Workin’ It Wednesday: Summer Vacations

Workin' It Wednesdays

It’s Workin’ It Wednesday.

The second Wednesday of every month, Erika and I host a link up where we talk about how we’re workin’ it in certain areas of our life (and then ask you to share your advice/tips/tricks on the subject too).

So far this year, we’ve discussed these topics:

January: Keeping our New Year’s Goals
February: Keeping our marriages strong
March: Balancing work and home life 
April: Spring cleaning

and today…

PLANNING/PREPPING FOR YOUR SUMMER VACATION!

Okay, so today, my partner in crime (a.k.a. Erika) is actually in China getting ready to pick up her new baby girl (insert jazz hands here!), I’m doing this link up solo.

Now, if you’ve been around here for a while, you know that Erika and I plan vacations for a living through our travel agency, so this topic is near and dear to our hearts.  As a travel agent and as a seasoned traveler, I’m big on planning and prepping trips in advance.  Now, there’s a fine line because you can’t plan them too far in advance (or a lot of your planning becomes irrelevant by the time you actually depart and/or pricing/availability is not ready), but I don’t like to wait until the last minute either (because things get booked up/prices skyrocket!).

So, here is my own little guide for how far in advance you need to plan certain trips (again, this is only my guide that I used based on experience)…

Walt Disney World: 9 months before you depart
Cruises: 12 to 18 months in advance is ideal (cabins book so quickly!!)
International land vacations (like Europe, Australia, etc): 6 months in advance
Domestic land vacations (like NYC): 3 to 6 months in advance
Beach destinations (Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico, etc): 6 to 9 months in advance
Ski destinations: 9 to 12 months in advance because things book up very quickly during this limited season

Based on what I see day in and day out, those are my ideal time frames.  They are not set in stone…just my preferences.  Of course, there are always exceptions, but I find these to be solid time frames.

I’ve mentioned before that Andrew and I plan our trips about two years in advance…and by that, I mean that we select our destination.  We have four trips coming up this year and we planned them all more than 12 months ago.  Now, we didn’t start booking them until we were within the time frames above, but we knew where we wanted to go.

I like to plan in advance where I want to go for several reasons:
1. It gives me time to research/scout out the area so that we make sure that really is where we want to go.
2. It gives us time to save/delegate funds for each trip.
3. It gives us time to start watching airfare to the destination and look for trends (that way, we know when to buy tickets because we’re looking at the prices constantly and can tell when they’re at their best prices).
4. We are type-A planners and this kind of vacation planning just works for us 😉 .

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Okay, so let’s take our trip to Washington D.C. as an example of how we plan/prep for a vacation.  We didn’t realize we loved traveling over spring break until spring break of last year…so we only planned this one 12 months out because that’s when we decided spring break was a great time to travel.  So, here’s when we planned everything:

March 2016: Decided to go to Washington D.C. in March 2017
October 2016: Booked an AirBnB for us to stay in while we were there
December 2016: Bought airline tickets (after watching the prices for about 8 weeks, we realized that then was the time to book)
January 2017: Started researching activities, places to visit and making dinner reservations
February 2017: Made a packing list of things we would need and started buying essentials
One day before we departed: packed

I really try not to pack until the last minute.  If I have a solid list, and know that I’ve purchased everything on there that I didn’t already have, then I don’t feel compelled to actually pack until one or two days before leaving.  We have some great packing tips and tricks you can see here:
City Trips Packing List
Cruise Packing List
Disney World Packing List
Ski Vacations Packing List
Adoption Packing List

Plus, I also have some posts on these trip topics too…
My Inflight Routine (basically how we sleep on long flights)
Traveling with Kids

So, that’s a little look how we plan for our trips.  We select our destination early, we look at flight prices over an extended period of time, we budget/earmark money for the trip in advance and we pack at the last minute 😉 .  But how do we prep for vacations that we’ve already booked?  Like this summer’s vacation?  Well, here are a few tips about that too…

1. We keep our eye on the weather to make sure we’re packing correctly.  Stroller covers for rain, umbrellas and a jacket are things that you’re so glad you have if you need them when traveling.

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We always make sure we go over the weather with our clients before they depart because you wouldn’t believe how many people just assume that because they’re going to the beach that it will automatically be sunny and warm.  It is sunny and warm most of the time, but unfortunately, sometimes, it’s cool, cloudy and rainy.

2. I love the dollar aisle at Target before a trip.  I can find so many inexpensive things on that aisle to take with us and most of it, I don’t bring back home.  Buckets and shovels for sand, stickers and coloring books for long flights, cheap little totes that make the perfect beach bag (and can be tossed before you head home so that no sand ends up in your suitcase), inflatable beach balls and more.  These items cost a pretty penny if you by them at your resort/on board your cruise…so I always try to bring them with me.

