Thinking of a trip? Which vacation destination is right for you?

A big part of our 104 Project has been, and probably will be centered around travel. We often do day trips, occasionally do weekends away, and maybe once a year do a week long trip. Most of the time when we travel we have a defined budget of what the trip will be and what we will be spending. My spouse and I travel quite differently. He enjoys researching and figuring out the tips and tricks. He wants to know exactly what he’s getting into, how long it will take to drive there, etc. I, on the other hand, want some element of surprise. I don’t want to see too many pictures, I am comfortable with a general idea of what there is available to do, and the rest I will see when I am there. Trying to find a middle ground is somewhat a challenge, and we like to know our options before we make a firm decision. This is where a travel agent has helped greatly! An agent we have used for about ten years now has agreed to help you guys out with travel should you have a 104 Project that includes some travel! We are very excited to have this opportunity to share knowledge and inspiration about travel, the benefits, the costs, and making memories with your own loved ones. Her name is Denise Hangsleben and she owns Travel Your Way. As you can see, even from the title of her business she has the attitude that fits beautifully into doing your own 104 Project. Enjoy the article!

Photo by 10 Star on

We wait all year for that precious two weeks of vacation.  Finding the right way to use them is a struggle for many of us.  Do we want to stay home and do work on the house, maybe go to a beautiful island and stay at an all-inclusive resort, stay in a variety of hotels, or go on a cruise?  Within each of those options are literally thousands of possibilities.  Here is a quick list of some ways to trim down the options so you can optimize your vacation, time off, and family memories.

  • First, decide what you want to do in your time off. Do you want to stay home? Sit on a beach? Have a crazy adventure? Go somewhere they don’t speak the same language?
  • Second, decide on a realistic budget, including all the expenses that you might incur for the trip, such as care for pets, airfare, food, etc.
  • Third, what type of destination do you want to experience? If you want a ski vacation, going to the Caribbean in July isn’t a good idea.
  • Fourth, what sort of accommodations would you like to have? Do you want a cruise ship experience where you are waited on hand and foot? What about an all-inclusive resort or would you rather have a hotel and spend the focus on experiences outside the room?
  • Fifth, begin a little research to see some options for the area.
  • Sixth, find a licensed and qualified travel agent to help maximize your budget and vacation experience.
Your destination should be dictated by what you want to do on the vacation.
Maybe you want to experience the hustle and bustle of a large city,
maybe you want the quiet of nature, or the ski down a new mountain.

First, lets be honest with what you want to do for your time off from work. We only have one or two weeks a year where we get the chance to just have some downtime from work. Are there projects you want to tackle around the house? Do you have someone to whom you can delegate these tasks?  It can make a world of difference to come home every day from work and not have a large project waiting for you. If you decide to get away, decide if you want to rekindle your marriage, take your kids somewhere you always wished you had gone as a kid, build memories with your extended family, get away with friends, or just go somewhere alone.  These steps will help you figure out the type of vacation you want.

Next, talk about total budget for the trip. Have you saved up for the trip? Do you need to start saving for the trip? A budget will dictate where you can go, how long you can be there, what activities you can do while there, and when you can go. If you have only half the money saved for a trip, maybe planning it out for another year or so will allow you the time to save for the rest. Think about all the expenses, including flight, hotel or resort, cruise cost, gratuities, insurance, taxes, excursions, cabs, porters, souvenirs, pictures, gambling, alcohol, food, water, and pet care for any critters you left at home.  Once you have defined your financial parameters, your travel agent will be better able to assist you with reality instead of spending time working on a trip that will break your bank. The last thing you want to do vacation is worry about the bills once you get home again.

