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How to plan and prepare for your next big vacation!

Often times when it comes to traveling (or doing anything else in life) it's always best to have a plan. Planning helps you to prepare for what's to come. Plans keep things in motion while ensuring you stick to what it is you're trying to accomplish. But, how do you even begin to plan something like a big (or small) vacation? Try these tips that have helped me plan for some of my most memorable vacations!

1) Figuring out exactly where you want to go, what you want to do, and how much you realistically want to spend for it all. This is vitally important because it helps you to stay within a budget. It gives you an idea of how much things cost and helps you plan your trip accordingly. There's nothing worse than planning a vacation and suddenly finding out that you can't afford that particular destination, or the amenities that come along with it. Things like hotels, food, tours and souvenirs are important factors for planning trips. Always find out what things costs before you plan to actually visit a place. It'll help you determine and weed out what you can and can't afford before you start to invest in it.

2) Make sure you do your research before you go! There's nothing more frustrating than not knowing you needed a Visa, or certain medical exams before visiting a different country. This could be the difference between enjoying your trip and completely wasting your time, energy and money going to some place where you can't even leave the airport. Don't make this mistake. Know before you go and have things in order long before hand. It'll save you time and headaches handling this part ahead of time.

3) Check the weather for the time of year you plan to go! Another highly important factor when traveling is knowing what the weather is like. It sucks going someplace and getting there only to be stuck in your hotel room because of bad weather. Find out that countries dry season, wet season and whether or not they have weather advisories during the time you plan to travel there. This could make or break your entire vacation!

4) It's always best to plan your trips and tours ahead of time rather than wait until you're there to do so. It's important for a couple of reasons... 1- tours often times sell out and are overbooked. You would hate to have something planned and not be able to do it. 2- booking ahead of time secures your spot and provides peace of mind knowing that you're not doing anything last minute and hoping for a miracle. Always plan your tours or excursions before you travel.

5) Opt in for the travel insurance! Travel insurance is not often needed when you travel, however it's one of things that you'll wish you had just in case things go awry when it comes to traveling. The insurance secures your vacation should you need to cancel, reschedule or change your travel dates for whatever reasons. Life changes fast and anything can happen from the time you plan a trip to the time you actually take the trip. Death, new life, work, home, etc-- things change and the last thing you want to experience during a life changing event is finding out that the money you spent is non-refundable AND your trip is forfeited. Always opt in for the insurance. It typically ranges from a few hundred extra dollars to secure your trip, and it's much better than losing everything you invested.

6) Be sure to know the laws, social etiquette and correct mannerisms before going somewhere. Don't embarrass yourself by doing something that is improper in the country you're visiting. Some things are highly offensive and may cause you great distress among the locals. Simple things such as wardrobe, which side of the street to walk on, whether or not you bow your head or shake hands and even restaurant etiquette. Learning these things before you go will make a huge impact on your social skills when traveling.

7) Dress accordingly! Sure, we like to wear what we want and fashion is a statement that knows no bounds.... but you never want to show up in a country where you stand out like a sore thumb. You're already a "tourist" so the locals are already keeping their eye on you, you don't want anything else to attract more attention to yourself. Besides, showing up in your everyday street wear is not always appropriate wherever you go. In some countries, jeans and leggings are not the everyday wear, and you'd look pretty ridiculous going into a formal restaurant in a halter top and stretch pants. Be mindful of what you pack and what country you're visiting.

8) Keep a list of emergency contacts in your wallet or on your person at all times. Things happen, phones die, get lost or are stolen and most people now-a-days don't have any numbers memorized by heart. Don't get caught in a situation where you don't know who to call if you are separated from your phone. Always keep a contact list of at least 3 people that you know you can count on in a jam. Include in that list your doctors number as well, just in case someone may need to reach out to them for medical reasons.

9) Airport duties.... be absolutely sure that you have only what you need when traveling to any airport. Being delayed for any reason can cause a significant upset to your vacation. Make sure that you only have the required 3 oz. containers for your liquid items. No big bottles of water or other beverages. None of the things that TSA will see as a threat and choose to confiscate or force you to throw away. Make sure souvenirs are carefully wrapped where they can't be damaged and precious items are securely stored away for risk of being stolen. Keep your chargers, extra phone batteries, ID's, passports and other travel accessories that you're more likely to need during a flight on you at all times. This helps you to avoid having to go into your packed luggage for anything during your flight. No one likes being inconvenienced while at the airport.

10) Do your homework on where you plan to go. Check out the reviews on the hotel you plan to stay in, visit Yelp pages about the restaurants, and even check the comments on your tour guides websites. Things like this can help you determine whether or not you're in the know before it's too late. Review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and even the BBB are there for a reason. Get other peoples perspective about the location and make your own informed judgement. It's always a good thing to know what to expect from wherever you're going. Be smart about it. It takes but a few minutes and will save you lots of frustration.

As always, thanks for reading and if you enjoyed this blog or found it informative, please share it as there is always someone out there who may need it in order to plan for their next trip! If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to my blog to stay updated on everything travel related. Thanks again and safe travels!


Ashawna Lane

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