By Cat Zuniga
Summer is quickly approaching, and that means summer vacations. Yay!
People take all sorts of approaches to these annual events. Many good travelers booked their summer vacations months ago and are now taking it easy, kicking back and counting the days until their much-needed escape.
But what if you’re not a good traveler? What if you didn’t lock down your summer travel plans five to nine months in advance? What if you’re not kicking back but are kicking yourself? I can give you all sort of tips and websites you can hit trying to find the “absolute-best last-minute deal” on your vacation – and truth is, you may get lucky a few times. But I can confidently say you’ll never get a better last-minute deal than you will when you use a travel specialist, and the amount of scrambling you’ll have to do will be close to zero. Instead, your travel expert will be the one making the calls and beating the bushes looking for best the last-minute deal – all on your behalf.
Here’s where I insert my shameless travel-expert plug. I agree that travel agents are becoming extinct – but not travel specialists and experts. What’s the difference? Agents take orders; specialists and experts advise, guide, and direct. Knowing that, would you rather work with a travel agent or a travel expert — or would you rather go it alone?
Now that we got that out of the way, on to the dreaming and planning.
So how do you start planning a memorable summer vacation at this late date? Hit your bucket list for ideas. Where did you go last year, and where do the kids want to go this year? Where is the rest of the world most likely to go, and where would they not? Sometimes people return to the same destination because everyone had such a great time. There’s no harm in that!
Choose your destination strategically. Depending on your location, you may be able to get to the Caribbean or Mexico much easier and more cheaply than other destinations.
Along with that, be sure to pay attention to the fees that creep up on you. Many stateside resorts and hotels will nickel-and-dime you with resort fees and charges for valet parking and Wi-Fi. You don’t face this problem when going to Mexico or the Caribbean, because their all-inclusive properties are truly that – all-inclusive. For instance, Hawaii (otherwise a terrific summer-vacation destination) doesn’t have all-inclusives, and prices can add up quickly.
Obviously budget can play a huge role in your last-minute summer-vacation planning, and that’s something you’ll want to establish right off the bat. Quickly setting budget parameters will literally cut your planning time in half, and will make it easy for your travel specialist to provide the most accurate quotes. Not having an established budget can lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and unnecessary drama with anyone involved in the planning process.
If you can’t come up with an exact number, start with a range. Anything is better than saying “as cheap as possible.” We’re all looking for the most budget-friendly vacation that checks all the other boxes, so skip the obvious.
As for payment, the key is to chip away at the iceberg slowly without breaking the bank. When you book a vacation on your own, you’re usually forced to pay the total cost up front. This pushes people to throw it all on their credit card. When using a travel expert, people can usually arrange for deposits to be placed on the booking to lock in the price, and final payments don’t have to be made until anywhere from 45 to 60 days prior to your departure dates. Those deposits can be as low as $50 per person.
Now, we all love the perks that our credit cards give us, and you can still use that method to book your vacation. But it’s important to know there are options, and you’re not restricted to the old ways.
The last word on budget: Keep your eye on the prize, not always the price. You’re taking this journey as a family (whatever the size), so remember that value and creating memories are the focus.
Also remember: The only thing worse than no vacation is a bad one. Stressful and poorly planned vacations eliminate any positive benefit of taking time off and getting away. A recent Harvard Business Review article titled “When A Vacation Reduces Stress – And When It Doesn’t” stated, “The less the stress, the more likely you will experience a positive benefit from the time off. Poorly planned and stressful vacations eliminate the positive benefit of time away.”
Part of this can stem from the complexities of travel planning – especially last-minute summer-vacation planning. If you’re ready to throw in the towel, or if you’re just not sure if you can create a summer vacation that lives up to expectations, it might be time to turn things over to the travel experts.
It takes courage to move out of your comfort zone embrace the unknown, and it also takes courage to let the experts drive for a while. This stage of the summer-vacation planning process might be a good time to let someone else take the wheel.
Who knows? With the right kind of help along the way, you might be able to do away with the stress and actually enjoy the ride.
Cat Zuniga is an award-winning travel specialist. She specializes in tropical vacations for families, groups, destination weddings, and honeymooners. Visit her site today at http://www.TarverdiTravel.com.
Editor’s Note: Even last-minute summer vacations deserve first-class protection. AirCare and ExactCare from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection can cover all your trips — and don’t need to be purchased far in advance. Get them here.