It’s sort of a given that you’ll want to get the most out of your vacation – the most relaxation, the most adventure, the most whatever it is that you’re taking the vacation for. Depending on your situation, you’re most likely interested in maximizing your vacation by being wise with time or with money. Below are a few simple steps you can take to make sure you take full advantage of both.

Step 1: The What and Where

A good vacation will only be as good as the planning that went into it. Making the most of your holiday means putting in a bit of work before it begins. Aside from planning where you will go and when, you’ll need to make a somewhat detailed list of the things you intend to do there. Going to France is a good idea, but are you going there to see the Eiffel Tower? Or to see the beaches of the south? To sample wines? See the countryside?

It’s a good idea to have a look at a guidebook and see what there is to do in the location that you want to see. Get some ideas of the types of activities you can and want to do. Next, get a map (a printed one from the internet is fine) and mark down the locations where these activities or events take place.

Step 2: Plan Your Route

Now that you know where you want to go and why, it’s time to map out your travel route. You’ll have to consider travel times and costs. Maybe you have to zig-zag back and forth a bit, or perhaps your route is a little more straightforward. Either way, you’ll know with just a little time with the map what you’ll need to cut out and which directions to travel. Using the internet to check out transportation options is a good idea during this step so you can use your time and finances wisely.

Step 3: Fly Wisely

Whether “maximizing your vacation” means being money-smart or being time-smart, you’ll need to look at your initial flight plans carefully. If your time is limited to a couple weeks or less, it might be worth it to you to spend more on a direct flight to and from your destination. If money is an issue and time is not, opt for a longer flight with connections to save your money. Do this for any other flights, buses, or trains you may take during your trip as well. Losing a day to transportation makes a big difference if you’re short on time; and saving $100 on a flight makes a big difference on a tight budget! Check out this article on my favorite things to travel with.

Maximize Your VacationStep 4: Get Organized

Spending a vacation in a foreign country can be intimidating, and if you’re short on time (or know-how) it might be worth it to join an organized tour. These usually cost a bit more money, but they can be a life saver if you want to enjoy what a place has to offer and aren’t sure how to do it. Getting a guide and joining a group is a simple way to maximize your vacation.

If you’re more concerned about money than you are about time, many cities offer free walking tours. Simply search online and join at the assigned meeting point. From there a guide will take the group around the city, pointing out important buildings and giving some local history. These tours are technically free, but it is somewhat expected that you will leave a tip at the end. It can be as little or as much as you like, but even a small amount helps. And you still get a great guided experience!

Step 5: Don’t Worry; Be Happy

Remember that you are on vacation, and as much as you want to get the most out of it, try to realize that sometimes doing nothing (or not much) can be just as nice. Stress can ruin a vacation, but if you’ve read the above steps and planned well for your vacation, you’ll be ready to let any occasional upsets roll off your back. Being ok with surprises along the way will truly help you maximize your vacation. Happy travels!

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