Tag: planning tips and tricks

How to plan your fun as a digital nomad

How to plan your fun as a digital nomad

Wondering how to plan your fun as a digital nomad? We have a simple but effective approach. Hint: it starts with a pen and piece of paper. That’s right. We recommend you go old school here and write down your list of things to see 

Tips for Traveling Locally

Tips for Traveling Locally

This post will discuss tips for traveling locally–in your state or in your region. Why? Because the world is experiencing a pandemic, as we’ve detailed our recent travel experience with COVID 19. When I was talking with a friend recently about her travel plans for 

9 ways to build anticipation for a vacation

9 ways to build anticipation for a vacation

Thoughtfully preparing for a trip can make your vacation even more fun and memorable. Below are nine ways to build anticipation for a vacation.

We’ve mentioned before that a trip is made up of three phases: pre-trip, trip and post-trip. All three are an important part of your vacation. In this post, I am going to highlight nine ways you can make the most of the pre-trip stage with fun things to do to prepare for a trip.

“Anticipation is a powerful thing.”

I read this recently and it has really stuck with me. Especially in regards to travel planning and preparation. The actual time-away-from-home part of a vacation is usually the shortest stage. Even a long vacation (by American standards), is generally heaps shorter than the time before a trip. And it is certainly shorter than all that time after you return home. I recommend you take advantage of that time before a trip and use it to build anticipation. That anticipation is a good way to make the most out of limited vacation time, holidays and weekends.

Ways to build anticipation for a vacation

1. Start planning as early as possible

The more time you spend planning, the more time you have to build anticipation and get excited. Sure, you still have to go to work and do laundry and pay taxes. But in between those mundane tasks, you can do a little research and maybe hit the “confirm booking” a time or two. Those seemingly simple activities will go a long way to getting you ready and excited for your trip.

I don’t know if you can start planning too early. I actually spent two years planning a big trip to Australia. And those two years were fun. Talk about anticipation! I don’t think I have ever been more ready (emotionally and financially) for a trip. So don’t hesitate to start planning your next trip as early as possible.

Riding horses in Australia in the rain, Snowy River style
I spent a lot of time planning our trip to Australia. Because of that, I got to do fun things like check “ride horses like the man from Snowy River” off my bucket list.

2. Read books and watch movies

R wrote a post about using movies to have a travel experience. They can transport you to a different place and time, even for a short while. And they can be a great way to build anticipation for a vacation. Keep in mind that the more remote or obscure your vacation destination is, the more limited your movie options will be (cough, Faroe Islands, cough). But if you are headed to places like Italy and Mexico, options abound! So let Hollywood do a little of the research for you.

Books work the same way. And if you are headed to a remote or obscure destination, you will probably have better luck with a book. When I traveled to Romania, a coworker recommended the book: “The Historian,” by Elizabeth Kostova. I also read “Dracula,” by Bram Stoker. Both were appropriate for the pre-trip stage of my vacation and got me even more excited to visit Transylvania.

ways to build anticipation for a vacation, read books like Dracula by Bram Stoker
Preparing for a trip to Transylvania.

Your choices in movies and books can be entertaining or educational or both. Rick Steves is a master of guide books and tv series. You will learn a lot AND get excited. I especially enjoyed an episode he did in Romania. Reading “Dracula” may not have taught me as much about Romania as Rick Steves did, but both helped to build my anticipation for my upcoming trip. Don’t limit yourself to just documentaries and nonfiction.

3. Pamper yourself

Trip preparation can also include a little pampering. Manicures and pedicures are delightful all by themselves. But they are practically a requirement if you are going somewhere tropical where your toes will show. Haircuts, spray tans and massages all count as well. (If you enjoy a little pain with your pampering, then a bikini wax is perfect for you.) A little pampering before a vacation may seem like overkill, but I find I enjoy my vacation more when I focus on some self care before I leave.

ways to build anticipation for a vacation, spray tans on a flight to Hawaii
This is us sporting our spray tans on a flight to Hawaii (in February).