3. Back when I had babies that needed diapers, wipes and formula, I used Amazon to ship some items to my hotel once I had arrived instead of packing all of it in my suitcase.  Thanks to the wonder of Amazon Prime, you can have all of that delivered to your hotel room (domestically) instead of lugging it from home.

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And a few other random little tips for you…
1. If you’re sailing, make sure you book your cruise excursions in advance.  We don’t always do excursions and many times, we do our own and not the ship’s, but we always plan that out before our trip.  Once you’re on board, things are typically all booked up and you’re very limited.
2. I love using the website opentable.com for my meal reservations.  It’s easy, it’s free and it’s very convenient.  It’s also easy to change/cancel reservations should you decide to eat somewhere else.

Whew!  That’s it for my tips.  WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS?!  Please comment and share!!  We can’t have too many tips for making travel easier, right?!  And if you blogged, make sure you link up below!

 Next month, our topic is keeping your kids entertained all summer and then coming up this year…

Workin' it topics

 

Happy Wednesday!!

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  • Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog May 10, 2017 at 4:37 am

    Oh my, congratulations to your friend Erika! How wonderful to hear!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  • Angela Ellingson May 10, 2017 at 4:52 am

    I always love your travel recaps and tips so much! I’ve referred so many friends to these posts because they are so helpful (and fun!)! Thanks for hosting such a fun linkup!

  • Michelle May 10, 2017 at 5:24 am

    This is how most of our trips go–Tahoe is getting record amounts of snow, lets go. Last month the hubs was working in Europe. He called me near the end of the trip and suggested I meet him. Somehow we get incredibly lucky with mileage trips/reasonable last minute airfares, and all that. So I went to Barcelona with a week’s notice. I am a planner in other aspects of life, but somehow many of our trips happen like this! Lol.

    • Kathy May 10, 2017 at 8:17 am

      Michelle, I’m with you. A few years ago, we decided to go to Alaska and bought tickets for the next day, including for 5 children. It all worked out and we had a great time.

  • Sarah May 10, 2017 at 5:25 am

    Yay for Erika!!!! So exciting!!!

    We have a running list of places we want to visit, but usually wait until a month or so beforehand until booking (assuming we’re driving; if flying we check prices starting at three months before). We went home to AZ (from NC) in January and didn’t book until one week before we left! However, I had been watching flights and we got extremely lucky. Four tickets usually is $2,000 roundtrip and I somehow scored a deal and we paid $519 TOTAL for the four of us! Crazy!! Though I realize that could have more-than-backfired hahaha

    Love all your tips! Yay for summer traveling!!!!

    -Sarah http://www.thefrugalmillionaireblog.com

  • Heather May 10, 2017 at 5:33 am

    Great tips! I am impressed that your kids are such seasoned travelers. We are already thinking of a trip to Ireland next year when my son is four, and I am already nervous about it. I especially like your idea of buying cheap stuff to bring, then ditching it. So smart!

    • Sharon May 10, 2017 at 6:39 am

      We went ti Ireland with our kids last year ( they were 11 and 8) and we had the BEST time. Go for it!

  • Emily May 10, 2017 at 5:34 am

    You always have great advice/tips for every topic. Would love to see a post on your favorite baby items to help first time moms-to-be on what we really need, what you never used, favorite brands, etc. I figure as a mom of 4 you would be an expert in this field!!

  • Sharon May 10, 2017 at 5:40 am

    I am always thinking about vacations! We tend to think about our summer vacations over Christmas Break and pick a destination then. I have a pinterest board for every country or region that we want to visit and I start pinning ideas about everything from excursions to restaurants. When I see places mentioned on pinterest or blogs, I often then go to trip advisor to read the reviews and see if it fits for us. I pre-book many tickets before we leave.. many times that means that we get to skip lines and that is worth its weight in gold. I also use the Rick Steves Travel boards a lot. The people on there are amazing and gave the best tips, tricks and recommendations especially if you are travelling to Europe

  • JulieL May 10, 2017 at 5:50 am

    I’d love to hear more about how you budget for these vacations. Do you save a set amount weekly? How do you decide how much to save when you aren’t going to 1-2 years? What about spending money, for yourselves and your kids? How did you decide how much of your overall household budget was going to go to travel? What about adding in 2 more kids lately, has that changed your vacation budget? Thanks! 🙂

    • Mix and Match Mama May 10, 2017 at 6:03 am

      We set aside money quite often for trips (not on a scheduled basis but very often). Because we’ve traveled so much, we know about how much we are willing to spend on a particular trip, so we earmark that amount for that vacation. And yes, we’ve had to increase/alter our budget now that we’ve added additional kiddos. We’ve taken all of that into consideration.

