Have you ever returned home from a vacation, only to feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? Or maybe you came home and regretted spending too much money (or too little!) on your vacation?
I’ve experienced both of these feelings in the past, but you can avoid them as long as you follow a few simple steps.
If you’re planning to take a vacation in the near future, there are 6 easy steps that, if followed in the proper order, should ensure that you return home from your vacation feeling satisfied with your trip, all without busting your budget.
So, without further ado, here are 6 steps to learn how to plan the perfect vacation…
1. Decide what you want out of your vacation
If you’re wondering where to start in how to plan the perfect vacation, this is it. If you don’t decide what you’re looking to get out of your vacation before you plan your vacation, then you’re experiencing what I’ve heard people call the, “Fire, ready, aim!” planning approach.
It basically means that you aren’t planning well and, therefore, your results will be far less than ideal.
If you answered yes to one of the first two questions at the beginning of this blog post, then odds are pretty high that you didn’t do this step before planning the rest of your trip.
Too many times we take a vacation to relax and recharge our batteries, so to speak, but we end up going to a location that isn’t conducive to accomplish that goal. Or we pack our vacation full of activities that don’t help us relax.
This doesn’t mean that every vacation has to be relaxing to be enjoyable. In fact, some of my favorite vacations in the past have been trips that I’ve returned home completely exhausted. And that is perfectly OK.
But many times, we go on vacation wanting rest and relaxation, only to come home tired and stressed because we didn’t take the goal of the vacation into account prior to doing the rest of the planning.
2. Set a budget for your vacation
This doesn’t have to be a hard and fast number at first, but you need to start somewhere.
Figuring out approximately how much money you plan to spend will help determine what locales are even options. Obviously, a weekend getaway at a local bed and breakfast is going to cost a lot different than a month (or longer) sabbatical in the Caribbean.
I know that if you’re a client or you regularly read this blog, you probably think I say this too much, but it really comes down to spending within your means and being a good steward of the resources God has given you.
I could give you averages of what Americans spend on entertainment and vacations, but it wouldn’t help you make better decisions about your money. I don’t care about average. I care about being wise. And I hope you do too.
So, what is a “wise” amount to spend on a vacation?
I think if you’re taking a vacation, it’s wise to spend enough money to ensure you come back feeling rested, refreshed, and ready to get back to work fully “recharged” (assuming the purpose of your trip is rest and relaxation).
For some people, $100-$200 coupled with a few days in a tent in a state park will have them returning home rested, relaxed, and ready to get back to work.
For others, the words “relaxed” and “tent” will never be together in the same sentence, let alone the same vacation or trip. So keep that in mind when determining how to plan the perfect vacation and deciding how much you’ll need to spend to accomplish your goal.
And don’t forget step number one. After asking yourself, “What’s the purpose of this vacation?” you may find that you really don’t need a trip at all. You just might be able to accomplish your goal with a “staycation” in your hometown.
3. Pick a location for your vacation
After you have determined the purpose of your vacation and the amount of money you plan to spend, then and only then should you start looking into locations.
The reason why I would recommend defining the purpose of the vacation and setting the budget before picking a location is that the first two steps will likely narrow down your the location options you have available to you.
For example, if you have $1,000 to spend, don’t expect to take your family of four on a three week cruise through the Mediterranean.
On the flip side, just because you have unlimited funds to spend on a vacation, doesn’t mean you automatically have to “go big or go home” when deciding on a location.
Something else to consider is that if you want a resting and relaxing trip, Times Square in New York City might not be a good first choice if you’re not used to the hustle and bustle of a big city. And for those looking to be in the middle of the action, I wouldn’t rent a private island for a week. Unless you plan on inviting a lot of people of course. And if that’s the case, don’t forget to send me an invite!
Still need some ideas for good locations?
Check out this website for a few lists of some great places to take your family or check out the travel guidebook section in your local library.
4. Get ready to go on your vacation
If you really think about it, there are quite a few things you need to do in the days and weeks leading up to your vacation. Many of them seem obvious, but if you don’t write them down, it’s easy to forget how much really goes into getting ready to leave town or go on a trip.
For example, before going on a vacation, you typically need to…
- Research and decide on a location
- Put in a request for time off at work
- Make reservations or arrangements for your accommodations
- Purchase plane tickets if flying
- Arrange ground transportation if flying
- Get directions and plan your route if driving
- Look into activities and restaurants at/near your destination
- Place a vacation hold on your mail delivery
- Make arrangements for any pets to be taken care of
- Possibly have someone look after your home in your absence
There are a lot more specifics, depending upon the trip, but this gives you an idea of how complex a vacation really can be.
The length of this list will obviously be determined by the length of your trip. Typically, the shorter the trip, the shorter the list and the longer the trip, the longer the list.
Regardless of the length of your trip/list though, as long as you take the Santa Claus approach, you should be alright…
In other words, make your list and check it twice.
5. Go on your vacation
After you’ve done everything else, the next step is to actually go on your vacation. Seems obvious, right?
But it’s really easy to forget the purpose of your trip and not feel like you actually went on a vacation.
Remember, if you’re going on vacation to relax, then take some time to relax.
If you’re going on vacation to do some activities, then take some time to be active and see the sights.
If you’re going on vacation to serve others (i.e. mission trip, etc.), then make sure you spend plenty of time serving.
And whether it’s sipping strawberry daiquiris on a beach in Florida, hiking the Andes mountains, or having a movie marathon during a staycation at home, don’t forget to take some time to enjoy it.
6. Return from your vacation
At some point during your vacation, it will become apparent that your time off work is nearing the end and you’ll have to return to “real life” very soon. When that happens, look back on your vacation and remember all that happened.
Maybe you learned a new skill, discovered a new favorite place, unlocked a new talent, learned a new sport or activity, or maybe you just had a great time relaxing and doing nothing in particular for a few days or a week.
Regardless, it’s important to look back and evaluate what just happened. That way, when it comes time to take another vacation in the future, you’ll have an idea of how to make sure it’s a better one.
It might mean going to a different location, it might mean spending less (or more) money to do everything you want to do, or it might mean not going on a vacation at all. Either way, looking back and evaluating everything that just transpired will help you learn from your mistakes and duplicate what you did right for future trips.
More tips on how to plan the perfect vacation?
Now, the grass is starting to green, the weather is warming up, and spring is upon us, with summer not far behind. I don’t know about you, but I think a vacation sounds pretty good right about now! But even if your next trip is in the distant future, hopefully these tips will give you a head start on how to plan the perfect vacation.
Do you have some more tips on how to plan the perfect vacation?
Feel free to shoot me an email or leave a comment below and let me know!