4. Have a planning party

Setting aside time to plan is just smart. Throwing dinner or dessert (or both) in the mix makes the planning that much more fun. For our upcoming trip, C headed over to our house one Sunday afternoon for a little planning get-together. We made lunch and she brought dessert. Then we all sat around, computers in front of us, looking for Airbnbs. It was a great way to research, collaborate and make decisions.

My boss does something similar. Except he and his wife like to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant. They request a glass of wine, order dinner and bust out the maps. They combine date night with vacation planning night and it makes the experience extra special. Not to mention efficient. 

5. Research, research, research

We’ve said it many times before, but the internet really has changed the way we all travel. It’s more than just the ability to book your own travel arrangements. It’s the sheer amount of information available with just one search. Wherever you are going, there will be blogs, websites, forums, social media accounts and more dedicated to that location. It’s great! It can also be a little overwhelming. Take it in doses. Better yet, try to incorporate your research in little ways.

One way I love to research these days is by following Instagram accounts or hashtags related to my next travel destination. It makes for a wonderful Instagram feed and really helps build that anticipation.

6. Talk to locals or other travelers

Talking to a local or to someone who has traveled to the location you are headed to is smart. You can learn so much about the culture, where to go, what to expect, what to eat, etc. Talking to a local or to someone who has traveled to the location you are headed to is also fun.

When we traveled to the Faroe Islands last year, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to have lunch with a woman from the Faroe Islands. She gave me SO much great advice. She also got me really excited for the trip. Listening to her talk about her country and the experiences I could have there built my anticipation in a way nothing else did. No amount of reading could replace that personal interaction and experience. Do your best to find a local and get them to talk your ear off. It’s one of the best ways to prepare for a trip.

Three sheep on the Faroe Islands
Planning for a trip to the beautiful Faroe Islands included talking to a woman from the Faroe Islands. Her description did not do it justice, but it got me excited nonetheless.

7. Put together an itinerary

We recommend you use Trello to plan your vacation. It is free and easy to use. Plus, it is very helpful if you are collaborating with friends or family. It helps you figure out exactly what you need to do to prepare for your trip (e.g. book lodging, buy travel insurance, etc.). And if you need to divide and conquer planning tasks, an itinerary helps with that dividing and conquering. Putting together an itinerary also helps you figure out exactly what you want to do on your trip. Most importantly though, itinerary building is fun and a great way to build anticipation.

Trello board for planning vacation
We highly recommend Trello for planning. It is easy to use and a great way to build anticipation for a vacation.

8. Buy new outfits and gear

This is probably my favorite part of prepping for a trip. Packing is not much fun, but buying new gear and clothes for a trip is a heck of a lot of fun. Technically, I don’t need to buy new stuff. But I enjoy it and it helps to build anticipation. Even something simple like a new magazine or snacks for the plane ride can be a fun purchase. Of course, there is no need to break the bank. Check out these eight places to find affordable travel clothes and gear.

9. Take a few days off before your vacation

I have never taken time off before a vacation. I only recently started taking time off after a vacation in an effort to catch up and recover from jet lag. But in preparation for an upcoming trip to Europe, I am going to use a couple of days away from work before the trip to unwind, pack and mentally prepare for my vacation. This is a suggestion from Al Gini. He is a business ethics professor at Loyola University of Chicago and the author of “The Importance of Being Lazy.” I am excited to try out this technique and see how it goes. I will keep you updated.


I hope the ways to build anticipation for a vacation discussed above are helpful. If you were originally unaware of the power of vacation anticipation, well, you are welcome. And if you already know how much fun preparing for a trip can be, let us know what your favorite pre-trip activity is.

Related posts you might like:

Debit, Credit or Cash: which is best for international travel?

Debit, Credit or Cash: which is best for international travel?

