How to Plan Your First Real World Vacation

When you went on vacation during college, your parents probably planned the whole thing from start to finish. Unfortunately, you don’t get a spring break in the real world, and you’re lucky to get Christmas Eve off. Oftentimes, work life gets so busy that it can feel like you don’t have time for a getaway, so when you do decide to take a break from work, it’s important to make sure that you do it right. From asking your boss for time off to finding places to stay, these are the six most important things to consider when planning your first real world vacation. 

1. Asking for time off

Before you plan your vacation, whether it be for a few days or two weeks, it’s important that you tell your boss in advance. Many post-collegiettes don’t realize how much time you really should give an employer, and telling your boss a week before you leave is not the smartest idea—you won’t have time to finish everything that needs to be done before you go out of the office. Make sure you give at least two weeks of notice, preferably three to four (especially if it's a longer vacation), so your boss has time to figure out what needs to be done before you leave.

2. Deciding where to go

You probably have multiple dream vacations planned in your head already, from lounging on the beach in the Caribbean to backpacking through Asia. Take time to think about what kind of vacation you really want and ask yourself a few important questions. First, who will you go with? Are you going to go on a solo trip or with a group of friends? Second, do you you want to visit cities or go somewhere more rural? Finally, do you want a restful, relaxing vacation? Or do you want to make it as adventurous as possible? Make a list of the places you would like to go to, and divide your list into pros and cons. For example, a pro for the Caribbean (depending on your personality) would be getting to lounge on the beach and a con could be not having as many opportunities to check out museums. After you're finished with that list, start eliminating the options with the most cons and go forward from there. If you are traveling with others, they should lists as well—that way, you can find a place that you mutually agree upon. Once you do decide on a place, sites such as Mygola can help you create a custom itinerary so you don’t have to feel stressed about creating your own from scratch.

3. Creating a budget

What are you willing to spend? You need to take into account all that goes into planning and budgeting for a vacation, including flights, lodging, food and transportation. It adds up! Look into your destination before you book anything to try and gauge how much money you will need. The price to take a road trip with friends will likely be much different than what it would be to go to Europe, so do your research! You should prioritize where you'll be spending and where you can save. For example, if you're a big foodie, you'll want to spend on nice restaurants and save on housing.

4. Booking your flight

Would you rather spend less money and leave really early in the morning, or depart at a more reasonable time but end up paying more? Figuring out when you want to travel is crucial to the planning process, so it’s important to ask yourself such questions. No matter what you decide, you'll want to take advantage of the best deal possible. Websites like GetGoing can score you 40 percent discounts on fights—perfect for budget travelers. Other sites like Expedia and Kayak are great because they let you to compare flights across all airlines, allowing you to find the cheapest route.

5. Choosing where to stay

If you're vacationing on a budget, it’s probably best to stay in a hostel or rent an apartment. Hotels can get very expensive and it’s not worth the money if you can stay somewhere that is just as clean, but cheaper. For hostels, check out both Hostelworld and Hostel.com. These sites allow you to read reviews and descriptions about different hostels your desired area. Remember to think about what kind of hostel you would like to stay in and do your research—some are popular with traveling college students (so there's likely to be more of a nightlife), where others are known for being quiet places with many traveling families. If you'd like to have your own space, try renting an apartment instead of a hostel. Take a look at Airbnb or HomeAway for some great options. Both list reviews, photos and detailed information about the places available for rent. 

6. Making a packing list

Make a list of what you need to pack, grouping similar items into categories. Keeping toiletries, clothing, shoes, etc. separated in this way will help you stay organized and you'll feel less stressed both while packing and unpacking. Packing really depends on your preferences and you'll need to pack for the specific type of vacation you’ll be taking. If you’re going to several different locations abroad, it’s probably a good idea to bring a hiking backpack—it would be a hassle to drag along your suitcase on trains and busses. If you are going to backpack, it’s wise to bring a few versatile outfits instead of several weeks' worth (that would get heavy)—you can use a Laundromat or a washer/dryer in your hostel. Also, don’t forget to bring First Aid necessities—Band-aids, Neosporin, bug spray, sunscreen, Advil and Tylenol—you never know when you might get hurt or sick, and it's always best to have something on hand.

Now that you know how to start planning your first real world vacation, you’re ready to tackle your itinerary! Get to scheduling, graduette!