Budget can dictate what sort of trip you can take. Keeping the budget in mind allows you the opportunity to travel, keep realistic expectations, and avoid the sticker shock and post trip credit card balance. Photo by Alexander Mils on

After the budget, the trip planning gets to be much more fun! You do not need to have anything down to the cent as far as costs you expect to incur, but a good idea within maybe a few hundred dollars really will go a long way. Once the budget is established, let’s talk about destinations. What type of destination do you want to experience? Would you like to experience the nonstop action of a large metropolitan area like New York? How about a quiet retreat on the beach? Maybe you want something exotic that you do not know a single person who has been there before? The first step of what you want to do on vacation was critical because this will narrow down your options of where you can go, and then the budget will narrow that down even more. Would you like to spend a week skiing? Then do not think about going to the Caribbean in July! Maybe you want to try new food you have never had before, but going to Indonesia is out of the budget, could you get a new food experience in a place like Miami trying Cuban food? Meeting that “core” want for your time off will give you the biggest dividend in terms of happiness and memories made.

Fourth, the type of accommodations you want to have will also help narrow down your trip options. Cruise, all-inclusive resort community, large themed hotel or hotel just to crash at each night.  Think about whether you want easy access to lots of activities, be close to entertainment and prefer to visit many destinations.  Would you prefer to be in one place for the entire trip, enjoying lazing in the sun, drinking at a swim-up bar, and exploring one island or location? Maybe you prefer a hotel as a base of discovery, such as a hotel in Anchorage from which you can travel south to Homer or Kenai, and north to Denali, Talkeetna or Prudhoe Bay.  You can also island hop or do land tours that will have a fun itinerary laid out for you by knowledgeable tour guides.  With so many options, more details may be helpful and a travel agent can assist with that, depending on your particular likes.  A travel agent can take special care to find trips that will meet your criteria, such as wheelchair access to venues, easy of transportation or certain food allergies. One person may really enjoy a trip that centered around classes and learning new things, and another person would want to just spend the week reading in the sun not talking to other people. A travel agent would be able to tell you those differences in the various options for your trip.

A quiet beach vacation or an exploration of the area shell hunting, sea turtle watching, and volunteering to clean up the shorelines are all very different vacations. Photo by Nathan Cowley on

Now do a bit of research on what may be available in different areas, or different types of accommodations. Once you determine which destination you prefer, and the type of vacation, budget, and accommodations, you are ready to talk to a travel agent or begin your research.  As mentioned, thousands of options exist, and finding the right one is what a travel agent does, at no cost to you.  At this point, you will need to decide if you want to spend hours researching options, including computer research, tips from friends, and online travel agencies, or if you want to spend your time doing those house repairs or going for walks with your family, and delegate to an expert.

Lastly, have you considered hiring a travel agent? Did you know a travel agent can actually SAVE you money on your trip? Why would you use a travel agent instead of just booking through an online travel agent?  Many of those online bookings require full payment, whereas travel agents usually offer a free payment plan.  They also provide service all the way up to the trip and during the trip in case of any issues or emergencies.  Some even help afterward if you have insurance claims or loss.  They offer invaluable assistance with excursions through their personal experience as well as that of their many clients, and other travel agents.  Many will save you hundreds with these suggestions, so saving $20 or getting a free towel through an online agency for the original booking is not the best value, and many agents will provide a free gift as well, but don’t advertise it because they want you to have a nice surprise onboard rather than expect it.

How do you go about hiring the right travel agent? A travel agent will customize a vacation that fits your personal needs for this particular vacation.  We understand your time is precious, and that you work hard for your money.  It is our job to take the above decisions, and match with the various destinations with which we are familiar.  Many are very familiar with one area over another, and if the area your travel agent doesn’t fit with what you visualize, talk to another.  Ask what their specialty is.  Ask their affiliations, their education, and what they enjoy selling.  If you are looking for a cruise, ask if they have any certifications with CLIA, Cruise Lines International association.  Those certifications require education, training, site inspections, personal experiences, time, effort, and dedication.  Someone with an ACC (Accredited Cruise Counselor) has done extensive work.  An agent with an MCC (Master Cruise Counselor) has done twice the work. TLN, Travel Leaders Network is another affiliation that means you will get some extras other travelers do not.  This does not require anything except payment by an agency; however, it again shows a desire to do more than just book your travel.  The personal assistance a travel agent can offer you should something not go right on your trip is also priceless!

Now, where would you like to go? What do you want to do and see with your time off? The world is at your disposal, it is just a matter of the right planning to get there!

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