Ah, the money conundrum. How much cash should I carry? Should I use my debit or credit card? Is it better to exchange money or use an ATM? I get more questions about money than anything else when friends and acquaintances are planning a trip 

Unique Tips for your Next Road Trip

Unique Tips for your Next Road Trip

I love a good road trip, that is no secret. I have discussed the elements of a good road trip and we have talked about some of our favorites including an three-day Oregon Coast road trip and an epic road trip through the South. But 

Making the most of limited vacation

Making the most of limited vacation

R and I have full-time jobs with limited vacation hours. We are blessed to have more than two weeks of vacation a year, but we are still constrained by the amount of time we have to travel and go on adventures. Therefore, we have become experts in making the most of limited vacation time. If, like us, you find yourself with a bucket list a mile long, below are some tips and tricks to consider the next time you are feeling the itch to go somewhere new.

making the most of limited vacation Idaho yellow fields blue sky
As seen on a road trip while making the most of a couple of days off work.

Take a short trip

A friend of mine just got back from a three-month stay in Spain. She is lucky enough to be able to work remotely and her boss was agreeable to her changing her hours a bit to accommodate a European time zone. Sounds great. But let’s be honest, most of us do not have the flexibility, money or vacation hours to spend three months in Spain. A lot of people do not even have the flexibility, money or vacation hours to go on a two-week trip. If that is you, fear not, even a short trip is better than no trip.

Some Finnish researchers found that eight days is the ideal vacation length. But just because you cannot dedicate that much time to trip does not mean you cannot have a good time. A coworker of mine just spent a weekend with her kiddo and husband exploring a new (to them) part of Idaho. It was a quick trip, but they had a wonderful time. Best of all, it motivated them to start planning more trips and adventures in the near future.

If all you have time and money for is a short trip, go already!

making the most of limited vacation Michigan
My time in Michigan was short, but I enjoyed it none the less.

Expand your weekends

Weekend getaways are wonderful and if you can grab an extra day or two to make it a long weekend, even better. Often, we take a couple of days off before and/or after a weekend to stretch a vacation into a five-day trip. We have done that for places in the U.S. But we have also done that for places like Iceland and Puerto Rico. Would I like to spend more than five days in places like Iceland and Puerto Rico? Yes. But I will take five days over no trip at all.

making the most of limited vacation Iceland weekend getaway
A long weekend in Iceland was just the ticket.

Use your holidays

Twice now, R and I have traveled to Europe for Christmas. Between weekends and holiday hours, we got a 10-day trip and only had to take four days off of work. This year, we are going to utilize our Thanksgiving holiday to explore some parts of Florida we have never been to.

One thing I like about holiday travel is that I can see how other cultures celebrate certain holidays. The Christmas markets in Germany really are as adorable as everyone says they are. You can also experience a climate very different from your own. Thanksgiving is cold in Idaho. I am excited to see what a warm Thanksgiving in Florida feels like.

Note: holiday travel can be more expensive, so you will want to plan as far in advance as possible.

making the most of limited vacation Bruges Christmas Europe
Christmas in Bruges was a delight.

Take advantage of work trips

If you travel for work, make the most of those trips. (See these tips to make work travel more fun.) There is nothing more frustrating to me than traveling to a new city and only seeing its airport, conference center and a hotel room. If my schedule and budget allow for it, I try to fly in the weekend before or stay the weekend after. (Sometimes I have done both!) If you are traveling back east, you may even be able to see a couple of new cities and states simply because they are closer and connected by relatively short train rides.

R and I took a fun Northeast road trip because we found ourselves on the East Coast for work at the same time. I had a rental car so I picked R up in Boston and from there, we explored Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire on an extended weekend before buckling down and getting back to work. It was a road trip we both remember fondly, even though it was freezing while we were there!

making the most of limited vacation Kansas City
Taking a selfie in Kansas City after a week-long work trip.

