You’re scrolling on Instagram and see photos of an upscale resort that is literally causing your eyes to pop out of your skull, so you decide that’s what your next vacation will be. You convince your husband that it’s time for that long overdue vacation, so you go and book a flight before he changes his mind. You see a rock-bottom deal on a 7-night vacation to Italy, so you book it.
Or in times like these when the world is closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, you don’t see the point in planning a vacation since we can go anywhere right now. You tell yourself that you aren’t going to waste time planning a vacation until we have some certainty on when we go. You don’t know how you could even plan a vacation when the airlines aren’t fully operational and hotels are closed.
If you consider planning a vacation to simply be finding and booking a flight and hotel, then you might be planning a vacation the wrong way.
To remind you of the definition from good old Wikipedia:
Planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve a desired goal.
So what is the desired goal on your vacation? Have you considered that before investing in your next vacation?
The thing about vacations is that they are about 10% fact, and 90% opinion. There are the facts about your vacation, like when you are going, where you are staying, your flight details, and how much it costs. However, the majority of your vacation is really your experience with those facts, and whether or not they meet your expectations.To illustrate this, consider the scenario that your water heater isn’t working and you need to hire a plumber. All you care about is whether they fixed it, and whether they fixed it in a timely manner at a price that seemed fair to you. There’s not too much room for inserting your subjective opinion about the experience, except maybe to judge how friendly or professional the plumber was.
On the other hand, dining at a nice restaurant is an experience that’s full of opinion. From the quality of the food, to the waiter’s attentiveness, to the decor and ambiance, you envision a night out in this restaurant a certain way, based on your own opinion, and your experience is 90% driven based on that. The other 10% is based on facts like whether your table was ready at the reservation time.
Vacations are the same way. It’s common to feel like once you’ve booked a flight or hotel, you’ve planned your vacation. You have hard dates, you have a place to stay, and you’ve invested; however, really all you’ve done is handle the facts by finding the products for your vacation.
If you book these facts before doing a deeper dive into your desires and goals for your vacation, you might be taking a gamble on experience. To put it simply, booking is not the same as planning. Booking is just the transaction, and it’s the easy part.
How to Plan a Vacation the Right Way
You know you want to go on vacation. You know that you want to be on vacation. You may feel like you are in desperate need of a vacation, and it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do.
I’ve heard it hundreds of times: “All I need is to sit my butt on a beach with a drink in my hand.” And while taking a beach vacation that has access to alcohol are important facts about your vacation, there are so many other pieces to consider as you plan.
As you anticipate your vacation before departure, whether you realize it or not, you have some vision in your head about how you expect this vacation to be. All of the facts of your vacation will affect your experience, and if the vacation fails to match your expectations, you could find yourself feeling pretty disappointed.
To plan a vacation the right way, we need to pull out those deep-rooted expectations about your vacation by asking the right questions.
Q1: What’s the goal of this vacation?
Since planning a vacation is the process of thinking about the activities to achieve a desired goal, do you know what the goal of your vacation is? You may be tempted to say that your goal is to simply “be on vacation”, but I promise you that you have bigger and deeper expectations about your vacation. Knowing that your goal is to relax as much as possible is important for making sure that the vacation that you plan is indeed relaxing. Understanding that your goal is to do something wild and new will make sure that your vacation will leave you feeling fulfilled in that area. What’s the goal of your next vacation?
Q2: How do you want to feel on this vacation?
Some men may roll their eyes at this question, but considering most of my clients are women, this is a very welcome question. I urge them to think of a couple of words to describe the feeling that they want to have while on their vacation. Do you want to feel relaxed, adventurous, carefree, fun, cultured, introspective, or rejuvenated?
Considering vacations are a break from your current work-life routine, sometimes you can get an idea of how you want to feel on your vacation by thinking about how you’re feeling right now, and choosing the opposite feeling. If you’re feeling exhausted right now, you probably could use a vacation that’s going to be rejuvenating. If you’re feeling bored right now, you probably could use a vacation that’s going to be adventurous.
Q3: What are your must-do’s, must-see’s, must-eat’s, and must-drink’s?
In addition to cultivating a vacation experience that lets you feel the way you expect to feel, you came on vacation to experience new things and a change of scenery. But what happens if you have to miss out on that fun activity you were looking forward to? What happens if you couldn’t snag a reservation at that world-renowned restaurant? You’ll feel like you totally missed out on your opportunity.
Outlining the things that you want to do, see, eat, and drink before you arrive will set you up for success at actually getting to do everything you hope to do. Remember, planning is the process of thinking about the activities required to achieve your goal – so what activities will make you achieve your goal on vacation?
