This week, the  New York Times offers some great tips for vacation planning.  Each of these helpful tips has hidden costs associated with them.  Here are my tips to combat these hidden costs.

1. Relish the anticipation.  In other words, plan early.  Think about the vacation often.  Because apparently, thinking about your vacation is almost as good as being on it.  It will also lead you to buy more things in anticipation for your trip.  You may add an excursion; or you may just buy new clothes.   You will almost certainly buy a guidebook or two.   Consider reading about your destination on the web and challenging yourself to make do with your current wardrobe.

2. Plan shorter vacations.  If you can’t get away for 14 days, go for 5 days.   This is good advice for us time-starved worker-bees.  However, it also means more money in the pockets of airlines, and less opportunities for you to save with longer stays.   It is entirely possible to see Disney World in five days, but is it possible to to see Paris or New York in five days?

3.  Remember to build in relaxation.  I used to build itineraries that ensured that I saw everything, and wasted no time in a hotel.  These vacations were fun, they were educational, and they hurt my feet!   These days, half the reason I go on vacation is to relax.  I’m probably going to pay for a balcony on a cruise ship or consider upgrading to an ocean view room.  I may well consider the hotel’s bedding in my decision.  I’m more likely to schedule an extra day of vacation from work to unpack and unwind, even though it means another day without income.  I have a friend who will upgrade to first class where possible to ensure that she doesn’t arrive at her destination cranky.  The best way to combat these costs is to realize they exist.  Make conscious decisions that reflect your travel style.   With a little research, you may be able to find a cheaper alternative to your relaxation problem.  For example, I’ve heard good reviews of the french door  interior staterooms on Carnival‘s Conquest-class ships.  They offer a french door onto a promenade type deck that is not quite private, but is also not used that often.   During a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, my husband and I stayed at the Hampton Inn near Colonial Williamsburg.  Although the hotel was driving distance from Colonial Williamsburg, we snagged a suite for under $70 a night.  It was an extremely comfortable stay.

4.  Limit technology.   Technology and travel always carry hidden costs.   Your cell phone may not have international coverage.  You may need to pay extra for internet access.  However, you may also not be able to afford to stay away from your voicemail and email.  I recommend planning your contact with the real world in.  Because I run my own business, when I go on vacation, there is no one to handle emergencies.  And emergencies always happen.  My solution is to ask callers to call  a google voice number if they have an issue that cannot wait for me to get home,  leave an out of office message on my email, and under promise connectivity.  I also do my best to tell my clients about my upcoming absence.    Finally, I plan time into my vacation to ensure that I can access my messages–usually sometime on the afternoon of the first workday I’m gone, and every other day after that.

5.  Lose yourself in an activity.   Seemingly contradicting item number 3 on the list, the New York Times suggests that you use  your vacation productively.  In other words, buy an excursion.  Enroll in a class.  Great advice, as long as you have the cash to add that gourmet cooking class onto your trip.  To save cash, you might want to challenge yourself to find free or cheap things to do.  For example, I go on photography walks.  Tom and I go to national parks (which are nearly free, because Tom is a senior).

6.  End on a high note.  In other words, do something big on your trip.  But consider how pressured you might be to do everything big.  And what is big for you?   Tom and I had a trip out east that was highlighted by visits to family.   On our recent trip to Grand Marais, Minnesota, we went out to dinner at a nice restaurant once and hit the Fourth of July fireworks on our last night.  The fireworks were fare more memorable than the meal.  And when we visited my brother in Pasadena, there were far too many big items, but the one I recall the best was getting my big brother’s help in framing the perfect picture of the Rose Bowl.  

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