Vacation Planning Guide

Did you know that your unused vacation days can cost the United States economy billions of dollars? Vacations offer a fun and relaxing way to take time off from work. That is, once you arrive at your vacation destination, free from the complications that come along with the first day of planning, packing, and traveling. For many, the planning process is quite stressful, especially for families with children. However, there are a few steps that you can take in advance to ensure a successful foundation for your next trip.

Step 1: Choose a Destination

Choosing where you want to go is the most essential thing to do. All your other planning decisions depend on it. If you plan a long, one-week vacation, it is a great idea to have a destination picked out at least six months to a year in advance. Before you consult an internet search engine for this, sit down with your family and discuss some ideas. Learn how far everyone is willing to travel, how long everyone thinks you should stay, and what activities everyone can think of that he or she wants to do. Does your family want to go to a beach environment, a big city, a historic village, or a ski resort?

You may want to put your whole focus on how far you will travel if you have a young child or infant. Travelers do fly with their babies on planes often. However, before you decide to book a flight overseas, you must consider whether taking your child on a plane to France is worth it. If you don’t mind bringing your children or infants on a plane with you, then you may want to think about cost instead.

A destination within the United States to which you can drive or fly for a cheaper price is often a better choice. Plus, travelers in 2017 helped generate a $2.4 trillion economic output and supported 15.6 million American jobs across all industries! Once your family decides on the climate or size of destination, you can look up more specific locations on the internet. For example, if your family wants to visit a beach in the United States, you might look up places to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast, to see if it offers the activities you and your family wish to try. Many tourist destination websites will have lists and descriptions of what you can expect to see and do when you arrive.

Step 2: Book Flights (or Plan Your Driving Route) and Accommodations

As soon as you finalize your destination decision, you should begin your search for plane tickets–unless you are driving–and booking a hotel. August 23, or National Cheap Flight Day is the best time to buy airline tickets, because it marks the beginning of the off-peak travel season, during which ticket prices drop with dramatic flair. You can find cheaper tickets from this date, and on into autumn months.

If you are traveling with kids, you want to find the best value for your money when booking accommodations, not the cheapest choice. You want your family comfortable and well-rested enough to enjoy vacation activities. You can choose between hotels, apartments, resorts, guest houses, hostels, Airbnb’s, etc. Booking accommodations depend on the length and location of your trip. If you plan to stay longer than a weekend, consider apartments. They offer amenities like access to a full kitchen, your own laundry, and separate rooms that some hotels may not. The internet is a great tool for finding what suits your family’s and your needs at a reasonable price. However, you must take the time to search!

Researching a local visitors center like the one in Mooresville, NC also benefits you in this area. The welcoming staff members at a visitor’s bureaus serve to help you find anything you need: a hotel, family-friendly attractions, outdoor activities, and restaurant recommendations. You can call or email them in advance, as well as visit them in person if you get to your destination and need any further aid.

Step 3: Create a Flexible Itinerary

Your itinerary can include everything from attractions and activities to where your meals will come from. Nothing is set in stone. In fact, you don’t need to have rigid times on it at all. Your itinerary should remain flexible enough to allow the seeing of multiple attractions or doing of multiple activities, but firm enough to ensure you have time to eat, sleep, and get to each place in between.

If you are unsure of what activities and attractions there are, you can speak with someone at a visitor’s center or search for websites that list them. For example, searching for attractions to explore in Vicksburg, MS can lead you to historic home tours, museums, parks, churches and cemeteries, and so on. You can see details about the attractions and activities for most destinations, as well as view them on a map to make a sensible route for each day. You can also explore Henry County, Georgia (or a specific county/city in the state you are planning to visit) online before you go. By exploring by county or city, you will be able to find out more about the history of the location and all the things it has to offer.

If you can, compile a list of free things to see and do. This will ensure that you save some money for eating out and other activities that may cost money. If there are any necessary experiences you wish to have, you will want to plan those before the rest, especially if you need to book tickets for them. You wouldn’t want to have your itinerary planned, just to find the haunted house tour on which you wanted to go at the last minute booked solid, on the one day you have free time.

Step 4: Pack Smart

If you go on a longer vacation, be sure to allow yourself at least a week or two to pack. You don’t want to scramble around at the last minute, and risk forgetting something like your inhaler or turnpike toll coins or passport. You should also check the weather ahead of time to avoid over-packing. Unless it is an absolute must, avoid packing multiple bottles of liquids like shampoos and soaps. Most accommodations give you some for free. That saves you space. You also won’t need linens, towels, or hair dryers if you are staying in a hotel.

Consider whether you need to bring your whole makeup or shaving kit, more than one jacket, or two pairs of the same type of shoe. Try to keep your packing minimal to save space. However, also pack extra outfits and underclothes for emergency purposes. And the most important, don’t forget your documents such as passports, international drivers license if you plan to drive, and also get your insurance ready.

Step 5: Go!

Once you have the first four steps taken care of, you can relax and enjoy your vacation! Remember that food services and lodging are the top two categories for traveler spending and once those are out of the way, you will not have to stress over them. Open your mind to enjoy exploring a new place by yourself, with a friend, or with your family. Don’t let your precious vacation days go to waste; help improve economic development and travel!