Travel Tips

10 Steps to a Perfect Vacation

No matter if you’re planning the trip of a lifetime, or if you’re embarking on a quick weekend getaway, having an awesome vacation (i.e. the best possible travel experience you can have) requires a formulaic approach. As any seasoned traveler will tell you, there is an awful lot of a travel experience over which you have no control; here are some items over which you do have control- which ultimately puts you in charge of having your best vacation ever.

1. Match Place to Person

There is certain romanticism in spinning the globe and seeing where you finger lands to determine your next vacation spot, or going to the airport with plans to board the next departing plane in a given direction. However, real-life travel (and real life happiness) depends on compatibility (and we’re not talking about relationships). At the risk of sounding obvious, what do you want to do- and what do you like to do? Do museums make your eyes glaze over? Do you covet the beach? Is your holiday about the food? Are you an adrenaline junkie who won’t be happy without some tales to tell post-trip? When you start short-listing your destinations, take into account what sort of environment are you most comfortable in terms of climate, distance from home and active holiday vs. total relaxation.

2. Know Your Audience

While it may seem like great fun to pack up the family for a trip around the world in 80 days, any parent will tell you that a trip to the grocery store is often enough to start the choruses of “Are we there yet?”, so you’ll want to pick a family trip that will preserve your sanity (while creating wonderful memories, of course). That said, if you are planning a romantic getaway with your significant other, a girls weekend, a retirement trip- or perhaps are traveling solo, make sure your destination (and your hotel or resort in particular) makes sense. Who does the advertising seem to be geared to? What sort of packages do they offer? These are all things to look into before you commit to booking.

au pair

3. Planning is Fun Too

You’ve heard the expression, life is about the journey, not the destination. While your travel plans are ultimately about enjoying the destination, the journey to get there is meant to be enjoyed as well. What this means is that you should embrace the planning phase; use this time to dream and to research. The anticipation of your awesome trip is a big part of the fun, and can sometimes last longer than the vacation itself, so don’t deny yourself that opportunity.

4. Travel Detective

Don’t underestimate the value of knowing in detail where you are going. What’s the currency? What kind of transportation is available to you? Where is your hotel in relation to the airport and/or other attractions? Is your destination safe, or are there areas that are recommended to avoid? Are there religious or cultural events that might cause closures of some things during your visit? What kind of excursions, tours or leisure opportunities are there? It helps to nail down as much info as you can before you go- so that you minimize any unpleasant surprises.

Online Research

5. Time Management

While time management may seem like an office-related activity, good time management actually figures heavily into your perfect vacation. This starts with picking an appropriate length for your trip. It takes a couple of days to unwind, and then a few more to really reap the benefits of R&R. During your trip itself, resist the urge to jam-pack every minute with planned activities. While planning ahead is a good thing, allow yourself unscheduled time in which to do whatever grabs your interest (maybe even a nap- the vacation’s guilty pleasure). You may feel pressure to get in everything possible during your trip to really maximize the experience (especially if this is an once-in-a-lifetime type trip). If your list is too long, you’ll feel stressed and disappointed.

Map planning

6. Pack Smart

Take the time to look at the weather forecast and make a list before you head to your destination. Scurrying around to purchase forgotten items will not only waste time and money- many things may not be available, depending on where you are going. Remember things like toiletries, batteries, extra socks, sunscreen, and a smaller bag to use while touring and something to wear in case of wet weather.

Packing (2)

7. Be Vigilant

Nothing is going to shatter the dreamy vibe on your vacation like getting robbed or being victimized. Some destinations are safer than others, but as a rule, you should always have your radar on. Be aware of your surroundings. This means having a map, and knowing where you are. Keep your wallet in your front pocket, so that you’re not an easy target for pickpockets. Be cautious when using ATM and Credit Cards. Screen your hands when entering your PIN- there are many different ways to get robbed. Leave your jewelry at home. Play the tourist- but don’t look like the tourist, meaning try to blend in, and look confident in your surroundings. Look people in the eye.

pick pocket

8. Carpe Diem

The thing with vacations is that they end- often much sooner than you’d like, which is why you’ve got to enjoy every moment while it lasts. Give yourself the permission while you are traveling to roll with the punches, even if that is not your usual mode of operation. The sooner you realize that you have no control over weather, flight schedules, traffic or other people, the more you will enjoy yourself. Even vacations that seemingly go off the rails can be salvaged (if not fully enjoyed) if your attitude supports it. It’s your vacation. Make it fun for yourself.

sunset heart

9. Unplug

Commit to unplugging yourself as much as possible while traveling. While it may seem near impossible to un-tether yourself from your handheld device, resist the urge to connect constantly. Your vacation is about taking in your destination, experiencing new things and perhaps even changing your point of view (literally). Don’t diminish the impact of the travel experience by missing the scenery because your eyes are glued to a screen. You’ll have plenty of time to stream your vacation on social media when you get home.

leaving work behind

10. Ease Back Into It

To really get the full effect of your perfect vacation, give yourself time to unwind properly when you get home. If possible, try to take an extra day or two before you jump right back into routine and head back to work. Not only will this give you a jumpstart on that post-holiday laundry, but it will give you extra hours to bask in that post-vacation glow. Think about it. When you’ve only got a few days or weeks out of the entire year to holiday, you should extend that vibe as long as possible.

morning coffee window