Vacation Planning – My Travel Philosophies

If you want to plan an epic vacation, you need to follow some guiding principles.  I am here to share my travel philosophies to help you with your vacation planning.For those of you who read the previous blog posts in this series, first of all, thank you very much.  I appreciate that you took time out of your busy lives to spend with me.  This series is for those who want to plan their every aspect of their trip: airlines, hotel, and activities.  Whenever I plan a vacation, I strictly adhere to these travel philosophies.

Figure out your budget first

If you’re a billionaire and money is no object, you don’t have to worry about a budget.  For the rest of us, budget will always be an issue.  Before planning any vacation, we figure out what our total budget is.  This amount will be all inclusive: air, hotel, activities, meals, shopping, and spending money.  We set an amount that we are comfortable with, and that we can use as a guideline.  We don’t set an amount that would leave us with no wiggle room, because things always happen that you never anticipated.  You will come back to your budget often in planning your vacation.  Make sure that the money you set aside for vacation doesn’t interfere with the money you need to take care of things at home such as bills, mortgage, feeding the family, etc.

Research is your best friend

In order to get the best bang for your buck, you have to research and find the best deals.  Before purchasing anything, I research airlines, hotel, and activities.  I get prices for several options in each category.  For example, if I’m looking at hotels, I find the price of staying in my dream hotel as well as more economical alternatives.  I also research the price of several different rooms in each hotel.  When I do my initial research, I make no judgements on prices.  I just gather information.  I get all of my options so when I sit down with My Mister, we decide what we can fit into our budget.

Know your non-negotiables

Non-negotiables are the things you won’t budge on.  For example, when we went to Singapore, My Mister’s non-negotiable was staying at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel because he wanted to swim in the infinity pool on the roof of the hotel.  As for me, whenever our vacation flight is 9 hours or longer, my non-negotiable is flying at least business class.

So, we sit down and tell each other our non-negotiables.  Then we work our budget around the non-negotiables.  Going back to that Singapore trip as an example, staying the full 7 nights at the Marina Bay Sands was not in our budget, but the hotel was My Mister’s non-negotiable.  What we ended up doing was staying there for 2 nights and then moving to another hotel in the shopping area.  We were able to stay in a suite with breakfast included and lounge privileges for the remaining 5 nights.  The price of the hotel suite was cheaper than the regular room at the Sands.

There have been times when we have looked at our non-negotiables and our budget and realized that they will never match.  At this point you can either change your budget or scrap that vacation destination in favor of one that will fit your budget.  Another option is to postpone your vacation until you have enough money.

Pay for what you will be satisfied with

This philosophy needs a bit of explanation.  It kinda goes hand in hand with knowing your non-negotiables.  Pay for the level of service you will be satisfied with.

Let’s return to our Singapore trip and use that as an example.  We were able to afford 2 nights in the Marina Bay Sands, but needed to move to a more economical hotel for the rest of our vacation.  We started the trip at the Sands and would have been disappointed the rest of the trip if we stayed in a regular hotel room after staying at the Sands.  The hotel room we moved to was better than the room we room we had at the Sands, even if the hotel wasn’t necessarily better.  We got a suite with extra freebies such as breakfast, mini bar in the room, and evening cocktails and canapés in the lounge.  We felt like rock stars in that hotel.  If we had stayed in a regular room without the freebies or extra service at the new hotel, I wouldn’t have been satisfied.  I would have spent the rest of my vacation wanting to return to the Sands.

On our vacations we spend the most time researching air and hotels.  Air and hotels take up a lot of our budget, but we pay for what we will be satisfied with.  Airlines sets the tone for the beginning and ending of your vacation.  It is your first and last impression and memory of your vacation.  Hotels set the tone for the rest of your vacation.  If you have a good hotel or a good room with good service, I feel it relaxes you and puts you in a better frame of mind each day of your vacation.

Don’t skimp on things to save a buck if it will make you miserable.  Find other places to cut back on and compromise.  In our case, because we feel air and hotel are important, we might spend more money on that and less money on meals.  We won’t eat out in a fancy restaurant every night.  We are satisfied with eating in shopping mall food courts and local restaurants and having just a couple of good sit down meals.

Pay for the things that will make you happy and make your vacation memorable.  After all, that’s why you go on vacation, to make yourself happy.

Keep researching

So you’ve completed your initial research and decided where you’re going to stay and what you’re going to do.  You’re done, right?  Nope.  In order to get the best deal, you need to keep researching.  Airfare and hotel prices fluctuate.  If you can be flexible in your vacation dates, you have a better chance of getting a deal.

I do my initial research on airfare to help set my budget.  I will then keep researching by checking airfares every few days to see if prices have dropped.  For hotels, I try to make reservations that allow for cancellations.  Then I keep checking the rates every few days to see if prices have dropped and will rebook my reservations.

Pay as much as you can in advance

Pay for as much as you can before you leave for your vacation.  Why?  So you don’t have to worry about it when you’re on vacation.  Of course you’re going to pay for your airfare in advance, but you should try to pay your hotel as well.  Pay for some of your activities too, if you can.  Paying in advance will just mean that the money you have left over can go strictly towards spending and you don’t have to worry about making sure you have enough money at the end of your trip to pay for your hotel.  Advanced payment helps make your vacation worry free.

Carry more than one credit card

Why do you need than more one credit card, you ask?  Just in case, is my answer.  Let me give you some examples.  I took a trip to Disneyland for work.  We had 5 vehicles and we went together to refill the gas.  I used my company credit card to pay for the gas, but by the time I put paid for the 4th vehicle, the credit card company put a hold on my card because they thought the card got stolen.  Luckily, I had my personal card with me and paid with the remaining 2 vehicles.

Another example was our first trip to South Korea.  We were purchasing items in a store and the cashier realized she charged us twice for an item.  She refunded the sale and started again.  The credit card company put an immediate hold on the card.  Luckily I had another card I could use until I got things straightened out with my credit card company.

Be prepared for emergencies

I can’t say it enough – stuff happens.  Be prepared.

What do I mean by being prepared?  Make sure you have enough money or enough credit on your card to pay for a couple days hotel and a flight home in case anything happens.  Let me give you a bad example and a good example

Bad example – My cousins went to Vegas for vacation.  They overslept and missed their flight home.  They had no money and nothing left on the credit card because they figured they didn’t need money since they were going home.  Family back home had to scramble to pay for another flight and hotel because there were no more flights that day.  Family back home also had to send money through Western Union because my cousins didn’t even have money for food or a taxi to the airport the next day.

Good example – We took a family vacation to Reno.  The day before we were to fly home, my Aunt took ill and had to be rushed to the hospital.  We ended up staying an additional 3 weeks.  Luckily we had some money as well as room on our credit card.

You just never know what could happen.  Be prepared and give yourself peace of mind to enjoy your vacation knowing that no matter what happens, you got it covered.


I know this was a long blog post.  Thanks for staying with me.  I hope I was able to help you with your vacation planning.  In future posts, we’ll start going into booking airfare, hotels, and activities.

I would love to hear some of your travel philosophies.  Please feel free to write them in the comments section.

Until later, happy travels!



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