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I am a planner by nature so planning vacations comes pretty natural to me. Some folks are not planners and have to work harder at it or they do not do it at all. I’m a bit biased towards planning and being prepared. Flying by the seat of my pants is not my style and tends to produce anxiety in me.

I decided to share my travel planning tips and suggestions with you, in hopes to make your next trip smooth and anxiety free.

Our last and first vacation was in the summer 2014 for our honeymoon. We went to Park City, UT. It was a great town; I highly recommend it. We decided early in the calendar year that we were going to make a vacation happen for us this year.

Step 1: Determine where you want to go

We want to stay in the states with easy and fast travel, to maximize our time away on the vacation part not the traveling part.

  • We live in south-east Texas so escaping to some place cooler during the summer is ideal for us.
  • We tend to travel during and around the 4th of July holiday week because I already get a day off work, my boss goes on vacation at this time too, it is close to my husband’s birthday, it’s not far from our wedding anniversary, and it is a good time to get out of the Texas heat.
  • We lean towards going to the mountains for vacation for all the aforementioned reasons.

When figuring out where to go, I make a list of activities I’d like to do or see. For this trip the draw is variety….which, as you know, is the spice of life!

  • Good Food – I don’t think I need to explain this one…..cause GOOD FOOD!
  • Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries – Local brews, wines, and spirits are a fun way to meet people and experience the local culture.
  • Water Activities – Fishing (husband), Kayaking (me), Boating, Jet Skis, Parasailing, Swimming, Floating
  • Mountain Activities – Nearby hiking trails and natural wonders to experience.
  • Nice Spas – Relaxation

Initially we were looking to go to Washington state or Oregon and explore the beautiful mountains up there. After GoogleMapping (I don’t think this is a real word/verb), I realized that we’d fly into one of the major airports in the area and the have to drive 4-6 hours away to get to the beautiful mountains that were interested in seeing. Once we’d get there it is pretty desolate with not a ton of activities nor people around. I personally didn’t want to drive 4-6 hours somewhere…..seems like a bit of a waste of time. One day I will do that trip, but it didn’t sound very appealing to me for this year.

I then looked around the Yellow Stone area and Wyoming….same sorta thing, but a whole lot more expensive! So, that was a no (for now).

I thought about Colorado, but I spent many summers in Colorado growing up and really wanted to go somewhere I’ve not been before as an adult.

As I was drifting around the map I landed on Lake Tahoe. “YES!”, I thought….it has all the things we are looking for in a summer vacation location.

Step 2: Determine if you can afford to go there

This is where I’m really not the best. I’m not a travel bargain shopper. I’m sure this is my misfortune. I think that if I were trying to go to Europe, Hawaii, or Alaska or somewhere far, I’d be more apt to find deals, even at the expense of my convenience. Since I’m traveling close and I can cater to my convenience.

Keep in mind that things typically are more expensive when it is a holiday week.

Step 2.5: Settle on what days you will be traveling/stay for

The flights and lodging are typically the most costly part of any vacation.

United Airlines has a hub in the Houston, TX area and I determined that we could get a direct flight into Reno, NV. There is only 1 direct flight per day in to RNO from IAH and only 1 direct flight per day from RNO to IAH. Soooo that didn’t leave very much wiggle room; we’d need to book the flights right away to ensure that we can get back and forth on the days we want.

I checked our credit card points to see how much we could apply towards our flights. It wasn’t a lot this time because I kept using my points on Amazon for my dog, but every little bit helps. My Mom also hooked me up for my birthday….chipping in towards the costs of our flights (thanks Mom!).

I then started looking on VRBO.com and AirBNB for places to stay. I originally was looking at North Lake Tahoe, it was not super expensive, really close to Reno, BUT it was far from the mountains. Then I started checking South Lake Tahoe, which apparently is “the place to be”. I found a condo for rent that was within a reasonable price range per night.

Next was checking the rental car prices. Thankfully, I get a corporate discount through my company and it is going to be around $300 for 8 days.

The financial part was looking doable…..sooooo let’s do this!

Step 3: Picking & Securing Lodging

Do not drive yourself nuts with all of the millions of options. I made a board on both VRBO and AirBNB webpages and saved the most appealing ones to the boards. Once I felt like I had seen most of what was available in the area, I started narrowing them down based on the location and amenities that are important to me.

  • Location – Can I walk to things? How close to the water or mountains am I?
  • Kitchenette – Coffee, Snacks, Perhaps cook breakfast.
  • Laundry Facility Access – For an 8 day trip, this is important.
  • On-Site Pool and or Hot Tub (other/more amenities a plus)
  • Patio or Balcony
  • Size and Luxury

Once you have a list of what is important to you in lodging you can easily and quickly narrow down the options in each board. After I narrowed it down to 2 or 3 options, I provided them to my husband to obtain his preference. He chose the same one that I did, so just like that….bam! We had a place to stay.

I booked the room for the dates I had picked and immediately went online and booked our flights. Then immediately reserved a rental car, which will be a small SUV. All the big things are booked and paid for……..

Now the fun part of planning a trip really begins!

Part 2 on Food and Activities – Coming Soon!

I will re-cap our trip and experiences and I will review our lodging location.

I will do restaurant reviews and post them on my other site called: Restaurant Reviews – ByCandace