Consider travel time

If you have limited vacation hours, you will want to consider the amount time it actually takes you to travel somewhere. Can you drive there in less than a day? Is there a non-stop flight available? You do not want to spend half of your vacation just getting to your destination. (Unless you are road tripping. Then by all means, enjoy the journey.) I find it hard to justify a plane ticket to anywhere in Asia for a short trip. It just seems like a waste of a 14-hour flight. I would save that for those instances I have more time to explore and use my long weekends for those places I can get to in a couple of hours.

And don’t be afraid to explore your own backyard. You might be surprised by the possible adventures that surround you.

making the most of limited vacation horseback riding Sawtooth Mountains
Horseback riding just a couple of hours from home.


Making the most of limited vacation time means saying no. This is the hardest part, in my opinion. Limited time means limited options for activities, restaurants, attractions, etc. Prioritize what you really, really want to do and try not to beat yourself up for the things you miss. Just tell yourself you will come back and try them on your next trip.

Prioritization is part of any vacation. But it is especially important on a short and sweet ones.

Anticipate and reminisce

A trip is made up of three phases: planning, the trip itself and recollection. You will want to maximize all three in order to get the most out of your vacation. Do not underestimate the power of anticipation. I love a good plan and feel that planning a vacation is the next best thing to actually going on one. Planning and research keeps you excited and focused on your next adventure.

After you return home from a trip, you can still glean enjoyment from your adventures. Even just talking about a trip can evoke feelings of nostalgia. I recommend you take photos, keep a travel journal or document your trip in some sort of way. Then go back and reminisce every now and then. Once in a while, I will read R a passage from one my travel journals. It usually ends in laughter and a whole lot of, “remember when…” This is especially true with my Ecuador travel journal. For some reason, that trip was particularly entertaining and reading about it brings back all of those funny memories.

making the most of limited vacation Ecuador travel journal
My travel journal from Ecuador is full of stories about our entertaining travel companions (notice Linda behind us).


For most of us, three-month excursions to Spain or year-long trips around the world are not feasible. Instead, we have to find the best ways to stretch our vacation hours and dollars as far as they will go. Our hope is that the tips and tricks discussed above will help you in making the most of limited vacation hours, money or both.

Christmas on the road: what to pack, how to prepare

Christmas on the road: what to pack, how to prepare

In 2017, R and I spent our first Christmas on the road and away from home. As the only single gals in our respective families, traipsing across Europe for Christmas sounded like a fine idea. We love our families, but we are lucky enough to 

Elements of a good road trip

Elements of a good road trip

I love a good road trip. The 12-day, 10-state road trip we took through the Southern U.S. is one we talk about (fondly) often. And I still dream about the three-day road trip I took down the Oregon Coast. Road tripping is a great way 

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks: how to find the perfect Airbnb [for you]

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks: how to find the perfect Airbnb [for you]

Finding the perfect Airbnb (for you) is not an impossible feat. However, it is not always a walk in the park either. If finding the right place to stay using Airbnb has been a struggle for you in the past, fear not. R and I have learned a few things over the years that help us find great places to stay all over the world. Today I am going to share my Airbnb reservation tips and tricks with you to help you nab the perfect place to stay on your next vacation.

Note: if you are new to Airbnb, check out this post on why you should give it a try.

Airbnb Reservation Tips and Tricks

Step 1: Begin your search

Plug in your location, dates and number of guests. Voila! Observe the results. Hopefully, you have a lot to choose from. If that is the case, it is time to start applying filters.

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks travel
Let the search begin!

Step 2: Apply filters

Get as specific as possible to start (you might as well shoot for the moon). At a minimum, I filter by home type, number of beds and price. I also like amenities like self check-in and free parking on premises (if we have a car). If the results are too limiting once you have chosen all of your filters, then you can start removing the less-critical items.

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks travel
Filters are your friend on Airbnb.

Step 3: Familiarize yourself with the map

Make friends with the map on the search results page. First off, the map is great for narrowing or widening your search. If you know you want to stay in a particular part of town (e.g. Old Town), then you might as well zoom in and look at your options there. Similarly, if you don’t mind staying in the small town down the road, go ahead and zoom out. The search results adjust as you move the map (assuming you checked the “search as I move the map” box).