  • Narci Dreffs May 10, 2017 at 6:00 am

    These are such great tips for planning vacations!!! I am bookmarking this for sure!

  • Sheaffer Sims May 10, 2017 at 6:03 am

    So many great tips today!

  • Alexis deZayas May 10, 2017 at 6:49 am

    This is so helpful!! I love the idea of watching the airline prices before you will be buying them to know what’s high/low. Happy Wednesday, Shay!

  • Jennifer May 10, 2017 at 6:52 am

    If you plan a trip to a state park – Yellowstone, Glacier, Zion – and want to stay in the park, you must secure your lodging a year in advance. It books up very quickly!

  • Jenna May 10, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Love all things travel and when you do these posts. Helpful and fun to read. I feel like I’ve been all over the world with you now!

    It’s nearly summer and I’m thinking sunscreen already – need to stock up! Do you have a link or list of the sunscreens you and your family used last year? I remember you tested a bunch out! Thanks!

    • Rachel May 10, 2017 at 8:27 am

      Vanicream is FANTASTIC for kids & babies!

  • Sarah @ Foxy's Domestic Side May 10, 2017 at 7:08 am

    I love this, so many great tips. Now that I don’t have kids in diapers, why didn’t I think of the amazon prime thing to the hotel!!! Man, good tip there!!! Also I appreciate that you said you save for th trips, so many people out there don’t do that!!

  • Amy May 10, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Shay! I have three kids and we love to travel, so I’m always excited to read your travelling with kids posts. Any chance you’ve done South Africa or Mauritius yet? We’re taking our three young kids in a few weeks! Thanks!

    • Mix and Match Mama May 10, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      I would love to do both of those places!!!

  • Megan May 10, 2017 at 7:35 am

    Are you an Authorized Disney Travel Planner? I couldn’t find any information on your Mix and Match Travel page. Thanks! Also, do you charge a fee or is the $200 a refundable deposit?

    • Mix and Match Mama May 10, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      I am an authorized Disney Travel Planner and depending on what type of trip I’m working on, depends on fees and pricing.

  • Amanda Wilson May 10, 2017 at 7:45 am

    I would add that having a family of 7 it is important to book a bit earlier if you want the suites in hotels you are staying at! Shay we are thinking Disney Cruise how does it work for us with 5 kids??

    • Mix and Match Mama May 10, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      Disney Cruise Line accommodates five guests in cabins!!

  • Jenna May 10, 2017 at 7:48 am

    We are also pre-planners. We have our trip for next summer already booked. We usually do a big trip every other year and a road trip during the other years. This year is a road trip. We love a good vacation!

  • Anne May 10, 2017 at 7:53 am

    I am bookmarking this post because of all of the great tips in it, especially how far in advance you have to plan. Lots of things that are really good to know. Thanks, Shay.

  • Amy Johnson May 10, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Great tips! I’m actually surprised at how far in advance you need to plan for a cruise! Good to know!

    Going into a little more detail, when I’m planning, I try to plan a reasonable amount of activities for the time, but also some significant downtime each day, depending on how long you’ll be gone. I mean, if it’s a long weekend, we don’t do that as much (although nap times for us are sacred…and we usually all need it!), but I try to have a basic agenda for the day. However, when travelling with little kids (I currently have 3 boys ages 5, 3.5 and 1), I make sure each day can be moved around. If my 3 year old is having a really rough day or we all got a rough night of sleep, we’ll switch one of our busier days with a more chill day to just let him work that out so that it doesn’t ruin the fun on our bigger days. I also make sure to note if there’s a specific activity that has to be booked ahead of time so we know that particular day cannot move.

    We’ll usually plan something bigger in the morning, from 10am-noon, and then allow for lunch and a nap, and then plan something else bigger for the evening. We try to make sure that there is something else for the big kids to do in that time, so a pool or playground close by is a must! We’ll scout out stuff close by for that purpose, and much of the time, either my hubby or I will take the big kids while the other rests with the baby at the place we’re staying.

    Also, a HUGE part of my planning is to ask around for recommendations from friends and family who have been where we’re going. I usually will put a post out there on FB and get a ton of really great advice. It really helps when other people in your same phase of life offer advice. I mean, if you don’t have kids and don’t want to be around lots of little kids, it’s good to know to maybe NOT go to this one waterpark, but try this other one. Or if you have a house full of them, to have another Mama with a handful of kiddos comment that one particular place was perfect for them (or a nightmare) that was on your list it a huge help!

