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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Vacation Planning — Online Tools, Tips & Tricks

Summer is almost over — but not quite. Use these bright summer days and hot summer nights to travel. Visit relatives, go camping in a national forest, go on a cruise, fly to an exotic location, or take a road trip across the US. Whether your preference is balmy air, nighttime crickets, ice cold drinks and good company, or adventure filled experiences, incredible scenery, exotic animals, and cultural events — vacation is waiting. So dream big, pack small, and head for the horizon. Our favorite online travel tools and some simple tips and tricks will have you on your way in no time at all.

Vacation starts with the destination. While we all know it is really about the journey, there has to be a starting (well… landing) point to begin the planning. Choosing a place might be easy for you, but there are a lot of places in this world. We have found that Pinterest is a very helpful tool that lets you visually seek out a destination (and much more). Whether fertile tropics or majestic glaciers, Pinterest can help you dream big and visualize your summer holiday. In addition to finding a place, Pinterest is great for finding delicious restaurants, inspired experiences, alluring adventures, and much more. We suggest you create a vacation board today! If you need a place to start, please take a look at our summer vacation board.

Follow Sea TREK® Helmet Diving's board Summer Vacation on Pinterest.

Another great online travel tool is Trip Advisor. Not only can you discover places to visit at your selected destination(s), but you can also read reviews by travelers just like you. From descriptions of experiences to recommendations for nighttime hotspots you can be sure that you will find opinions on Trip Advisor. Additionally, Trip Advisor is rolling out a new feature that allows you to compare prices and book hotels right from the website. Hopefully soon you’ll be able to schedule tours and reservations, too!

Sea TREK Trip Advisor review

Travelocity is an all-encompassing travel site. You can book flights, cruises, hotels and activities right from the site. If you like to have everything in one convenient place this is the site for you! There is also a tab for inspiration and a mobile app. Pretty convenient.

Once you begin to stitch together your dream summer vacation you will be keeping organized (hopefully) to make sure you know your dates, times, schedules, and reservations, as well as cultivating lists of everything you need to bring. What is in your carry-on? Did you remember sunscreen? What about a plug adaptor for your charger? Pocket Lists is our favorite organization app. You can create lists for each category of your trip (with sub categories), check things off as you finish them, sync your lists across devices and add dates and times to your calendar with customizable reminders (you can even set them to alert you when you arrive or leave a location). The app will add reminders automatically as you type dates into your lists. You can even take photos of lists and Pocket Lists will create a checklist for you!

Lonely Planet is a really beautifully designed travel website. It is visually based with short descriptive content. It provides information, inspiration, prices and links to booking sites. I highly recommend looking through this website (even if it is just for eye candy — the photos are spectacular).

Tips and Tricks

It is always nice to have advice when you travel. We are sharing some of our favorite tips and tricks, and even a printable packing checklist.

Tip #1

If you are flying to your destination, don’t forget to check in online. Most airlines allow you to check in on the web (or via an app) 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds before your flight. You can print out your boarding pass and then be one of the first people on the plane (well at least group 2 (or B)).

Tip #2

Use social media to your advantage. You know you have friends who have traveled. Ask for advice. Where is the best place to have breakfast at the Sacramento airport? Where is the best shopping in Rome? You’d be surprised what you can find out…. But, be safe when you’re posting. Never post that you’re going out-of-town, leaving your house vacant. You never know who is checking out your profile. Be social media smart!

Tip #3

Use Skype or WhatsApp for communication with home. Get the app and video chat with your friends and family for free! Skype WhatsApp

Tip #4

Carry cash. You never know what will happen: ATMs could go down and/or, credit cards could stop working. Cash is the best way to ensure everything will go smoothly. Be sure to protect your cash by carrying it on your body. There are pockets that clip to your under garments, jackets with hidden pockets, and money belts. If you choose to carry a purse keep it tight under your arm or cross the strap over your body. If you carry a wallet keep it in your front pocket. Other suggestions are hotel safes, locked luggage, and the infamous fanny pack.

Tip #5

Enjoy the culture. Whether you travel to Mexico, Italy, or to a beachside U.S. town you will get great enjoyment hanging out at local joints. Absorb the vibe of the people. Make new friends. Share a story and a bottle of wine. You will remember these encounters best of all.

Packing Checklist

We hope this information is helpful in your planning. And while planning is important, be sure to allow yourself to be spontaneous. You never know what you will discover.

Have any tips, tricks or online tool suggestions? Please share them in the comments below.

For more information about our favorite vacation activities & experiences, check out:,, or