At last, summer vacation time is here. If you haven’t started planning, it’s not too late. There’s a lot of summer ahead of us, and you can still find time to get out of town with your family before school starts back up again. Just make sure you you don’t fall into a few common traps and you’ll have the best vacation ever.

It seems like vacationing should be easy. You reserve some time on your schedule, tell your boss you’ll be gone, decide where you want to go and just like that, you’re on a relaxing vacation. But, an enjoyable vacation isn’t always that easy. You don’t want to come back from your vacation more stressed out than when you left, so here are 10 common pitfalls you should avoid to make sure you have a memorable summer vacation.

Don’t Book It All In One Place

Spanish vacation

The internet is a treasure trove of travel options. You have to pay attention to what you’re booking and read the fine print, but there’s no reason not to shop around for travel deals. Cheap traveling shouldn’t be the foundation of your plans, but you have a budget and you need to stick to it. Shop around, look for discounts and do your research. A simple search of your destination and ‘discounts,’ ‘deals’ or ‘tips’ will get you as much information as you can take in. If you’re a member of a wholesale club like Costco or Sam’s Club, check their websites for travel deals. Members of AAA can often get great travel discounts. Sites like and TripAdvisor are great for comparing prices and getting great deals. You want to research what you’re booking before you book it so you don’t end up in a scary hotel or with no room at all. You can book a wonderful vacation without a travel agent and still come home to a bank account with money in it.

Watch Out for Hidden Extras

Alabama vacation

Vacation packages make planning so much easier. There are few better ways to have a relaxing vacation than to let someone else do the planning for you. But you have to be careful when purchasing a vacation package. Do your research. Don’t just pick the first deal you find. Read the small print and make sure you understand exactly what is included. Are there different room rates? Are food and drink included, and is alcohol part of the package? Is it every meal or just one meal? Are gratuities included? What about transportation? Do you have to ‘upgrade’ to get the package that attracted you in the first place? Think about everything you could possibly pay for and then make sure it’s in the package. While you’re at it, read the reviews. If you’ve found a package you like, do a search for the company and see what people are saying. A good way to go into debt on your vacation is to show up for your package and realize it’s not all-inclusive.

Don’t Be Inflexible With Your Travel Dates


The easiest way to overspend on your vacation if you’re planning to fly is to be inflexible with your travel dates. If you plan far enough in advance, you can choose to travel when the flights are less expensive. Many times, a Tuesday or Wednesday flight will be hundreds of dollars cheaper than a Sunday or Friday flight. If you’re planning really far ahead, you can change your plans by weeks or months so you travel during a less busy time when the airlines are boosting the prices because they know that’s when everyone wants to go. Maybe you’ll spend one less day at your destination, but with the money you save on plane fare, you can create a special memory at a fancy restaurant, or add a more expensive tour to your list. Why pay more for the plane ride when that’s not the fun part?

Don’t Go Into Debt


A vacation should be fun and leave you relaxed, refreshed and ready to get back to your normal day-to-day life. A vacation should not leave you stressed out and buried in debt. Even just a little bit of credit card debt can last a long time and traveling on credit will add up fast. Even if you were able to pay for your vacation out of pocket, make sure you bring enough spending money with you, preferably in the form of traveler’s checks. Getting out the credit card when you don’t have cash to cover will raise the cost of those meals, souvenirs and activities by quite a bit after you factor in your interest rate. The memories of a great vacation will last a lifetime, but the payments from it shouldn’t.

Don’t Under-Budget

Camping vacation

There is nothing more disappointing on a vacation than running out of money. The fastest way to go into debt on your trip is by not planning ahead for extra costs. You have to do your research and be ready for more than just the big costs associated with traveling. If you’re flying, there are now extra fees for baggage and food. If you’re staying at a hotel, there will be gratuities for services. If you’ve got different tourist destinations on your agenda, make sure you know what they’ll cost so you can account for those excursions in your budget and not end up ruining your vacation with the stress of having to empty your pockets, or by running out of money altogether. You definitely don’t want to have to find a place to turn your credit into cash, or pay the price for a cash advance. It’s a good plan to budget an extra $25 to $50 each day for miscellaneous expenses. Then, if you have to catch a cab or need to buy a phone charger because you forgot yours, you aren’t stressed out for the rest of the trip.

