Imagining yourself somewhere tropical and sipping on a frozen margarita is not too difficult.
The hard part is making it a reality. Planning all the details for the perfect getaway can quickly become overwhelming.
But there’s no need to feel bogged down because we’ve created an easy checklist to help you plan a most memorable vacation.
No one wants to forget their bathing suit (which took months to find) or realize they payed twice as much for airfare than the passenger seated next to them.
On the flip side, you don’t want to over plan either and not leave room for spontaneous adventures or those unpredictable mishaps—which usually make the best memories!
But if you follow our checklist, soon you’ll have nothing left to do but sip that margarita while you wait to catch your flight for the vacation of your dreams.
1. Pick a Destination
This may seem easy since you surely have an ongoing list of dream locations, but nailing a destination down may be more difficult than you think.
Want to hike the Appalachian Trail?
Well, it spans across 14 states, so you’ll have to decide how far you want to hike and where you want to start. The Appalachian Trial begins in Springer Mountain, Georgia, but you may want to start hiking in say, Markham, Virginia.
Narrow down your exact location as much as possible. Sure, you want to see the Italian countryside, but which towns? Look into Calabria and then go from there.
2. Figure Out How Long You Can Stay
Many people have a set amount of vacation days whether because of work or school schedules, so this may effect where you want to travel.
Going international tends to take more time due to longer flights, different time zones, and increased sightseeing.
Be sure to account for any time spent driving to your destination(s) of choice as well, whether it be hours or days.
3. Find Out How Much It Will Cost
Vacation expenses can add up quick, but so can the savings if you plan ahead. Get a rough estimate (always rounding up) of all trip expenses.
Nomadic Matt, a seasoned traveler and vacation guru, recommends purchasing a guidebook of the destination you plan on visiting and highlighting the specific things you’d like to do and see.
The internet is a wealth of information as well, providing everything from hotel costs, airfare prices, and the prices of activities and attractions.
4. Put Some Money In That Piggy Bank
It may seem impossible to save the $2200 it will cost to go to Bali for a couple of weeks, but it’s not as hard as you think.
However, planning ahead is key.
Say you want to take your trip to Bali next spring—that is about $6.11 a day from here on out.
Make little decisions each day to come up with the money and put the savings aside each week.
Maybe don’t order dessert at dinner (hey you want to look good anyways!) or make your morning coffee at home instead of ordering it at the local coffee shop. Brown bag it instead of dining out for lunch. You’d be surprised how much a few bucks a day will really add up!
If you’re saving for a family vacation, try making snacks and meals at home rather than eating out or buying pre-packaged goods. Or opt to rent a movie instead of hitting the theaters.
5. Spend Smart
There are plenty of credit cards that allow you to earn air miles or hotel points, ultimately cutting major costs when vacation week rolls around.
Just make sure to not overspend and be sure to pay your credit card off each month.
Additionally, some banks offer no ATM fees, saving you dollars when you have to grab some quick cash after coming across the most beautiful handmade dress in Puerto Rico.
6. Keep Your Eyes On the Prize
Don’t lose sight of your dream vacation. Often times with the hectic schedules of life, we can deprioritize our down time, sabotaging our plans before they’ve had the chance to begin.
Keep a picture of the destination you’ve chosen on your bathroom mirror or your car visor, reminding you of your vacation goal.
Visit travel blogs online that discuss all the things you have to look forward to until the time comes to say hasta la vista, baby!
7. Make It Official
Now is the moment you have all been waiting for – it’s time to book your flight!
Check last-minute fares first, seeing if you can’t nab that ticket to paradise.
There are certain times and days of the week that offer significant price differences in airfare as well, which Proud American Traveler has previously shared with our readers.
Use these tips and you’ll have the extra money for that adrenaline pumping zipline tour across Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.
Many people wait to book their accommodations after they’ve landed, which can be incredibly harried.
You don’t want to end up at some hole-in-the-wall motel when you could’ve booked an all-inclusive resort for the same price months before.
Don’t be afraid to look into staying at a hostel either, they’re not as scary as some people think, which you can read about here.
9. Schedule Your Activities
It’s easy to go overboard with activities, especially at places like Mexico where there are so many fun things to do at excellent prices. But moderation is key.
Having an activity planned for every single day of your vacation is stressful and keeps you from doing what you’re supposed to be doing—relaxing!
Plan to do two or three activities for the week and then spend the rest of your time reading a good book and sipping those frozen margaritas.
10. Plan For Your Absence
Get your affairs in order before you depart and you won’t have to worry about having your electricity turned off while your away or your dog starving to death!
Setting up auto payment is free and easy with most providers, giving you a stress free getaway where you don’t have to think about responsibilities for awhile.
Also, let your credit card companies and bank know that you will be traveling so your credit cards aren’t flagged in the middle of an unforgettable shopping spree in Milan.
11. Pack Your Suitcase
Packing makes the trip for real, but it can also be a big headache.
Keep in mind the temperature, climate, and the activities you will be doing to ensure you have all the proper attire and gear.
Remembering the essentials and creating a checklist—especially when packing for a big family—will make the whole process much easier, as Proud American Traveler has previously shared.
Now your destination is chosen, your flight is booked, your hotel is reserved, the activities are planned, and your bags are packed.
Go and have a memorable time and don’t forget to bring a camera!
Please let us know in the comments section where you’d take your dream vacation and if you’ve started making it a reality.
(h/t Proud American Traveler)