30 Things You're Doing Wrong When Planning A Vacation


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Aerial view of woman planning vacation with a map and tablet
Photo credit: seb_ra/istockphoto

So, you've landed at a Jersey Shore town during its annual motorcycle convention? Don't even think of getting any sleep. Or maybe you were looking for some dazzling nightlife but end up at a resort where the weekly bingo game is as exciting as it gets. A bit of smart planning will make all the difference in creating a vacation that's memorable – for all the right reasons.

Hurricane season at the beach
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Make sure you find out if the dates you'll be visiting would place you at a destination during its rainy season or worse. There's nothing like expecting to frolic your time away jumping in the waves – but finding the ocean's off-limits day after day due to riptides or impending storms.

Spring break party on the beach
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If you're headed to a destination to participate in a special event, then you're right on track. But imagine a senior couple's surprise if they arrive at a long-awaited escape to be smack in the middle of raucous spring-break activities. Know the calendar; know what you want.
Resort towels on a bed with purple orchid
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Be meticulous when making reservations to find out what's included and what isn't. Are there additional charges for drinks, towels, shuttle services, etc.? You may not like what you hear, but at least you'll be prepared.
Smiling hotel receptionist on the phone
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If you're shy or worried about sounding cheap, then you'll pay the price. Ask about deals. Do you get a discount if you come mid-week? What about early-bird booking rates? Do you offer discounts in your restaurants? Ask and you may get some answers that make your trip a bit more economical.
Searching for cheap flights online
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These days, most every destination, mode of transportation or deal can be investigated online. So you have no excuse to not seek out the best available. A few hours of research on a quiet spring morning can lead to some great savings on the height-of-summer stay at a popular destination.
Couple looking at travel reviews online
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You spend time on TripAdvisor deciding where to stay, what to do, and where to eat. Of course, everyone's had a bad meal here or there, but if things you are looking up have a wealth of questionable or negative reviews, pay attention. There is strength in numbers.
Small dog sitting in a suitcase with clothes
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A friend traveled to a tony resort, assuming her little dog would be welcomed with open arms. He goes everywhere with her, and the chic resort was known for its catering to an equally chic clientele. Unfortunately, it was assumed that the rich clientele would be boarding their beloved pets in town, not on site … a little investigating would have yielded a lot less drama.
Loud kids at the pool
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This one goes two ways. You are on the hunt for a family-friendly resort where kids and their antics are understood and accepted – or you're all about "do not disturb" and lounging on the deck under the stars. Be precise when asking a hotel about its clientele ­– and match your pick with the vacation you want. And consider these tips for traveling with kids, too.
View of front porch of  a secluded cabin on the beach
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You might find the most charming bed-and-breakfast, with quiet meadows, inviting benches and garden hideaways. Once there, you realize the nearest town is a full 10 miles away and you don't have a car. Again, ask the questions you need to tailor the trip to your wants.
Woman signing contract to rent a car
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Surcharges, late-return fees … nothing ends an otherwise fun vacation on a sour note than returning the rental car and finding you did so much "wrong." Fees add on. Your only choice is to fork over the credit card, as your flight is leaving soon. Not the way to go. There are a lot of things to know before renting a car.
Cruise ship docking
Photo credit: Joel Carillet/istockphoto

First-time cruise patrons will no doubt delight in all that a cruise includes. But they will likely also be shocked to find out what isn't. Though amenities vary widely from one line to another, it pays to ask if you have specific interests, tastes and/or need to stay on a tight budget.
Costco travel logo
Photo credit: Courtesy of costcotravel.com

Have a Costco card? Then you may – or may not – know that your membership entitles you to use the Costco Travel services, which include deals on hotels, vacation packages, rental cars, and destination activities and attractions.
Happy senior couple
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Alumni renewals often come with a host of benefits. Take a look and you might be surprised to find out you get discounts on rental cars, hotel chains or more. Same goes for corporate discounts, AARP specials, and more. Ask – all they can do is say no.
Exhausted couple arriving at hotel and lying on the bed
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You like nothing more than a quiet weekend at home. So why have you booked yourself on a trip that resembles that classic movie "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium"? Sure, we like to take a break from the everyday on vacation, but don't expect to fundamentally change who you are.
Couple getting drenched in rain in the city
Photo credit: davidf/istockphoto

