Planning the perfect trip is more than picking the right destination. Vacations are now back in vogue (finally) and people are taking their well-deserved trips away from their quarantine caves. Inflation be damned, if people want to travel, they will do so.
Aside from scouring websites for the cheapest tickets and finding the best accommodations for your price range, there are so many other things you need to consider before taking a trip. Not everyone may be the Excel-file, print-out-map, and strict-schedule type of traveler (all things I’m personally guilty of), but everyone should make the right preparations before going out of town.
I’m lucky to have traveled a lot before, which means I have a fair amount of travel knowledge accrued over time. There were great vacations, mediocre vacations, awful vacations, and perfect vacations—and all of the perfect ones had the same factors in common.
In my book, the perfect vacation must have the following: the right company, destination, and a good amount of spontaneity. Safety, of course, is a non-negotiable factor.
Here are the five basic elements of planning the perfect vacation.
I cannot stress enough how important research is when it comes to planning a trip. You need to be aware of the external factors that can affect the quality of your vacation, be it international or domestic. A good place to start is local phrases and customs you need to be aware of.
For example, it’s perfectly fine to talk on the phone in public transportation systems here, but it’s considered rude in Japan. Tipping culture is another thing you should look into. Tipping is expected in Africa, North America, and the Middle East, but it’s considered rude in most East Asian countries.
Getting around is something else you have to do your research on. Some countries rely on their public transportation system or walking to get around, whereas others (like our own country) tend to rely on private transportation.
You should also check what you are and aren’t allowed to bring to certain destinations when you travel outside the country. Aside from the typical fresh produce and live animals, some items (commonly adult toys) are banned in more conservative regions.
I usually prepare a spreadsheet that outlines schedules, attractions, a map that illustrates where the nearest bathrooms are in the vicinity of the destination, important facts about the place, addresses, and domestic emergency contact numbers. Of course, these are just suggestions.
Solo travel is fun, but I personally prefer traveling with a group of friends or my family. When you’re traveling with friends, though, it’s important to get a good feel of how they would be when they travel. There are three categories of people who travel: the people who want to do everything, the people who are going to go with the flow, and the people who want to just relax.
In a group setting, having conflicting ideas of what a great vacation is can stir up some conflict. It’s best to travel with like-minded people so you don’t run into interpersonal problems. Otherwise, you can have a group discussion while you’re planning your trip to resolve any issues that might come up.
Coming up with a set of rules can come in handy, especially if you’re traveling with a diverse group of people. You can divide yourselves into groups that have similar interests. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be together 24/7. Most of all, you have to respect each other and roll with the proverbial punches.
You’re on this trip together, and when you land at your destination, that can’t change.
As many of you know, vacations don’t have to be expensive to be amazing. Your budget will determine where you can go and what you can eat, but not how much fun you can have. It’s still important to plan ahead regarding your finances so you can enjoy your trip to the fullest.
You can do a full cost breakdown by plotting your destinations and meals in advance, or just estimate how much money you can afford to spend in a day and take it from there. The latter is riskier because you might fall short, so again, research is important.
My personal rule is to bring at least 15 percent more than my estimated budget in case of emergencies. There may be things you don’t take into consideration, like parking, entrance, and other miscellaneous fees, so it’s good to have that covered.
You should always prepare for the worst-case scenario. When traveling internationally, insurance should be non-negotiable. Nobody wants to get into an accident or get sick during a vacation, but these things can happen. Being prepared can help put your mind at ease, especially if your budget isn’t what you want it to be.
Again, this is where your research should come in handy. You have to check how safe a destination is for tourists, especially women, before you decide to go. It’s also important to pack a basic safety packet that includes copies of your passport and visa (if you need one), an itinerary, your address at the location, the phone numbers of local police, the embassy (if you’re out of the country), and your emergency contact.
This packet should be with you at all times, again, in case of emergencies. The buddy system is also a reliable way of keeping track of everyone. If you get lost in an area, make sure to discuss where and what time you should meet in case someone gets lost and their phone runs out of battery.
Planning a trip is one thing, but being on one is another. No matter how much effort you put into the research and planning phase of your journey, things will undoubtedly change when you reach your destination.
Being flexible is one of the most important aspects of any trip. You can meet new people and learn about new places when you actually get to your destination, so it pays to be open. Some of the best memories and experiences you can make on a trip are those that are completely unplanned.
Deviating from the written itinerary—within reason, of course—should be expected and welcomed. You can also have backup plans in case something falls through. Remember though, safety should always be the main priority. Your trip can suck, but the most important part is you living to tell the tale.
Be open—and always be on your toes.