Many people head out for vacation without doing any travel planning in advance. To them, spontaneity is one of the great things about traveling, and figuring everything out ahead of time takes all the fun out of it.
But most people invest quite a bit in their vacations, on several levels. And if you only get two weeks a year, you want to make sure that you enjoy every minute. A little pre-vacation trip planning can ensure that you get to stay where you want, spend what you want, and make the most of your time.
If you already know where you're going, check out some travel websites that cover your destination. Fodors, Frommers, and Tripaddiction are all good sources of information. And in less than half an hour, you'll have a pretty good idea of what you want to do.
Charming, inexpensive hotels in great locations are nearly always sold out during high season, so if you want to get the most value for your travel dollar, reserve your hotel well in advance.
The most popular attractions, like the Eiffel Tower or the Vatican Museum, often have long lines, sometimes involving several-hour waits. But now, you can make reservations for most attractions online in advance. It may cost a little extra for the convenience, but if it saves a few hours of your time, it's well worth the added expense.
We usually prefer to do our sightseeing independently. But signing up for a group tour will often get you in and out of an attraction with no waiting. Most of the time, you can book these through your hotel concierge the day before, sometimes even the same day.
Even if you're just traveling across the country or your home state, some travel planning leg work will still help you get the most bang for your buck. Restaurants in the areas most visited by tourists are often overpriced and mediocre. With a steady supply of customers, they don't have to be good or a good value. But often, there are great restaurants just a couple of blocks off the main drag. If you know where to go, you'll eat well and save money too.
The websites for local newspapers or weekly periodicals often have restaurant guides. And you can often search by neighborhood, cuisine, or price range. The information is usually up to date too.
Arriving in town and learning that something you'd love to see is sold out can be really disappointing. So check before you go to see what's happening during your visit. Most area websites have a calendar of events. And these days, you can order tickets for virtually anything online.
A few minutes of travel planning before your trip can help you enjoy your vacation more, for less. The next time you're going on vacation, do a little legwork in advance.