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How to Plan the Best Relaxing Vacation

Posted by Paul Parr on March 14th, 2009

Your boss is driving you crazy. The weather has been awful. Your partner needs relief and a change of scenery. The stress level is going through the ceiling and you just need to get away from it all. You need a break, ideally a tropical island with warm off shore breezes, white powder sugar sand, sun tan lotion, a good book and NO stress. You might want to add a few no’s to the list. Perhaps no phones, no computers, no newspaper, no television, no kids or maybe not. The reality is you need to custom design the perfect vacation that will give you a holiday away from those daily pressures and stresses that have brought you to the mental condition you presently find yourself experiencing. You need an escape and some time to regenerate, veg out and heal your mind & body so they are back in your usual form to fight the battles and conquer the issues of the day. What you are going through is normal and the cure is really pretty easy. You just need to commit to do it.

Now that you have identified the problem and determined the cure all that is left is to finalize the plan. Like all things in life the plan needs to be well researched and developed to achieve a perfect 10 on the “I found the perfect get-away” scale. In order to achieve perfection in planning and execution we will start with the Dave Letterman style “Top Ten List” to have a perfect vacation. Unlike David’s typical list, we would like you to go to the bottom and read #1 before you work your way down the list from #10. You will find this peek ahead exercise useful as you plan your trip.

#10 When are we going to go? To insure success, perfect planning requires time to execute the plan, so you need to determine your departure and return dates. Choosing tonight or tomorrow as your departure date is not going to work! Remember, you want to get away and relax and this means not coming back to the same situation that you are leaving. So get with your significant other or whoever and determine the dates that will work best for all who will be going. If you’re going solo, then you at least need to put sanity into first things first when choosing your dates. Keep in mind that a well planned and executed vacation experience is truly cathartic and this is why you are planning your needed break. When choosing the time period that you will be gone, keep this in mind;

A weekend get-away is like a shower, pretty soon you need one again.
A one-week get-away is definitely a needed break, but on the fourth day you feel your departure day looking over your shoulder.
A two-week or fortnight holiday break is certainly restful and though you will regret that it is over on the night before you depart to return home you will be refreshed.
If you can do it, a three-week absence from regular routine will truly be restful and you will find yourself planning in the third week what you are going to do when you return home. You are actually looking forward to this and your time away has been very therapeutic. You have a new outlook on life.
#9 How am I going to get out of here? Now that you have chosen the dates you need to plan your exit. Look at all of your work chores and all of your home chores and obligations and put into place a plan on how you will have both of these covered in your absence. Now is not the time to take on more responsibility or assignments. Volunteer for nothing between now and departure and figure out how you can wrap up as much as possible before the great escape. You are in a furious complete, pend, assign, delegate or trash it mode.

Take care of clearing the time away with the powers that be at work.
Arranging for care and watching for the kids or planning their school work while they are with you if they need the break also.
Someone will need to water your plants, mow the lawn and other home chores.
You will need to stop the mail and newspapers, no sense in advertising to everyone that you are not at home.
In most cases if you have pets you will want to make arrangements for them in your absence. The last thing you need is a pet emergency in the middle of your vacation because you brought Fido along.
Keep in mind you are only planning a window of time that has an escape date and a return date. This is not a, “How are they going to get along without me forever?” assignment.

