When it comes to planning travel, especially a big, complicated vacation, many people run into "paralysis by analysis"- it's hard to know where to start. But there are five important steps smart travelers use to make sure they plan a great vacation every time:
Plan ahead - the days of amazing last minute travel deals are, as a rule, over. Something might pop up occasionally, but you’ll have to have serious flexibility to be able to make it work and by the time you figure in the cost of last minute airfare you will have spent more than if you had planned in advance for the date and itinerary you really wanted. Today’s smart travelers plan international trips at least 9 months out (over half plan 12+ months in advance).
Price vs. Value - Warren Buffett once said “Price is what you PAY, value is what you GET”. Smart travelers realize that, while the price of two vacations may be similar, a little digging will uncover drastic differences in the actual value of each trip. This is even truer when you compare those “too good to be true” low-cost vacations with the trips offered by reputable tour companies.
Travel Insurance - Smart travelers protect themselves and their travel investment by choosing the right travel insurance for their needs. No one ever expects to cancel their trip, but insurance is for the things you DON’T expect, not the predictable things. Travel insurance can cover cancellations based on many sets of circumstances and also act as your health insurance in places that don’t accept American policies.
Work with a Travel Agent - The internet is for looking, your agent is for booking. The ‘net can be a valuable source of information, but it can be like drinking from a fire hose and much of it is conflicting. By working with a professional, not only do you get the expert advice of someone who plans trips ALL. THE. TIME. and knows the ins and outs of the destinations you want, you also get a real live person for questions and emergencies.
Go with the Flow - You want to make sure you don’t waste one single minute of your long-awaited vacation, but it’s not necessary to plan out every moment. Allow some time for the spontaneous wonderful that comes with taking an unplanned morning to stroll the neighborhood around your hotel or having a picnic lunch in the park without worrying about the time. Sometimes the best travel memories are made by accident. The exception is Disney World- in order to take full advantage of fast passes and a dining plan, it is essential to carefully plan your days.