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Ever feel like you are in a vacation rut? Like you are taking the same vacation (or similar ones) over and over again? Sometimes repeat vacations are not that bad (Disneyland addict over here) but sometimes you can get stuck in a rut of going to the same city, doing the exact same activities, and you start feeling like you aren’t really on vacation at all. Don’t worry. You can take your vacation planning to the next level. And it isn’t something that is hard to do. We have some tips that will help you easily up your travel game.
Planning the Vacation
- Change up the type of vacation you take. Are you normally a theme park traveler? Try checking out a National Park. Are you a pro at camping? Plan a visit to a spa. Changing up the type of vacation you take will make it new and exciting. Even though you want to change it up, be sure to do something you will love or have always wanted to try. You can read about how we are changing up our travel plans this year and maybe get inspired to do the same.
- Check out the state/city’s tourism website. Did you know that states, and even some cities, have entire websites dedicated to tourism? These websites will often let you know about different tourist attractions, community events, and even different districts or areas to visit. Who knows, you may find a destination or event you never knew existed. Also be sure to call or write them and request information. You can get brochures, maps, and sometimes even special rates at state parks, or other tourist attractions.
- Research the weather, peak travel season, and anything else that would affect your decision of when to visit. Want to avoid the cold- don’t go to Park City, Utah in January. Planning on doing a lot of hiking? Make sure you aren’t going during the rainy season. Visiting a theme park? Be sure to research crowd trends. Decide what is important to you about your vacation. If the most important thing is going when school is out, or being there during a certain season, plan around that. Just make sure that you know what is going to help you enjoy your vacation to the fullest.
- Up your hotel game without increasing your budget. One thing that really changed our vacations was upping our hotel game. When vacation planning, sometimes it is easy to get overwhelmed with the choices of hotels, especially in a tourist destination. And sometimes it is hard to bring yourself to spend the extra money on a nicer hotel. I used to think that when we went certain places, hotels were simply a place to sleep so as long as I felt safe, and the place was clean, I was okay. However, when I started upping my hotel game, our vacations went from good to AMAZING! Use Hotwire hot rates, or Priceline Name Your Own Price, to get higher level star hotels for a lower cost. This method does take giving away some control, but there are sites like BetterBidding.com that will help you figure out which hotel you will end up getting before you purchase. If you are not a risk taker, try joining hotel email lists for special offers. We stayed at the Signature Suites at the MGM in Vegas for $80 for one night because of deal for members of their email list. Also remember that staying in a slightly different area can get you more bang for your buck. We have found staying in Buena Park when we go to Disneyland gets us a hotel that is twice as nice for the same price.
- Research restaurants, activities, and more. Don’t forget to look for unique places to eat while you are on vacation. Don’t just eat at the same old restuarants you eat at when you are home. We loved going to a Ruby’s Diner on the pier at Seal Beach or Oceanside when we were in California. One of these days we want to also check out Ferrell’s Ice Cream Parlor when we are down there.
- Hire a travel agent. If you are too busy, or maybe overwhelmed, to plan the vacation yourself, hire a travel agent. Most travel agent services are free, or close to it. They make commission off of their sales, much like bloggers do with affiliate programs. If your dream vacation is a Disney one, even an adventure by Disney, be sure to check out our directory of Disney travel agents.
Packing for the Vacation
Vacation planning doesn’t end when you finishing booking.
- Pack something special for the trip. Taking the family to Disney- pre-order Mouse Ears with each family members name on them. Romantic get away- pack a special gift for your significant other. Girls trip- plan a fun activity like a scavenger hunt in the city.
- Pack items that are suitable for the trip, but make you feel like a million bucks. Take clothing that you are comfortable in for whatever activities you will be doing, but also make sure you feel good in them and like how you look. You want to feel amazing, confident, and comfortable and know you will look great in your vacation photos.
- Pack perfectly for your mode of travel. Packing for a flight and packing for a road trip are two totally different things. Use pinterest for ideas on what you will want for each. We are usually road trip people, and so our must haves are snacks, drinks, car activities for kiddos, and of course awesome playlists. When we fly, we need entertainment for each of us, snacks for the kids, and items to make the airport easier.
