Did you know that January 31st is “National Plan for Vacation Day”? It’s a day for encouraging people to plan their time off for the year, at the start of the year! It’s celebrated on the last Tuesday of January each year!
Get inspired to use up those vacation days with these vacation planning tips!
1. Gather Inspiration
There are several ways to gather information for your travels. Instagram can be a great place to start!
There are so many travel influencers out there sharing destinations for all types of vacations. Find one that specializes in the kind of travel you love. Are you a family? Looking for couples-only this time? Do you love to relax and chill, or are you more of an adventure-seeker?
Similarly, there are tons of travel blogs out there in every different niche. From family adventure travel to Disney travel to luxury destinations and more!
Pinterest is my other favorite inspiration source! Make yourself a Travel or Bucket List board and get pinning!
2. Figure Out Your Budget
Of course, you can pin all the amazing inspiration you want, but taking an African safari or flying to Tahiti may just be completely out of the budget for you at this time!
If you are one of those super-smart people who contribute to a travel savings account, yay for you! You know your budget immediately by just taking a peek at your bank account!
For the rest of us mortals, it will take a little more effort!
One of the benefits of starting your vacation planning in January is that you will have some time to save for the trip!
Factors to consider in planning your travel budget:
- Cost of transportation- whether flights, gas, or rental car
- Price of lodging (don’t forget hotels on travel days)
- Price of experiences and activities you want to book
- Cost of meals
- Budget for shopping and souvenirs
- Cost of travel insurance if needed
- If necessary, the price of house-sitters and/or pet-sitters (and don’t forget boarding facilities almost always require up-to-date vaccinations and flea/tick medication!)
Make sure you also look into your credit card rewards system. Some cards have points for travel, and many people actually do “travel-hacking” where they essentially travel for free just by using credit card points!
If this is something you want to look into, there are so many resources! One of my favorite blogs on this subject is travelhackingmom.com, where 3 moms write about traveling the world for pennies on the dollar!
3. Decide Where to Go!
Once you have your budget in mind, there are other things to consider when deciding where to go.
Here are a handful of vacation planning tips you will need just in choosing your destination:
Decide what type of vacation you’re looking for.
Do you want to spend your time lying in a hammock with a drink in hand somewhere in the tropics?
Are you hoping to hike to the peak of a mountain or volcano? Want to learn about history and culture? Have amazing wildlife sightings? Stroll down a city street shopping in local boutiques?
Narrow down your options based on what experiences you’re hoping to have!
Figure out how much time you have to spend.
For those of you working in the 9-5 world, how many vacation days can you take? Can you maximize them with weekends or weekday holidays that you would already have off work?
If pets are a part of your family, and you aren’t choosing to bring them, that is another consideration. Will you be paying a boarder or a pet sitter? How long are you willing to leave them in someone else’s care?
Don’t forget to account for travel days as well!
Consider the weather or season.
What is the weather typically like this time of year for the destinations you are considering? Is it busy-season or off-season? There are benefits to traveling during the off-season as well as the busy season!
Other than that, some destinations have a “rainy season” and some destinations will be covered in snow during certain months. For example, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon will still have road closures for snow into June and sometimes even July!
In another example, Death Valley, near Las Vegas, is so hot in the summer that many outdoor activities are off-limits.
Figure out what your ideal weather scenario is, as well as what you’re willing to sacrifice to avoid crowds.
Take another look at your budget!
Now you know what you want your vacation to look like, and have it narrowed down quite a bit!
Next, take another look into your budget and decide which destination makes the most sense for you!
4. Book Your Lodging
Once you have decided on a destination, you need to book your stay as soon as possible! Especially if you are planning your trip during the busier seasons at that destination!
There are several different resources we use when planning out our vacations. One of the best of our vacation planning tips is to utilize all the resources that are available to you!
Resources for booking accommodations:
Check out Gather + Go Travel’s Top 4 Resources for Finding the Best Trip Accommodation for more helpful tips!
