Planning for a summer vacation should be a year round activity. Hear me out. Summer vacation can make or break a year. Some of the best memories of one’s life can be forged in those few weeks between the end of May and the start of September. Summer arrives too late, is gone too soon, and is anticipated year-round. With such a short window to capitalize on all that is offered in the season, one would be encouraged to make the most of this time frame. But even if you want to travel in the winter (cool with us, we like to get out of the cold too), you should still plan for the trip all. year. long.
How does one go about making the most of a vacation you ask? Well, we won’t be able to answer that so directly because everyone’s experience is personal and what might be an unforgettable summer or winter vacation experience for the author of this post would almost certainly be an exercise in boredom for someone else. However, we can help with the planning and budgeting of whatever type of vacation you might desire.
We’ll try to do this chronologically and start at the beginning of the process.
- Know what you can afford
It might be helpful if you can compare expenses from previous vacations, but if that’s not possible, preparing a simple budget should be relatively simple. Try starting with an “aspirational” column, where you track expenses for everything you are likely to encounter from travel and lodging to meals and entertainment. Once you get a sense for how much it would cost to do everything you want, you might start moving some of those items into the "realistic" column to see how your overall figures change. If you can afford everything in your first column, great! Go have a great time. If not, consider saving up a little longer until you can comfortably afford the trip because you want the trip to relieve stress, not add to it.
- Budget year round
One of the best financial tips around is to make saving automatic. The idea of having money automatically withdrawn from each paycheck and deposited into a savings account is a wonderful psychological trick you can play on yourself. The beauty of it is you’ll start saving money and probably not realize you were missing it in the first place. Simply create an account specific for travel and start allocating money to that account with every paycheck. It doesn’t have to be much and in fairly short order, your goals will become very achievable.
- Take your time planning
It isn’t necessary to nail down the whole trip in one day. Look for deals or discounts not only on transportation and lodging but on activities you might be interested in. You might also find it refreshing to pay off some of the expenses ahead of time so the sudden surge of bills don’t overwhelm you during or after the trip.
- Avoid peak season
If saving money is the goal, some consideration should be made for traveling during an off-season. Now, it is important to understand why it’s an off-season. For example, you might find a great price on a cruise but the hurricane bearing down on you might make your trip memorable for all the wrong reasons. Having said that, during an offseason the crowds will be smaller, ease of travel should improve, you’ll probably receive better or more personal service and you might have a more intimate experience with whatever or wherever you’re planning to visit.
- Research activities/events/entertainment
If you’re traveling abroad, there are armies of travel guide books and websites that can help you when planning your route, the attractions you’re interested in seeing, prices, busy times, etc. These guides are just as useful while planning your trip as they are while you’re on the trip. Likewise, if your trip is domestic, research travel routes, hotels, restaurants, customer reviews, entertainment along the way and at your destination. The more detailed your plan, the better idea you’ll have on what you’re likely to spend.
- Make an agenda
Speaking of a detailed plan, making an agenda or itinerary of your trip can be a great resource. This isn’t to discredit the fun that can be had when letting spontaneity be your guide, but again, if the goal is to maximize how far your money goes, having a clear and concise plan will help keep your spending on track without any surprises popping up along the way.
- Make copies of IDs and Passports
There’s no two ways about it. A lost or stolen passport or ID is a headache. Fortunately, it doesn’t necessarily have to ruin your trip if it happens to you. Make two photocopies of your passport or ID and leave one with a friend while bringing the other along but stored separately from your original passport or ID.
- Streamline your wallet
Only leave the essentials in your wallet. Only carry the card(s) you plan to use while traveling. The leading cause of identity theft is lost wallets. There are cottage industries of pick-pockets and thieves in some popular foreign destinations as well. With the proper precaution and planning, you can avoid experiencing one of the more unpleasant facets of traveling.
- Check the weather
Do some research on what the weather is typically like in the area you’re visiting during that time of year. Additionally, check the forecast before you leave in case you need to add a rain jacket or another layer for unexpected rain or cold.
- Pack light
Depending on the length of your trip, it may be wise to pack for only a few days and use the laundry services of your lodging or visit a laundromat. If you’ll be carrying around everything you brought, on a backpacking trip for example, you’re going to want that pack to be as light as possible and it’s easier to clean your clothes than carry around additional weight, not to mention you’re only going to have so much space to use.
- CONSIDER TRAVEL INSURANCE
o Trip Cancellation
If you have to cancel your trip due to illness, bad weather, bankruptcy of your travel supplier or death in the family, trip cancellation protection can cover those unforeseen expenses or recover what you’ve already spent.
o Medical Emergencies
If you’re hurt or become ill while on your trip travel insurance can provide assistance. Health care is very different in other parts of the world and your domestic health plan will be irrelevant to health officials abroad.
o 24/7 Worldwide Assistance
You can receive assistance whenever you need it if your passport is lost or stolen, your flight cancelled, experience a medical emergency, etc.
Determining whether travel insurance is right for your trip:
How much does the trip cost?
Know how much you stand to lose if you have to cancel your trip. Travel insurance may not be necessary for your weekend getaway yet very comforting on your mission trip to Haiti.
Does current homeowners/renter policy provide any coverage?
Your homeowners or renters policy will follow you around the world so it doesn’t hurt to check if it provides protection for lost or stolen luggage and rental car coverage.
Does Credit Card company offer any protection?
A lot of credit card companies offer coverage for rental cars if it’s purchased with their card. Additionally, they may be able to help with a number of other items you weren’t expecting. If you haven’t already, look into what benefits your credit card offers.
What’s my activity level going to be?
If your trip will consist of sitting by the pool for a week, you may not need any additional protection. If your trip is going to include zip-lining, scuba diving or any other more active excursion, it might be worth it to secure some additional protection.
- Travel like a local
It might be beneficial to understand a little of how the locals carry themselves so you don’t stick out as a tourist. Knowing how to dress and act will help and your wallet will thank you for blending in.
- Avoid oversharing on the socials
While we’re confident your trip is going to be awesome and you want to share the experience with all your friends back home, it might be smart to wait until you’ve returned home to post your photos on the socials. Advertising to the world that you’re not at home for the next however many days is a good strategy if you’re goal is to be burglarized.
- Consider preparing your own meals
In the spirit of budgeting and making your money go far, we’d be remiss if we didn’t encourage you to think about preparing your own meals while traveling. We speak from experience when we tell you a loaf of bread, peanut butter and jelly can go a long way when you’re traveling. Consider how many meals you can get out of those three items for a few dollars compared to the amount you’ll spend eating out for every meal. Of course, some of the best vacations involve food so if you’re goal is to eat all the seafood in the Pacific Northwest, then by all means, have at it. If great food is not your goal, think about hitting a grocery store and put your money toward acquiring more memories.
There is an inspiring quote attributed to women’s rights activist, historian and archivist Mariam Beard that goes, “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living”. No matter where your summer vacation takes you, we hope these tips and ideas might contribute to making the most of your experience. If done correctly, you may even find yourself contemplating the ideas of living as well!
For more information or if you have any questions regarding travel insurance, contact CLH Insurance at 636.391.0700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with our insurance agents.