Planning a vacation is fun, exciting, your reward for all your hard work, time away with family, and so forth. However, a vacation can still have its problems unless you follow some simple tips. Don't get caught with hidden fees, extra costs you didn't consider, airline issues, dirty lodgings, visiting destinations that don't suit your wants and desires, and other travel nightmares.
Research is key- Whether you hire a travel agent or book online, you must know where you are going, what the area is like/if it offers what you're looking for, where you want to stay, costs, where you can find information for tourists, and knowing how to book your trip to take advantage of every deal while not compromising your relaxation.
Take care of things at home- Make sure you not only plan your ultimate vacation, but pack appropriately, have your home life well guarded, have all the proper documentation, know where your money is coming from & for what (be careful with credit cards), and your health and safety are a priority. There is a lot to consider before you leave and checklists come in handy to ensure you don't forget anything and worry the whole trip. Make planning the trip fun and fit within your personality- plus get everyone involved.
Getting Deal- There are many ways to find a good deal for your trip. There are also thousands of travel sites some of which offer excellent information, reviews, and deals. Many are good many are not. What we suggest you do is set your price range and find what you want to spend. Just make sure you know what you are getting into. Great prices don't always mean horrible accommodations, but that depends on you. Plus a little negotiation on your part can get you upgrades and better accommodations, but you must ask. Other ways are to sign up for alert newsletters, look into clubs, check back at your favorite travel site frequently (i.e. you'll find prices may drop or rise within a few hours), use auction sites to bid for low ball prices, and please, please read all terms and conditions. Asking around at forums and reading reviews can make the decision easier also.
Another great tip is to be prepared with things to do while you wait in lines, long travel times, and down time. There will be plenty to do during the vacation, but when you travel to and from there can be delays, long road trips, and everyone has different likes. If you don't have certain items, buy them or borrow them. Life will be much easier this way and your trip will be enjoyable.
If you are not rich, like most of us, you'll need a budget. Be realistic about your spending ability and if you have to say no, then do so. I know you only get a vacation every so often, but using credit cards or going into debt will only make life more stressful when you return. This may delay your ability to go on the next vacation. Doing things like eating in sometimes and eating out sometimes is good, limiting major & expensive attractions or shopping- do only the musts, & picking a destination that fits into your budget and allows for the most fun. Focus on the things you want to do and lay down ground rules before you leave. Thinking of having a budget especially for your trip stinks, but if you plan accordingly it doesn't have to be a stress. We have had vacations where we spent very little money and had a better time than vacations when we spent a small fortune.
Honestly, this is just a start. Using checklists will work wonders and making the whole process fun will take a huge weight off your shoulders, just be realistic. You'll need to consider things like, where are we going, how are we getting there, where should we stay, what kinds of activities would we most like to do, what kind of money do we need to take, who will watch our home, what to pack, what special situations do we need to consider, where can we find the best deals, what travel tools do we need to take, how/what to pack, and more. There are sites out there dedicated to helping you have an excellent vacation so take advantage of them.