Where to Stay: Vacation Planning, Part 2

I’m back with part two of Vacation Planning, which I’m calling Where to Stay. In case you missed it, click HERE to read the first installment of this series.

In part one, the goal was to determine what your idea of the perfect vacation is, what kind of experience you want, and where you want to go. Then we discussed how the weather, the season, and how the timing needs to be factored into your trip. So, what’s next?

Curacao, 2012


The Next Step

What have you decided on? A multi-city travel itinerary, tropical island, or country? Now is the time to do your research. I always turn to Trip Advisor first. This is the link for the travel forum. Find your location, and navigate from there. I get so much information about where I am going on Trip Advisor. When we went to Cancun several years ago, I read about Jungle Spa near Puerto Morelos. An American ex-pat who’d moved to Mexico learned about a local custom where generations passed down the art of Mayan therapeutic massage. She started Jungle Spa as a cottage industry for these women to help support their families. The reviews of the spa were excellent. So, I scheduled us for massages through their Facebook before our trip. My husband still talks about what an incredible massage he had there.

Royal Caribbean


A Cruise?

Did you decide on a cruise? Cruise critic is a great place to start. You can research different cruise lines and read reviews of cruise ships. One of the areas most helpful to me is the forum boards that they have on general cruising information, specific cruise lines, and ports of call. When we decided to take our first cruise in 2007, I had no idea which cruise line to choose. The cruise critic site really helped me find which cruise line best suited us. For instance, we wanted a smaller ship with more adults and fewer children, excellent service, and good food. Cruising is a great way to wake up in a different country or city every morning. You can see so many ports of call in just a week-long cruise.

Puerto Morelos, November, 2016


Where to Stay?

So, where do you want to stay? A hotel, resort, condo, or vacation home? One of our favorite types of resorts are all-inclusive. An all-inclusive resort, for those of you who have never heard of one, is a resort where the cost includes everything. All meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, activities, and entertainment. All-inclusive resorts are very popular in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Condo Resorts or Vacation Homes

When we go to Hawaii, we generally stay in condo resorts. We like the spaciousness of condos, the choice of grilling on our lanai in the evenings or eating out, and taking our own beverages to the pool. We’ve stayed in some lovely resort hotels in Hawaii, but usually only for a few days of our 10 day stay.

Grand Hyatt, Kauai, 2015

My favorite website for booking condos or vacation homes is VRBO (also known as Home Away). If a property I’m interested in has a professional management company, I always go to the company’s website to compare prices before booking through VRBO.

A few tips: read the reviews, chose properties that have reviews, and compare the total costs before you choose one. The charges can vary greatly from one rental to another. An example is that one may waive the cleaning fee for stays of a week or more and the other property has excessive booking fees. Compare total costs.

Hotel Resorts

If you’ve decided on a hotel resort, then I recommend reviewing hotels through websites like Expedia or Costco Travel. I’ve personally booked trips through both websites.

Costco is great if you’re a member and are booking your airfare and hotel together. What I like about Costco is that they fully vet the properties listed and hold them to high standards. They do have a more limited number of hotels and resorts, though.

Expedia has a wider range of hotel and resort options. They also offer more airline options, too, if you are booking both airfare and accommodations. And, they don’t require you to book both together. I usually narrow it down to three or so hotels/resorts, then read reviews on multiple websites, including Trip Advisor.

Why I Do the Research

Hopefully I warned you in part one of Vacation Planning that I take planning a vacation pretty seriously! Unless I’ve stayed somewhere previously, I never book a vacation impulsively, without doing research. I have high expectations, so I want to ensure that I’m choosing wisely.

You’re almost there. Stay tuned for the last installment! That’s when I’ll share the plans from the Maui vacation we took last fall. Oh, and I’ll let you in on what I’m looking at for our next trip.

Ready to read more? Here’s the last part of Vacation Planning HERE.

wonderful destinations

Vacation Planning, Part 1: Destinations

Many of you are getting ready to plan vacations for this year, so I’m reposting part 1 of Wonderful Destinations: Vacation Planning.

In the past 10 years, my hubby and I have traveled to some wonderful destinations. Off the top of my head, we’ve visited 11 Caribbean islands; gone to Cancun, Cabo San Lucas, and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico; to Maui, The Big Island, and Kauai in Hawaii; and a few cruise ports in Central America. We’ve been on 5 cruises, which account for many of the Caribbean islands, and taken multiple trips to Hawaiian resorts, and Mexican all-inclusive resorts.

I get asked all the time how I plan our trips, so today I’m going to share that with you on the blog today.