Don’t Make ‘Cheap’ Your Goal

Family beach vacation

You don’t want to go into debt for your vacation, but making ‘cheap’ your goal can also ruin the trip for you. If you pick a faraway hotel because you can get a great deal on it, you’ll find yourself spending most of your time traveling to the places you want to see, instead of enjoying where you are. It doesn’t matter that you got a cheap flight if you spend two days traveling and are in airports on layovers more than you’re on the beach getting that vacation tan. If you find a tourist pass that seems like a good deal, make sure it actually covers places you’ll be near and want to go to, and then check what the regular prices would be before you end up paying for something you may not even use.

Don’t OverSchedule

Whale of a vacation

Yes, you’ve finally booked that trip you’ve always wanted to take. You don’t know when you’ll get back, if ever, so you better see everything you can possibly see and do everything you can possibly do while you’re there. Slow down a minute. If you overschedule yourself on your vacation, it will all become a blur and you won’t remember the vacation you’ve been wanting to take all your life. You’ll also come back home a big ball of stress instead of happy and at ease. Give yourself time to enjoy this dream vacation. Also, if the kids are coming along, keep in mind how much they can take in one day. Worn-out kids become cranky kids and that will ruin everyone’s vacation. Hit the highlights, get off the beaten path and allow yourself to take it easy. No, you won’t see everything, but you will remember the things you do see and that’s worth missing a few stops. Plus, you’ll look happy in the photos.

Don’t Forget the Distance

Michigan vacation

You’re going to be in a certain area, so it only makes sense that you’ll get to see everything in the surrounding areas as well. For example, you can see Venice because you’ll be in Europe. But, really, you’ll be in Paris and Venice is 13 hours away, so you’ll spend the better part of one of your vacation days on a train. When planning your trip, make sure you factor in the travel time to all the places you want to see. You don’t want to spend the majority of your hard-earned vacation time on your way somewhere. Just because you’re in Nashville, doesn’t mean you’ll make it to Graceland in Memphis. There’s a long stretch of Tennessee in between, and you need to be sure you want to see that before you decide it’s going to happen.

Don’t Forget That Timing is Everything

A relaxing vacation

The key to a great vacation is timing. You need to book it at the right time. You have to take it at the right time. And you have to plan the right time to do things while you’re there. Timing is everything. First of all, think about when you want to go on vacation. Don’t pick the most popular places to go during that time of year. If you pick something off-season, you’ll get more for your money. Just make sure you consider the weather. Choosing when you book your vacation can also save you money. It’s no longer true that the further ahead you book, the better as far as price is concerned. You can watch plane fares for the best cost, but you shouldn’t book anything until about six weeks before your trip. Plane fares don’t normally jump in price until about two-to-three weeks before the departure date. If you’re taking a road trip, you still have to consider the timing. It’s no fun to drive across the country to see the sights, only to get stuck in rush hour traffic in Chicago. Map out your route so you don’t get stuck in a jam with all the poor worker bees who aren’t on vacation. And, finally, when you’re planning excursions on your trip, make sure you aren’t wearing yourself out, especially if you have kids with you. Also, is that tour of the ancient ruins happening during nap time? If so, nobody’s going to enjoy it. If you’re traveling far, you’ll have jet lag to consider as well. You won’t want to hit the ground running first thing in the morning the day you arrive. Plan carefully ahead of time and time can be your friend.

Don’t Mix Work With Vacation

Shanghai vacation

There are a lot of ways you can ruin your vacation, but the most foul way has to be messing it up with work. You’re going on vacation to take a break from work, so don’t let the two mix. Plan a day between work and vacation. You don’t want to start your vacation completely frazzled by the million things you had to finish up at the office before you left. You also don’t want to be up all night trying to pack after you stayed at work late to finish up those last details. Give yourself some space to tie up loose ends at work and then get yourself ready at home. Then, make sure you’ve left yourself a day to unwind from your travels before going back to work. Depending on where you go, the traveling to and from can be stressful. If you get home and immediately have to hit the ground running, you’ll destroy all the benefits of the time you spent relaxing. And, if you’re going back to work right away, you’ll spend the last days of your vacation thinking about work, and nobody wants to do that. You’ll also do yourself a favor if you schedule your first day, or half a day, back at work to catch up. You can jump back into your projects the next day, but if you give yourself the first day to get back up to speed and into the swing of things, you won’t have to be exchanging emails and messages while you’re trying to get home. Lastly, do not work while you’re on vacation. It doesn’t matter how well you budgeted or how much you saved by doing your research and shopping around, if you are checking your email and putting out work fires while you’re on vacation, you will have wasted your money. You get a vacation from work for a reason.

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