I am always surprised by how undecided people are when they ask me where they should go on vacation. This is a big-ticket item, after all, and you should be really certain that you’re going to have your expectations fulfilled. But most people just want to get away and have a good time and have only a vague idea of what they actually want to do once they get there.
Here are 10 tips for choosing your beach vacation:
- You may simply envision yourself lying on a beach, pina colada in hand, Bob Marley music playing in the background. This will be great for about two days, until you peel yourself off your beach towel and start peering around you for something else to do.
- What else do you want to do? Is it important that there is a town you can visit that has interesting shopping and some authentic restaurants and bars? Or do you want to do scuba diving and boating? Determining what other activities you want to do before you travel is very important when it comes to selecting a resort.
- Do you want to stay connected to the Internet or be cut off completely? Believe it or not, some places that don’t have television or any access to the real world actually charge extra for being so remote. That might appeal to you or your spouse, but there is a good chance you’ll be swimming to the nearest WiFi hotspot after the third day of not getting your email if you, like most of us, don’t want to be alienated from civilization.
- How about nightlife? You might really be sticking with that idea that you just want to lie on the beach for seven days, but again, you might want that only for a day or so. If you’re at a resort that has only one bar and that gets very, very quiet at night, with the only other nightlife available a $50 cab ride away, you might start to go crazy. If you enjoy going out in the evening, be sure you’re choosing a place that has plenty of alternative fun activities within walking distance or a very short drive away.
- How important is food to you? Are you happy eating from a buffet line or do you like to have a proper meal three times a day with table service? Cuisine can vary quite a bit at resorts. I suggest you choose a place that has a great mix. And be sure there are selections available. A Michelin-star restaurant at a resort is fabulous, but do you want to eat there every night? Can your pocketbook afford that?
- How far should you fly to get there? You might be so anxious to hit the beach you’ll go through anything to get there, but why torture yourself? Choose a place that has good airlift from where you live. Three plane connections might not seem that bad when you’re sitting in the travel agent’s office planning your trip, but believe me, you’ll be kicking yourself for it coming and going when the time comes. And did anyone say, “lost luggage?” The more connections you have, the more opportunity the airlines get to lose it.
- How much culture do you want? Are you going to be okay if the most exotic site you see when you’re traveling are the 5,000 cruise ship passengers who flood in to port when their ship docks near your resort? Or will you want to be able to take some excursions where you interact with locals? Are these excursions delivered by legitimate tour operators or are they shady people who hover around you as you’re getting off the plane trying to find a cab ride to your hotel?
- Speaking of transfers, is the resort you’re booking able to arrange a decent car ride to and from the airport? Don’t leave this important part of your journey to fate. You’ll want to know how much it’s going to cost you to travel to the hotel and what’s included.
- If you must take a cab from the airport, look for the taxi line outside the airport. In some destinations, cabs will charge you an additional fee for each piece of luggage you have. Some places even have set taxi pricing for the distance you’re traveling. Go to the defined area of the facility and find out as much as you can ahead of time before you’re whisked off in to the night by a stranger. And do not answer, “Yes!” when you get off the plane and a man asks you if you need a cab.
- In summary, really think it through. Don’t drop a lot of money on a vacation that’s vulnerable to rip offs and disappointments. This is a big world and there are plenty of places to go. Don’t get caught up in the excitement of the moment and grab at any brochure that shows a blue sky and a turquoise sea. Do check out Trip Advisor to see what others are saying about your options and do consider using a professional travel agent to help you select your trip. After all, who are you going to call if you have a problem? The Internet doesn’t answer the phone.
For more tips, follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ruthanneterrero.