While you’re grinding away at work, your thoughts might drift to a Spanish beach or a ski resort in Colorado. How nice would it be to take a week off and just forget all your troubles?
Luckily, even a big vacation is not as out of reach as you think — it just takes a little planning. Instead of setting aside your ideal vacation vision, employ these tips and you can make it into a reality.
1. Budget in Advance
Often one’s biggest barrier to going on vacation is the cost of it all versus necessities. Sometimes the perfect trip just costs too much at the moment and that money could be better used elsewhere. You can avoid this problem altogether if you establish a travel fund in advance. No matter how much you save — while also paying for necessities — you’ll eventually build enough for both.
An integral part of this step is spending only what is available (which is easiest when you use a debit card). Being mindful of your spending helps to build your financial awareness. And sticking to a budget will also help you identify areas where you can save some cash. For example, you may see that you’re spending too much on streaming services or ordering takeout.
2. Make a Travel Plan
This part of the process is easiest to take on concurrently with the previous one. You can, of course, build up a travel fund without a goal in mind for the future. Still, outlining plans early (flights, hotel rooms, travel expenses, etc.) makes it easier to set realistic savings targets. And regardless of money, planning provides a palpable idea of what to expect and get excited for!
The more detailed your itinerary, the less planning you’ll have to do when you’re trying to relax. Create a simple plan for each day, even if it’s just a wish list of what you want to do or see. Your itinerary can include even more details like peak times for attractions, restaurant/bar happy hours, and reliable forms of transportation.
3. Book Your Flights and Accomodations Early
So you have money set aside, your plan in hand, and an idea of potential costs. Now it’s time to book your necessities (hotels, cars, flights, etc.) and events even if the trip is far in the future. Your money may be accounted for, but your ideal plans can still slip away if they’re sold out. If you wait to book your favorite hotel room, you could get stuck paying much more or having to stay elsewhere.
Booking early makes it easier to track your available travel funds with the important costs out of the way. It will also reduce your stress when your savings have time to build back up after those payments.
4. Learn the Area
Once your basic plans are locked in, it’s time for you to get excited! Do some research on the area you’re heading to by looking for the best areas to visit, popular restaurants, climate, etc. Also be sure to familiarize yourself with the culture (if different from your own) so you can prepare for anything. If your destination has an official language other than English, then take some time to learn important phrases.
Even just looking around the area on a map app beforehand will help you orient yourself when exploring. Remember to consider the weather as well so you can bring appropriate clothing if needed.
5. Forget About Work
Regardless of when you decide to take your vacation, it’s time off that you’ve scheduled for yourself. You’ve made preparations, seen to your responsibilities, and now it’s time to allow yourself to forget it for a bit. Leave the company phone at home or turn off work notifications so you can truly enjoy this time away.
Set your out-of-office email feature and provide contact information for anyone covering your duties while you’re away. Remember: you’re on vacation, and the place won’t fall apart without you! There are of course exceptions, like if you work in a field where emergencies are physically dangerous (like medicine). Just try to be wary of your personal time or you may return feeling like you never had it.
6. Silence Your Phone
To extend the previous point, it is worth considering disconnecting even further during your time away. It’s one thing to keep up with loved ones, but being attached to your phone prevents you from being present. Spend this time doing novel things (not on screens!) or it might feel the same as everyday life. With your home life right in your pocket, it’s easy to forget where you are and what you need.
Despite this all, you should still keep your phone on and available for the sake of safety. Phones are a great tool for finding your way if lost or calling someone if needed. But try to use it for emergencies only.
7. Stay COVID Safe
Wherever you are, COVID-19 requires consideration and diligence in following protocols. From a legal/logistical standpoint, following all health guidelines ensures that your trip will go as smoothly as possible. This keeps you safe from potentially getting and/or spreading the virus. It goes without saying that catching COVID will effectively shut down your trip whether you experience symptoms or not.
Carry a COVID safety kit so you always have masks and hand sanitizer for any situation. At the very least, make sure your vaccination status is current. It’s up to you to protect everyone you meet.
8. Be Open to Spontaneity
You’ve planned your trip, traveled safely, and are ready to get started on your itinerary. Remember, however, that things will not always go as planned, and changing or disregarding your schedule in response is totally okay. Sometimes you’ll come across an inspiring, unexpected opportunity, so welcome it with open arms and enjoy it! This is your vacation after all, so let yourself seize the moment and experience what you want to, whenever.
Your plans, after all, were drawn out before the trip even began, and lack the context of being present in the moment. Sometimes the best memories in exciting places are made in moments that were never planned.
As you can see, no dream vacation is impossible if you put the effort in to plan it efficiently. In the end you might be surprised that you pulled it off, but you did by getting started early.