When I was in ninth grade, I managed to convince my parents that a last-minute getaway over spring break was necessary by presenting a comprehensive itinerary for a vacation in Florida. Why they trusted a fourteen year old to book a hotel and map out the week, I’ll never know. But from that point on, planning and researching different locations has become my thing.
Unless you have a specific destination in mind, selecting a vacation spot is like putting together a puzzle. I usually consider four determinants: cost, weather, accessibility, and lodging. I’m ready to escape to a tropical climate as soon as Baltimore gets cold, but the fall months coincide with hurricane season in the Caribbean—the last thing you want to do is trade scarves and wool coats for umbrellas and rain boots.
Up, Up, and Away
If you’re on a budget and don’t have a set destination, I recommend you start by looking for flights to various locations. I use Fly.com to compare different outbound and inbound flights and love that it compiles several airlines into one site. To minimize my travel time, I fly direct whenever possible and always opt for the early morning flight and the late night flight when traveling to and from my destination, respectively.
To get an idea of hotels and rates in the area, I use a third-party site, though I only ever book through the hotel’s official website. Booking directly allows more flexibility in changing your reservation, will often land you a better room (I always request a high floor with a view), and offers comparable prices.
A use for social media beyond stalking? Turn to Twitter to get immediate feedback, or send a quick tweet to a tourism bureau for helpful tips. I’ve discovered so many hidden gems by searching through hashtags on Instagram, screenshotting places to visit all around the world.
Hit the Books
As a planner by nature, I never travel blindly. From restaurants to shopping to historical attractions, I like to read reviews to ensure that I experience the best of the best and have logistics figured out beforehand. When you have as many food allergies and aversions as I do, looking over menus becomes the norm. Exhaust all of your resources–check out travel books from the library, refer to online forums, and ask friends and family for recommendations.