Thursday, January 21, 2016

Vacation Planning

To start, I apologize for the lengthy post, if you want to get straight to the point my quick tips are at the bottom :)

The New Year means a new set of vacation days to daydream and plan with. I actually start planning my vacation time a year or two out - I'm crazy I know! But I take my vacation days seriously and want to use each one to its fullest potential. My company also doesn't let us roll any over from year to year, so if you don't use them you lose them! (I should also mention I work in the travel industry, so I basically daydream about travel all day, every day).

The St Regis Princeville Resort, Kauai, Hawaii :: September 2013

First off, I have a travel wish list - places I want to go before we start a family, places to go with a family and places I just want to go in my lifetime. I also have an excel doc with the next 2-3 years and it's where I keep track of how many days off I have, what I may want to do in each year, and how many days off from work I may take for each of my plans. Some might find this overkill, but I find it a great way to not only start planning, but to also start budgeting :) It helps me space out the more expensive trips, and devise a long-term savings plan. Here's my current plan to give you an idea!

April: Florida (9-day trip; 5 days off work)
September: Anniversary Trip (4-day trip; 2 days off)
October: Thailand (16-day trip; 10 days off)
Total Vacation Days Used: 17 / 20 

February: Florida (9-day trip; 5 days off)
May or June: France (5-day trip; 3 days off)
September: Anniversary Trip - All Inclusive? (7-day trip; 5 days off)
Total Vacation Days Used: 15 / 20 

February: Florida (9-day trip; 5 days off)
September: Anniversary Trip - Bora Bora? (9-day trip; 5 days off)
Total Vacation Days Used: 10 / 25

I usually create this in excel with a nicer format, but at least it gives you a basic idea. It helps give me a visual of what I need to plan for and how many days I have left to work with. We're headed to Thailand this year, will have a more low-key vacation plan for next year, and then hope to do something big in 2018 :: my dream is Bora Bora, which is $$$! But if we start saving now, anything is possible :)

We are very fortunate to be able to travel as much as we do, and I try to take advantage of all the travel opportunities I can. Some great ways to add inexpensive trips to your plan:
- Visit out-of-town family: a free place to stay is always ideal! I usually try to bring a nice 'thank you' gift in exchange for free lodging. My parents live in Florida in the winter, so we take full advantage of that getaway opportunity!
- Only a drive away: living in New England there are so many great places that are only a few hours away. Plus you can plan a bunch of fun stops along the way!
- Last minute adventures: if you keep an eye out, sometimes you can snag a last-minute getaway for cheap! A lot of Caribbean destinations offer last minute deals in the winter, especially after school vacation season is over.
- Traveling for work: if you can, extending work trips for a few days of pleasure is a great way to add in a few low-cost vacation days. I always try to stay a few extra days in the places I get to visit for work, otherwise you are probably so busy working you don't get to enjoy the area!

Of course the worst part of all travel planning is expenses. I'll write a more extensive post on my budgeting tips, but the top things I do are set a monthly savings plan and use a credit card(s) that accrues points that can be used for travel. I find this combo works well because I plan in advance for the full expenses of the trip and will usually have leftover spending money because I'll use credit card points to help pay for certain items (I never count on credit card points from the start since I never know what I will have accrued by the time I book the trip). For example, we went to Europe in 2015 and saved for flights, hotels, transportation, tours, and daily allowances; when it came time to book credit card points covered almost all of our flights - which left us with quite a bit extra to have some fun with!

Paris, France :: September 2015

Vacation Planning Quick Tips:
- Plan way ahead!
- Create a travel budget
- Have a weekly/monthly savings goal
- Use a credit card that gets you points you can redeem for travel
- Take advantage of unexpected travel opportunities
- Spread out expensive trips
- Dream Big :) where there is a will there is a way!

Do you use all your vacation days every year? Do you save them? Or do you cash them out?

Xo C

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