Planning for your next vacation can be fun and exciting and it starts the juices flowing early.
Many begin the process six months before the journey begins. When to go, what to do, how much can be spent are but only a few factors. Is camping your thing; perhaps it will be a tour, a cruise or maybe a road trip to the National Parks.
If you are flying you should make your flight reservations and begin purchasing travel books to the destinations you plan to visit early. If it’s a cruise, I would suggest booking five months or more out. Ships as well as tours are filling and if you don’t wish to be disappointed, start as soon as possible making reservations. A professional and experienced travel agent can assist you with all of these details. I always use one.
If a road trip is your choice you may want to book your motels and hotels in advance in order to get any discounts that may be available. And, if you are a member of AAA, are retired and over 65, or former military be sure to tell the reservations clerk. There may be additional discounts for you. After you get a rate quote, inquire if that is the least expensive rate you can obtain for the date/s you wish to book. You might be surprised. Sometimes I call the hotel direct and find the rate is less than the national reservations services.
When booking a flight, request a seat assignment and state where in the aircraft you would like to sit. Would it be a window seat, aisle, up front etc? Better to do it at the time of booking rather than at the check-in counter at the airport. Most flights go out full today and the seats are all assigned. If Southwest Airlines is your choice, for an extra fee you can get early boarding that will make it easier to choose the seat you wish plus there will still be room in the overhead rack for your carryon luggage. Travel once was easy. It no longer is! You have to plan ahead in order to make it as pleasurable as possible today.
If you wish to take a cruise, spend the extra money and book a stateroom with a balcony. It makes all the difference in the world in your enjoyment.
The balcony will allow you to spend time outside away from the other passengers while experiencing complete privacy. This is especially important if the ship is large and most are today. Your balcony room will have a large sliding glass door and window to the outside and will offer at least two comfortable chairs and table on the veranda. Nothing like it, believe me!
Should you be traveling on a tour or cruise that visits foreign lands, you will be required to have a valid passport. This takes a month or more. You can obtain the necessary papers from the courthouse. Two photos will also be necessary for the passport and you can obtain these from several locations in town, one being Postnet.
Before you depart, you should gather the following: passport, driver’s license and foreign currency for your destination country. You can do this at a currency exchange booth at the airport. Also remember cash and credit cards, insurance, including Medical Overseas Insurance. Medicare does not operate in foreign countries. We also make copies of credit cards, passports and other documents in case we loose the originals during the vacation. It makes it much easier to get replacements. And, don’t forget the air and cruise tickets and other documents you will need on the vacation.
Before leaving home arrange for pet and plant care, stop routine deliveries, turn down thermostat and empty the refrigerator. Leave keys and itinerary with a friend, lock windows and garage doors and notify police of your absence.
If flying, choosing the right luggage is important since most airlines will be charging per piece plus any overweight fees. Soft material covering is the best in most cases since it is lighter. Most carriers allow 50 pounds per bag for domestic travel. Anything over will cost more, sometimes much more. I have friends that send their luggage ahead by FedEx.
Where to go? That is up to you and your budget and taste. Renting timeshares can be good value. Resorts are currently offering great pricing on many properties and tour and cruise lines are advertising good values. Peak summer periods are often the most expensive.
Now comes the actual packing process. I always begin making a checklist weeks ahead of the trip and use it when packing. So far, I have yet to forget any items required during my vacation. Norma begins packing days ahead while I never pack before the actual day of departure. The method is up to you.
What to pack depends, of course, on the type of vacation you are taking. Camping and road trips are one thing, tours another and cruises still another.
The key here is taking as little as possible. Your trunk space will limit the road trip unless you are taking an RV. A tour will require mostly comfortable clothing with one dress-up ensemble. A cruise is a little different however; with each cruise I embark on I find less and less dressy attire. The last two I didn’t even take a dress suit. Simply a blue blazer, dress slacks, a couple dress shirts and ties. I find I can mix and match with a second sport coat and another pair of slacks. Ladies, you can take but two dressy ensembles if you choose and simply mix and match also. On large ships, you often never see the same people again anyway.
Remember the camera and necessary equipment, cell phone and charger; plug adaptors for foreign countries, (not necessary for cruise ships), two pair of reading glasses and two pair of dark glasses. You may loose one pair. And, a small flashlight, travel alarm clock, hat, spot remover, mini sewing kit, laundry bag and food bars for emergency snacks. Remember too, reading material such as magazines, a calculator and a backpack or briefcase.
Take as few toiletries as possible as they take up much needed space. If flying, place small bottles, pills etc. in zip-lock bags. Currently, the TSA forbids the following items in carry-on luggage: knives or sharp objects, most sporting goods, firearms, tools larger than seven inches, explosive materials, self-defense items, flammable items and most liquids of more than 100 ml. You can carry on an aircraft with you clothing, gifts, and laptop computers; shampoo, conditioner, hair gels, toothpaste, etc. that are 2 ounces or less. They must be wrapped in clear plastic bags.
At airports when you check-in at security you must show identification such as your driver’s license, a passport or green card, plus your boarding pass.
Suggestions for packing include dress clothes, casual and dress shoes, belts, underwear (always take a few extra pair), pajamas, socks, raincoat, hats/caps, umbrella, sweaters, jeans, and exercise clothes, maybe a swim suit and jacket or two. Your medical prescriptions are important and again, if flying, carry these, your money, camera and valuables with you in a hand carry, such as a briefcase. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
We always take a few extra clothes hangers for both hotel stays and cruises. They can come in handy.
Make sure your suitcase is not too heavy for you and others to lift. You may find your handles torn off upon arrival as well as your identification information. We always put color ribbons on our luggage handles as well as decorations with silver duct tape to make it easier for us to identify at the baggage collection areas at airports and cruise docks.
A lot to consider, but the pay-off is a great vacation. Have fun!