#8 Where are you going to go? This can be a tough one and you certainly want to make sure that your vacation destination does not add to your existing stress level and in fact the location, properly vetted, should do much to reduce and help eliminate your accumulated stress. Perhaps a retreat to a south sea island in a foreign land, or a remote mountain top where the nearest communication or phone signal is miles away. Maybe it is that cabin in the woods that your friend told you about or that piece of beach in Florida that is to die for. I know, at this point they are all sounding pretty good, but maybe you need to make your own list of places to go and think deeply on what the goal is. Ask yourself some pretty important questions. Is traveling to a foreign land going to be a hassle and give you any stress? If the answer is yes, scratch it. If the answer is no go to the next choice. If you get to that south sea island, remote mountain top or solitude in the deep woods and you are hit with torrential rains, unrelenting weather, or some other natural or unnatural condition will this give you stress. If the answer is yes, scratch it. Don’t despair! I am not recommending that you scratch everything, I am just making sure that events beyond your control do not ruin your plans for a peaceful and relaxing break in your busy life. You will notice that the #1 item on this list is a contingency plan ( you did do as instructed and read #1 first before starting down this list did you not?). Hopefully you will not need it, but if you do it is your safety net and you will be so happy that you planned accordingly. My sister traveled to Madagascar in 2008. Just imagine if she had planned this life long desire to make this trip in January of 2009 when the government was overthrown and rioting taking place in the streets. What would the contingency plan be on an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean? Don’t plan a trip that boxes you in with no alternative location when your major goal is to get away and relax. You wanted a relaxing south sea island and chose South Padres Island off of the coast of Texas. A few weeks before departure you realize that a brewing hurricane appears to have this area in its path and you don’t need the stress of having to evacuate. You have made your reservations with the recommended caveats listed below and you now exercise your ability to redirect your south sea vacation to Siesta Key off of the Gulf coast of Florida in that fabulous penthouse condo. You did good!

#7 How do you find the best place to stay? Finding your perfect vacation destination should actually be pretty easy. You have many sources to reference and people to ask who can give you guidance. Only you can decide the ultimate location after reviewing all of the options. Paramount on making your choice should be the vacation goals that you originally agreed upon. You have now picked your destination and your actual place to stay is patiently waiting for you, but you need to find it. Friends who have vacationed at your targeted destination will be helpful as will travel books that review this area. You have the option of a hotel, motel, rental home, condo, cottage, cabin or tent. Each of these have their own pro and cons. Hotels can get expensive and sometimes not real friendly with many people coming and going. Motels can be similar but usually on a smaller scale. Tents are for a certain person and if you are that kind of person and are going with your friend, PLEASE make sure they are that kind of person also! Don’t create your own brand of stress. Cottages and cabins can be just what the doctor ordered and vacation rental homes and condos are becoming extremely popular with travelers all over the world. They provide the convenience and privacy of home without the expense of ownership. In the case of all of the above please keep in mind the 3 following important rules, location, location, location. Don’t choose your favorite destination only to find you are off of the beaten track and every venture out is truly a venture. You are on vacation and convenience is so important. Use the Internet and find a vacation rental that fills your bill. If you want to be at the beach, don’t be lured by wording like “steps to the beach” or an absence of photos showing you what you will see when you look out of your window. Many have fallen for on the beach locations only to find that the building is on the beach, but their condo, room or whatever has a great view of a parking lot or major highway. Remember you want no stress, find out ahead of time everything you can about the place. Read reviews, talk to the owner or manager ask for access to testimonials. Google “vacation rentals in paradise or location of your choice“. Fully understand all of the amenities that come with your choice. If you are planning a beach location, you should not have to take your own chairs, umbrella or towels, just suntan lotion. If you have a day of rain will your view still be soothing and relaxing from inside your hotel, house or condo? Do your homework now and make sure that the location allows you to cancel your reservations because of unforeseen events like a hurricane, airline strike or other event that would prevent your arrival or hinder your enjoyment. Consider trip insurance to cover possible sickness.

#6 How are you going to get there? This should be the easiest of all your decisions. To take a line from the old John Candy movie, “Trains, Planes and Automobiles. That really is about it by doing your planning in advance airfare and train fares should be easy to obtain at good rates. If by automobile you will need to plot your course on map quest or Google and decide where to stay overnight when required. Again I will mention the importance of trip insurance and understanding what is covered if your travel destination and transportation are significant in cost. By making travel arrangements early you will not only save money, but you will also have received the best seats available and the best location to stay as most people plan close to their departure and sacrifice the ability of getting first choices. Don’t think you are the only people going to your destination or flying on your flight. Book Early!

