Vacation Planning Tips
Here it is: your long-awaited vacation time. You’d like everything to go smoothly so that you can have as much time as possible relaxing on the beach, at a spa and trying new activities. There are several things that you can do ahead of time to ensure that your couples’ getaway, honeymoon, family or a singles’ trip is a success. Here are our top 5 vacation planning tips.
- Look for Deals and Packages: Nobody wants to spend money that they don’t have to spend. It’s not a good feeling when you find out that travelers staying at your hotel paid only 50% of the price that you are paying. So look for deals and packages. Our vacation packages section has hundreds of hand-picked deals and packages which were selected by our editors (hotels, resorts, inns and vacation rentals cannot pay their way to be included - the deals have to be great). Packages found on our site include specials for families, guys, girlfriends, couples, singles, honeymooners, as well as travelers with babies, toddlers and teens. There are all inclusive packages, spa specials, golf, island, beach, last minute, luxury, weekend and other offers in major destinations such as the Caribbean, Hawaii, California, Las Vegas, Florida, Italy, Mexico and more.
- Pick the Best Vacation for You: If you are taking a vacation with your better half, with baby, kids, teen, toddler, newborn, grandparents and while pregnant, everyone will have their set of wishes and requirements for a perfect holiday. Someone may love the beach while another person in your group may want to go and explore mountain peaks. In the end, you will have to settle for what makes the majority happy. In the case of big groups, look for a destination that will offer a variety of activities, nightclubs and tours to have something for everyone. Teens can be the hardest to please, so look for teen clubs where they can meet other vacationers in their age group.
- When Are You Traveling? Each season has its pluses and minuses and the time of year determines what activities are available to you. New England offers beautiful lakes, hiking and outdoor events in the summer, and skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Hawaii is a year-round destination, but you can only see humpback whales December, January, February and March. Arizona has perfect weather in the winter for golf, but will be too hot for most in June, July and August.
- How Do I Get There? If you stay flexible with your choice of a vacation destination, you can save on airline tickets and enjoy a similar destination at a fraction of the cost. Exotic resorts in Bora Bora, Bali, Tahiti and Fiji require several airline flights and boat transfers, so the trip there and back may cost you a couple of days of precious time off. However, once you are there, you can enjoy unique activities such as snorkeling with mantas and overwater bungalows. If you are primarily interested in relaxing on the beach, you can cut the cost and travel time by heading to a place closer to home, whether that’s Southern California, Florida, South Carolina, Texas or another state in the U.S.
- Holiday Travel Tips: During Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Valentine’s Day, spring break and the summer holidays, hotels and airlines are more in demand than during the rest of the year. For most travelers, this is the only time that they can get the whole family together for a trip. It’s important to reserve well in advance to avoid the spike in airfare and rooms selling out. Travelers frequently forget to book their golf tee times, spa treatments and in-demand tours during the peak travel season and end up disappointed that they can’t have all the experiences that they wanted. Whether you are planning a weekend holiday to a resort nearby or a longer getaway to Europe or Asia, it’s a good idea to plan well ahead. Many vacationers book their favorite Christmas vacation a year in advance to make sure that they get what they want.
With a bit of planning, your vacation can be relaxing and fun. Read our packing tips and taking a plane trip with little kids.
Best Vacation Destinations
There are many amazing destinations all around the world, from exotic vacation spots like Bali, Maldives and the Seychelles to beautiful places closer to home like Canada, Florida and New York. What is the best vacation destination for you will depend on your interest, budget, length of vacation and other factors. Here is our planner which includes the most popular vacation ideas by month.
- January: Everyone wants to get away from the winter cold by the time January rolls around and the great thing about January is that you will find some amazing deals right after New Year’s. Look for airfare specials and resort discounts in Florida, kid friendly tropical Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia, where it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere. January is the time to look for low budget and last minute getaways to a resort nearby for a quick ski trip or a few days at a relaxing health spa.
- February: Mid-February marks the start of spring break which is a very busy travel season, especially in the Caribbean, Hawaii and other tropical beach destinations. You can find great deals in the first two weeks of February. Explore a new city, such as Hollywood in Los Angeles, go skiing in the Rockies, plan a scenic trip to California, a vacation with your girlfriends, last minute getaway near NYC or Chicago, a winter holiday in Maryland, or a trip for history buffs to a European city like Paris, Rome or Vienna. Don’t forget that February 14th is Valentine’s Day, a perfect occasion for a quick romantic getaway with your loved one.
- March: March is spring break season when families with toddlers and kids take over tropical beaches and spa resorts with indoor pools. This is not a time to plan a low budget getaway because hotels and resorts tend to be busy. Some of the top spring break destinations include Key West, Las Vegas, Arizona and Texas. It’s not too early to book now for spring break 2015.
- April: April is another great month for seeing a new destination on a budget. Rooms in major cities like New York, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and LA are generally discounted then, unless there is a big event taking place. Plan a long weekend for adults out West whether the weather is sunny and warm, or stay closer to home and check into a romantic inn in Rhode Island. Young couples on a budget may like the affordable beaches of Costa Rica or the Gulf Coast.
- May: Weather begins to improve in May, but it can be unpredictable. This is the time for visiting cities where blooming tulips, cherry blossoms and other flowers add an air of romance to nearly every destination, including Washington DC, Charleston SC, Portland OR, Toronto and others. Visit museums, art galleries, boutique shops, and dine at a romantic restaurant, sampling new flavors such as Thai, Indian and Vietnamese dishes. Plan a Memorial Day weekend getaway at the end of May to a nearby beach or lake.
