prague, if planned now, can cost you around $1,000 per person, including airfare and accommodations. If you wait until October or November to start planning the same trip, the cost will be much higher.
Be willing to travel at the last minute when airlines, cruise lines, and hotels still have some spaces to fill and are motivated to fill them. Each week travel agents get lists of last-minute deals. Work with your travel agent and let her know your budget, then be flexible with when you can go and where you want to go.
Another cost-saving tip is to look for all-inclusive hotels – mostly located in the Caribbean or Mexico where all your food, beverages, and non-motorized water sports are included as a part of your hotel price. If you have children and must travel during the summer when they’re out of school, check out the all-inclusive hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean that let children under 12 stay free when accompanied by their parents. You’ll only have the cost of their airfare – and again, if you plan ahead, you can keep this cost down as well.
Don’t let a budget limit your imagination or your experience - some great adventures are just waiting for you.
Relaxation is Key
There are times when vacations need to be totally about rest and relaxation. And there are many opportunities in travel to do just that.
Cruises offer great R&R. You unpack and sit back – on a lounge chair if you wish – as the cruise ship takes you to a variety of destinations. You can stay in that deck chair and enjoy the view, or go ashore and enjoy an excursion or two. And cruises can take you almost anywhere in the world. On an ocean liner, you can cruise Alaska, the Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, Asia, Australia, the South Pacific, and South America. If you’re in the mood for complete pampering, ask your travel agent about small ship cruises, which offer smaller crowds, great amenities, and the opportunity for a lot of attention.
River cruises have become very popular over the last few years because they are extremely slow-paced and relaxing as they journey along the rivers that meander into cities, towns, and villages all over the world. And river cruises have such fun names: Tulip Time Cruise, The Romantic Danube, Europe’s Heartland Cruise, Black Sea Voyage, The Ultimate River Cruise, Christmas Time Cruise, Egypt’s Mysterious Nile, Flavors of Burgundy & Provence, Magical China, and The Yangtze River. On river cruises, your food, entertainment, and tours are a part of the price, which makes the cruises quite a bargain.
My favorite cruises are barge cruises, which traverse the ancient canals and some of the rivers of Europe. Imagine a floating country inn that typically hosts from 2 to 26 passengers (depending on the vessel) and are the epitome of relaxation. The barges move very slowly down the canals, allowing passengers to ride bikes or walk along the paths that line these ancient waterways.
I enjoyed a barge cruise in the Burgundy Region of France where we rode bikes in the idyllic countryside and walked into the little villages to sample pastries at the local shops or sip wine at neighboring vineyards. Wines, cheeses, and gourmet food are a part of the barge cruise experience. A private chef takes care of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, unless one of the planned excursions offers a particular meal. With each lunch and dinner, you enjoy the wines of the region along with gourmet food. After this trip, I was so relaxed I could easily have been folded into my suitcase for the trip home – not a bit of tension was left in my body! Absolutely fantastic!
With all-inclusive resorts, you are in at destination, but everything is taken care of for you… your food, beverages, snacks, activities, and non-motorized water sports are all a part of your package price. Some all-inclusive hotels (these hotels call it luxury-included) are now offering concierge and butler service to take care of your every need and many include golf courses and spas. The accommodations range from rooms to beachside villas, river suites, pool villas, and much, much more….
Add Romance to Your Relationship
Work and family often fill our weeks with activity, leaving little time for romance and reconnecting. Vacations and time away are great opportunities for spending time together to create memories that will last us through the hectic times. River and barge cruises, along with luxury-included all-inclusive resorts, offer a myriad of opportunities for personal time, romantic dinners, and walks in the moonlight. There are also destinations that ooze romance just in their names – Paris, Quebec City, Antigua, The Romantic Rhine.
Flexible Independent Travel is great for romantic getaways. You travel independently, but all the details are taken care of for you. If you choose an independent travel package for a foreign country, you’ll have an English-speaking contact to provide you with any local information you may want about the area you are visiting. Again, work with your travel agent and let her know the purpose of your trip, so she can help you find the ideal location and experience to put the zip back into your relationship.
Maybe It’s All About the Destination
Your vacations are for fulfilling your dreams of traveling to a country you’ve always dreamed of visiting. Once you’ve picked your destination, you fill in the details of your trip around it. Escorted tours are a great way to visit a country for the first time or for travelers with limited foreign travel experience. With an escorted tour you are with other people, have an English-speaking tour guide and the tours, accommodations, and a good portion of your meals are included in the price. These tours include the “must-sees” for your chosen destination and include excursions and experiences that immerse you in the richness of the culture. Please note that when choosing an escorted tour, make sure you pay attention to the activity level. If you’re looking for something easy or relatively laid back and you choose a high activity level tour, you’re not going to be happy.
Flexible Independent Travel and customized vacations are also a great way to explore your dream destination.
Indulge in Your Favorite Hobby
If you have a sport, hobby, or passion that is an important part of your leisure time, consider building your vacation around it, but think outside of the box. Have you thought about skiing in South America during our summer, which is their winter? What about a scuba dive trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? Or golfing in the British Isles, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or China? What about a culinary tour of New England or a food and wine tour of Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna? Enjoy a history tour of Rome or an art and painting excursion in Florence and The Tuscan Region of Italy. Experience spas all around the world or take yoga classes in the countries where yoga began.
Many of these tours are already put together and all you have to do is find a time that works for you and sign up. And if you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, your travel agent can design it for you. Combine your passion and your vacation time and you’ll come home refreshed and rejuvenated.
Have a New Experience
This is how I start planning my vacations: I have a particular experience in mind and then build my vacation around it. I’ve climbed the bridge in Sydney, Australia; gone on a jeep safari in South Africa; ridden in a hot air balloon over the Outback in Australia and the Burgundy Region of France; kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland; ridden on a camel in Australia; taken a mud bath in volcanic mud in St. Lucia; enjoyed High Tea in Hong Kong; attended the Montreal Jazz Fest in Canada; stayed on top of the volcano on the big Island of Hawaii; been to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia; sipped Cognac before a fire in Switzerland; traveled the Autobahn in Germany; ridden in a gondola in Venice; and much more. Every experience has widened my love for life and this magnificent world of ours.
And I have many more experiences I want to have: Watch the brown bears salmon fishing in Katmai National Park, Alaska; take a train trip in Alaska; cruise the Nile; enjoy a barge cruise down the Loch Ness in Scotland; cruise to the Galapagos; see a bullfight in Spain; ride on the train in Italy that goes a portion of the trip on a ferry…my list goes on.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? There is most definitely a trip that can give you that experience. Make it a part of your vacation planning. Remember, we work hard so we can enjoy our leisure time; fill yours with memory-making adventures.
Make It Personal
The world of travel is so diverse that there is definitely something for everyone. Decide what’s important to you and build from there. Travel adds a new dimension to our experiences and memories – it’s the sweetener that makes life even more delicious.
These excellent approaches to planning a vacation were published in the Town Loafer magazine.
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