Planning a vacation isn’t easy – it is a lot of work – time, research, double checking facts and prices. With fake reviews and photo shopped images, it’s more difficult than ever to trust what you find on the internet. Read on for some tips and tricks, so that planning your next vacation won’t be so much of a chore.
Let’s start with airline tickets. Not long ago, we had two choices – First Class and Economy – and bags were FREE! Now we pay for bags – and snacks – and we have to choose from several different ticket types, depending on the airline. For example, we have Premium Economy on American, Comfort Plus on Delta or Economy Plus on United. These are just different names for the same thing – an extra-leg room seat, priority boarding, and slightly better food and beverage service. Not as expensive as First class, but might be worthwhile for that cross-country or overnight flight.
On the budget side, we have the Basic Economy ticket. Less expensive than standard Economy. This is a non-refundable, non-changeable ticket. You are always the last to board, with no advance seat selection, and you will probably be assigned to a middle seat in the back of the airplane. I don’t recommend choosing Basic Economy – family members won’t be seated together, and if your plans change, there is no option to rebook for a different date. International air is even more complicated – but that’s a lesson for another day.
Now, where to stay on your trip? Cruise, resort, hotel or condo. Whatever option is best for your vacation, you need to carefully understand the DETAILS and FINE PRINT of what you are booking. Details like: double beds instead of queen beds; adjacent rooms instead of adjoining rooms; ocean view instead of ocean front; and roll-away beds always on-request – never guaranteed. These little details can really impact your vacation – especially getting a good night’s sleep. No one wants to hear in the middle of the night “Mom! He’s on my side of the bed!” The fine print also really important – this is where the surprise fees can hide, what’s included and what’s not – things like Breakfast, WiFi, Parking fees, and Resort Fees. It’s no fun to get an unexpected bill at the end of your holiday.
About those on-line travel sellers. Those websites appear to offer great “deals” on airfare and vacation packages – but it’s the details that catch you off guard. Often the airfare is similar to Basic Economy – meaning you are the last to board and don’t get to pick your seat. You might not get Frequent Flier miles. The vacation packages might really be offering you a room just a sliver of an ocean view, or a room that hasn’t been renovated in a while or one that’s near the elevator and ice machine. The package also might gloss over the extras that you’ll have to pay at the resort – which aren’t included in that “Deal” price. This exact situation happened to a friend of mine who wanted to go to Miami for a week. I quoted her a price, including breakfast and resort fees, but it was about $500 dollars more than the on-line price, so she booked the “Deal”. I’m sure you all know what happened at the end of her trip. She had a to pay a bill for about $500 dollars for all the little things which hadn’t been included in the on-line package. Sometimes a great price, isn’t really a great deal.
Who’s traveling with you on your next vacation? Family? Extended Family? Maybe a Girls Trip? My family travels in a large herd, ranging in size from 4 to 18 people, and ages 10 to 80 years old, so I know a few things about Family Travel. Wherever we go, we make sure we have enough space, enough beds, enough bathrooms, enough wine and the right atmosphere. Atmosphere is one of those details that’s easy to overlook – or assume that all resorts are similar. Is your group looking for an all-day party with lots of music by the pool and organized activities? Or would a quieter resort be better – so you can relax on the beach and listen to the waves? The right atmosphere for a Girls trip is likely not the same as for a family friendly vacation. A client once asked “is a Disney cruise a good idea for my group of 20 older adults and no children.” I replied, “Only if you are a serious Mickey Mouse fan,” and we quickly picked another cruise line
As you are planning your next trip, it is important to think about your personal expectations, as well as those of your traveling companions. Is there a “must-see” on your sightseeing list? On someone else’s list? Do you want lots of activities or lots of R&R? Guided tours or independent sight-seeing? Are you on a budget or do you prefer indulgent luxury? Take the time to acknowledge what you want – and what others want – so that everyone can enjoy their vacation. Extra planning up-front will really go a long way – details like skip-the-line museum passes, dinner reservations at that award-winning restaurant, and private behind-the-scenes tours.
So where do you want to travel next? Are you ready for a big trip to a far-off destination? I’ve been lucky enough to travel to over 40 countries – I’ve loved them all – it’s impossible to pick a favorite. But it is possible to travel with kids – and grandparents – to these far-off places and for everyone to have a good time and make great memories. Some of our best memories are from how my kids experienced our adventures – teaching them to use chopsticks, sleeping on the upper deck of a camper van during our trip to Tasmania, watching them hide under the bells at the temples in Chang Mai, snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, and hiking in our National Parks. My personal favorite memory – the time my four-year old escaped from the Japanese Hot Spring before he – or I – had put our clothes back on!
There’s a saying among Travel Advisors. You can’t return a bad vacation. A lot of time and effort is needed to plan a great vacation. Flights, Lodging, Fine Print, Details, Beds, Atmosphere. The list goes on. Travel Advisors like myself specialize in destination knowledge, resort & cruise line knowledge and certainly all the tiny details; so that your vacation is a great vacation; so that it’s simple and seamless; so that it really feels like a vacation – and not week of you being in-charge and herding cats. If you’d like to know more about what it’s like to work with a Travel Advisor – give me a call. I’d love to help you find your True Direction.