The thought of going on vacation is exciting! You work hard for your money and vacation time, dreaming of visiting different destinations, and when the time comes to plan out that much needed and deserved break, it never ceases to put a smile on your face, and rightfully so; after all, the world is big and beautiful and full of excitement!
But how do you even begin to pick which of those fun and exciting things to do? If you're anything like me you have a list a mile long of places you're interested in going and deciding which one moves to the top of your list can be tough.
After 30+ years of travel I've worked through some tried and true tips you can use to help you narrow down that list and take a great vacation!
1. How much time do you have?
The very first place to start when deciding where to go on your next vacation time is to decide exactly how much time you're going to take off of work. The logic is pretty simple; if your time only allows for a long weekend away, then the places that make your list are likely going to be places that you can easily drive or fly to.
A great example of this is that just a few months ago I returned from a two week road trip in Ireland, so in late June when I started to get that vacation itch again, I knew that I'd need to keep it somewhere close. We could really only take one day off due to some other travel we had coming up, so we immediately agreed that we wanted to keep our long weekend vacation to somewhere we could drive to in 5 hours or less.
Once we determined that, our vacation location options shifted to fit into the scope of what we had available for time, which is how we ended up heading to Kansas City for the weekend.
2. Make a list of your top 5 locations
You've determined exactly how much time you're going to take off, so now you can make a list of places that fit in that window of time.
Taking two weeks off? That's a great opportunity to visit other countries or take that long road trip you've been dreaming of.
Taking a week? Maybe you won't travel halfway around the world, but there are still plenty of places to go that you can check off your travel bucket list.
Only have an extra day or two? You may want to stick somewhere close to home that you can quickly and easily get to and back home without compromising too much of your vacation time on travel.
Whatever your time off is, try not to go over 5 places on your list or you're only going to overwhelm yourself choosing. My asterisk to this statement is if you're planning a long vacation. For example, I'm planning a two-week trip to Europe in 2018 and will visit multiple locations, therefore I do have more than 5 places on my research list. What I did, however, was determine what area of Europe I was going to visit, which helped me narrow down my research to countries and cities in that area.
3. How long are the flights or drive time? Will you lose a whole day traveling? Are the flight times terrible?
I personally think that this is one of the big make-or-break tips to a potential vacation. My vacation time is precious to me, so if I only have 5 days off then I don't want to spend 2 of those days traveling to and from my destination.
Pay attention to your flight times. You may find a "cheap" plane ticket, but do you only have 30 minutes to get to your connecting flight? Do you land at 11:30pm when you're coming home and you have to work the next day? Do you have a 5 hour layover? Sometimes the cheapest plane ticket may have the worst travel times and end up not being worth your time, or it may end up being out of your budget to purchase the ticket with the flight times you need.
4. What is your budget (flight and hotel, then spending)
This question is two-fold. There's the cost you're willing to pay for your flight and hotel combination, then also you're overall spending budget. It's important to distinguish between these two budgets for many reasons.
For example, let's say that one of your top 5 vacations you're considering is heading to Florida for a theme park vacation, however you're not looking to spend more than $1,200 total. You would first want to understand how much it will cost you to fly to Florida and what your hotel stay will cost. For the sake of this example, that pretend that flight + hotel cost is $700.
You now have $500 left of your $1,200 total budget. Next, you'll need to decide how many theme parks you're visiting and what the cost of tickets are. You'll likely eat and drink while you're in the park, in addition to any souvenirs you want to buy, and anything off the theme park property you want to do. Does that fit within your $1,200 total budget? You may find that it doesn't, as theme parks usually charge a premium for anything inside the park, so your $500 may not get you as far as one of your other locations options would.
5. What are your non-negotiable items?
Do you need your location to be kid friendly? Looking for a hotel right on the beach? Want to make sure your all-inclusive has at least 4 restaurants? Maybe a swim up bar is a 'must' for you?
Determine what those non-negotiables are for you, and then you can eliminate certain locations or hotels.
6. What amenities does your hotel have? What do they charge for other things?
Watch for what perks your hotel includes, and what they charge for. You may find a hotel that is $30 cheaper than the one down the road, but they charge $18 for breakfast and $30 for parking, where as the more expensive hotel has free parking. In the end it would cost less to stay at the more expensive hotel because the cost of the perks was lower, and all those little unseen costs can add up quickly!
At this point if you don't have a clear picture of where it is you want to travel to then you hopefully at least have it narrowed down to your top two that you can choose from. And once you decide that's when the fun starts! You can research all the delicious places to eat, attractions you want to see, and activities you want to do!
I've even made this process easy for you with my 25 page in depth travel planner. When you sign up for Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary World you'll automatically receive your own planner that you can use each and every time you plan a vacation.
I've included ways to layout and organize all your research when you're deciding where to go, sections to help you start planning your trip once you pick your destination(s), and you'll also receive 14 dedicated pages to planning out your itinerary in as much detail as you need. Don't need that much detail? Simply use the pages you need and reprint each time you're starting to plan a new vacation!
Do you have any 'must dos' when you're researching where to take your next vacation at? Tell me about them!