Planning is Essential for an Enjoyable Vacation

Planning is Essential for an Enjoyable Vacation
Words by:  Bryon Gragg
Published July/August 2011

Like most things, a successful vacation is accomplished with proper planning.  Occasionally, you may have a spur-of-the-moment getaway that really goes well; however, good planning is generally required for both the itinerary and the budget of a vacation.  Unfortunately, most people spend more time planning their itinerary than their budget.

The easy route is to charge the vacation on credit cards and worry about paying for it later.  Like many other things, the easiest route is not always the best for you.  Do you really want to worry about how you are going to pay for everything while you are trying to enjoy your vacation?  That’s not the best way to relax.  In this article, we will discuss some strategies to help you have a successful and fun trip.

It is best to start with a budget for your travel plans.  Determine how much you are comfortable spending overall.  Once you have determined the amount you can realistically afford, versus what you want to do, you need to allocate it among lodging, travel, meals and other activities.  If you want to go to Europe next year but your budget only allows for a trip to the South Carolina coast,  you have two options:  Either go to the South Carolina coast or start saving more money now.

Once you determine your destination, you need to decide on the lodging.  One option for saving some money you worked so hard for is to find lodging where you can prepare your meals.  The cost of dining out for three or more meals a day can significantly burden your vacation budget.  Many hotels have rooms or suites that contain kitchen facilities.  Preparing your own meal once or twice a day can save a significant amount of money you can use to enjoy yourselves.  By purchasing snacks and drinks and storing them in your room, rather than using a mini-bar, you’ll save even more.

With your destination chosen and lodging choice made, you need to determine your mode of travel.  Will you drive, fly or take a cruise?  If flying, research fares and book reservations early to maximize discounts.  Also keep in mind that if you are driving a significant distance, you need to make sure your vehicle is roadworthy.  Tires, oil changes and tune-ups that might be needed should also be budgeted and hopefully completed prior to departure.  Also, don’t forget to budget for changes in gas prices.

When considering entertainment, take advantage of places with free or low-cost admissions such as museums and state and national parks.  Advance research may uncover many unexpected points of interest for you to visit.  Mapping out a plan of where you want to visit and grouping sites by the routes you are taking can save time and transportation costs.

Another way to save money with vacation planning is to visit prior to or just after the busy season.  Of-season rates can offer substantial savings on travel, lodging and entertainment choices and may require you to adjust your plans by only a week or two.

Consider turning an out-of-town business trip into a combined business/pleasure trip.  For the business portion of your trip, your lodging, meals and other expenses are deductible, but not so for the vacation days.  If the primary reason for the trip is business, the cost of travel such as airfare can be deducted without allocating business and personal days.  Remember to retain your records for such trips.

And what about that trip to Europe?  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a staycation or holistay for a year or two.  Not only will you be able to save some money for that dream trip and make it a reality, you just might also find yourself enjoying the treasure here at home.

Like so many dreams, you can make that trip to Europe a reality with advance planning, saving and preparation…just like any other financial goal you may have.