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Five-step plan to a perfect summer vacation.

Vacations shouldn’t be stressful, and the trick to making them hassle-free is to start now. The best vacations take some pre-planning to make sure everything is in place and anything that needs to be booked is done before prices go up.

Make the most of your days off this summer, figure out what you can spend without breaking the budget and discover what will make each member of your family happy.

These five steps will help you plan the vacation that considers all participants’ interests and keeps the cost as low as possible, which allows for new opportunities and reduces your stress. The trick: one of the most predictable cost saving measures is the final step in the planning process. So, getting through all of the steps promptly will make a considerable difference.

Step one: Setting a budget

It is safe to say that almost everyone who goes on vacations has come back at least once with the realization that they spent WAY more than they should have. When you are planning your vacation, it is important to take into account the unexpected opportunities will arise and to the additional purchases that weren’t in the plan. To avoid these surprise expenses, set aside a certain amount of your budget as a “sunny day” fund.

From there, you will be able to plan a vacation with a lot more accuracy and will not return feeling stressed about the cost of your relaxation. After all, your vacation is supposed to be a break from a stressful lifestyle, not a contributor to it.

Step two: A family conversation

Your family is unlikely to agree on what they want to do during their vacation, but with a little brainstorming and some discussion, you can almost always find ideas that will provide fun for everyone. The trick is how you start the conversation.

Take a step back from the typical discussion about what you want to do or where you want to go, and start with what you want out of it. Simply, you want to uncover the reasons that someone wants to do something. Perhaps they want to find adventure, see something new, or be active and inspired. Or, perhaps they are worried about being bored and are on the defensive.

If you look at the core elements of what you and your family members want from a vacation, you will likely find quite a few similarities and can come up with ideas that meet everyone’s needs. There is very likely quite a few ideas that many of the people in your party will enjoy.

Step three: Confirming the dates

This one is key. Before booking anything you need to look at the dates when everyone is available, as this will not only change the cost of the vacation but may impact the opportunities as well. For example, if you are an adventure-seeking family and want to go whitewater rafting, water levels may not line up with your availability. Alternately, if you are looking to escape the city, you should check the summer events scheduled in your potential destinations.

Make sure you confirm the potential dates for your vacation before finalizing “the plan.” The last thing you want to do is have to cancel or change a vacation that your whole family is looking forward to because you weren’t sure the dates would work.

Step four: Brainstorming and researching the options

One of the best strategies to planning an excellent family vacation involves homework. If you are planning with your family, make sure that as part of the conversation mentioned in step two, you also set the parameters and get everyone to come up with two or three ideas that meet the criteria. Each family member must present one idea that is exactly what they want to do and satisfies others’ desires. Everyone should also make another suggestion that is what they think the rest of the family wants.

From there, you will have quite a few options that will meet your family’s or vacation party’s wants and needs. A short conversation will whittle the options down to one or two good ideas. You may also end up planning next year’s vacation too (which is a great way to work through some touchy family negotiations).

The last tip for completing step four is to include early booking discounts into the research equations, as they may open up opportunities that you thought you couldn’t afford.

Step five: Booking as early as possible.

It’s no secret that one of the most predictable ways to get a better rate is to book further in advance. Businesses like to be able to fill up with reservations as soon as possible and are willing to offer better prices in order to do so. From a fiscal standpoint, it gives them the opportunity to plan and allocate resources appropriately. Airlines are a perfect example, but most vacation destinations will do this too.

Book sooner and you will likely receive better pricing. With that said, all early bookings run the risk of something changing that will impede your plans, so looking into travel or vacation insurance is never a bad idea.

If you have any really great tips for planning a vacation or experiences, please comment and share with the rest of the Better Home community.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Wiktor May 6, 2012, 10:50 pm

    I am looking for some radnmmencetioos on places to vacation in the Caribbean. I know there are a ton of islands to choose from but I would like some radnmmencetioos from people that have been there. I am looking for the following:1. Nice beaches that aren’t too crowded (will be going in June of this year)2. A place that offers other activities besides hanging out at the beach. (i.e. hiking, biking, cultural activities)3. Something that is geared more towards couples.I have looked at Aruba, St. Lucia and Barbados. Aruba seems a little too resort’ oriented but the beaches look really nice along with the turquoise water. I am also pondering Belize and wonder if anyone has been there. If you have any hotel radnmmencetioos that would be appreciated too. I am thinking about All-Inclusive but have heard some bad things about that. I like the fact that the drinks are included but I don’t like the fact that we would be limited to eating at specific places.Thanks!

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