How to Plan a Great Vacation

yellow beach chairs on a serene looking beachPlanning a vacation can be as fun as actually taking a vacation—no, really. From picking the perfect Insta-worthy location and finding a hotel with the best all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet to planning activities that’ll make your friends at home epically jealous can leave you feeling like a kid in a candy store. Better yet, once you’ve hit “book now” and everything is in place, you’ll get to enjoy the anticipation that builds as your departure date approaches.  

But, what actually makes a vacation “good”?  Is it the locale? The accommodations? The price? We spoke with a travel expert to pinpoint the secret ingredient for planning a vacation that just feels different.

1. Select the Right Destination

It’s pretty obvious that selecting the right destination can make or break your vacation experience. And of course, it’s important to keep in mind the time of year you’ll be traveling and the seasonal climate of the area. Take New Orleans as an example: The best times to visit are from February to May while the weather is cool and the celebrations are in full swing. Marla Cantrell, a seasoned travel writer based in Alma, Arkansas, says she learned this lesson by experience.

“The first time I went to New Orleans I visited in August. I didn’t take into account how hot and humid it would be in the summer. While I enjoyed myself immensely, I needed to take frequent afternoon breaks in the shade or air conditioning to cool off. I made a mental note to investigate the seasonal weather before booking future trips.”

If you need a little inspiration for figuring out where to go, try these destinations that are must-visits for 2019.

2. Decide How Long You Will Stay

Do you have time for a week-long visit to a bucket-list locale, or are you looking for a quick weekend getaway to unwind or attend a special event? Knowing how long you plan to stay in advance will help you plan your itinerary. If it’s a short visit, you’ll want to make sure you include your top activities in the itinerary to not miss out on the fun. If you have a longer visit planned, it allows more flexibility in planning an itinerary.

3. Set a Budget

Once you know where you’ll visit and how long you plan to stay, set a budget for the trip. It will help you determine the price range for the hotel you’ll book, whether you’ll fly first class or economy, and how many special dinners and events you can attend while there.

4. Look for Deals

One of the advantages of planning a trip in advance versus spur-of-the-moment road trips is the ability to seek out deals. Start planning several months before your departure and keep an eye on airfare rates.

Comparison-shop hotel rates with Roomkey by entering the city and state you plan to visit into the search bar. A list of hotels in the area will show up on the left side of the screen and a map with the locations pinned will be on the right. Use the map feature to find hotels closest to where you’d like to stay, or use the listings on the left to see the various loyalty member rates and specials to find a hotel in your price range.

5. Create Your Itinerary

Research the tourism board website for the city you plan to visit. Many offer pre-planned itineraries you can reference to make your own. For example, the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp lists several planned itineraries depending on whether you want a food focus during your trip or perhaps soak up the music, outdoors, arts, or culture Music City has to offer. There’s even an interactive trip planner to help you create the perfect blend of activities for your vacation. Many tourism websites offer similar features to help you plan your trip.

6. Familiarize Yourself with the Area

Cantrell says she will use an online map to get a visual for an area before she visits. She zooms in to street level to visually get acquainted and see how far it’ll be from the airport to the hotel, what restaurants are nearby, which planned activities are walkable from the hotel, and a general sense of the layout of the area. “It makes it so much easier when I get there because I feel more familiar with the area,” she said.

By planning your vacation in advance, you’ll free yourself up to enjoy the experience once you arrive. Organizing your vacation really can be half the fun! Start planning your next trip by visiting to compare more than 45,000 hotels around the world. Once you’ve found “the one,” we’ll take you the hotel’s website to complete your booking, because booking direct can help ensure your vacation goes off without a hitch.