Vacations have never been such a big affair till recently. They now involve a big procedure. It is a big project, which will drive you nuts till its execution. More often than not planning a trip can be tedious and pain staking. It is all worth if you have a good holiday. I have always found that though I crib and crave while planning it all blooms out to be worth every minute of my planning. Vacations means three things - Time, money and money's worth! Planning could be brainstorming and tricky. It involves many stages. Even if you mess with one - you may not have a good vacation.
Who needs a vacation?
This is as tricky as the question itself. Deciding on who's going and who needs to go. You really don't want to take your old parents to Disneyland or ask them to go on roller coaster rides or take your kids to see the Mona Lisa! So you should know who is going n a vacation. If you want to go on a holiday, then you should go to a place where you will enjoy or if you are planning to take your kids if it is their holidays then you should go to a place where they will enjoy. I have very often seen people walking aimlessly in huge shopping malls, looking at designer brands and wondering what they are doing there if they cant buy any. It is really not a good vacation if people don't enjoy in a place for whom it is meant.
Planning your destination
This is a million dollar question - where to go? If you have defined who needs a vacation, then planning your destination can be simpler. Then the only other question you have to answer is - what does she/he/I, enjoy doing most. Remember always that it is a vacation that you are planning and not a conference and also remember that people should enjoy every minute of it. My father-in-law dreams of going to Singapore, so I don't really plan a trip for him to go to Paris. He will not be half as happy as he will be in Singapore. So try to know and understand the likes of yours and others around. It rather sounds simple but it really isn't. My friend once planned a trip to Rome and came back with a huff. He kept wondering why anybody should like Rome as it is full of ruins. Some people like history, others like beaches and many others like nature. A nature lover will not enjoy being amidst ruins trying to put together the bygone era. I once knew a person who enjoyed going to seaside cities. At every opportunity he visited a beach city and I went to a place of historical importance. I always wondered why he visited seaside cities. While I thought all the beaches were similar, he thought all places of historical importance were similar. The point is that we both were having vacations and we both knew the right places to enjoy them.
If you know who needs a holiday and where then you should figure out the affordability. This is the oldest and most asked question of all vacations. Some cities are very expensive and even a coffee can costs heavily. It is like going to Monte Carlo and finding that a lunch for two will cost at least $100! It is best to work out the economics well before hand.
Planning on your own
This involves a lot of research. Starting from airline fares to accommodation and food. There are some interesting websites that you can look up for help. This is where internet feels like a boon. There is lowest airfares.com where you can check out the best fares to any place. You can also check out the websites of various airlines for some excellent fares. You can look into the websites of the consulate whose country you are visiting. Here you can find out the visa procedure and fee. You will also need to find out how expensive the city is. This you can find out by visiting the particular website. You can even find out about hotel accommodation, restaurants and places to visit.
Going through a travel agent
Travel agents all over the world offer package tours. They are several kinds - some packages include airfare, accommodation with breakfast only. Some others can include lunch and dinner with the above and very few include sight seeing. Check all these very carefully. Agents can show colourful photographs of the hotel where you will stay. Photos can be deceptive, so double check about the hotels on websites and make sure you are fully satisfied. I once stayed in a cramped hotel and could do nothing as I had already paid my travel agent. Make sure he understands your needs and comforts. Make sure to ask him all the 20/30 questions you want to ask. It is the agent's job to provide you with answers. If you happen to go sight seeing with them, then check if the places you are going to visit are really worth the money. Most importantly, check if there is any entrance fee to these sights and if they are included in the package. Sometimes agents lead you to believe that certain tours can take a whole day. Check if it is really so. I have found that though tour operators claim that certain trips can take a whole day, it is not so. Therefore visit websites like lonely planet or rough guide to make sure you understand about the tour.
Knowing about the place beforehand helps a great deal. When you are in a foreign land, you don't want to go numb unable to decide your next move. If you go through a tour operator, there is nothing much to worry. But if you are on your own it pays to know something. There are some places where foreigners get easily cheated. Remember that it just doesn't happen only in India. The others are just as human as we humans are. I don't advocate planning so meticulously that you know what to do everyday during your vacation well beforehand. But then, a little knowing always helps.
I believe in traveling on my own. It is a lot more fun and economical than going through agents. In fact, today there are so many websites that offer so much information that traveling was never before so much fun. The reason is that when in Bangkok, I was tempted to take up many tours but then I decided to travel on my own. It did not cost half as much as they had for one person, for the two of us. But this will require a clear knowledge of the city, sights to see and extensive planning. I can swear by Rough guide - a book that helped me plan so many things in Bangkok. I even like Lonely Planet - this I read for my trips to Greece and Egypt. So I knew the places I had to see and also understand a little bit of history. These websites also give a rough idea about costs and cost cutting measures. It is also good to have a book in hand - it is having a guide with you all the time. Of course, this some people don't enjoy.
You can even check about restaurants and food in these websites. This is so good. Imagine going to Florence and not knowing about Vivoli ice cream or going to Thailand and not knowing about papaya salad or going to France not knowing about crepe!
Traveling was never so much fun. In this information age when the world seems to shrink, distance is no longer a factor. Time, money and money's worth is what all it takes for a good vacation. And if you have planned in stages such as above, there is no reason why you shouldn't have a great time. I know it takes time and effort to plan but holidays don't come everyday. When you can plan your work schedule so meticulously there is no reason why you shouldn't plan your vacations!