An afternoon with the locals on the Riviera Maya

More of us are taking off than ever or planning to. While tips on how to have the perfect trip and holiday fun are flooding the media, what’s unique for our country is that we’re venturing forth on road trips more often instead of venturing overseas, according to reports from Expedia.com. As they worked with a mathematician, a psychologist and other travel experts on discovering what makes a “perfect” holiday, what emerged is a picture of traveling far, more than six nights and taking longer flights.

Those of us taking shorter trips and vacations are short changing ourselves!

I’m a firm believer in the power of “staycations” or weekends off exploring your home region. It’s relatively easy, cost-effective and recharges your spirit. Just a change in perspective can be so refreshing, but if you and your family choose several weekend trips instead of a longer week or more away each year, studies show you’ll be less satisfied and more stressed once you return.

Finding romance: While a romantic weekend away with your partner can warm up a tepid relationship, vacationing with four to five people has proven to be more fun and fulfilling, according to Expedia. Think about it – hanging out with your family and pals along with the perks of sharing quality, relaxed time with your sweetheart? Win-win.

When you consider what goes into taking a trip over a long weekend compared to a week or more away, the pay-off is exponentially greater. There are hosts of variables and every group has it’s own needs to plan for. It’s all worth it and doesn’t have to be a financial strain.

Here’s a few strategies for getting out of town for a rewarding and satisfyingly long journey:

  • Do your homework well in advance. Read novels and memoirs about places you’d like to visit and take note of the edition date – a guidebook from the last century may be very entertaining but is less likely to help you once you’re on the ground than one published within the last two to three years.
  • Go paperless. The internet is packed with travel advice, stories, blogs and aggregate sites with information, lists, recommendations, pictures and videos. A few I follow when planning a trip include: Expedia, Trip Advisor (but carefully weigh the comments), Kayak and a host of twitter feeds and Facebook pages.
  • Get to know your local travel agent. Knowing someone in the industry who “gets” you and your travel style can save you from disappointment and save money in the long run. Most travel agents are not a one-stop shop, as much as they’d like to be, so search for one experienced in the kind of travel you most enjoy. There are specialists in Cruises, Family and Inter-generational trips, Adventure, Luxury, Extreme Sports, even Independent travel options – the options are endless.
  • Working overseas: If traveling luxuriously isn’t possible at this time, then look into teaching English over seas. Getting a rudimentary certification can take you far. Check out the TEFL Academy and Lillie Marshall’s blog, AroundtheWorldL.com for more options.
  • Work those frequent flyer miles and point programs. It takes diligence but if the reward is free travel, again a win-win. Keep up on special offers, look into the best credit cards and benefits. Watch out for expiration dates.
  • Volunteerism has many opportunities for the purposeful traveler. Most importantly – do your research and make sure that the group you’re going with is a good match.  Ask questions. Search for testimonials and even contact people you find who’ve traveled with the group. It’s important also to pack well and appropriately for each destination.

So get out and enjoy the world! Not every journey is full of holiday fun, but a long and satisfying adventure just might turn into your perfect trip.