You’re done with work for the day, the kids are in bed, and there’s nothing worth watching on TV (except that episode of “Flip or Flop” you’ve already seen seven times). What do you do? If you’re anything like me, you veg out with your iPad and work on planning your next vacation.
Maybe it’s because I work in tourism marketing, maybe it’s because I’m a control freak (you aren’t supposed to agree with me!), but for me half the fun of taking a vacation is planning it. You explore the possibilities, nail down your must-dos, plan out your days — and then repeat the process, the anticipation building as the days tick down to your trip.
According to an August 2014 CNN Money article, more people spend time planning vacations than they do planning for retirement.
The article referenced a Charles Schwab survey of 1,000 retirement savers, 39% of whom spent more than five hours exploring vacation possibilities — and only 11% of whom spent that amount of time evaluating 401(k) investments. (Guilty!)
So, how are people planning? On smartphones and tablets, with travel apps and social media being go-tos for Millennials, who are leading the way when it comes to technology in travel planning. More than 70% of Millennials used a mobile phone to plan travel, and more than 50% of them used a tablet. See the July 2014 State of the American Traveler for the full picture.
That’s how I do much of my planning, too (I’m either a Gen Xer or a Millennial, depending on the definition you’re using). Some of my favorite planning tools include:
- Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube: I’m highly visual, and by following my favorite destinations as well as a handful of travel publications, I’m able to see what’s happening in places I’m familiar with and be introduced to new places (many of which end up on my “I have to go there” list).
- DMO websites: DMO sites are pretty evenly used between generations, with 34.7% of Millennials, 31.1% of Gen Xers and 30.1% of Baby Boomers using DMO websites to plan travel. That doesn’t surprise me, since DMOs tend to have the most up-to-date and accurate information when it comes to their destinations.
- Message boards: Whether I’m planning yet another trip to Disney World or researching cruises, there’s a message board with tons of informative posters (and some snarky ones) discussing topics like when to go, what to pack and how to get the most out of your trip.
- TripIt: Once I’ve made my reservations and received confirmation emails, I forward them to TripIt, which does all of the hard work for me. TripIt takes care of the details, sending flight details, hotel confirmation numbers and the like to the app so I can focus on the fun stuff.
- Yelp: When I’ve made it to my destination and want to find the best brunch in town or the nearest place to have a cocktail, I pull up Yelp. I’m a sucker for ratings and reviews, and Yelpers haven’t steered me wrong yet.
Now it’s your turn: How much time do you spend planning trips? What are some of your favorite planning tools?