1. Reasonable Travel Time
A flight from the midwestern part of the US to Belize City is approximately 6 hours, which is great for an international flight and geographically makes sense. My flight to Belize departed in the early morning. My first day on vacation was basically only an evening because I spent the whole day traveling. If I had to do it over again, I'd get an overnight flight so that I'd have a full first day to explore Belize. In other words, you can arrange your travel time so that you can maximize your first day of vacation.
2. Easy Communication
The national language in Belize is English. Many of the people I met also spoke Spanish and Creole with African influences. If you're from an English speaking country, then it's very easy to get around and communicate. Locals are very kind and willing to help. My first night in Belize, my friends and I went out to dinner and had no idea that by 10pm, all the water taxis back to the resort closed. As we were wandering through the town trying to figure out what we should do, we ran into a friendly face from the restaurant where we had dinner. Despite him being tired from a long day at work, he rode his bike alongside us to get us to other means of transportation. Ultimately, he didn't have to do that and I could chalk it up to him having great character, but we received that same kindness from other locals as well.
Are you a first time vacationer? Looking for some advice on how to approach your next vacation? Interested in travel? For these reasons, among many others, you should check out my first-hand tips and tricks on how to execute your dream vacation.
Keep a list of activities and excursions
It's important to keep a running list of all the activities and excursions you're interested in doing while on vacation. This is significant because it's easy to let time get away from you. By the time you realize that you haven't completed all that you had planned to do, it'll be too late and time to travel back home. My recommendation is to ask the representatives at the location where you're staying about every item on your list the first day you arrive. This way, if you need to sign-up for something a day in advance, it'll already be scheduled. If the price for something is expensive than expected, you can ditch that activity and replace it with something more affordable. If there's specific times in the day that the activity is available, then you can plan accordingly. The ultimate goal is to complete your list. Planning ahead is the best way to do this.
Base decisions on recommendations
Researching places to go? Ask around. Researching places to stay? Ask around. Researching things to do? Ask around. Moral of the story, ask people where they've been, how they enjoyed it, what they did, and what they would do differently. Even if someone hasn't been to where you're going, it's likely that they may know someone that has been there. For my trip to Belize, we chose Coco Beach Resort because one of my friend's classmates recommended it. We also went cave tubing and visited the Mayan Temples because my coworker's mother-in-law had lived there at one point. While recommendations are a great place to start, always make sure you do your research to make sure whatever advice you've been given meets your expectations.
Download the Venmo app
If you split costs with friends frequently, then you probably already have this app. If not, you'll want to get it because it transfers money immediately. You can create an account using Facebook and link it to either your bank account or a card. Not every payment can be split, so this app comes in handy when a single payment is ideal and the money needs to be collected either in advance or recoupped following the payment.
Call and ask questions
Once you decide where you're staying, I recommend that you contact the venue to get the following questions answered along with any other inquiries you may have.
Download your favorite tunes
I'm a huge Apple Music advocate. Regardless of what music streaming app you use, I recommend downloading the songs/albums you know you'll want to hear over and over again throughout your vacation. Then you won't have to worry about having a wi-fi connection because all your favorite tunes will be downloaded to your phone. This is an easy one to forget, so put it alongside your list of things to do while packing.
Avoid flight drama
While I prefer non-stop flights, one-stop flights are usually kinder on my budget. If you're in the same boat, I recommend booking your second flight's departure 3-4 after your first flight's arrival. This allows room for your first flight to get delayed without it impacting your second flight. This isn't a cure all, as it depends on the situation and if you can book a 3-4 hour layover based on the flight schedules, but it can prevent you from missing your next flight.
Another way to avoid flight drama is by booking flights to locations where you have family or friends, so that if you do miss your flight, you have options. If you're flying with a good airline, they'll likely offer you a place to stay. If not, you'll at least have options outside of sleeping at the airport. I've had to do that before and it is not fun. That's not how you want to start or end your vacation.
Beach + Phone = You need this!
JOTO Cell Phone Dry Bag Pouch
This was the best purchase I made prior to embarking on my vacation. It's a case that transforms your phone into an underwater camera. It's great for any situation where you want to take pictures but you need a waterproof case. I recommend this products because it's affordable, has thousands of product reviews on Amazon, and makes water activities even more fun.
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Set Aside Spending Money
In order to make sure you're staying within your budget, I recommend setting aside your spending money far in advance from your trip. This way, you already know you're covered during your vacation and you can focus on your everyday life expenses. If you're going on a cruise or staying at an all-inclusive, then your spending money may be less focused on food and more on alcoholic beverages and/or excursions. The key to this is knowing what you want to do and how much it'll cost.
Pack to carry on
This comes into play when you're dealing with flights where your gate has changed multiple times, you're experiencing flight delays, or you've even taken the opportunity to get on an earlier flight. I recommend packing to carry-on. Typically, you can have one small personal bag and a small suitcase. This will keep you from arriving to your dream destination without luggage. Packing to carry-on is convenient for 4-6 day trips. If you're staying longer than a week or prefer to pack on the heavier side, I recommend packing at least one day of clothing in your personal carry-on bag so that if your luggage doesn't arrive to your destination on time, you're covered for at least one day. Your toiletries should also be in this bag, which means you'll have all the important items when you arrive.
If you're having difficulty packing on the lighter side, I recommend doing some joint packing. For example, if you need to bring hair gel, ask a friend if they're bringing theirs. You don't all need to bring the same things because you're staying together and you can share. This will save you some room in your luggage.
Choose your travel partners wisely
This is one of the most important suggestions on the list. When you're developing a travel group, be mindful of the personalities involved, past experiences you've had in similar situations, and make sure you're traveling with people that have the same vacation expectations as you. This will alleviate issues when you all are deciding exactly what you want to do while on vacation. Traveling with like-minded individuals creates a more relaxing and fulfilling experience.
Contact your Bank, if you're traveling internationally
Don't forget to contact your bank. Some banks allow you to notify them through their website or you may have to call. Either way, you'll want to do this if you plan to use your card. It's also good to have a back-up plan in case your card doesn't work even if you've notified your bank. When I was in Belize, I didn't have a back-up plan so I was a bit nervous the first time I used my card. It was a four day vacation and I knew there would be other ways for me to pay. For instance, I could have sent the money to a friend's card through Venmo. However, when I was in Brazil for 5 months, I made sure I had a debit and credit card as an electronic payment option. Essentially, do whatever gives you peace of mind. There's no reason to worry something that you can take care of beforehand.
These recommendations are based on my travel experience to Belize. As I begin to travel more frequently, abroad and within the US, I'll update this list through additional blog posts. I hope this helps refine your focus in terms of planning your dream vacation. I encourage you to save your hard earned money for experiences rather than things. Know that a short getaway is an investment in your mind, soul, and body. It is an investment in caring for yourself and maintaining your peace of mind. It's a way to reconnect with those that you love or even to blossom new, meaningful relationships. The right vacation, will put you at ease. BeYOUtiful, keep life sweet, and never stop feeding your soul.
Sail on! -xo