  • Amanda @ Cupcake N Dreams May 10, 2017 at 8:04 am

    I think Airbnbs are a game changer, especially for families! They can be cheaper and offer more space than a traditional hotel room. I always search for an Airbnb first in my destinations. Flights are tricky, but with Google.com/flights or skyscanner.com, you should be able to find awesome deals with a little flexibility. Can’t wait to hear about your summer vacation!
    Xo
    Amanda @ Cupcake N Dreams

  • Bri May 10, 2017 at 8:10 am

    I shipped all of our snacks/sunscreen/diapers/wipes/etc to our Disney Resort for our family vacation last summer. We used Walmart.com because it was cheaper than Amazon for many items & it made my life SO. MUCH. EASIER!

  • Megan Jeffries May 10, 2017 at 8:22 am

    My friend is a travel ninja, and on a recent trip with her to Iceland, i learned a couple tips:

    The hopper app – tracks price trends for flights and tells you when it predicts better prices will be, or to book now.

    Hotspot wifi – she ordered it online and received it at her house before we left. It uses satellite, and provides wifi, so you can use your phone if you don’t have an international phone plan.

  • Amanda @ That Inspired Chick May 10, 2017 at 8:22 am

    I can’t wait to get to the beach this year!! All this vacay talk has me ready to get away NOW!

    That Inspired Chick

  • Nicole May 10, 2017 at 8:43 am

    I love these travel posts so first thank you! When watching flight prices, have you noticed there is a certain day that is cheaper to book or a certain day to fly that is cheaper? And do you use a certain app to watch prices? Thanks again!

    • Mix and Match Mama May 10, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      During the week is almost always cheaper than departing on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Tuesday through Thursday seems the best.

  • Chelsea May 10, 2017 at 9:01 am

    Hey Shay!

    I remember once that you said you like to write on paper the things that you do each day. But I was wondering if you knew about the trips feature on google maps. If you go to your gmail account and go to maps, you can create your own personal map and pinpoint each place you want to go, and look at a whole map of it across the city (or country) and plan your days that way. You can then share the link with anyone attending the trip and they can add their own things too! I travel several times a year and I use it every single time!

  • Kara May 10, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Do you have any advice on when to buy airline tickets? Certain time? Day? Amount of time before trip? I have always read that Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m central time is the best …any thoughts? Thanks!

    • Mix and Match Mama May 10, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      Yes! That Tuesday before 2:00 tip is legit!!

  • Kathryn Madison May 10, 2017 at 9:05 am

    We are considering a cruise next year. It caught my attention that you do excursions that the cruise line doesn’t offer. How did you go about finding that info? I’d be very interested since I’m sure it’s much cheaper to do it once you get off of the boat.

    • Mix and Match Mama May 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      I read a ton of blogs, Pinterest and other online research.

  • Patty May 10, 2017 at 9:07 am

    I always make a PInterest board for our destination and begin posting ideas for excursions, restaurants, shopping, etc ahead of time so I can prioritize what to do when we get there. Helped tremendously last year when we went to Australia & New Zealand. Also, we prepay on the credit card we’ll use on our trip and normally have very little, if any, to pay on it when we’re home.

  • Kaitlin May 10, 2017 at 9:14 am

    These are great guidelines! I’m 29 and currently in the wedding/bachelorette phase of life which means a lot of fun trips and travel and I wanted to suggest an app that I’ve been using a TON lately called “Hopper” for flights. You put in your trip dates, filters (like non-stop, time of day etc.) and it will tell you whether you should wait or book. I set notifications so that it will alert me when the price is right! When it alerts you, you can even buy the flights directly through the app but if you check your fave flight site, the prices are still spot on. I love it! I’ve saved a ton of money this way because I’m the type that just wants to book the flights ASAP and not worry about waiting but in this case it’s very worth it so I wanted to pass it along 🙂

  • Amanda R May 10, 2017 at 9:58 am

    We usually plan on 2 trips a year and then try to do a few things on the fly.

  • Aulani Morris May 10, 2017 at 10:33 am

    I am learning so much from your tips 🙂 I am traveling to Maui end of December this year and I’ve been watching the airfares for the past weeks now. What is the best airfare rate/price do you think you would go for to go to Maui around that time. From experience, the cost had increased dramatically. I am scared that if I wait much longer it will go waaaay up. HELP!

    • Mix and Match Mama May 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm

      It depends on where you’re flying from!

      • Aulani Morris May 10, 2017 at 4:22 pm

        Ops, Duh! Flying from Seattle.

