Friday, March 20, 2015

On Vacation Planning....

I wish I traveled enough to be a "travel expert", but I don't.  It would be my dream to fall into that category though.  Seriously... How can I get a job where they pay me to travel?  Maybe I could travel and write up the destinations for a magazine, book, blog, etc.?  Maybe some hotel group would like to pay me to be their secret traveler who goes from place to place and tests out the customer service and condition of their hotels?  Heck I could also write up itineraries and restaurant recommendations based on those visits, and they could provide those to their guests.  Again, that would be a DREAM!

I do know, that there are many different types of travelers in the world.  There are people who want to do nothing on vacation...just relax at the beach.  Then you have people who want to go and do.  Personally, I like a little of both.  Although, even on a beach vacation, I like to go and do and see a little too.  I also think there are many types of vacation planners...

Type 1~There are the people who want to book a cruise or an all inclusive and never think about the vacation again until it is time to get on the plane.

Type 2~There are people who loosely plan their vacation.

Type 3~There are people who read and plan each and every detail.

I'm a Type 3 planner for sure.  Obviously some vacations require more planning than others, but I have rarely gone on any vacation (even an all inclusive resort one) where I didn't do some research and planning first.  

Here's what I use to plan my vacations:

I'm a believer in travel books.  For general travel information, I like Frommer's and Fodor's when they are available for your destination. Sure these books give general travel info like where to stay and where to eat, but that isn't what I use them for.  I use them to learn about what I'm suppose to see while in any given destination.

For foodie destinations, like NYC, New Orleans, Seattle, etc., I also like to get a Zagat, so I can ensure that each and every meal is on point.  Sometimes, even despite research, you will get a disappointing meal, but there is nothing worse, in my opinion, than a disappointing meal because you didn't do your research.  
Another book that I consult, is "1000 Places to See Before You Die".  I just give it a quick glance while planning a vacation so that I don't miss something that is bucket list worthy.  I generally put a check mark and the date I visited beside the entires after I have seen them.  This is the original 2003 version, but I think they have a "1000 Places...U.S. and Canada" edition now too.  I probably need to get my hands on that!

There are countless sites to use when planning a vacation, and you can kind of drive yourself nuts sifting through them all.  These are my two favorites and I'll tell you how I utilize each of them...

Trip Advisor
I enjoy trip advisor for a variety of purposes.  They tell you about places to see at a given destination, places to eat, and places to stay...and they rank them in order based on reviews posted by travelers.  I have an account with them, and actually post reviews myself (mostly for hotels), so now when I pull up hotels, it will rank them based on one's it thinks I would like best.

If I had to pick one reason that Trip Advisor is great, it would be for hotel feedback.  Whether I've located a hotel from a book, or another website, I go to Trip Advisor to see reviews posted by other travelers, and even more importantly, travelers' photos of the property and rooms.  Often those real photos are very helpful so that you don't get fooled by polished professional photos that can trick you into staying somewhere you expect to be awesome, but in fact is quite dreadful.  Even if I have been somewhere before, I find this to be a valuable tool to use... maybe the hotel is run down now, maybe it's currently under construction, etc.

Pinterest has many purposes, but one of my favorite uses for Pinterest is for travel.  Whether it is my "Places I want to Go" board, where I post places I hope to visit one day, or a board geared toward a specific vacation, I don't think I could travel without Pinterest!  As you can see, most of my more recent travels, have a board on my Pinterest page...

I've found Pinterest to be useful for finding great places to eat, places I want to be sure to visit, and places to get a great photo-op.  A great example:  But for Pinterest, I wouldn't have thought of doing a moonlight tour of Washington, D.C.  

I also use pinterest as a visual source to supplement the travel books I consult.  Most travel books contain very few, if any, photos.  So I read about a place and then search it out on Pinterest.  You can usually find lots of pictures of that place.  If it looks like a place I want to visit, then I pin it to that travel board.  It's pretty easy to reference your Pinterest board while on vacation too (unless you are traveling internationally and not wanting to use expensive data).

Let Me Make My Case for Being a Type 3 Traveler...

I know some people make the argument that planning your travel to the degree that I do, means that you lose spontaneous experiences.  That you should just go with the flow.  Here's the deal:  

I have FOMO...Fear of Missing Out:  I don't want to get home and then realize I was right by some awesome place that I could have easily seen if only I had known about it.  While I do have a general plan when I travel, I don't have a minute by minute itinerary.  If I run across something that looks fun, I do it...Whether it was in the plan or not.  I usually prioritize pre-vacation:  I have a list of things I feel like I have to do, a list I would like to do, a list of things that only if I find spare time, I'll hit up, etc.  I then organize the destination.  I want to know what sites, restaurants, etc. are located near others that I plan to see.  This enables you to be able to accomplish more on vacation, and prevents you from running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

Don't ignore Food... It is part of the experience:  The food that different places have to offer, is part of the experience in my opinion.  Some places are going to require that you have reservations for most every meal.  Not doing so, in my experience will most often lead to disappointment.  Plus, I want to experience the local "must eat food", and research will often lead you to that.  

So what is your travel and travel planning style?  What are your favorite resources for planning a great vacation?



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