I’m not the most proactive person when it comes to planning a trip because I believe that to do it right, you have to do a little bit of research ahead of hitting the “book it” button on your flights. I could say that I don’t have enough time to do the research, but that would be a lie. The truth is, planning a trip takes effort, and sometimes I’m a little lazy about it.

Must Do’s When Planning a Trip

Even on my laziest planning days there are a couple of must do’s that I go through before booking a vacation.

Pick your dates

To start you have to pick your dates, but I recommend looking at least 3 months in advance, keep in mind that those exact dates may shift by a day or so based on flight availability, price, and hotel availability.

Research the area

Simply saying you want to go to Quintana Roo, Jamaica, or even a small island like Antigua, is not going to be enough information to know where to book your vacation. A simple search of, “Things to do in” on trip advisor will give you a good idea of what there is to do in your target area. This information will help you determine vicinity of your location.

Hotel bargain hunting

Now that you know the approximate location of your excursions you have a good idea of where to search for hotels. I don’t like to travel when I’m on vacation because I hate having to spend time on buses rather than enjoying the sites I’ve come to see, so I prefer to stay in hotels that are about 30 miles or less from my excursions. I usually start my hotel search on CostcoTravel. I have found that they have really good travel deals, and their hotel bookings include to and from hotel transportation, which is one less thing for me to plan. Costco Travel also has the best “resort credits”. On my very first trip to Mexico, we paid all of our excursions with resort credits given to us for booking with Costco Travel. This included: Swimming with dolphins, a trip to the ruins, and a 1hr couples massage. A few other good sites to visit include: Orbitz and Booking.com.

Weed Them Out

If you’re like me, you will have three or four hotels that look fabulous, and you’re not sure which one to chose. Enter, TripAdvisor, I don’t think I’ve ever traveled anywhere without consulting this site, and for better or for worse, I’ve always known exactly what I’m getting myself into. Of course, the information here can be taken with a grain of salt. If I see that someone complains that the Mariachi at dinner was obnoxious, I’m going to brush off this review. However, if I see three or four reviews that say the hotel is outdated, and not very clean…. well, I trust that its likely outdated and not very clean. Reading these reviews will help you narrow it down to your final hotel choice.

Time to book!

It’s time to look for flights. Most of the travel sites I mentioned previously like CostcoTravel, Orbitz and Booking.com offer flights with their hotel options, but I like to double check to make sure I’m getting the best deal, and I have often found that the same site doesn’t have the best deal for both hotel and flights. I suggest checking all of them to get an idea of the airline and flights you’re looking to book, and then compare these rates with the flights and rates available through the airline.

Dream

If you followed my advice, the hard work is over, but your trip is 3-6months out. For the next couple of months practice dreaming. Google search your hotel, the beach, the sites you want to visit, and click the images tab.Below are some if the images I’m using to dream of my upcoming trip.
Royal Hideaway Playacar
XPlor Adventure Eco-Park

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