Let’s face it, the last 18 months have been tough on everyone. From job losses to separation from loved ones, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all. With borders re-opening and restrictions lifting, now is the perfect time to plan a family getaway to refresh and reconnect.
When it comes to organizing an amazing vacation, you don’t need a lot of money or to travel very far. You just need to put some time and effort into the planning. After all, how many holidays have been soured by a missed flight or a less than stellar hotel?
Here are six foolproof tips for having a better vacation:
1. Scope Out Your Hotel Online
As the adage goes, home is where the heart is. Your hotel is going to be your home for the duration of your vacation. As such, you should dedicate some time to scoping out your options online. Start by considering your non-negotiables: Do you need a spa? What about a kitchenette? Can you do without laundry facilities in exchange for a fantastic view? Make a list with your travel partners about your “must-haves,” then filter your hotel searches accordingly.
When you’ve narrowed your hotel down to a few options, check your booking website for photos. Photos can help you gauge the cleanliness and the overall quality of the room. Don’t forget to zoom in to look for little luxuries, such as quality fabrics like silk or a high-quality espresso machine. Checking reviews online is also a must.
2. Travel During the Off-Season
Traveling during the off-peak season is a great way to save money on flights and accommodation. The off-peak season generally falls between November and March, not just in the U.S. but also in much of Europe. With the savings you gain from discount airfares and accommodation, you can afford to splurge on more activities while you’re on vacation.
Saving money isn’t the only plus. If you travel off-season, you won’t have to battle it out with swarms of tourists at sight-seeing locations. Standing in line for hours on end to go on a three-minute ride or snap a quick photo is the worst! Restaurants will also be more likely to accept you without reservations and for a more reasonable price.
Another benefit of traveling during the less popular season is that you’ll enjoy experiences that other tourists don’t. For example, everyone wants to visit Japan during the Sakura season, when the country’s famed cherry blossoms bloom. However, you’re less likely to experience an authentic day in a city like Kyoto during this tourist-mad time of year.
Compromise by visiting destinations like this during the “shoulder season,” the time between peak and off-peak (spring/fall). You’ll still experience the excitement of the busy season, but with added authenticity and more opportunity to chat with locals.
3. Create a Loose Itinerary
Creating an itinerary for your trip is essential. By mapping out what you’d like to accomplish on your vacation in advance, you can make the absolute most of your time. Plans are perfect for couples and families who might not always see eye to eye. After all, who wants to spend the first hour of every day bickering in a hotel lobby over where to go?
Having an itinerary will also ensure that you don’t miss out on anything time-sensitive. To avoid disappointment, make notes next to all your proposed destinations with any important details, like opening hours. For instance, an art exhibit or cruise may only operate on a Sunday. Group activities by location, so you can visit attractions in the same area without having to double back.
The word “loose” is important here. No one wants to be looking at the clock on vacation. A good itinerary is flexible. If the kids want to feed ducks in the park instead of completing the mountain hike, it’s no drama. Your vacation is all about doing the things that make you feel happy and recharged.
4. Create a Countdown
One of the most exciting things about a vacation is waiting for it. To get the most out of your next trip, create a countdown in the weeks leading up to your departure. If you’re no thrills, a reminder on your Outlook or a heart on your fridge calendar might suffice. But for kids (and kids at heart), making a paper countdown can add to the fun and anticipation. Pinterest has stacks of cute countdown craft ideas to get you started.
5. End on a High
The end of a vacation is always going to be bittersweet. One way that you can combat your “last day” vacation blues is to save the best for last. When you’re preparing your itinerary, slot in a memorable activity for your final day. It can be anything from a spectacular visit to Disneyland to a last stop at your new favorite café. Anything that will unify and delight you and your companions will do. Bonus points if you can get in some cute photos to help remember the last leg of the trip.
For practical purposes, remember that you’ll have bags with you if you’ve checked out of your hotel. Instead of dragging them along with you, call the airport or train station ahead to see if they offer luggage stowing services.
6. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
The most important part of any holiday is relaxing, enjoying yourself, and spending quality time with your traveling companions. Too often, we get caught up on hiccups, such as being caught in the rain or missing a bus. To make the most of your vacation, promise yourself that you’ll go with the flow. At the end of each day, write down or discuss with your fellow vacationers three things you’re grateful for. This will keep you in a positive mindset throughout the journey.
After a tough year or two, everyone deserves a little time away. Whether you travel solo or with your loved ones, the tips above will help you achieve your best vacation yet.