I would guess a fair number of us have had vacations that did not live up to our fantasies. When you got home, somebody asked you if you would go there again and there was at least some hesitation if not an outright “Hell no!!!”. And, if you were asked why not, and you were completely honest, you would probably identify one or more of four common issues that contribute to a vacation you would not want to repeat.
Let me suggest you give some thought to these things before you leave in order to reduce the likelihood you have to think about them when you get back.
We spend a lot of money on vacations. A LOT of money, but that is not actually the issue. We expect to spend a fair amount. What we want is value and minimal surprises. The money we spend can be divided into two piles…the money we spend before we depart, and the money we spend after we depart. Generally, the money we spend before we depart is not as likely to come back and bite us. We look around, we think about it, we search for value, and then we resign ourselves to spending that sum necessary to get things going. And even if we do end up having buyers remorse, it is not usually going to happen until long after we have departed and usually when we are disappointed in something else.
The money we spend after departure can be a whole different story.This is where the surprises come in.
“What do you mean that costs extra?!”
“How much did you say I have to pay for baggage fees?”
“You forgot to bring your camera? Do you know what another camera is going to cost us here?”
“A hundred and fifty bucks….for that?”
“It’s just a chicken. I am sorry it ran into the road, but it is just a chicken.”
“Yes your honor. Do you accept travelers cheques?”
The money we spend during the trip is less likely to be well planned, less likely to give us the value we hope for, and sometimes….well…sometimes it just hurts.
Face it, the only reason you ever came home with cash in your pocket was that the Travelex Currency Exchange at gate D24 in DFW would not buy back all the Malagasy ariary you picked up on the black market at that great rate. We always spend more than we expect.
There are a number of things I recommend you try to limit this surprise, post-departure spending.
- Check out your destination/s on Trip Advisor. Often travelers will mention their surprise costs when they review a location.
- Call the hotel/s you will be staying in and ask them about additional costs you might expect to incur. Ask about the cost of taxis, meals on the street, shuttles to the airports, and tipping.
- If you are renting a car, rent from a well-known agency and call them before you travel to make sure you fully understand what that rental is really going to cost you. Make sure you ask specifically about the price of gas, mileage fees, and insurance costs.
- Identify the big ticket activities you MIGHT engage in and call about the price. Prices listed on websites are often old and/or the price during the off-season. Tell them when you will be there so they can give you the accurate price.
All that said, it is not really about the money, but about the value. It is usually poor value that we complain about, not high price. If you think you are going to get a great hot air balloon ride over Bagan for cheap and then you discover the tip is more than the fare, you will pay it gladly when you realize that ride is not just the highlight of your trip, but one of the highlights of your life. It is a great value at almost any price.
First, check the weather before you book, even if it is months in the future. There are a number of sites that will give information about the typical weather for any location at any time of the year.
- Check average high and low temperatures (high altitudes will have a large range)
- Check average precipitation for the time you will be there
For US weather, it is hard to beat Weather.com
Long-term forecasts generally reach out 2 full weeks for most places.
If the weather is going to be bad, and you are still going, at least prepared. Being in the cold is not the same as being cold. Being in the wet is not the same as being wet.
This one is numero uno in my book. Most of us might not think about it, but does the trip you are planning match the person or people you might be traveling with? Your 5-star hotel loving spouse may not enjoy a two-week jaunt hiking around Haiti. Your eco-wacko best friend may not appreciate the over-the-top opulence of the Emirates Palace.
Some couples are of the opinion that every vacation must be taken together. If that is your choice, choose your vacation well. Otherwise, you might find yourself choosing another spouse too.
There are lots of websites that enable would-be travelers to find someone to travel with. BE CAREFUL. Not only are there obvious safety issues, especially for women, but I am sure you can see the risk that you might find someone that you just don’t want to be around. In general, you can travel for 3-5 days with someone you really don’t click with. After that, you are going to be miserable. If you find a travel companion online ask lots of questions before you commit.
- Make sure you know their level of travel experience. You don’t want to find yourself at a border crossing between Myanmar and Laos with someone who can’t keep track of his/her passport.
- Have them describe, in painful detail, prior trips they have taken.
- If possible, take a short weekend trip before you head off for something longer. That way you know what size blow dryer they are bringing when you hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
- Ask about their best and worst travel experience. When their description of horrible is your idea of the penultimate vacation…run the other way.
Make sure you have realistic goals for your trip. If you are headed for Arkansas and your only goal is to get a picture of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker, you are more than likely going to be disappointed. Whenever possible, set multiple goals which are not all likely to be missed if weather, money, companions, and transportation issues arise. If your goal is to breathe the rare air of Kala Patthar as you look across the valley Everest, and their goal is to sit by the pool at the five-star Soaltee Oberio (now the Crown Plaza Kathmandu), Nepal will not be the joy it should be.
If you travel with anyone, from a stranger to your spouse of 20 years, without discussing your goals, you deserve to be miserable. A good vacation, like a good photo, has a subject. It has a purpose. It has a goal. Travel is much more pleasant when your goals are met.