Seven Tips for Planning Your Next Vacation
Taking a vacation away from work and home is an important way to help you relax, reduce stress and refocus your mind while making life-long memories with friends and family. But for many, the thought of having to actually plan a vacation creates a mountain of stress. Deciding where to go, what to do and how to pay for it can stop the planning process in its tracks. Following these seven easy tips will help you plan a vacation that leaves you relaxed and stress-free until well after you return home.
Determine Your Destination
If you already know where you want to go on your next vacation, congratulations! That is half of the battle. If you’re still undecided, it’s time to start narrowing down your choices. Start by thinking what type of vacation you are looking for: a long weekend or a week away; lazy days by the beach or intense hikes in the mountains; amusement parks or national parks; travel by car or travel by plane, etc. Then start researching locations that fit your ideal vacation by using websites such as TripAdvisor, asking friends and family for recommendations or working with a travel agent.
Set Your Budget
When it comes to deciding on a vacation destination, the sky is the limit. But the same cannot be said when it comes to your vacation budget. Let’s be honest, a vacation is going to cost you some money. According to CreditDonkey, the average vacation costs $1,145 per person or $4,580 for a family of four. It is important to review your finances to determine how much you are comfortable spending on your vacation without breaking the bank or accruing a lot of debt. There is nothing worse than coming back from a nice, relaxing vacation just to stress out about how you will pay for it. When setting your budget, factor in any expenses you can foresee such as travel, lodging, meals, site-seeing activities, amusement parks or souvenirs.
If you don’t already have your vacation budget sitting in the bank, it is time to start saving. If you have several months before your vacation, set aside a little bit each time that you get paid or receive an unexpected windfall such as a bonus, a birthday gift, or a tax refund. Consider opening a separate savings account just for your vacation budget. You can even make your savings automatic by setting up a portion of your paycheck to be direct deposited directly into your savings account. If you are planning last minute trip and don’t have a lot of time to save, look for ways to cover your vacation expenses by cutting current expenses or selling unused items in order to get some extra cash help.
If your schedule permits, be flexible with when you take your vacation to increase the chances that you get the best bang for your buck. For instance, during the holidays and spring break the prices for flights and hotels usually increase due to increased demand. If you can travel outside of peak times you are more likely to get a better deal. Using websites such as Expedia and trivago can help you book your airfare, hotel and car rental at the same time while also helping you get the best deal.
Research and book activities in advance
Many people like to go with the flow during their vacations and not have a set schedule. However, doing so may end up in disappointment if the activities you are interested in require a reservation. Many popular activities such as horseback riding, fishing excursions, or lunch with your favorite princess have limited capacity and fill up days, weeks or even months in advance. It’s a good idea to research the activities available at your vacation destination and book the ones you are interested in well before you leave town.
Purchase miscellaneous items ahead of time
Make a list of any miscellaneous items that you will need for your trip and purchase as much as you can ahead of time. For instance, if you are headed to the beach, purchasing sunscreen at a local store will most likely cost much less than it will at your hotel or a convenience store on vacation. Likewise, purchase snacks and possibly groceries for your trip before you leave to avoid the higher prices charged in tourist towns and gas stations.
Tie up loose ends at home
There’s no doubt that your mind is going to be focused on the great time that you will have during your vacation, but don’t forget to make plans for keeping things on track while you are gone.
- Your Employer – Notify your employer well in advance of your vacation to ensure your shifts are covered and any projects won’t fall behind.
- Your Pets – Be sure to book arrangements for pet care ASAP. Many popular boarding businesses book up fast during popular travel times. Nothing would be worse to be all set to leave and have no one to take care of Fido.
- Your Finances – Be sure to contact your bank prior to your vacation and have travel alerts put on all of the credit cards or bank accounts you plan to use while you are away. Protecting you from fraud is a top priority for most financial institutions. If they see unusual activity happening on your accounts from your vacation destination, there is a chance they could freeze your account and decline your transactions. This big inconvenience could easily be avoided by giving your bank a quick call before you leave and making them aware of your travel destination and dates.
Additionally, take note of any bills that will need to be paid while you are on vacation and arrange to have them paid ahead of time. Also, be sure to download the mobile app for your financial institution such as the FNBO mobile app (available through the App Store or Android App on Google Play) to ensure sure you can easily handle any unexpected bills or transfers, track your purchases and even find surcharge-free ATMs from the Allpoint ATM network which provide 55,000surcharge-free ATMs worldwide.
- Your Mail – Have the post office hold your mail while you are away. By doing so you won’t have to ask anyone to get your mail for you or worry about it sitting in your mailbox for a week or more. Rest assured, the post office will deliver everything when you return.
- Your Plants/Lawn – Don’t forget about watering indoor/outdoor plants and/or your lawn while you are gone. Arrange to have a friend or neighbor stop by as needed to ensure you don’t come home to wilted plants. Likewise, you may need to arrange for lawn service to mow your lawn if you will be gone for an extended period of time.
- Trash – Vacations are meant to be sunshine and roses but coming home to stinky trash that has been sitting around for a week or more could really put a damper on things. Arrange to have your trash set out so that it can be picked up on schedule.
If you follow these simple steps there’s a good chance you will be able to plan your next vacation without feeling stressed. All that that will be left for you to do is to relax and enjoy your time off – you definitely deserve it.
The articles in this blog are for informational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations. When making decisions about your financial situation, consult a financial professional for advice. Articles are not regularly updated, and information may become outdated.