- June: Things begin to heat up in the South, Southwest and Southeast US, while destinations in the Northeast, Midwest and the Rocky Mountains beckon with scenic lakes, oceans and mountains. Popular European destination this month include quiet Greek island, London, Italy (Rome, Venice and Florence are all big favorites), Spain, Portugal, Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland. If you are on a tight budget and paying for summer airfare to Europe is not on your to do list, take a road trip to a national park, such as Glacier National Park, Yellowstone or Grand Teton. Explore more affordable destinations such as Montana, Mississippi and Colorado.
- July: After July 4, summer is in full swing and all of America seems to be outdoors barbecuing, hiking and swimming. July is a great time for a cruise to Alaska or the Mediterranean, a trip to the Great Lakes in Michigan, a quick weekend in North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland and East Coast spots. The end of July is the peak summer holiday season, so be sure to book your room or suite early.
- August: Everyone seems to work slower in August and with so many people taking time off, it may be difficult to get anything done anyway. This is the perfect time to slow down, relax, eat great food, do some wine tasting in Napa Valley or around Finger Lakes, tour the scenic lighthouses of Main, go hiking on Vancouver Island and watch outdoor theater performances.
- September: After Labor Day weekend at the beginning of September, travel slows down quite a bit. This is the time to plan a trip to the Caribbean on a budget, look for those hard to find all inclusive vacations under $1,000, and take a trip by yourself to somewhere completely new like Ireland, Scotland or Tuscany. Explore the Californian coast where finding a deal is a lot easier in September than during other times of the year. Head up the scenic coast of Oregon for hiking and fishing.
- October: Around Columbus Day is the best time for fall foliage viewing in Vermont, Washington State, New Hampshire, Maine, Colorado and other destinations. Whether you are celebrating your 50th wedding anniversary of the first one, head to a romantic inn and watch the spectacular display of colors. The second half of October is a great time to look for off season deals.
- November: The first half of November is generally pretty quiet and a good time to get a special at hot resorts. The second half of November is very busy, particularly around the Thanksgiving holidays.
- December: Christmas 2014 and New Year’s are on everyone’s mind in December. Plan a shopping trip to a major city, watch the tree lighting ceremony or relax on a sandy beach in the tropics.
Vacation Ideas by Interest
Fall is an amazing season, offering colorful scenery and an array of outdoor activities. Whether you can get away for a longer holiday or weekend vacation, there are many great destinations near and far.
- Beaches: A trip to the beach is perfect for those who like water, sand and sun. Your skin will soak up vitamin D which has been shown to improve the mood and overall health. Vacations improve productivity, so if you've been struggling with your daily routine, a trip to the beach may be just what your body craves. Ocean beaches are filled with salty air and offer activities such as surfing, kayaking, snorkeling and surfing. Lakeside beaches are refreshing, letting travelers kayak, fly-fish and relax.
- Spas: A vacation that includes pampering at the spa combined with yoga, Pilates and fitness classes can be uplifting and exciting, filling you with renewed strength and energy. It's not difficult to find the perfect spa to meet your goals - check into a full service resort or look for a day spa nearby. Couples’ spas are especially popular at this time of year, attracting visitors looking to unwind in a unique setting. Look for exceptional facilities such as VIP suites with jacuzzi tubs, private saunas and plush terraces.
- Honeymoons: Quite a few couples decide to honeymoon in the fall when it's often easier to take off work for a longer period of time and get away to an exotic destination such as Bora Bora, Phuket or the Maldives. If you prefer to stay closer to home, there are many romantic choices a short flight or drive away. Explore the scenic coastline of Maine on the East Coast, or Oregon and California on the West Coast.
- Luxury Vacation Ideas: The theme of the season is luxury for less, with savvy travelers realizing they can use the plethora of online tools to comparison shop for a better deal. Hotels and airlines are providing you with more incentives than ever to reserve directly through their web site and join their reward programs to receive special amenities. Look for free nights, complimentary breakfast, massages, welcome baskets, tickets to museums and shows, especially if you can get away during the week.
- Adventure: Adventure vacations are for those who crave the excitement of something new and daring, like flying a trapeze or hiking in bear country. These types of vacations are definitely memorable because you'll pick up a new skill while challenging yourself to new heights. Travel to South Africa where luxury camps let you sleep surrounded by the sights and sounds of rare wildlife. Or take a trip to New Zealand where you can ski surrounded by epic scenery. In Europe, Austria and Switzerland offer many outdoor adventures for couples and families.
- Islands: Far away islands or those closer to home offer travelers privacy, sandy beaches and pristine waters for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. Hawaii is a 5-hour flight from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Florida has several beautiful island resorts accessible only by boat. The Caribbean islands are well known for their warm hospitality, scenery and a choice of accommodations. There are many flights to the Bahamas and Barbados while St Barths and Mustique and more exclusive.
- City Vacations: If you don’t work or live in a major city, a trip to New York, Boston, Las Vegas, San Francisco or Los Angeles will mean fantastic restaurants, shopping and shows. Fall weeks are a great time to look for deals and packages which include special perks such as free nights, spa credits and complimentary breakfast. Cities are easy to get to because there are so many daily flights. Check for last minute flight deals, room discounts and luxury perks for less. If you are planning to see a popular musical, sports event or theater production, remember to call for tickets ahead of time.