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.
YOU DON'T CONSIDER THE SEASON
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.
YOU DON'T ASK ABOUT SPECIAL EVENTS
YOU DON'T CHECK ON RESORT FEES
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.
YOU DON'T ASK ABOUT DEALS
YOU DON'T USE SEARCH ENGINES
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.
YOU READ BUT DON'T HEED THE REVIEWS
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.
YOU DON'T ASK ABOUT PET POLICIES
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.
YOU NEGLECT THE 'CHILD' ISSUE
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 on a child-free vacation. 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.
YOU FAIL TO CONSIDER LOCAL TRANSPORTATION
YOU DON'T READ THE RENTAL CAR CONTRACT
YOU DON'T INVESTIGATE THE CRUISE'S INCLUSIVES
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.
YOU DON'T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF COSTCO TRAVEL
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.
YOU FAIL TO ASK FOR ASSOCIATION DISCOUNTS
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.
YOU DON'T CONSIDER YOUR PACE
YOU ASSUME IT WILL BE IDEAL WEATHER
YOU FORGET HIDDEN FEES ON ALL MODES OF TRANSPORT
YOU DON'T CONSIDER REGIONAL PRICE CHANGES
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.
YOU FORGET YOU DON'T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE
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.
YOU THINK A GUIDEBOOK IS A WASTE OF MONEY
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.
YOU ASSUME EVERYONE HAS FREE Wi-Fi
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.
YOU FORGET TO MENTION GUESTS
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.
YOU ASSUME MEDICAL CARE WILL BE READILY AVAILABLE
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.
YOU FAIL TO ASK ABOUT A GYM
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.
YOU DON'T ACCOUNT FOR LAUNDRY
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.
YOU DON'T CLARIFY RESERVATION POLICIES
YOU ASSUME ATTRACTIONS ARE AS CLOSE AS THEY SAY
YOU FIGURE PARKING IS FREE
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.
YOU DON'T PLAN FOR A FINANCIAL EMERGENCY
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.
YOU ASSUMED YOUR ACCOMMODATIONS WOULD BE CLEAN
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.
YOU FORGET IT'S ALL ABOUT FUN
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.