The summer is already more than halfway gone, and I thought some of you might still be planning vacations. Below are some tips on how to make a vacation a memorable success. Whether you are making the trip of a lifetime or taking the first holiday in years, everyone wants their vacation to be memorable, but fantastic vacations don’t happen automatically.
When preparing for any vacation, one of the smartest things you can do is to plan. By plan, I don't mean to schedule every minute. To create a plan, begin by deciding what you want from a vacation and what the others on the trip would like. To choose where to go, think about who is taking this trip. If you have small children, inviting a family member, perhaps a grandparent to watch the kids will make it more pleasurable. Be sure to make it clear that you expect them to help with the kids. If your kids are older, allowing them to invite a friend that gets along well with the family can make the trip more fun for them and for you as well. Think about what you enjoy. Do you love the beach, the mountains, exotic destinations, big cities, or quaint little towns? What do you like to do? Do you enjoy theme parks, hiking, and camping, gambling, fine dining, or nightlife? Planning where you are going, how you will get there, and what you will do there will not only allow you to enjoy the trip but could save you some money.
Allow the appropriate amount of time. Factors that should be considered when deciding how long your vacation should be included: What works for you. I was once married to someone who thought a week was an extended vacation and was usually ready to come home after 5 days. My ideal length of vacation at that time in my life was 3 weeks. Our vacations were always too short or too long for one of us. Another thing to consider, if you are driving more than 8 hours, you need to plan for at least two travel days. I would recommend 1 travel day and at least another ½ rest day each way. If you are crossing time zones, add a little more time to adjust. When you can, add a day before and after business travel to enjoy the area, but remember, many attractions, museums, and restaurants are closed on Monday, so plan accordingly.
Schedule outside the busy season if weather permits. By picking dates during the month or two before or after the busy season, you will save money, and most important to me, crowds will be smaller. That means lines will be shorter, reservations and tickets will be easier to get, the pool will be less crowded, and restaurants will be less packed. Be sure to find out when things "shut down" for the season. You wouldn't want to go somewhere for the entertainment to find the shows are closed or head to the mountains to ski and find the lifts closed, or the snow is gone.
Accommodations can make a difference. A condo often costs less than two or three hotel rooms, and you will have a kitchenette and a sitting area where everyone can gather. When selecting a hotel, consider what is important to you and the others with you. Is a complimentary breakfast something your group needs? When traveling with kids, a pool can be one of the best parts of a vacation, especially if they love playing in the water. Consider paying a little more for accommodation and staying in an area that is safer and/or closer to the places you want to visit. Be sure to check reviews. If many customers report an accommodation is in a bad area, dirty, or has an unpleasant smell, you may want to pass even if it seems like a good deal.
Abandon the expectation for a "perfect" vacation. No matter how well you prepare, it is pretty likely that something will not go according to plan. It's a vacation, so go with the flow. You will find that a bit of flexibility goes a long way. If you usually are uptight, your travel companions will appreciate the happier, more chill you. If you love watching the sunrise, but the rest of your family like sleeping in, remember, it’s their vacation too. That doesn’t mean you don’t get to watch the sunrise but when you get up, do it quietly so everybody can enjoy what they love.
If you want the vacation to be memorable, do something different. Different could be an activity or place, but it could also be spending time together if that is not something you often do. Great things can happen outside your comfort zone, making your vacation an adventure. Be careful about jamming too much into your time. I encourage people to plan at least one day per week to do nothing. With a day off on the agenda, you will have time to rest if you need it. If you find that you don't need to rest, you will likely have identified some things to do in the area you didn’t previously know about that you will now have time to enjoy. If you discover something more interesting that’s not on the agenda, don’t hesitate to deviate from the plan. In fact, chances are that you will hear about something you would like to do that you couldn’t have known about when you planned your trip. Don't be locked in by your agenda; it is a framework from which to work.
Don't overspend but decide in advance what you can afford to spend. Bring your spouse and you’re your travel companions in on the expectations for spending. If your friends love expensive wine and you don’t drink, let them know that you prefer separate checks. Avoid being overly focused on money. Research done on vacationing has found that the pleasure gained from the vacation is not based on the amount of money you spend. The kids will remember going to get donuts in their pajamas as more special than dinner at a fancy restaurant. You can look for ways to save during your planning, then, if possible, take a little bit extra, just in case, and then enjoy. Kids can be amazingly frugal if you take the time before the trip to talk to them about money and manage their expectations. If you plan far enough ahead, they can even make a little spending money doing chores. Many kids are more careful with their own hard-earned cash than with that of their parents. The experience will mean more to you and your family than the money.
Be present. Ever sit in a restaurant and see a table full of people all on their cell phones? Don’t let uninvited guests distract you from your vacation. It can be fun to post photos on social media but don't waste time on your vacation surfing the internet. Turn off your phone and close your laptop. If you must work on vacation, set aside some time to check emails, make necessary calls, and then unplug.
To summarize my tips for having a great vacation,
•Allow the right amount of time
•Skip the high season
•Stay in accommodations you will enjoy
•Do something different
•Remember, it’s not about the money
Keeping these tips in mind when vacation time comes will help you make the most of your precious time off. Enjoy your trip and make it memorable.
Cami Miller is a business coach and partners with leaders on all levels to develop strategies for success. Contact her at email@example.com.