Lack of time and budget should not stop you from having your dream vacation. Proper planning can make all this happen for you sooner than you think.

Anyone who ever loves travelling must surely have a dream vacation close to their heart. But ask them when they are going and they will answer, “When I win the lotto!” or “When I retire.”

Timing or lack of time and budget are mostly the reasons why your dream vacation remains a distant and unreachable prize. But with some serious planning, you can go on your dream vacation sooner than you know. Yes, it’s  even if you don’t win the jackpot or wait until you retire. Arm yourself with lots of determination, a positive attitude plus a dash of creativity and off you go!

The first thing you can do is gather your information. For example, the dream vacation is a trip to Disneyworld with your whole family. Or maybe a second honeymoon to Hawaii. The quickest and easiest way is to get online information. Visit different websites to find out as much information as you can or send for their trip planner or brochure. Other destinations may not have trip planners but may have a website outlining places to stay, things to do and see. There are also many travel books that can be borrowed from your local library. Go and use them.

Write down some practical questions you need to know in order to decide:

What is the best time of the year to go?

Which activities would I like to do to make the trip memorable?

What is the cheapest time of the year to go?

When is the peak season at the destination?

Is one week enough for the vacation?

How much will it cost?

Can I find a discount anywhere?

If budget is the main issue, review your information. Would travelling in the shoulder or off season still be acceptable to you? Can you reduce the number of activities you want to do? Can you shorten the stay by a few days without sacrificing the enjoyment of the trip? Probably staying at a hotel outside the city center will be cheaper than a central one. Get the help of an expert like a travel agent to come up with estimated costs that you can compare.  You may want to sacrifice on some aspects like a lower hotel category but definitely keeping the breakfast with Mickey or that zipline tour as a trip highlight.

If time is the issue (mostly because of work), find out your office policy with regards to filing for a vacation. Is it possible to file for your vacation in advance? What date is closest to the time of year you want to go on your vacation? With advance notice, your work can still be done by someone and your office will not stand still without you. Give yourself a “save the date” reminder. This will make it more realistic and tangible.

Now you have your destination, budget and date. What next?

Review your finances. How long will it take you to save your target amount? If possible, pay yourself. Each month set aside a reasonable amount that is deducted automatically from your bank account into a savings account. You can’t spend what you can’t touch. As you see your savings grow, it will encourage you to save more.

For arguments sake, let us say you only have a couple of credit cards and have been paying them off regularly. See where you can save and reduce the luxuries. Bring a lunch and snack from home more often than buying food or lunching out. This might even make you more health conscious. Reduce the number of movies or shows you watch and put the expense toward your trip.

Forego expensive celebrations like birthday parties for that year. In exchange, plan a trip highlight like dinner in a unique place for a combined celebration.

Check your documents and requirements. If you need a passport, check if it will still be valid for the trip. If a visa is required, plan the time to file for one ahead of time. If you are travelling with young an infant, request a bassinet as availability is limited for this. Children travelling with only one parent may need a consent letter. Do you need to get an injection like malaria shots? Check with your family doctor and travel agent for what you may need.

Consider purchasing your tickets ahead. If you are planning to use a credit card to pay and you gave yourself a year to plan, you would have paid off at least half the total amount by the time you leave for your trip. And use a credit card that give you optimum value like reward points and travel insurance coverage.

Speaking of reward points, check your wallet for any card that you have that may have accumulated points to be worth something. If not an air ticket maybe it is enough for some new luggage or a new outfit for your trip.

Work with a pro. Find a travel agent you can trust and get along with. This is their job and they will gladly help you realize your dream vacation.

Local tips. If you have close family or friends where your dream vacation will be, ask them for local tips and information. Some museums have free admission only on certain days and times that only locals know about. Who knows, you might even get offered free accommodation by your family or at least a free meal! Also ask people who have been there for their tips and suggestions.

If your dream vacation is a holiday back to your home country, you may need to bring presents for your relatives and friends. Try to purchase ahead.  For example, if your vacation falls over Christmas time, purchase some non-perishable Christmas stuff on Boxing Day  a year ahead for giveaways. Or throughout the year, buy little presents and clothes on sale and follow a strict list to ensure there is a present for everyone.

Make a list. Another planning tool to have is a notebook --- a real paper one, not a computer. Make a list for everything: things you want to do, to see, to eat, to buy, people and places to visit, etc. Encourage everyone going on the trip to write down their suggestions. Not everything on the lists is possible, but you can try! These lists will help you plan your itinerary. Prepare a timeline that can include when to file for the vacation, when to write excuse letters for the children, arranging the transportation to the airport, checking passports, etc. Closer to the date, you may want to transfer your list to an excel chart on your computer but the real notebook is accessible to everyone quickly.

Packing. Weeks from the trip, ask everyone to begin to put aside the clothes they want to bring. Know the climate at the destination and bring the proper attire. Pack a set of clothes in your carry-on in case your check-in luggage is delayed or lost. Consider putting a set of your clothes in each person’s luggage for the same reason. If this is a family vacation, consider borrowing some of the luggage to cut down on expenses.                                                                                                                                                       

Currency. Do you need to exchange currency at your destination? Bring travellers cheques and maybe a small amount of that currency in case you are unable to exchange money immediately on arrival.

Photos and Memorabilia. Don’t forget to record your dream vacation. Bring your digital camera and or video camera. Or if you do not want to worry about losing expensive equipment, bring disposable cameras. If you are more adventurous, you can create a travel blog or just download your pictures regularly so they are ready to sort when your trip is over. Purchase inexpensive souvenirs or take memorable photos.

Enjoy. Once you start on your vacation, enjoy it! Relax and leave thoughts of work or home behind. Savour the experiences and don’t get frustrated if your plans don’t always happen as you expected. Remember that you may still forget something or surprises will throw a monkey's wrench in the mix. Just smile and roll with it. After all, sometimes it's those things that make the trip memorable, right?


All packed for that dream vacation.

Bags are packed and ready to go!