Planning Tips for Better Trips

Summer is coming, and that means prime time for personal travel. Whether you’re thinking about an exotic honeymoon escape or taking the family on a road trip, there can be a lot to do before you go. Here are some ideas that can help you get organized and save time as you plan your next getaway.

A little research goes a long way

There are travel-planning websites covering everything from choosing a destination to finding the best prices—even checking out guest reviews on lodging, attractions, and restaurants. The New York Times’ Frugal Traveler offers a comprehensive list of useful, free sites, including:

- TripTuner®: find your ideal destination options using interactive sliders to set your preference for factors such as ‘relaxing vs. active,’ ‘adults only vs. kid-friendly,’ and ‘high-end vs. thrifty.’

- Stay.com: check out what to do in more than 100 top cities by building your own travel guide. Use it to create an itinerary and take it with you on a smartphone.

- TripAdvisor®: visitor ratings and reviews give you the inside scoop on hotels, restaurants, and more.

As you put together your plans, keep them organized in a binder. Customize your planner with dividers using Avery Design & Print Online to create sections for categories like budget, reservations and list of “must-see” places. Use sheet protectors to file travel brochures, articles and notes for easy reference.

The planning binder doubles as a travel scrapbook when you return. Add keepsakes like ticket stubs, bar coasters and postcards to your binder by popping them into sheet protectors or pockets.

Pack light, pack right

The reservations are made. Now, what to take with you? To avoid over-packing, think “less is less,” and focus on essentials. With many airlines charging for checked and overweight baggage, those additional fees can quickly put your “bargain” airfares over budget. And while it’s easy to take everything on a car trip, that extra weight means lower gas mileage (not to mention less “elbow room” for passengers).

Instead of each person packing their own individual bags, consider sharing a suitcase to reduce the luggage load. You can keep everything organized by separating clothing, shoes and other items into clear plastic bags with labels printed with the owner’s name. Also, consider bringing one set of commonly shared items such as shampoo and toothpaste, instead of everyone bringing their own.

Time to take it easy

It’s a summer vacation, not a space mission! You don’t have to plan every last minute. Relieve some pressure with these suggestions:

- Avoid scheduling too much into each day. Do one big thing and take time for a leisurely lunch.

- Don’t book everything in advance. Leave some time to explore and be spontaneous.

- Leave some time open to unwind and pamper yourself.

- Ditch the laptop, skip the email and silence your phone.

Whatever plans you make, it’s a good bet that the time will go by fast. Keeping a travel diary and taking photos will help preserve your memories. Have a great trip!