UNITED STATES—If going on vacation for you has always meant going on a tour, making a reservation at an all-inclusive resort or returning to the same mountain cabin or beach house that your family always visits, you might not know where to begin planning for more independent travel. The tips below can help you plan your trip like a pro.
Figure Out Your Budget
The biggest limiting factor for you besides how much time you have will be your budget. You can travel on a budget in most places, but if you don’t have much to spend, a little money will take you further in some places than others. If you haven’t saved up as much as you want for your trip, you might want to look for ways to cut back on your spending. This could mean limiting how much you eat out or what you spend on clothes and other items in the months ahead, but you also may be able to save relatively painlessly. For example, if you are paying student loans, find out if you can refinance them with a private lender. You could get more favorable repayment terms that make it possible for you to save toward your vacation and also pay less for your student loans over the long run.
Narrow Your Options
You’ve already set one criteria with your budget, so now it’s time set some more. Do you want to stay in the country, or do you want to travel internationally? Do you want to visit a city, the countryside or both? Would you prefer to go somewhere warm or cold? Do you want an active vacation, or do you want to lie on a beach for a week? Do you want to visit one location or several? Try to be realistic and consider how much time you have. If you try to cram too much into your trip, you may feel like you are rushing from one place to the next and might need a vacation when you get back home.
Use the Right Resources
Guidebooks can still be great resources when you’re planning a trip, but be sure to double check any information in them online for more up-to-date data. Another good way to find out more about the trip you’re planning is to look for people’s travel blogs. One advantage of these resources is that you can find someone who you feel you connect with in terms of interests or their approach to travel. Their suggestions are likely to be more valuable for you than a random person online.
Forums and social media group can also be helpful in your planning although it is best to take everything you read there with a grain of salt and be wary of people who tend to make universal claims about what you will most or least enjoy doing. Look at review sites when you’re thinking of making reservations for accommodations or eating out, and if you’re flying, try plugging in your travel dates at a variety of sites to get an estimate of what your costs will be. Keep in mind as well that it can be cheaper to book directly with the airline itself.