Tips for planning a summer vacation

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Enjoy your vacation more fully with a carefully planned itinerary.
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Discover how to plan a fun-filled summer vacation and save money too.

Everyone needs a little rest and relaxation now and then. Summer is an ideal season for families to vacation since the kids are out of school. However, warm weather and blue skies are appealing to singles, seniors and couples as well. Summer is the most popular vacation season of all. Here are a few tips for planning a summer vacation.

Make Lists

If you're undecided where you'd like to go, sit down with the family and ask for everyone's ideas. As you go over this list together, eliminate the possibilities until you find one the whole family agrees upon. Once you have your destination selected, start planning an itinerary and looking for discounts. Many people create a "to do" list of items that need to be done prior to leaving, such as stopping newspaper delivery and notifying a family member or friend where you can be located in the event of an emergency. Make another checklist of items to take with you, such as:

  • Prescription medicines
  • Passports
  • Games for children
  • Reading glasses
  • Credit cards / extra cash
  • Books / guidebooks / magazines / language guides
  • Sunscreen / beach accessories
  • First-aid kit

More Tips for Planning a Summer Vacation

Here are some ways to find hotel, resort and airline discounts, along with cruise deals and travel specials:

  • Check the official websites of hotels, resorts and airlines. Check the websites of the major cruise lines, such as the Disney Line or the Carnival line, which offers the largest children's program at sea, Camp Carnival. Look on the web page that is titled "special offers" or "special deals."

  • Group discounts - Take advantage of these if you're traveling as a family or with friends.

  • Book early - The best deals are often early bird specials. Tickets to major attractions are almost always less expensive when purchased in advance, rather than at the gate. This is especially true for cruises. Whenever possible, book cruises as much as six months to a year in advance to secure your preferred cabins, activities and shore excursions.

  • Book at the last minute - Sometimes you can get a great deal because someone else canceled their vacation. Also, if a facility is not booked to capacity before a weekend or other special event, or during high season, it may offer short-notice specials. Similarly, if a cruise ship is not fully booked close to a departure date, specials may be posted. However, it's much harder to find a last-minute deal for five family members, rather than for two people.

  • Ask for an upgrade - You'll never know when you might be able to get an upgrade unless you ask. Isn't a room with a great view worth the trouble?

  • Check for deals at travel agencies - It's a travel agency's job to know about the best vacation deals. Take advantage of the research they've already done.

  • Purchase air travel and hotel stays at the same time - This may garner substantial savings, as well as free ground transportation and other perks.

  • Book suites with kitchenettes - Saving on restaurant fare leaves more cash for entertainment.

  • Clubs / Customer Rewards - Most hotels, airlines, cruise lines, etc. offer reward programs for loyal customers.

  • Co-op Discounts - Many luxury hotels and resorts have a web page on their official website that lists all the attractions and fun things to do near the hotel. It's usually under the "Activities" section. Sometimes hotels make special arrangements with nearby restaurants, attractions and spas for guest discounts. These cooperative offers can mean big savings.

Order City Guides

If your vacation includes tours of major cities, order travel guides early so they'll arrive before you depart. This is easily accomplished if you have a personal computer with Internet access. Most cities and states have an official website where you may order a free guide book. If not, you may find one at the local library or bookstore. A number of places online offer free city guides. Check into travel DVDs and travel videos as well.

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