Anybody can take the vacation of a lifetime. It requires planning, but more than that, it requires mind-set. You must believe it can be done. If, like me, you are short on cash, take heart. Here are the steps I take to make the impossible happen.
- Decision time.
It may seem obvious, but the first step toward any vacation is deciding you’re going to do it. Not just wishing or hoping, but actually saying to yourself, “I am going on vacation”. Treat it as a fact. Say it to yourself. Say it to others. Make it your own.
Where do you want to go? Disneyland? The Caribbean? Paris in springtime? Everywhere? Make a list. Begin with 3 columns: Cheap and Easy (example: road trip to the beach); the One Week Getaway (example: a sightseeing adventure to New Orleans); When I Win the Lottery (example: Greek villa by the sea). List everywhere you want to go in its appropriate column. During the next few weeks, narrow down your list by asking yourself which are my all-time dreams, which will be the most fun, and which are most likely to pull off?
Research, research, research! Check prices, hotel availability, travel expenses, car rentals, etc. Hotels charge different prices at different times of the year. There are websites that compare prices and may help you find good deals. Most hotels give you a 72 hour cancellation window so go ahead and book now. You can cancel if it doesn’t work out. Plane fares also vary with date and day of week and flying into a major hub will be less expensive than flying direct to a small town.
- When ?
As mentioned in #3, prices on travel and accommodations vary at different times, but another consideration is your own schedule. When can you get time off work? When is the pet sitter available? And don’t forget about the weather. You probably don’t want to visit Mexico during the hurricane season or Saskatoon in the sub-zero winter.
- The money part.
This is the show-stopper for a lot of people, but it doesn’t need to be. After doing your research, deciding on a destination within your budget, and finding the best deals, you can work it out with the help of careful planning. I try to plan a year in advance so there’s time to save up. Skip the Starbucks. Quit smoking. Do you really need that new couch now? Figure out how much your vacation will cost, then divide it into a monthly or bi-monthly savings plan. You can pay for travel, hotel, car, and tours in advance to diminish your grand total.
While you’re away, there will still be considerations and expenses at home. If you have a pet, set up a good sitter or boarding facility. A pet sitter who comes to your home should also bring in your mail and newspapers (or you can cancel newspaper delivery and save a little money), turn lights off and on, and make your house looked lived-in. If you don’t have a pet sitter, it’s good to get someone else to do those things. Thieves really do break in when they think no one is home.
What to do once you’ve arrived can be a fun part of your research. With the internet, it’s easy to get information, but be careful because the internet can lie. Always double-check your sources, especially if money is involved. Make a list of possibilities, again marking dates and times so you don’t get to a museum that’s closed Mondays or book a tour that starts before you arrive. Check local newspapers. Don’t forget to leave time for chance and relaxation.
- What to pack.
Packing depends on where you go. If you’re taking a plane and can get away with only your carry-on and extra bag, great. Unfortunately the list of banned item is long, so a checked bag for those items may be best. Don’t take more luggage than you can maneuver by yourself unless you can make arrangements for it.
Here are some things I take: a small pillow, a warm bathrobe, slippers, and a light silk blanket. The light blanket has multiple uses. A set of good clothes, (wrinkle-proof dress or shirt and jacket, nice but comfortable shoes, pretty jewelry that you could lose without remorse). Casual clothes, clean, not grubby, but versatile. Specialty wear, such as swim suits or ski-wear. A shopping-size bag that folds flat and can hold your purse plus whatever else you might want on a tour. A soft coat. All my clothes have to be comfortable or I don’t take them.
Always carry some local currency and know how much it’s worth. A notebook and pen, and few packets of various OTC medications are helpful.
- Travel time.
Planning things to do during travel time can make the difference between long, boring hours and constructive and interesting day. Books are great, and even if you don’t normally prefer an e-reader, they do hold a lot of books in a very small and light space. Tablets offer a huge array of options from games to movies, but connections may be spotty and data may be expensive. Look into your plan before you go. Take a mini-version of your favorite hobby: a tiny crochet project or a small drawing pad.
- Keep an open mind.
Travel is never what you imagine. Sometimes wonderful things happen out of the blue that you could never have planned for; other times, not so much. You ‘ll be happiest if you are willing to accept that many things are out of your control. Slow down and smell the flowers. Don’t worry; it never helps.
Happy travels. Please let me know where you go.