  • Johanna May 10, 2017 at 10:39 am

    Great tips! I will definetely be planning a year ahead, at least the destination! However it would be good for more of us to skip a step 2 up there (dollar-store). I know I at least need to reduce, re-use and recycle. Let’s all make an effort to not enforce the throwaway society, we only have one planet ❤️

  • Cristin May 10, 2017 at 10:42 am

    What a great post. We try to do 3-4 trips a year and one long road trip in our RV each year. RV road trips need to be planned no later than a year in advance if you are heading to the National Parks. The campgrounds fill up within a few minutes of reservations opening for the month. Its wild. You have to be crazy organized.

    I was surprised you did not mention travel insurance and/or making sure your current medical insurance covers international medical care. In addition to…paying with a credit card that gives you trip interruption insurance and covers things like lost baggage. I cannot list how many times people have missed a flight and then missed their cruise and then they are out thousands and thousands of dollars. My husbands’ business partners father in law has been in a hospital in Argentina for a month. Their stateside medical insurance does not cover medivac home and they cannot afford the $300,000 flight home to the states. If they had travel insurance, they could get him home to get the care he needs.

  • Lauren May 10, 2017 at 10:58 am

    Hi Shay! Would love to know what flight website you use for tracking the price changes. For years I’ve used Yapta alerts but curious if you know of any other good ones. Thanks for all your amazing tips and congrats to Erika and her growing family!

  • Jessica May 10, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Have you ever done a post on cruise lines? We’ve never cruised and it can be confusing to look at all the options/different lines, etc. Thanks!

  • Kristin May 10, 2017 at 11:47 am

    How far in advance would you recommend booking a Disney cruise? I’m hoping to take my family in Sept-Oct 2018

    • Mix and Match Mama May 10, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Ideally, 18 to 12 months. Those cabins book very quickly!

  • Lindsay @ Lindsay's Sweet World May 10, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    These are all such great tips! I love the timetables you provided for booking. This is so handy!

  • Jessica May 10, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Thank you! So helpful!! We go to NYC at the end of the month with our three kids (10,8,5), I’ve referenced your blog post quite a bit. Thank you for sharing.

  • Maria May 10, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    How exciting for your friend. LOVE these timeline recommendations! I always am wondering what is too soon and too short of time to plan trips. Good to have a pro-in-the-know;)

    • Mix and Match Mama May 11, 2017 at 4:31 am

      I don’t think there is a hard rule. You can be spontaneous and go the next day or plan one way out. There are pros and cons to each, but not one set rule.

  • Whitney Pegram May 10, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Your travel posts are always SO helpful!! ?

  • Erica May 10, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Okay, I am so surprised that you love traveling at Spring Break! I just think $$$, crowds, and craziness. I’ve never traveled at Spring Break because of that… am I missing something?

    • Mix and Match Mama May 11, 2017 at 4:30 am

      We love the time away with our kids. We realized that our spring breaks were pretty dull around here…so that’s what we love about traveling during that time.

  • Hilary phillips May 10, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    Have you heard of the app called Hopper? You put in potential dates that you are flying and your destination and it tells you when the best time to buy the flight is. For example, it might say “this is a pretty good price but we predict processes going down in two weeks. You should wait to buy your flight. Or it might say something like this “This isn’t a great price, but you should buy now because we predict prices will only go up.” The app will send you an alert when you should buy your flight and it directs you straight to the airlines sight. I have had several friends that have booked international travel at amazing prises with it!

  • Stacey May 11, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Piggy backing on the buying cheap toys etc and leaving there when you go…back in the day before kindle or if you just enjoy the heft of a book I would buy used books and leave in my room upon departure and use that space for souvenirs. I have also brought clothes along for cooler nights that I left there thinking they were going in the goodwill bag at home anyway.

  • Amanda May 12, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    What is your opinion on airline miles and airline mile credit cards? Worth it or not?

    • Mix and Match Mama May 13, 2017 at 5:58 am

      We collect airline miles! I think they can be very helpful!

  • Lauren K May 15, 2017 at 9:46 am

    If booking flights only do you recommend booking flights straight through the airline, or using a site like Expedia or Kayak for the best deals?

    • Mix and Match Mama May 15, 2017 at 10:24 am

      I like sites like kayak! Totally!

  • Lauren May 30, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    My husband and I are planning a 10-year anniversary trip next year. We want to go to the Caribbean. What’s your favorite island?

    • Mix and Match Mama May 31, 2017 at 4:56 am

      My favorite island is not in the Caribbean. My favorite island is Bermuda :).