- If road-tripping, plan a route and make it fun! If you are driving, decide where you will stop. Look up any interesting things to see or do along the way. Driving through Vegas? Why not stop there for a night. (Vegas is even a great place for families.) Maybe look for a new way to get somewhere. Skip the freeway and take the more scenic highway route.
- Be prepared. Nothing can ruin a vacation more than having to run out to buy a memory card for a camera (especially if they are three times as expensive at your destination), phone charger, or something else. Make a list of things that you will definitely need, and make sure to check them off as you pack. Also pack some sort of emergency kit suitable for your trip, and have it include a little cash. My parents were on a road trip going across country when they found out their debit account had been hacked/lifted and $3500 taken out of it. OUCH! Thankfully, they had an emergency fund on hand.
During the Vacation
- Let go of the idea of perfection. I think one of the biggest spoilers of a vacation is when people plan out this “perfect vacation” in their mind, and then when things don’t go as planned they get stressed, angry, or just let it ruin their vacation. I don’t think we have ever had a vacation go smoothly. A GPS that stopped working in the middle of nowhere (thank goodness I was prepared and had printed out directions on mapquest), a friend’s vehicle broken into, emergency room visits, hotel triple charging us, illness, you name it- I have probably dealt with it on vacation. Yeah, it sucks, but if you learn to let go of the idea of perfection, it won’t bother you as much and you will be able to enjoy the vacation despite the bumps along the way.
- Unplug from your devices. This one is super hard for me. As a blogger who has a focus on travel, and a vlogger on YouTube, it is part of my job to share moments from our vacation. But I don’t have to share it all. I have found that making a conscious effort to turn off my devices and focus on the ones I am with, even if it is standing in line for a ride at Disneyland, has made a huge impact on our vacations. Vacations are supposed to be about relaxing and enjoying company with those we love. When our faces our in our phones anytime we are not entertained by a ride, show, or activity, that sends a message to those we are with about where we rank them in our lives. I am not saying you can not ever have your phone out, but try to make a conscious effort to spend 95% of the time interacting with your family, and only 5% with your device if possible. (Unplugging also helps you relax, meditate, and enjoy your surroundings.)
- Capture the memories. Get some pictures of what you are doing. This is one time it is okay to pull out the phone, or better yet, a camera. Make sure to get in some pictures with the ones you love, and to also capture all the little moments. Pictures in front of a Disney castle, or on top of a mountain, pictures of everyone piled in the car, capture all of those moments. Those pictures will be the best souvenirs you will have.
- Give yourself some down time. I am one of those people that when we are on vacation I am all go, go, go. I like to shove in as many activities possible each time we go somewhere. But even I have learned that all that does is make us need a vacation after our vacation. So I have gotten smart. I have started planning days at the beach, or even just days to relax in the hotel at the pool or even in the room. Let yourself rest, and even give everyone some time to spread out and do their own thing.
After the Vacation
- Print or share the pictures online. I don’t mean you have to flaunt them on facebook. I am simply saying, put them on a cloud drive or somewhere the whole family, and maybe other loved ones can see them. Make one of the pictures your screen saver on your phone. Something to help you remember the vacation.
- Communicate with your fellow travelers. Let them know something you really enjoyed doing with them, and ask them what their favorite part was. Doing this will help you feel connected long after you get back into your normal routine.
- Write down some favorite memories. You can do this one one vacation, or after, but keep a mini travel journal and write down some of your favorite moments, things you learned about those you were with, and maybe anything else good that you want to look back on.
- Start planning another vacation. Maybe not right away, but start planning another vacation. Vacations are good for us. Often times we all work way too much and vacation way too little. I am not saying you need to do an expensive vacation every few months, but maybe plan a weekend trip to a destination near your city. Find other fun things you want to do and start planning.
The biggest thing to remember is that upping your vacation planning does not have to mean spending more money. The important time is quality time with those you love doing things that make you grow closer together.