Travel + Leisure: How to plan a tropical vacation

Travel + Leisure: How to plan a tropical vacation

June 08, 2015

Hi guys! It's Sivan + Kelly from MUSE. Today we are going to take you through the steps of planning your dream tropical vacation based on our experiences. We are both about to leave for Greece for Sivan's wedding and so we figured it was an appropriate time to share our best travel tips and such. Below is a timeline we would highly recommend following that will help you map out every stage of the planning and we will touch a bit on the actual vacationing as well.

1 Year Out: Destination

This may seem like common sense but a lot of people jump into a vacation solely based on their desire to go there. When planning a bigger vacation (aka not a hop, skip, & a jump away like Vegas for us Cali girls or Miami for you NYC girl)s, you need to consider 2 major things: 1) your budget, and 2) the prime time to visit the destination. Obviously the budget is a huge factor in whether or not that vacation is feasible in the next year. If you are thinking something huge like a Eurotrip or an expensive island such as Bora Bora you might need to give yourself longer than a year to actually save a small fortune. But even if you are good in that department we still suggest giving yourself a year to really prepare.

Considering the prime time to visit a location is pretty crucial. Could you image landing in St. John to a week of thunder storms ahead?! This kind of happened to me (Sivan), as to accommodate our budget we traveled during "off season." While the weather was actually pretty spectacular, we did have a few passing thunder storms during our week stay on the island. Prime time to us really just means 'when is the best weather?' You don't necessarily want to travel when it is "prime" to the masses (aka spring break...eek!). Wikipedia has a pretty decent timeline of weather averages to help you map out what you consider prime weather.

9 Months Out: Flights

Kelly was a travel agent in her past life lol. We are definitely convinced of that theory. She somehow always manages to squeeze in a quick flight search when planning a vacation, and she will tell you to do the same. Actively looking up flights 7 days a week until they are booked is really the only way to get a deal. While you can't ever predict when rates will drop, keeping your eye on them will give you the knowledge of knowing when they have dropped. When they do, BOOK IT! Don't wait. Sure, sometimes booking a trip last minute works out but do you really want to take that risk? Didn't think so. 

There are tons of rumors that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the best days to book travel. There are also tons of rumors that those same days are the best days to actually be in the air, as you're not leaving during the Friday-Sunday crowd, which tends to be pricier. We can't confirm that airlines lower their rates on any specific day(s), but we do know that flying out mid-week is cheaper for the most part.

If you are feeling overwhelmed at the thought of checking flight EVERYDAY do not panic. We know all about those damn pop-ups Kayak has and those give us anxiety, too. Skip any of those sites and head straight to Google Flights when looking. This way you see every flight option (minus the annoying pop-ups) and when you are actually ready to book you can click through to the airline to make your reservation.

6 Months Out: Hotel

Booking the hotel takes literally 10 minutes, but doing the research that will help you pick a hotel / save your vacation is what takes time. The actual hotel sites can be a little sneaky about amenities, views, food, nightlife, etc., so to avoid the fluffed info and photos use Trip Advisor to read real traveler reviews. This may seem a little overboard but we actually like to scroll through the reviews that were written during the months you plan to travel to your destination. That way you can see people's thoughts on the weather and culture during that time of year specifically. You will also have the opportunity to check out real traveler photos to compare to the hotel's photos. The difference can be quite shocking.

A little side-note when checking into your hotel, always check on free upgrades. If they happen to be slow or nobody has booked their creme de la creme room they might just pass it over to you. Don't forget to mention it's your birthday, anniversary, honeymoon, etc. Kelly is known for getting that free upgrade or champagne!

3 Months Out: Itinerary

I'm (Sivan) not the biggest fan of scheduling things when on vacation. It's the only time in life I can truly just go with the flow and enjoy whatever I / we want that very moment. However, there are some things you should line up to avoid wasting your vacation time on such as a rental car or guides. If you're planning to explore an island and know you'll need a vehicle you will want to shop around before booking. Hotels in tropical locations typically offer Jeeps to rent but you may end up paying the same rate for an entire week when going through an actual car rental company than the one day from your hotel. Plus, car rental companies always have promocodes online.

Again, reserving your activities doesn't always take so long (most beaches offer these services as well as hotel concierge), but you should most likely look into the type of activities you will want to book when traveling (ie: zip-lining, diving, volcano hiking, etc.). If you can consult with a local that would be ideal but if you just don't have friends in Santorini, check Trip Advisor ;)

1 Month Out: Beauty Scheduling

This is when being a super planner really comes into play. And if you're not, keep reading. You'll thank us later when you're laying on the beach hair-free and gorgeous lol!

Schedule out all your beauty regimes to accommodate your trip dates. If possible, leave the day before your trip open to do the following:

-Waxing-Most European waxing centers use hard wax that will not irritate your skin. That way you can schedule your session the day before your trip, be hair-free and ready to jump into the water the very next day!

-Nails- If you're going to be on a beach your entire vacation consider getting gels. That way your nails are safe and chip-free. Nothing worse than a super chipped mani on your vacation.

-Hair- As long as you're going to your usual hair person that is. We wouldn't really recommend trying a new color, style, or stylist the day before JUST in case. A month before should be good enough though. You know, just in case you need time to fix it!

-Order prescriptions- Another one of those things you don't want to forget or deal with while ON vacation.

-Dry Cleaning- We know all about chiffon and silk getting rumpled in transit. Get your items pressed and / or dry cleaned in this time to ensure your wardrobe is looking crisp and it will actually help eliminate wrinkles after they are packed since they will be freshly pressed.

-Pack- Ok, so we don't actually mean start packing a month before your vacation, but double check your closet for all the necessities. Since we are talking tropical vacations here, consider things like: do I have enough bikinis, do I own a decent pair of sandals and wedges, do I have cover-ups, do I have a suitcase?? If the answer to any of those are NO, then get shopping!!!

1 Week-4 Days Out: Packing

Ok, now you should actually pull out the luggage and start getting things situated. Make sure you've picked up all the fun outfits you plan to wear from the dry cleaner and set aside to make sure you don't forget anything. We tend to over-pack as girls and looking at your packing situation for a few days will help put things into perspective. Will you actually wear heels in a cobble-stoned town? Probably not. Do you actually need a parka? Not so much in 80+ degree get it.

Another packing tip: always bring a change of clothes and a bikini in your carry-on. We pray you are never that unlucky person who loses their luggage on a trip but you want to be prepared. Wearing a Rite-Aid bikini the first few days (or dare we say, the whole time?!) would just be downright unfortunate. Also, never check in anything expensive in the event that your luggage does get lost and they can't retrieve it. Chanel is Chanel no matter where you are and people WILL rummage...

Kelly + Sivan's Packing Guide:

  • Bikinis (a week's worth if possible)
  • Bathing suit cover-ups
  • Sun dresses & maxi dresses
  • Sandals
  • Wedges
  • Sneakers (if you are an active vacation kinda gal)
  • Denim shorts
  • Basic tees & tanks
  • Hat
  • Pajamas
  • Toiletries (consider: bug spray, hydrocortisone, mini versions of your fave shampoo + conditioner, aloe vera, sun scnreen (duh!))
  • Plug converters
  • Chargers (phone, camera, tablet, etc.)
  • Camera
  • Reading material
  • Comfy plane clothes (for the way home)


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