You leave home without an umbrella, scarf or anything else that will "jinx" having a vacation filled with ideal weather. Know that a little rain must fall on even the best of trips, so be prepared with equipment and plans for "rainy-day" activities.
Line of people waiting at the airport with their luggage
Photo credit: izusek/istockphoto

Fuel surcharges, baggage fees, peak-hour train tickets … again, it's best to be prepared and know what you'll be facing. You may not like what you hear but sometimes you can take, for example, a commuter train an hour after peak travel times and save a few bucks. It will add up.
Restaurant check
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You are heading to a big city for a trip. You don't expect to live the high life – but you also don't expect that the cost of living to be so much higher than what you're used to. Things like a regular cup of coffee can be two or three times what you're expecting to pay.
Woman trying to ask for directions in a foreign country
Photo credit: martin-dm/istockphoto

You don't have to become fluent in the language of the country you are visiting, but don't assume "everyone speaks English" everywhere. Study a bit. Buy a translation dictionary or app – and the effort will pay off with better service and lots less stress.
Guidebook to Morocco
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You don't have to create a library devoted to your chosen destination, but a well-selected guidebook and a handy map can pay off immensely. Find a book with a sensibility (cheeky or academic) that mirrors your approach – and you'll surely get more out of your trip.
Man in a coffee shop on his laptop looking frustrated
Photo credit: mihailomilovanovic/istockphoto

Ask, oh, ask. These days when we're all so tied to our electronics, it's quite a shock to arrive to find a hotel's Wi-Fi is either wildly expensive or horribly spotty. If you have to check in for work (grrrr), it's even more important to follow this step.
Couple checking into a hotel
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So, you'll be staying in a town where you have relatives. And maybe a few of them decide to bunk in with you one night after a little too much celebrating. Don't be shocked if the hotel charges you for additional guests. Find out the policy – and be ready.
Pregnant woman in an airport looking sick
Photo credit: Manuel-F-O/istockphoto

If you have a medical condition – or are accident-prone ­– find out what medical services are available, if they are on-site, and if they operate all hours. Vacation towns often have "walk-in" centers, but they aren't usually open 24 hours.
Man packing his bag for the gym
Photo credit: DragonImages/istockphoto

If you can't start your day without your hour in the gym, you may be quite upset to find out that the in-house gym has two treadmills – for 100 guests. If you need top-notch equipment, ask specific questions – or find out about day passes to the nearest "real" gym.
Pile of dirty laundry
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On-site laundry, especially in beachside motels, can be a necessity. Who wants to spend their vacation in a steamy, grimy laundromat? If it's a short stay, then you can bring it all home – but for longer stays – or those with large families and so many wet towels – laundry's part of the deal.
Upset man at the airport with his head down
Photo credit: fizkes/istockphoto

You have to cancel or shorten a trip at the last minute. You can go at a later date, but it's usually not that easy. There are re-booking fees and more that you find were detailed in that fine print you glossed over. Be smart, read it all.
Long walk to beach
Photo credit: mije_shots/istockphoto

During a first stay at a motel "one block from the beach," we realized they weren't lying. But let me tell you, that's the longest block you'll ever walk, especially in summer heat and lugging beach gear. Again, ask questions, look at maps and be ready for some glitches. (In this case, the phrase "one block from the beach" has become a running family joke.)
Pay-to-Park station
Photo credit: franz12/istockphoto

Again, you are staying at a place with a plain-old parking lot in the back. Well, they know they can charge "outsiders" to park there as well as guests – so everyone must fork over a few bucks for the privilege. Ouch.
Man holding open his empty wallet
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A long time ago in a remote British village, I ran out of pounds. So, I headed to the bank to find it was only open from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays – and this was a Friday morning. Well, those days are long gone – but be sure you have an ATM card you can use where you're going and some kind of emergency plan in place.
Dark and dirty hotel room
Photo credit: sequential5/istockphoto

We can still see the bathroom at a motel we never revisited – we bought flip-flops just to use the shower. Of course, places won't advertise if they're on the skanky side – but do your research. Reviews that consistently mention clean rooms point to worthy places.
Mom and her two children riding a rollercoaster
Photo credit: wundervisuals/istockphoto

Don't get so caught up in the planning that you forget the purpose of a vacation. Plan well, but remember, it's all about seeing new things, having new experiences, spending quality time with those you love – and coming home refreshed with good – not horror – stories.

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