Planning the Perfect Summer Vacation

Most people just pick a spot, based on what they’ve heard about or what their friends told them. They go on holiday there because that’s where everybody goes. I have to say, most people are getting the short end of the stick. Travel destinations aren’t like movies, where the more people go, the better it probably is. They’re more like lovers, where you want to make certain that not too many people have been there before you.

That’s because locations change as the tourists arrive in large numbers. The prices go up, everything becomes about catering to the tourists’ needs and slowly the people that live there change as they get fed up with the whining, drinking, and disrespect that so often seems to follow in the wake of tourists’ footsteps. (I’m in no way trying to suggest that tourists are all poorly behaved. It is only a tiny percentage. The problem is, they ruin everybody else’s image as well).

If you want to have the perfect summer vacation you can’t do what these people do. Instead, you’ve got to turn things around.

What do you really want?

Start out by listing what everybody that you are traveling with wants. This can be something abstract like ‘see many places’ or something concrete like ‘relax on the beach’. Everybody should get in on the action of listing what they’re looking for as well as figuring out what they want most and what they could theoretically do without. From there you can look at what are the essential elements that you need and you can look at places accordingly.

What can you afford?

Next, take a look at what’s in your budget. This will give you a decent idea of how far you can travel and what kind of places you can go. Note again that often places that aren’t quite that popular, possibly because they haven’t really been discovered yet, are cheaper than other places.

Also, note that though flying can be quite expensive – mind you, it can be a lot cheaper if you use something like skyscanner or Travelocity and spend at least a little time nosing around – if you’re going for long enough that can sometimes be more than compensated by the prices of where you’re going. South America, for example, can be quite cheap if you pick the right country. Note that this link gives prices for backpackers. If you’re not backpacking then the costs will be different, but at least you’ll have a relative idea.  

Don’t plan everything.

Whatever you do, don’t plan every hour of every day because if you do that you’re not leaving any space for the facts on the ground to influence your holiday. You will spend all your time running around from famous landmark to famous landmark, without every enjoying the little streets where the local people eat amazing food or enjoy the sunset while sipping coffee. You need to leave time to find not just the sights, but also the soul of wherever you’re going. And you can only find that by getting lost in the side streets or by trying something the concierge tells you. You can’t find it in guides.

In fact:  

Guides are not Bibles.

A lot of people spend their time buried with their noses in the guide, trying to figure out what to and where to go next. Guides, however, have their problems. For example, the very fact that something has been listed in one of the guides means that people are flocking there in ever bigger numbers. This is especially a problem for the bigger guides, where thousands if not millions of people will go out of their way to check out something that the guide recommends – and in the process turning it into yet another tourist trap.

I’ve known restaurants to start charging more just because they’ve been mentioned in guides. I call this a ‘guide tax’. Personally, I prefer not paying extra taxes. For that reason, I never visit any of the restaurants and hotels they mention. Instead, I use them more to navigate overall and then put them away and spend my time reading books I’ll enjoy far more on the road.

Another strategy that you can try (though it’s a lost art in this time of smart phones) is once you’ve arrived talk to other people and find out what they enjoyed. Their information is far more up to date than the guides and if they’re a little bit like you, chances are good you’ll enjoy what they enjoyed.

Besides, it’s a great icebreaker even if you ignore everything they suggested.

Combine your travels with something else.

And finally, one great strategy to keep down costs and really see something of the world is to make certain that you combine your summer vacation with something else. For example, you can study abroad and see the world in the breaks you can get. A lot of study programs, in fact, can let you visit other countries almost for free, even paying for your tickets on occasion! Now that’s a sweet deal. Alternatively, think about working from the road for a while so that you can mitigate some of your expenses and enjoy a longer and more lush trip. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last four years.

In most of life, we end up doing what everybody else does. We buy clothes like our friends, have the same kind of phones as our friends and live in the same neighborhoods. That’s great for daily life because it lets you bond and shares with them.

The thing is, vacation is supposed to be about getting away from what everybody is doing. It’s supposed to be an escape, an opportunity to get away and try something different. So don’t let yourself fall into the same patterns as everybody else here as well. After all, it is about the differences between you and me that we find ourselves. Or, as Robert Frost said:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

and that has made all the difference.

About the Author

Patrick Cole is an entrepreneur and freelancer. He is also a contributing blogger for several websites. Patrick loves self-education and rock music. Connect with Patrick via Facebook, Google+ and Twitter