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How to Plan a Stress-Free Vacation

Jul 25, 2008
Planning a vacation can be stressful, but it doesn't have to be: being well prepared can make a big difference, and a little forethought can go a long way. Follow these simple tips to plan a great trip on your terms.

Plan ahead
The overwhelming number of vacation possibilities available in the United States alone can make planning a vacation stressful in and of itself. One way to narrow down your options is to first decide on an overall tone or goal for your trip. Looking for relaxation? Consider renting a cottage by the lake or near the shore. Feeling adventurous? Try a camping and white-water rafting trip. Interested in fun and education? Check out the battlefields of Colonial Williamsburg or head to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Another way to narrow your search is to decide how far you're willing to travel, and work back from there. If you hate flying, plan a trip that's within driving distance. Remember, with careful planning, the route you take to get where you're going might just be half the fun.

Simplify, simplify
Traveling a great distance is no guarantee of a successful vacation. When planning your trip, remember that vacations are about relaxing and enjoying the company of your travel companions after all, you're more likely to create memorable moments if you plan your trip around the people involved, not particular places or activities.

Two words: off season
If your vacation budget is tight, keep in mind that many top vacation spots offer discounted rates outside of peak travel dates. Typically, the off season runs from September through March once the temperature starts to rise, so do the rates. But you don't have to completely rearrange your travel schedule to get a better rate even making minor adjustments, like traveling mid-week as opposed to on the weekend, can help reduce travel costs.

Go local
When traveling, particularly somewhere you've never been, there's no better resource for must-see attractions and great food than the locals. Sure, striking up a conversation with a complete stranger isn't the easiest thing to go, but hey, you're on vacation. Part of the fun of visiting a new place is experiencing its unique culture.

Be prepared
Nothing can ruin a trip faster than some unexpected problem, so it's best to be prepared for anything (that is, anything you can reasonably expect may happen). If you're heading out into the woods on a camping trip, do a little research into the area to make sure you're well aware of the potential dangers, and plan accordingly. This may simply entail packing a snake bite kit, poison ivy cream, or extra water filters. If you're taking a road trip, make sure you have a backup plan in case of a break down or flat tire.

Regardless of where you're headed, it's a good idea to make photocopies of your drivers license, credit cards, proof of insurance, etc. anything that could end your trip prematurely if lost or stolen. Planning ahead will help reduce the risk of facing an unexpected delay, expense or other problem along the way.

Pack light
Vacations are about relaxing and letting go of the day-to-day stresses. Why burden yourself with unnecessary luggage? Airlines are now charging baggage surcharge fees, and extra luggage in the trunk of your vehicle will affect your gas mileage by roughly 2% for each additional 100 lbs. That extra weight will increase the wear and tear on your brakes, too. Plus, carrying around unnecessary weight will likely to drag you down emotionally as well, so take a load off (literally,) and pack light.

Flexibility is key
Regardless of how thoroughly you prepare for your trip, you never know what might happen while you're on vacation. Both good things and bad can take you by surprise it's important to take both in stride. Just because things may not go exactly as planned doesn't mean your trip is ruined. Stay positive, and remember that a vacation is not defined by location, itinerary or even budget. Ultimately, it comes down to attitude. If you plan ahead and remember to relax, you're certain to have a successful vacation, regardless of where you end up.
About the Author
Ki is a realtor in central Texas. His website has information on the different Austin MLS areas along with a graphical Austin MLS Search and updated information on mortgage interest rates.
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