Vacations are supposed to be your time away to de-stress. However, the vacation-planning process itself can be a source of the very stress from which you’re getting away. Here are some tips for planning a vacation with as little anxiety as possible:
1. Plan early
Plan your vacation as far in advance as you reasonably can. Planning in advance will help you keep a hold on your sanity during the whole process. Since you’ll have plenty of time to get everything figured out, it won’t seem like such a big deal if there are hiccups along the way. Set the date for your vacation as far in the future as makes sense, request those days off work, and start planning.
2. Determine budget
The first thing you should know after your vacation dates is your vacation budget. Determine an amount of money you can set aside from each paycheck to put toward vacation. Then multiply that by your paychecks from now until the trip to know what you’ll have saved by then. Add this to your pre-existing vacation savings, and voila! You have your vacation budget. Stick to this when planning to avoid overspending on your trip.
3. Make a goal
Decide early on what you want out of the trip. Do you want to relax, or go on an adventure? Would you rather spend a whole day at a market or a museum? It’s okay to have a vacation with a mix of downtime and high activity, but make sure you know what you want that balance to be. Discuss this with anyone traveling with you so everyone is on the same page.
4. Schedule your planning
Instead of doing a whole bunch of planning all at once, schedule a time each week or once a month to tackle one part of your trip planning. Spreading the task out this way will make it a lot less stressful.
Really get to know the places you’re going to visit. A cursory search will only tell you so much about a place: If you really do some digging, you’ll probably find something cool. Don’t just search through tourism sites – check out message boards and news sources to get a feel for the local flavor. Looking at your destination this way will help you build a one-of-a-kind trip.
6. Plan “days” instead of dates
Although some activities will need to be scheduled in advance, try to focus on planning days instead of specific dates. This means plan a museum day instead of saying, “On Monday, we’ll go to the museum.” This way, if something gets in the way of the plan, you can switch the days around. Make your vacation as flexible as possible so you can easily recover from any change of plans.
7. Consider home
About a month before you head out, make a list of anything you need to set up for home or work while you’re away. Figure out who is going to answer questions on your behalf at the office. Schedule a pet sitter, dog walker or someone to check in on the house while you’re away. If you’re going to be gone long enough, figure out who will check your mail.
8. Pack in advance
If you pack a few days ahead of the trip instead of the night before, you give yourself that much more time to remember items you may have missed. This will dramatically improve your chances of bringing everything along. It will also mean you’re less likely to spend your time in the airport thinking, “Wait, did I forget… ?” Instead, you can focus on heading out to your well-planned, stress-free vacation.