Q4: How do you want to approach each day of your vacation?
Knowing whether you envision yourself waking up every day with a plan, or taking the day as it comes is a big part of making sure that the pace of your vacation is a match for what you expect. There’s nothing worse than expecting to feel refreshed from your vacation, but coming home more exhausted than you left from your whirlwind itinerary.
If you are someone who likes to wake up knowing what the game plan is for the day and hit the ground running, you may feel like you’re wasting time trying to figure out what you should do if you don’t have a plan already for the day. On the other hand, if you are someone who is looking forward to not having to follow a strict schedule every day, and then you sign up for a guided non-stop itinerary vacation, you’re going to hate it! You won’t get to go at your own leisurely pace or decide what you do every day totally based on how you feel.
Q5: Do you want to use a local tour operator or go around on your own?
Local guides or drivers can show you the best places in your destination with their local knowledge. They handle all of the transportation and logistics for you to make sure that you’re getting to those awesome places, and they can handle language barriers for you and sometimes make you feel more immersed in the culture. If you prefer to rely on the experts on your vacation so that you don’t have to worry about a thing, then making sure that you arrange guides to manage the logistics for you is an important piece.
On the other hand, if you are someone who values flexibility in your vacation itinerary and just wants to spend your vacation with your own personal travel group, handling the logistics on your own is much more appealing than following around a guide like a lost sheep.
Q6: What comforts and amenities do you want?
If you’re someone who goes on vacation to enjoy the finer things, then paying extra attention to the details of your hotel selection is a big priority. You may also opt to spend more on small-batch luxury experiences or comfortable transportation because those things will make you feel the way you expect to feel. If you require only clean, comfortable, and safe accommodations, then you may not care about fancy hotels or luxury experiences. In fact, you might feel uncomfortable or like you’re unnecessarily splurging if it’s not a match for you how you envisioned.
Making a list of all of the amenities that you expect to have available to you is important for choosing options that will tick all of the boxes so that you don’t feel like you’re having to go without.
For your best chance at planning a vacation to meet your expectations, sit down and ask yourself these 6 questions to piece together just what those expectations look like for you and every member of your travel group. The alternative to not taking these things into consideration and your experience is different than you envisioned is risk that you’ll come home disappointed and unsatisfied with your vacation.
Choosing a Destination that Matches your Expectations
I hope by now I’ve convinced you that simply finding a resort that you like or booking a plane ticket is not the way to plan a vacation. Planning a vacation is the process of taking a deeper dive into your underlying vacation expectations and how the facts that you choose for your vacation will affect your overall experience.
Choosing where you go on vacation is half the effort of planning the thing, and it’s the most important part. Before you get into the nitty gritty facts, like finding a flight or a place to stay, you want to make sure that the destination you’ve picked is going to check all of the boxes so it ultimately meets your expectations.
If you have several destinations on your vacation bucket list and don’t know how to choose, the above questions will help you narrow your focus on destinations that would be a good fit for your next vacation. If you want a complete and foolproof method for ranking and finding your top 3 next vacation destinations, I have just what you need!
In this 5-day email challenge, you’ll get to dive into very own ranking and scoring system for sorting through each of the destinations on your bucket list. The system considers your expectations and the practical stuff to help you narrow down the best destinations for your next vacation.
Plan your Vacation Itinerary Now and Book your Vacation Later
With the world basically “closed” right now due to COVID-19, you may think that you can’t plan or there’s no point in planning a vacation; however, just because we literally can’t (or shouldn’t) hop on a plane right this second does not mean we can’t continue to actively plan for future vacations. We just don’t want to be booking anything until we see some movement with travel restrictions and border closures.
I’m still planning vacations for clients with zero risk by doings things like…
- Choosing a primary and a backup destination (since the “when” is so uncertain)
- Making sure that these destinations are a match for my clients’ expectations
- Sorting out the things they want to do and see in each of the destinations
- Finding restaurants, cafes, breweries, wineries, and bars
- Mapping everything out so we know where a good home base will be for lodging
- Scoping out lodging options so we already have an idea of what options look most appealing
We absolutely can be doing all of the above because there is no risk in visualizing and deciding those things (and there are no dates tied to that). There is no need to stop or pause planning a vacation, and since we’re able to get all of that stuff sorted out now, we’ll be super prepared to book once we have certainty.
Get started with my low-cost Custom Itinerary Service, where I design your personalized vacation itinerary for you to use for your future vacation!