Vacations are the hard-working American’s relief from the stress of deadlines, gridlocked commutes and the unrelenting pressure of meeting the boss’s expectations. It’s the one time when stress should be a non-factor as you unwind from the daily grind. Unfortunately, a surprising number of people experience stress when they’re on vacation, notes Quartz, or preparing for one. If you happen to be short on time and budget it can be difficult to plan and enjoy a trip that’ll help you take the edge off. These days, there are lots of resources that can help you tailor a vacation to your means and desires.
Any vacation starts with a few “big-picture” decisions, choices that determine where you’ll go, how you’ll get there, and what you’ll do when you get there. The first step in putting together a stress-free vacation is to pick a locale and transportation that make sense for you and your family. Travel agents can help you get good deals on travel and accommodations, but remember that with a little time and patience you can put together a trip that’s both memorable and cost-effective. Real Life with Heather has a few ideas on how to do just that.
Roads Less Traveled
If you want to go overseas, consider emphasizing off-the-beaten-path destinations rather than high-priced hot spots that are sure to stress your budget and, probably, elevate your blood pressure. Paris is a glamorous travel mecca but you can stretch your travel dollar much further by spending a week traversing Normandy, Brittany, or the Languedoc region. If you want a European experience but just can’t afford Europe, consider Quebec, where the French language and Gaelic culture abound. The same principle applies if you’re vacationing domestically.
America is full of great travel options that won’t break the bank. Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, colonial Williamsburg, and Branson, Missouri, are just a few of the many affordable vacation destinations that are sure to leave you happy and nostalgic for a return trip.
All About Timing
Florida in July may sound great but you’re sure to run into big crowds at the beach and longer-than-usual lines at Disney. September, October and early November are generally more affordable and less hectic than the traditional vacation season. Scheduling a trip off-season has its own hazards (hurricane season seems to arrive earlier and stay longer each year), so keep an eye on the weather and do your research about the best times to visit when the tourist population thins out.
Don’t forget that a stress-free vacation is one that allows you to make the most of vacation activities. That can be hard to do if you’re spending too much of your budget on travel expenses. Consider enrolling in rewards programs that allow you to get in on deals, flight upgrades and other benefits. U.S. News & World Report points out that one popular option is to sign up for a credit card with an airline so you can rack up privileges and rewards as quickly as possible. Focus on low-cost carriers and steer clear of the frills and options that’ll dig into your vacation funds unnecessarily. Book your flight early, pack light and carry on as much gear as you can: that’s a good approach for any traveler.
You’ll want to keep your money and valuables safe during your travels, especially when you’re going out of the country. If you’re taking in the natural wonders and local attractions in places like Cancun, Kathmandu or Paris, your excursions can quickly become chaotic if you come across any problems like a theft or an accident that requires medical attention. To travel with added peace of mind, consider setting up an account with an inexpensive money transfer service before you leave home. Using a service like Remitly, for example, allows you to receive funds from the U.S. to Nepal for as little as $3.99 for transfers in just minutes.
Also, don’t dismiss the wonders of traveling by car, van or recreational vehicle. Vacation time is a great opportunity to load up the car and take in the scenery with your family. Your AAA membership can put you in touch with lots of travel resources, such as construction upgrades and free towing if you break down. If you like being one with nature, camping is a fun and budget-friendly option. America is chock full of beautiful campsites.
Home Security: Give Yourself Peace of Mind
Don’t underestimate the importance of securing your house and protecting your valuables while you’re gone. There are a number of options available these days, everything from smartphone apps that allow you to monitor your home in real time to home security systems that alert the police the moment someone breaks in. If putting a new bulb in the front porch light isn’t enough security for you, look into a robust and dependable source of home protection.