#5 What do we take with us? As little as possible! Remember you are going to relax so don’t plan on being on a travelogue. Hopefully your destination accommodations have come with a washer and dryer inside or at least in your building. Paying for cleaning and trekking off to the laundromat is not why you are on this trip. Taking many changes of clothes is a pain and now you will pay extra on the plane or cram the car full of things you could have left behind if you had made sure there was an easy way to wash and dry your cloths. Remember again the reason you are making this trip. Stress free and this also means wearing your most comfortable clothes everyday and not needing a camel to carry your luggage. A properly located vacation home or condo with a washer and dryer is oh so convenient. You may want to bring a camera, ipod and perhaps your cell phone. If you don’t wish to let people know you have your cell phone, don’t answer it and don’t call them on it while on vacation. A cell phone can be a convenient item in many vacation areas. You need to take your pills, medical devices and vitamins and if you want a laptop to use if your accommodations has broadband, but remember that you did pre-plan this trip and the laptop brings email and do you really want to go there? Oh yes, bring all of your printed paper research and reservation information and itinerary. Bring some money and credit cards. Golf bag and tennis racquet’s if appropriate and comfortable shoes.

#4 How much money am I going to need? Hopefully not a lot, but again your pre-planning would have dictated the answer to this question along with your budget. Understanding that credit cards and cash are both money a simple list of what you have obligated yourself to pay for transportation and accommodations that is not prepaid are obviously part of what you will need on your trip. Any special plans or side trip that you plan on doing on this trip will need to be covered along with any local transportation that you have arranged to have while at your destination if necessary. Again you need to keep in mind that the more you travel and roam once you have arrived at your destination the more potential for stress and loss of R & R. If you feel you must shop and purchase clothes and gifts on this trip then you will be spending more money, on the other hand if you can cross this off of your list only the local merchants will complain and you don’t even know them. No stress. You are going to want to eat while away and again some preplanning and finding an accommodation with full cooking facilities can be a great way to keep your meal cost at a minimum and your stress level low. Just think of not waiting for a reservation, waitperson or standing in line to eat. On the other hand if cooking is stressful than perhaps all of the above are not a problem, but an enjoyment. Ideally a mix of both self catering, home delivery and going out to eat can take care of your nourishment needs and help your pocketbook and again your stress level.

#3 Who do we tell where we are? NOBODY OR VERY FEW!

#2 What do we plan to do when we get there? As little as possible! I am not being facetious just trying to help. If you make this a busy time while you are on vacation you are probably not going to become unstressed. If you can try to unwind and relax you will be so much better off. If you planned a relaxing vacation in a cabin near a mountain stream to fish and read, I guess that says it all. If you planned that south sea island to bathe in the sun on sand, easy does it, but stick as close to this plan as reasonably makes sense. If in either of the above their is an intriguing town or tropical village where you can casually mingle with the locals and enjoy life in a very slowed down atmosphere than by all means have at it. Now if you planned your getaway on Manhattan in New York and don’t want to miss all of the goings on of this busy metropolis I think you need to go back up to #10 and re-read the important items in deciding where to go to getaway from it all and take as much of the stress out of your life as possible.

#1 What is the contingency plan? This is the most important item that you can do in planning your trip. We started by finding a getaway that would allow you to relax and get back your sanity, remove stress and repair your attitude. The worst thing we could do is to let you turn this well deserved trip that you so diligently planned to go down in flames for unforeseen events that you would have no way of knowing were going to occur. Sure a trip can always be canceled because of an illness or personal event that just did not allow you to leave as plan or scheduled, but even that is part of your contingency plan. If you do have to cancel the trip and have obligated yourself to airline tickets and accommodations reservations a low cost trip insurance policy could make this nothing more than a disappointment instead of another financial burden with no reward. If you and your partner or family are already to depart and unforeseen weather, local conditions at your destination or natural disaster have made this destination impossible or undesirable your contingency plans can now be brought into action. Hopefully all of your items that you planned on taking and the R & R you planned on getting will occur at your second choice. Because you planned this shadow trip in place of the trip you planned on making you have little to arrange to make it a reality. You already had some accommodations sites and possibilities and the same is true for your transportation. Now just take a big gulp, smile and let everyone know you planned for this in advance and hand them the proposed itinerary you have already scoped out. They will look at your brilliance as truly amazing and you just got rid of one hell of a lot of stress on everyone including yourself. At the completion of this trip you will here from everyone forever on how you saved the day and planned the second or maybe even the best vacation ever taken. You’re a hero. How do you feel? Now go forth and enjoy.