Going on vacation is lots of fun. But let’s face it, planning a trip can be a lot of work, and when you’re trying to tackle all the laundry and manage your kids’ schedules it can easily fall to the bottom of the list or become a task that you begrudgingly tackle.
When you finally do get ready to plan, you begin by typing your destination into Google. Hundreds of search results pop up on your screen, each promising it’s the “Very Best Place to Stay.” Then you click on the top post and the sales pitches start, “Hurry, limited time offer only!” Before you know it you’ve wasted an hour online and the only thing to show for your time is your empty glass of Chardonnay.
At this rate, it will take weeks to get all the details of the trip all figured out!
But what if you could actually get almost all your planning done in one hour? What if your vacation could be planned in 5 simple steps?
It’s totally possible and easier than you think. Of course, you do have to know a few things ahead of time so you’ve spend a few minutes talking with your family before you start the planning process so you have the following nailed down.
Before you Start You Need to Know….
If you’re stuck on this step ask yourselves what you want out of the vacation? Are you trying to explore somewhere new, relax and spend time together, or visit family along the way? Knowing what you want out a vacation makes it easier to decide where to go. Check Pinterest or Trip Advisor for ideas.
You’ve got to know how much you want to spend. Is this a once in a lifetime splurge trip or a budget-friendly vacation? Know roughly how much you want to spend so you can make your choices based on your budget.
Most of us have to arrange our vacations in advance due to work and school schedules. Make sure you have some ideas of your travel dates, even if it’s an approximation. This will help you when booking your travel arrangements.
How You’ll Get There
I’m assuming that you’re driving or have already arranged transportation to your destination. If not, do that now and add 20 minutes to search for the best flight deals or set up flight alert through Google Flights to book when the price drops.
Start Planning Your Family’s Vacation
1. Book a Place to Stay (20 minutes)
Start with Trip Advisor to get a sense of which hotels are rated the highest and also to see how popular your dates are. If it’s a vacation-focused destination, check out VRBO or Airbnb to see what rentals look like in the area. Since lodging is likely the biggest part of your budget, plan to spend about 20 minutes researching your best options and bookmarking 2-3 options you want to price out. Book your accommodations based on your budget and make sure you print out or email yourself all the details about cancellation policies and check-in procedures.
2.Transportation During Trip (10 minutes)
If you need to book a rental car or figure out public transportation options, spend 10 minutes making those arrangements. I like to check Hotwire for rental cars and Costco has good rates if you’re a member. Often, prices fall as you get closer to your travel dates so it’s worth adding a reminder to your phone to come back and check a few weeks before you leave. If using public transportation, find out if you need to purchase tickets or passes online or if you’ll purchase when you arrive.
3. Must-See Attractions (10 minutes)
Figure out what your must-see or do activities will be at your destination. The Visitors Center website for your destination is a great place to start. I also like to use Pinterest as a search engine for ideas. Once you have a list of your top 3-5 attractions, take a few minutes to check prices/hours and look for any discounts. Check it against your budget and your travel dates to make sure you can reasonably accomplish your itinerary.
4. Restaurants/Food (10 minutes)
Hop on Yelp or Trip Advisor to look for reviews of local restaurants and filter by cuisine, location, and price. You can go back and study menus later, but this initial list should help you budget for food. If you’re staying somewhere with a kitchen and plan to cook most of your meals, use this time to sketch out a quick menu plan. If there’s a particularly famous dining option that you must visit, you’ll want to look into reservations as well.
5. Fill out the Vacation Planner (10 minutes)
Now that you have all your information you can fill out the One-Hour Vacation Planner. It’s a one-page overview of your trip that will keep you organized and on track for planning your vacation. Think of it like a roadmap for your planning process. I like to hang this up near my desk or keep it in a folder so that I can refer to it as the trip gets closer and I double-check that everything is ready to go. It helps keep all your travel planning details together in one place.
Congratulations! You just planned your vacation in about an hour! You now have a strong outline to organize your planning process and can focus on the fun anticipation of the trip and not the stressful details of planning. Add any follow-up reminders to your planner or calendar and sit back with the drink of your choice while you daydream about your next getaway.
Make sure to leave a comment with your favorite place to travel or your upcoming vacation! I’d love to hear where you’re off to explore.