11 Smart Travel Tips So You Can Actually Enjoy Your Vacation

A person in jeans and a white t-shirt sits on the floor next to a packed suitcase

You work hard and deserve a vacation that is relaxing and fun-filled. 

But these days, traveling is far from a picture perfect postcard. From flight delays to long TSA lines it’s no wonder that so many travelers need a vacation from their vacation. 

While we can’t control all the variables of travel, we can do a little prep work up top to relieve some of the headaches that traveling might bring, and make sure we get to enjoy our vacation. 

Whether you’re looking for packing and budgeting strategies or advice on how to unplug and unwind, here are tips to help you have your best vacation yet.

1. Plan your budget

A vacation budget might sound tedious, but think of it as a way to fulfill your vacation dreams. This little Jedi mind trick will make it easier to save money and put it towards your vacation. You won’t feel like you’re denying yourself that morning latte when you know it’s going toward an espresso in Italy.

Make your budget goals small so that they feel more realistic and easy to do. So rather than setting a goal to save $1000, which can feel big and unattainable, tell yourself to set aside just $12 a day. It may seem small, but you will save $1000 in just three months. 

You should also make a list of the big ticket items that you’ll need to purchase like plane tickets, accommodations, and meals. Also include miscellaneous expenses like museum tickets, excursions, souvenirs, and specific apparel you’ll need for your trip. 

This way, you’ll know exactly how much you can spend, while also giving yourself some room to accommodate additional expenses should they pop up.

2. Travel during the shoulder season

Flights and hotels are pricey during the peak season. While traveling during the off season is always an option, the destination might be off-peak for a reason i.e. bad weather. A good compromise is to travel during shoulder season, which is the period between busy and off season. This way, you’ll get the benefit of better deals and nicer weather.

3. Make a trip planning to-do list

Get your trip organized with a comprehensive to-do list. On this list you will write down all the tasks and errands that will get you ready for your trip.

Your to-do list can look like this:

  • Check visa requirements for destination
  • Check passport expiration date (and renew passport if necessary)
  • Book flights
  • Book hotels
  • Arrange for pet care
  • Book taxi service to airport

Stay on top of your list by checking off items once you’ve completed them. This will also give you motivation to accomplish your pending tasks.

4. Make a destination to-do list

You’ve taken care of all the logistics. Now it’s time to start thinking about fun. Trip anticipation is one of the main highlights of going on vacation. All the excitement that’s building up for your trip can get you through the slog of a work week and also motivate you to continue saving for your trip. 

So start reading travel magazines and bookmarking your favorite travel blog posts. Research restaurants and things to do and save them on Google Maps. 

Not only will this get you excited about your destination but you’ll also have a solid plan for what you want to do once you get there.

5. Pack strategically 

Think about all the activities you’ll do on your vacation and pack accordingly. This way, you’ll pack items that you’ll actually wear rather than stuffing your suitcase with items you’ll never end up using. 

It’s also a good idea to pack a light sweater or jacket in case it gets cold, or a small umbrella in case there’s rain. And a baseball cap is a versatile accessory that can shield you from the sun and light rain.

6. Bring a travel journal

Bring a travel journal so that you can capture all the wonderful memories from your trip. Jot down observations, fun details, and memorable meals. And save mementos like ticket stubs and restaurant receipts. A travel journal is a great way to kill some time while you’re on a train or waiting for a flight, and it can slip easily into your carryon.

7. Meal plan

While vacation is a great time to explore new foods and restaurants, those meal expenses can add up fast.

If you have a tight travel budget, you can cut back on expenses by planning some of your meals and preparing them either at your hotel or rental.

Breakfast is one of those meals that you can save on without feeling like you’re missing out on the vacation experience. You can get pastries at a local bakery or breakfast items like coffee, cereal, and yogurt from the supermarket.

8. Take advantage of lunch

Speaking of affordable meals, another way to maximize your meal budget is to take advantage of lunch.

When dining out, lunch is often more affordable than dinner and chances are you’ll be able to find a restaurant with a lunch special or prix fixe.

9. Turn on your auto-reply

You don’t want your peaceful vacation to be disrupted by the pings of incoming messages. Give yourself some peace of mind by turning on your out-of-office message. This way, your colleagues know that you're on vacation, and you won’t have to worry about leaving anyone in the lurch.

And auto-responders aren’t just for the full-time, 9-5 workers. If you’re a freelancer, you probably have multiple clients reaching out to you. Turn on your vacation settings and get back to them when you return. 

10. Have a great last day

The last day of our vacation can sometimes be a downer. Make sure you leave on a good note by planning something fun for your last day. Maybe it’s a meal at a nice restaurant or tickets to a concert or a leisurely stroll in a beautiful neighborhood.

11. Recreate your vacation experience

Just because you're back home doesn’t mean you can’t have the same vacation mindset. Bring back those great vacation vibes by recreating the spirit of the experience. Let yourself wander and walk around a new neighborhood. Try out a new restaurant. Sit at a cafe and people watch. You’ll get to feel like a tourist in your own city.

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