Finalizing the details for your next trip? Here are five secrets from the pros on planning for your next vacation. These tips will save you money and time!

Dreaming of taking a trip to Italy? Ready to book a cruise to the Caribbean? Wishing you could go on an African safari?

Whether you take a lavish vacation every year or enjoy an affordable family trip every few years, a lot goes into planning the perfect vacation.

Some people go straight to the pros and rely on a travel agent to do all of the planning for them. But some people enjoy planning their trips themselves.

Getting ready to finalize the details for your next trip?

Here are five secrets from the pros on planning for your next vacation:

1. Pick a Specific Destination

The more flexible you are with your travel plans, the easier it will be to find deals. But if you’re open to going anywhere at any time, it can be overwhelming to sift through every travel deal and discount package that exists online.

Start by narrowing your preferences down to a specific region or city. The best way to do that is to think about what you want to do while you’re away.

For example, if all you want to do is lounge on the beach, you might want to head to Hawaii or San Diego. If your top priority is to tour museums, you might want to go to Italy or Paris. Want to go skiing? Maybe your destination should be the Swiss Alps.

Decide what you want to do, then do some online research to help you pick a destination.

2. Save Money by Searching Online Flight Deals

Online portals, such as Kayak, Travelocity, and Expedia, make it easy to find online deals. You can find amazing travel packages and save on everything from flights and hotel bookings to excursions and tours.

If you’re flexible with the days and times that you’re willing to travel, you can save big.

When booking segments of your trip individually, always book your flights before your hotel. You’ll need to know your check-in and check-out dates to book your accommodations.

However, some sites offer bundled deals if you book your flights, hotel, and rental car together.

3. Find Deals on Accommodations

There are tons of great hotel deals to be found online, but if you’re looking to have more of a local experience, you might want to reserve an Airbnb instead. Decide what type of experience you want to have, then choose accommodations that can offer that experience.

It can be tempting to book a travel package that includes flight and hotel reservations. It’s convenient, easy, and usually seems like the best way to save. But it’s always best to do your research first.

Package deals often make it seem like you’re getting the best rate, but you may find even better rates that aren’t part of a package. Before you reserve and pay for a bundled flight and hotel deal, check the prices of each separately. It may cost the same (or even less) to book them individually.

Once you’ve booked your accommodations, it’s time to start planning your itinerary.

Research the local hot spots. Check your hotel’s website for recommendations on things to do and see. If you’re only going to be away for a few days, don’t wait too long to book group tours and excursions — the best ones fill up quickly!

4. Make Sure You’ll Be Able to Access Your Money

Depending on where you plan to travel, you may or may not be able to access your money with your ATM card. So before you hop on a flight, make sure that you have a card that can access global ATM machines.

Check with your bank to see if you can use your debit card at ATMs in your destination city. At the very least, make sure that you can use it for purchases.

As for credit cards, check to see if yours has currency conversion fees. Ask your bank what their policies are regarding international withdrawals and transactions. You may have to pay fees when using your card in a different country.

There’s almost nothing scarier than being in a foreign country without access to your money. Do your research before you go so that you know what to expect. You don’t want to be caught off guard and realize that you can’t access cash for the duration of your trip.

5. Get Your Travel Documents in Order

Traveling overseas? You might need a visa (the travel document, not the credit card).

Check the travel requirements for the country you plan to visit. If you do need a visa, apply months before you plan to leave. Depending on where you’re headed, it can take between two weeks and two months for a visa application to process, so don’t wait until the last minute!

Certain countries also require that you have specific immunizations to cross their borders. Make sure you know all of the entry requirements. When you get your immunizations, be sure to get all of the paperwork and documentation that proves you got them.

This goes without saying, but always check that your passport is valid. You won’t be able to travel with an expired passport, and some countries even require that your passport be valid for three to six months after you leave the country.

To be safe, renew your passport if it’s within six months of expiration.

Also, it’s important to know this:

Starting October 1, 2020, a new form of ID will be required to fly within the domestic U.S.

If you don’t have a passport and rely on your state-issued driver’s license as identification when you fly, that will no longer be enough. You’ll need a Real ID.

If you don’t already have a REAL ID, get one now. Even if you never leave your hometown, you won’t be able to access federal buildings or military bases without one.

In Summary

Booking a vacation is exciting!

Here’s what you need to remember as you plan your next trip:

  • Pick a destination based on what you want to do while you’re there
  • Check online flight deals to save money
  • Book your flights first, accommodations second, and your itinerary third
  • Make sure your ATM cards and debit cards can be used where you’re going
  • Get all of your travel documents in order in advance

Now start thinking about where you want to spend your next vacation. There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored!
About the author

Priscilla McKinney is a volunteer at Prime Place KSU, an apartment complex for KSU students, a community within walking distance of the university campus, offering apartments ranging in size from studios to 4-bedroom units featuring surface floors, granite countertops and in-unit washer/dryers.