Wonderful Destinations to See

Perfect Vacation
Hilton Waikoloa Village, Hawaii, 2010

I’m the designated travel planner in my family. Just ask anyone in my family, and they’ll tell you that I take my mission seriously. Before booking a trip, I do a lot of research on the destination, the property we are staying at, and compare prices.

I’ve only used a real travel agent once, for our 30th anniversary trip to St. Lucia in 2015. I probably won’t do it again. Not that it was a bad experience, because it wasn’t. I used the travel agent to help me narrow down regions for our trip and to choose a resort based on our needs. Her expertise was really helpful in choosing and booking our destination.

Perfect Get-A-Way
Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, 2011

What’s Your Idea of the Perfect Vacation?

Our idea of the perfect vacation is going to a warm, fun, sandy place for some R & R (rest and relaxation). Everyone’s idea of the perfect is different, so it’s important to know that when planning. Some people travel for new adventures, to experience a new culture, or to visit a particular city. Every time you travel you are going to have a new experience, so your goal is to ensure it’s the type of experience you want.

Sandals at St. Lucia, 2015

How to Plan the Perfect Vacation

The first step is determine your idea of the perfect vacation. What do you want out of this vacation experience? Is it freezing cold where you are now and you want a warm, toes in the sand vacation? Or do you want to see a lot of places, say several cities in a week? Maybe you want to go zip-lining through a jungle? Understanding this is key to having the time of your life or coming home feeling like you still need a vacation.

Hawaii, 2015

How to Choose the Best Destination for You

Once you know what kinds of experience you’re looking for, it’s time to decide where to go.

There are so many wonderful destinations out there! Deciding what you want to do comes before deciding where to go since there are more factors involved in the destination.

Say you always take your vacation in the summer because your kids are out of school then. If a tropical, toes in the sand experience is what you want then you’ll need to factor in the season and weather. For instance, it’s hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea in the summer and fall. This means lots of great deals are available during the low-season, but a hurricane or tropical storm could affect your plans.

Seasonal Destinations

In Mexico, some places are really hot in the summer. Once, we went to Cabo San Lucas in July and it was blazing hot. I knew that it would be hot, but I didn’t realize the effects of the very high humidity. It was 110 with the heat index and we spent all day in the pool just to be able to cope with the heat. Another time, we went there in mid-August and had a tropical storm. In fact, our resort flooded and we lost water and air conditioning. We still had a great time though, and have a good laugh when we talk about that trip. Include Mother Nature in your decision-making.

Planning the Perfect Get-A-Way
The Arc in Cabo San Lucas, 2010

So, we’ve covered what type of vacation is your ideal, and what to factor in when contemplating all those wonderful destinations. I have plenty more to share, though!

Look for part two of planning the perfect vacation. I’ll cover other topics such as where to look for deals, researching where to say, and what to look for in a resort. I’ll be sharing that over the next few weeks.

Feel free to share any of your funny vacation experiences below.

Be sure to check out my other travel articles:


A Little Time Off in Paradise: Maui, the Valley Isle

I didn’t post a menu with recipes this week because I am on vacation. Instead, you get some lovely pics of Maui this week! Get my favorite Hawaiian meals and recipes here.

We Love Maui!

This is our third time here on Maui. As we have visited each of the different Hawaiian Islands, I’ve come to appreciate the differences each island has to offer. Maui has beautiful beaches and incredible green mountains.


We are staying in Ka’anapali, which is just north of Lahaina, this time. To the west, we can see the islands of Molokai and Lanai.

I mentioned in a previous post (HERE) that we had a pre-trip issue with our accommodations. About a month prior to our trip we found out that our resort was closing three of their four pools for repairs during our trip. Fortunately, our vacation rental agency allowed us to cancel our reservation without penalty.

We quickly rebooked with another resort and are really pleased with our choice, Ka’anapali Al’ii. The hubby and I stayed at the Hyatt a few resorts south of here almost 3 years ago. We walked by here on the Beachwalk daily.

Ka’anapali Beach in front of Ka’anapali Ali’i

Location, Location, Location

I love it’s close proximity to the Whaler’s Village shopping center. It is always a win-win when you get in a little exercise while shopping in paradise.

This time I made sure to checkout Tommy Bahama early in the trip for a new swimsuit and coverup. I even took a peek in their Louis Vuitton store. They have this limited edition Neverfull there.

Photo Credit: Louis Vuitton

Around the Island

Last time we were here, we took a drive to Hana. This is a gorgeous waterfall along the way.

Twin Falls, on the way to Hana

Last night, I saw a raincloud over the ocean.


Check back soon for more pics and follow me on Instagram or Facebook for the latest. Aloha!

Here’s More Travel

Read more travel posts:

Florida and Key West:

Pismo Beach, CA:

Travel Planning:

Road Trips:

Girls Trips:

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