There's more to think about as you plan your vacation than simply "Where do I want to go?". What about "What do I want to do, and who do I want to spend my vacation with?"
As you plan your vacation, ask yourself a few questions:
- What is your level of fitness? Can you handle challenging "adventure" travel? Or would you be better off at a "beginner" level?
- Are you traveling alone or with others? Who will be traveling with you? What are their ages, interests, and physical abilities?
- Make sure you understand everyone's expectations. "Learning to cook in Tuscany" can mean a 1/2 day class for one person, or a full week including wine appreciation and grape-stomping to someone else.
- Are the activities more important than the destination, or vice versa? Or are both equally important?
- What is your budget? Are you looking for luxury or simplicity? Is a rustic environment acceptable?
- Do you want to travel independently or with a group? (See below for a discussion of independent vs. group travel).
One of the most important decisions when you plan your vacation is whether to travel independently or with a tour group.
There are advantanges and disadvantages to both, of course.
Independent travel allows you to pick and choose where to go, where to stay, what to do, and when to do it. YOU decide whether to visit the Louvre on Tuesday or Wednesday, or whether to visit it at all.
You can, and should, leave a day or two open to relax, or to take advantage of opportunities that come up at the last minute.
However, YOU are also responsible for all of the arrangements, getting passports and other documents, getting to and from the airport at your destination, meals, and all other details. This can be complicated and time-consuming.
Escorted tours are much easier - all of the above details are taken care of for you, and you will have an English-speaking guide to help you throughout your trip.
However, you have NO control over the sites you visit, how long you spend at each site, or when you go there.
Tours are a good choice if you are visiting a foreign country for the first time. You may not have the opportunity to visit again, and you want to get as much out of the experience as possible. With a tour, you don't have to worry about language barriers or getting lost trying to find a historical site.
Tours are also good if you are traveling alone. Many tour companies will match you with a roommate if you'd like, or you can pay a single supplement (these are usually not too expensive). Globus Journeys, for example, has a wide variety of tours that do not charge a single supplement, so you can go on your own and enjoy your own room. And you can meet new people and share the experience even if you do not have a travel companion.
But, despite the complexity, we encourage independent travel. It can be much more rewarding to design your own experience, and you might find a hidden jewel along the way!
Or, you can take a tour and add a few days of independent travel at the end of your trip, once you're a bit more familiar with the area.
If you are just booking airfare and hotel, you can probably do just as well using an online booking agent, like Travelocity.
But a plane ticket and hotel don't make much of a vacation, do they? You need to add activities, excursions, classes or day trips to truly make it an experience.
Viator.com is a great place to start - they offer interesting walking tours, culinary tours, sightseeing, whale watching - just about any kind of experience you are looking for, just about anywhere in the world!
You can do the research and book activities on your own, or an experienced agent can help you find the activities that will make your trip memorable. Check out "Book Your Trip" for more advice on booking options, and how to find and agent if you need one.
If you're not sure how to plan your vacation, don't hesitate to go to an agent - their services are free when you book your trip, so why not let an agent do some of the work?
You'll find plenty of ideas for memorable vacation experiences on this site. Just browse around - you're bound to find something that intrigues you!