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5 things to consider when planning a vacation

As we all know, the best-laid plans often go awry. But what if you went on vacation and things went according to plan? That sure would be nice. We’re here to help you make that happen. Here are five factors to consider when planning a vacation. 

1. When and where

Before you can plan, well, anything, you need to know when and where you're going. This first step might be the most important. At the very least, it will guide all the planning that follows.

Before considering specific locations, ask yourself a few questions: warm weather, cool weather, or both? An adventure-filled location or something more relaxing? Will the trip be a couple days (maybe tacked on to the beginning or end of a business trip), a week, or a month? Or perhaps there's one thing you want to do—a concert you want to attend, a sporting event you want to see, a historic site you need to visit—and you can build the rest of the trip based on that desire. The only limit is your imagination (and wallet—more on that shortly).

2. Get budgeting

Okay, you have a time and a place in mind. Now, how to pay for that adventure? Do you have a high-interest savings account that you can dip into for cash? That's a good option if your finances are in a solid place (think: you'll have a few months of emergency funds remaining after you pay for the trip).

If not, there's never been a better time to start saving and budgeting than right now. Putting away a little money each pay period can add up quickly. Set it and forget it—then book your trip when you reach the number you need. If you really want to supercharge your savings, cut back on expenditures such as eating out and new clothes. The sacrifice will be worth it when you finally get off that plane.

3. Where to stay

Are you a hotel person? If so, do you want an all-inclusive resort , a more spartan and simple setup, or a five-star hotel? Are you looking for something more in the center of all the action or off-the-beaten path? Each has its merits, but it’s up to you and your traveling companions to decide which vibe fits your trip.

If you’re looking for a more local experience, consider booking a room in someone's house. Or get an entire place to yourself, which can help cut costs since you can save money by preparing meals at home. Somehow grocery shopping is a lot more fun when you're on vacation.

4. Make a schedule

While it doesn't make sense to plan your vacation down to the minute, it is essential to build some structure into your trip. First step: Do your research and make a list of all the things you'd like to do. Note if two activities are close together geographically so you can pair them.

Next, begin picking and choosing, assigning one or two main experiences to each day. Leave room and time for serendipity and spontaneity, and don't worry if you don't get to everything you want to do. You can always return in the future. Finally, sitting on the beach for the day is a perfectly acceptable activity, and don't let anyone tell you it's not!

5. Pack, plan your arrival, and get your paperwork in order

Ah, yes: the boring logistics. If you're traveling abroad, make sure you know any and all entrance requirements. Do you need to get any vaccinations, either that are required or recommended? If so, you'll likely need to schedule these well in advance as it can take time for immunity to build. Likewise with any medicine you need to take to protect from disease. (And make sure to bring any medicine you take on a daily basis.)

Give a look through any other entrance and exit requirements so you're prepared, and brush up on duties you might have to pay and duty-free items you want to purchase. Pack smartly but effectively. Take some cash with you and stick to your budget. Most importantly: Enjoy the splendors of your savings.

Ultimately, map out a rough plan that work best for you with wiggle room for change.

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