Planning a vacation

Planning a vacation

I took a short trip to visit a friend last month. It was pretty exciting. Not only did I get to see my friend, whom I hadn’t seen in a few years, but I got to go to a sunny, warm, beautiful city. The gloom of an Oregon winter can begin to take a toll as the days creep closer to spring. So a respite in a warm climate was a welcome relief.

Vacations are fun, no doubt about it, but planning a vacation can be a stressful, sometimes daunting task. It doesn’t have to be if you remain calm and keep your options open. I had flexibility in my plans that helped considerably. I wasn’t pinned down to particular days and I coordinated with my friend to make sure certain days were good for her.

That turned out to be a good thing. Attempting to keep my trip as economically friendly as possible, I decided to use my reward/mileage points to book my airfare and hotel stay. This meant I had to book those separately on the specific entities’ websites. I started with my airfare and found some good options for flight days and times that allowed me to use my points and, basically, fly for free. Next came my hotel stay. Checking with my friend, she recommended a couple of places for which I had a good number of points. Unfortunately, the hotels in the area for that chain had no availability for the days in question. So I went back to the drawing board. After determining what dates the hotel had availability, I went back to look at airfare for those days, hoping to find similar flight times using my points. Although I couldn’t get the same (and might I add, perfect) departure time, I was able to find something using my points – and the return flight time was very good. So to quote Hawaii Five-O I “booked it, Dano.” 

Next came the hotel. I’ve found that trying to book a hotel online when you want to use reward points tends to be problematic. I’ve come across this with different hotel chains. Although I knew I had enough points for two free nights (according to the website), I received the message I didn’t have enough points. No problem. I picked up the phone and called. The customer service rep was extremely helpful and got everything set up for me.

So, “the bottom line” (oh, a shameless plug for my first book thrown in), is “don’t panic.” Although I don’t travel as much now, I used to travel quite frequently for work (hence the points), so I’m fairly well versed in planning. Last year, I took a brief jaunt with my youngest son to visit my daughter in Missouri. He let me handle everything – and thanked me profusely for arranging things.

To have a relatively stress free vacation planning session – and subsequently vacation, keep these things in mind:

  • If possible, be flexible on your departure and return dates/times. Know and understand your options at the start.
  • Research airfare and airline schedules to see which might be the best option – especially if you’re planning on using mileage points.
  • Don’t book until all elements are coordinated – or if you do book one element before confirming the availability of another, make sure things are refundable. It’s much easier to get a refund or cancel a hotel reservation than it is a flight reservation (many are non-refundable).
  • Research events, excursions, or activities that you would like to do on your trip – even if it’s just lying on the beach! It’s better to have some things in mind than to get somewhere and say “What do you want to do?”
  • Plan ahead regarding clothing, toiletries, and accessories you will be taking. Make a trip to the store prior to leaving for the airport so you’re not paying too much to replace that swimsuit that no longer fits. 
  • Pack the day before leaving only last minute items such as your toothbrush to throw in before you leave. (Tip: When I traveled for work, I had an extra set of everything – toiletries, cosmetics, etc. that I always kept in my suitcase, replenishing as needed).
  • Get a good night’s sleep (hard when you’re excited or have to get up at 3:30 am for that flight). 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and through security. I would much rather be relaxed and reading on my iPad at the gate than scrambling to get through security in time to board.
  • Once there – relax and enjoy.

So what are your tips for vacation planning? Let me know in the comments below.

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