If you’re more on the adventurous side, and planning some camping time, here are some of our favorite resources for finding great spots to camp!
- Google Maps
- Campendium App
Another tip for booking hotels is to consider discounts from associations you might belong to. AAA has travel discounts if you are a member. Costco is another place that offers members travel discounts.
Many hotels have loyalty programs that are definitely worth looking into! Choice Hotels has a loyalty program that we are a part of. On travel days, we almost always choose to stay at a Choice Hotel to take advantage of discounts.
Also, consider whether an all-inclusive resort might make sense for you. Especially if traveling outside the U.S., it’s worth looking into!
5. Plan Your Transportation
Depending on how far you are planning to go, you will decide whether you’re flying or road-tripping. Road-tripping is our preferred mode of transportation because you can see so much more that way! If you’re worried about being stuck in a car with your kids for too long, check out our tips for keeping sane on road trips!
Sometimes, either way could work. It could be useful to figure out the cost of gas versus the cost of flights and possibly a rental car.
Resources for planning flights:
- Google Flights
Resources for rental cars:
Websites like kayak.com can help you compare rental car prices at hundreds of places based on your dates.
Some car rental companies also offer loyalty programs, so just going to their websites and checking into that can be worth it.
Also, consider renting a car only for the days you will really need a car. Maybe it’s not necessary to have a car for your entire trip. Don’t pay for days that your rental will just be sitting in a hotel parking space!
Resources for planning road trips:
- Roadtrippers app
- Google Maps
6. Plan and Book Experiences
Most of the fun of a vacation, at least for our family, is the activities we get to experience!
Therefore, the next one of our vacation planning tips is to plan out and book your experiences and activities!
Once you have the question of destination settled, do some research into what kinds of things you want to do on your trip!
If visiting a beach, some popular activities are dolphin cruises, snorkeling or scuba diving, parasailing, and boat or jet ski rentals.
For the adventurous non-beach location, maybe a guided hike, ziplining, a possible safari, maybe a day of skiing.
Urban location activities might include museums, zoos, or tours such as ghost tours and historical tours.
Poll your family and let everyone give input into what is most important to them. Book experiences based on that plus your budget.
7. Pack Your Bags!
It’s time to go! The last step in planning is to pack your bags!
This can look entirely different based on whether you’re driving or flying. It will also look different based on what season/weather you are traveling in.
Airlines will have specific bag sizes and weights that are allowed. You will also need to figure out what is and is not allowed in your bags. The same can go for cruises as well.
This is part of what we love about road-tripping. Packing seems a lot less complicated! If I want to bring it or think I might possibly need it, and it fits, I just bring it! Over-packers, raise your hands!!!
A few additional tips:
Plan in time for no plans at all!
You don’t want to be on a strict itinerary for your entire trip! Likely, you will find something you want to do or see that you didn’t account for in your initial planning!
Also, you want to be able to have some time to relax and chill in between activities!
Having extra downtime will also give you a cushion for when experiences don’t go as planned. Maybe something took way longer than you imagined it would, or the traffic was insane. You’ll be happy to have some extra time budgeted in!
Consider travel insurance.
Travel insurance is something a lot of people don’t take into consideration at all. For us, it definitely varies from trip to trip whether we think it’s super important.
Some travel insurance options include World Nomads, which is good for adventure travel and covers over 200 activities and sports. I have personally used this travel insurance and the customer service was amazing. Atlas Travel Insurance is good for worldwide medical coverage.
If you booked your lodging through somewhere like Airbnb, there may be options offered through them. In the Airbnb example, they have AirCover, a free service that protects your booking, as well as travel insurance that can be purchased in addition to your booking.
Are you inspired to start planning your next vacation? I hope you find these 7 easy vacation planning tips helpful! Happy travels!
You might be interested in:
- Essential Road Trip Tips for Families to Stay Entertained & Sane
- Questions to Ask Before Booking Your Next Airbnb
- Your Guide to Family Fun in Galveston, TX
Pin for later!