Story by Danielle Tobar | Feb 28, 2017

Classic Travel shares the checklist for a perfectly prepared vacation. 

Spring break and summer holidays are on their way to break up the monotony of winter weather, but before either actually gets here, why not lift your spirits by dreaming up your vacation now? It’s the ideal time of year to start planning those school-break getaways with the kids — or, if you prefer, a getaway from the kids.

So what makes a perfect vacation? We asked Jeanne Berard and Tamara Hellmann, agents at Classic Travel and Tours, to share what they’ve learned from years of experience planning all kinds of excursions— from quintessential family vacations in Disney World to destination weddings in paradise.

PLAN AHEAD

This is the most important factor in planning a great vacation. Planning ahead of time is essential to acquire all the proper travel documents and get good deals on flights and accommodations. It also allows time to plan those things that might be otherwise forgotten. Hellmann says, “I’ve planned a family holiday in Europe where I had to coordinate their rental car (maps and car seats included), lodging, and activities for a family of four.” For complicated trips like this, or for group travel, allowing extra time to plan is essential. Hellmann once planned a group trip with four couples and five countries in seven days. You can imagine the planning that went into such a jam-packed trip — between train schedules and sightseeing tours, it was hard to coordinate. Hellmann says: “The success was in managing the details so they could see everything they wanted. It was a quick trip, but they loved the pace and how smoothly it went off.”

INCLUDE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE 

Whether it’s scuba diving or a character dinner at Disney World or even a historic tour, make sure to include unique activities in your itinerary. Popular activities fill up quickly, so booking in advance is necessary if you really want to build those lasting memories.

That brings up yet another reason to plan ahead: hidden fees. Two detestable words to any budget-conscious traveler. Berard says the best way to avoid extra fees tacked onto your bill is to include as many meals and activities as possible in advance. This is exactly the reason that all-inclusive resorts are in such high demand—at first glance, it might look a bit more expensive, but in reality, you’re paying for the activities you’d go for anyway. You’re just paying up front and all at once.

PACK SMART

Don’t forget the necessities, of course, like comfortable shoes and sunscreen. If you’re headed abroad, don’t forget to pack a water bottle; in countries around the world, water isn’t free at restaurants, and buying bottled water can get expensive while sightseeing on those hot summer days. (If you want a little more bang for your buck, beer is actually cheaper than water in a few European countries.) Try getting a collapsible water bottle to save that ever-so-important space and weight in your baggage. And speaking of baggage, air travel has changed dramatically in the last few years. Airlines are cutting down on amenities for economy class travelers and, unfortunately, that includes carry-on baggage size, in-flight entertainment, and food. It’s always a smart idea to pack snacks and drinks, as well as entertainment, for any flights.

 

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a novice just diving into the world of airfares and all-inclusives, planning a trip can be overwhelming. As technology advances and competition increases, so do options for travelers, and with that comes stress and anxiety. You have countless choices in transportation, accommodation, and excursions. And even if you’ve sifted through all the options and found something worthwhile, who’s to say it’s legitimate or worth the money?

Here’s where the travel agent comes in. Travel agents take the skeleton of your dream trip — dates, location, and interests — and screen all the information out there to find the proper fit for you. Most travel agents don’t charge a fee for services other than booking round-trip airfare. Even for the “do-it-yourself” traveler, there’s no reason to be bogged down by details when time could be better spent relaxing.

There’s only one question left: Where to? Berard says: “One of the most popular destinations now is Alaska. River cruises in Europe are also popular, and we’re even starting to see river cruises in the United States.” So go ahead. Start planning that vacation you’ve been dreaming about.