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks travel
Zooming into Old Town to see what is available.

Also, if you find a place you want to look at in more detail, the map on the search results page is more helpful than the map on the actual listing. The actual listing’s map just gives you the general location of the property, which may be all you need. But if you want to know the exact street, look for the location of the property on the search results page instead.

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks travel
Search results map versus a listing’s map.

Step 4: Read the description…in detail

After choosing a place you want to learn more about, make sure to read the description text in detail. You can learn a lot in those paragraphs. For example, you may learn it is a two-minute walk to public transportation, which is useful if you do not have a car. A lot of descriptions tell you which type of bed (e.g. queen, sofa bed, bunk bed, crib, etc.) is located in each room, which I find to be very useful. You might also learn that there are grocery stores or museums nearby. Or you might learn something that turns you off of the property all together. You will not know though, unless you read it.

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks travel
These sleeping arrangement diagrams in the description text provide useful information.

Step 5: Pour over the photos

The photos are my favorite part when it comes to finding a great Airbnb. It is fun to see how cute your potential lodging will be. But honestly, their most useful feature is their ability to verify information from the listing. If you are looking for a place with two bedrooms, make sure you find photos showing two different bedrooms. Oftentimes, a host considers the living room a second bedroom. I do not. Photos help so you will not be disappointed when you arrive.

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks travel
Photos will sometimes have a floor layout, which is very useful.

Step 6: Review the reviews

First off, make sure there are reviews. If there are no reviews yet, carefully consider your risk threshold. Without reviews, it is tough to know if a host is legit and you might find yourself with a last-minute cancellation. If the property is located in a place with a lot of hotels, this might not be a big deal. If it is located in a small town where you do not speak the language, it might be a big deal.

Good reviews are good, obviously. But the reviews can also tell you additional facts about the property. One time, we were considering a really cute property that seemed to check all of our boxes. However, the reviews revealed that the property’s only bathroom was only accessible via an outside entrance. Given that we were going to be visiting in December, we said no thanks. Little, but important, details like that are often shared by past guests.

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks travel
Useful bits of information can be found in the review details.

Lastly, check the reviews for cancellations. The review section makes a note whenever a host cancels and how much notice they gave the canceled party. Emergencies happen, I get that. But I would be wary of a host with too many cancellations, especially if they gave very little notice.

Airbnb reservation tips and tricks travel
Keep an eye out for these cancellation notices scattered throughout the reviews.

Step 7: Contact the host

If you cannot verify something on your own using the Airbnb reservation tips and tricks above, do not hesitate to contact the host and ask a question. Most respond very quickly. If they do not respond quickly or do not answer your question adequately, I would hesitate to book with them. What happens when something goes wrong DURING your stay? You want a responsive host.

Final step: clarify your booking

When you have finally found the perfect Airbnb for your next trip and are going through the booking process, be sure to mention critical items in the notes field. If you are booking a place because it says a crib is available, make sure to note that you are booking their place because there is a crib available.

R and I look for and pay more for places with two beds. More than once, we have arrived at a location where the host has only made up one bed assuming we would be sharing. Lesson learned. Now days, we always make mention of two beds in the notes when we are booking.


Follow these Airbnb reservation tips and and tricks and you will be well on your way to booking the Airbnb of your dreams…or one that meets your specific travel needs anyway. Finding a great Airbnb has made many of my trips an even more enjoyable experience. I want you to be able to say the exact same thing so good luck with your Airbnb searching!

Note: if you haven’t yet signed up for Airbnb, use my referral link to receive a $40 credit.

Traveling with Family

Traveling with Family

A few weeks ago, my sister and I flew from Boise to Sacramento, where we met up with my cousin from Utah. Our destination was our Grandma’s and Aunt’s house in Northern California. I’m very lucky in that my sister and cousin are also my