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.

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