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How to Plan a Restful Vacation on a Budget

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What is one of your favorite memories from a vacation you’ve taken? Vacations are the best! In March, my husband and I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii! We started planning for the trip about 4-6 months ahead of time. Sitting down together, we determined how much the vacation would cost so we could save up for it. Food can be an expensive part of a trip. If you able to make a lot of your own food, this can save hundreds of dollars on a vacation. Find out in advance what your hotel/lodging has available. For our trip, we found out a microwave, blender, and fridge would be available to us. Knowing our options for cooking allowed us to plan for sandwiches, smoothies, snacks for the road, and healthy food that could be heated in the microwave. Keeping your plans organized can be challenging, especially if you have lots of flights and travel details. There are stages of preparation that happen during the planning process to help keep you organized.

12 – 6 Months Ahead

Financial planning/saving, and depending on the trip, you may need to plan even further in advance to save up. Make sure your passports are up to date if they are needed to get to your destination.

3 – 4 Months Ahead

Purchase plane tickets: this time-frame depends on where you’re going. If you’re traveling within the United States this time frame works. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll want to start looking for tickets as far in advance as 8-10 months. This is also a good time to reserve your lodging and decide on transportation. If it’s a popular vacation location and you plan to go at a peak tourist time, you may need to reserve lodging 6 to 12 months in advance. If you Google “Peak Tourist Time to [insert your destination here]”, you can research the best time for you to go.

1 – 3 Months Ahead

Decide where you’d like to explore while at your destination, what activities you want to do, research food options, and find out what amenities your lodging offers. Gather all the details, like address, phone number, hours of service, cost, and when you’d like to do the activity. Then, write them in your digital vacation file.

3 – 4 Weeks Ahead

Start your packing list and grocery list for any items you need to purchase before going on the trip. Also, start a list for any items that you anticipate needing to buy while you are on the trip.

1 – 2 Weeks Ahead

Make sure all your travel plans and information are organized and in one location. This could look like a digital folder, document, or paper folder. Print off anything you may need a backup paper copy of. Running through the details will help make sure you don’t have to rush at last minute or end up forgetting an important address.

1 Day Ahead

Relax and start preparing your mind and body to slow down. If you are running like crazy up until the moment you leave, you’ll need a day or two at the beginning of your vacation just to recover. If you take some time to prepare before, you can enjoy every moment. Check in for your flight, pack the car, and get some good rest!

Here are some tips to help you with your vacation planning:

  • Make Your Lists – Here are some suggestions: flights, food, hotel, airports, emergency services, budget, places to see, car rentals, packing, & the weather.
  • Print your hotel, flight, and rental car confirmations as a backup for any mobile confirmations.
  • Check-In to the flights early on your airline’s mobile app. Typically, your mobile check-in process also serves as you boarding ticket.
  • Check your health insurance coverage early (if traveling to a different country).
  • Use Pinterest to collect ideas and do research about your destination.
  • Plan for fun – Schedule a rest day following your return date. This will give you time to unpack and get settled back in.
  • Don’t try to do everything. If you pick the places to see and things to do that are most important, you’ll be able to enjoy them. Running from one place to another may get a lot checked off your list, but it doesn’t make for restful experiences.

Thinking ahead for your vacation preparation alleviates the pressure of last minute chaos and missed items when you’re off on your adventure. If you start far enough in advance you won’t feel like you need a vacation from your vacation.

Question: What tips and tricks have you learned about vacation planning? Share in the comments below.

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