How to Plan Your Next Vacation
I think the process of planning a getaway is in and of itself a beautiful escape. I plan trips in my head constantly - Whether I can act on them depends totally on my school schedule and bank balance (-HA). In all seriousness though, trips probably begin from the moment you think of going someplace, not when you board the plane or reach your destination.
Here's what you need to do to convert your arbitrary wanderlust into an actual plan:
1. Decide when you want to getaway
The time of year is everything. A destination may have been on your bucket list since forever, but you really want to consider whether it's the best time of year to enjoy it fully. For instance, if you've always wanted to see Carnivale di Venezia, is it worth going to Venice in July after it has passed? Or if you're a photographer, you may have different preferences based on what you want to capture in Banff: Banff in winter looks nothing like Banff in the summer. Weather in general is a big consideration while planning a vacation. I'm Canadian so snow doesn't bother me, and winter has never stopped me from going places. In fact, European winter is one of my most favourite things in the world: the cobbled fairytale towns coming to life under the christmas lights, visiting christmas markets in main squares with their cozy stalls, precious finds and fresh smells of bakes and gingerbread are some of my favourite things about a European winter getaway!
In other words, find out what's happening in the world at the time you've schedule your vacation and explore your options.
2. What are you in the mood for
The next thing to consider obviously is what you feel like doing. Do you want a relaxing beach vacation? Adrenaline inducing adventures? Losing yourself in nature? Immersion in a different culture? What speaks to you the most?
3. How much can you spend
If you're really lucky, this item may not even be on your radar. If you're like most of us poor suckers though, this could be the major considerations. Budget early and wise, and review it several times during the planning process.
Pro tip: Leave about a 10-20% margin for surprise expenses.
4. Decide on your destination and book the transport
Do preliminary travel guide browsing (Google) on your preferred destinations and finalize on a basic itinerary (entry and exit points). Book your international airfares no later than three weeks prior to travelling (after which prices are known to go up). Give yourself enough time to browse for deals and sales if travelling internationally, and/or nationally. If certain items on your itinerary are set, it might be wise to book transport in advance. For instance, train tickets to/from airport to city, buying Eurail pass in advance, etc.
5. Pour over travel guides and add details to itinerary
This is my favourite part of planning a trip and I love it nearly as much as I love arriving in my vacation spot. Nothing compares to entertaining the possibility of being in a beautiful destination, except perhaps actually being there - but it has to be the next best thing! Go crazy pouring over the official tourism websites, lonely planet and/or other travel guides, visit blogs and talk to people who may have been there. Make a list of activities you want to partake in and things you want to try, and book them if you find reasonable deals online.
Then wait on the edge of your seat, and drive yourself crazy with excitement till you finally get to experience it.
6. Start Saving
This should probably follow either after you've decided on taking a vacation or immediately after finalizing your itinerary and booking your transport. Trust me you don't need that extra cup of coffee and biscotti on your way to work. There's nothing wrong with homemade coffee and everything right with spending that money in a cafe in Roma, if that's where you're headed. You should probably also do without that movie you were going to the theatre for, there'll be plenty to choose from on the plane - Every dollar counts and will be better spent at your vacation destination!
7. Pack, and away you go
Enjoy every second and know that you will come back a different person, changed for the better, and ready to do it all over again!