Planning your vacation (2)

You've chosen a destination and booked your hotel. Find out how to research activities and transportation options at your vacation destination.Last week, I covered how to choose your trip destination. This week, we’ll look at ways to plan what you’ll do on your vacation. Finally, next week I’ll give you some top travel tips to assure you have the best summer vacation ever!

You’ve chosen your destination and hopefully booked your hotel. Now, let’s take a look at what there is to do there.

Deciding what to do

You've chosen a destination and booked your hotel. Find out how to research activities and transportation options at your vacation destination.

I love Fremont Street, though it’s losing its charm as they develop it further. Photo: Vegas Contrasts via photopin (license)

I usually start with a quick Google search of “best things to do in [destination]”. If the city’s got a website or a welcome pass, you’ll typically end up there.

Last week, in our imaginary scenario, we decided we were going to Las Vegas, based on the idea that we knew there were casinos and outlet malls there. Let’s dig a little deeper now.

One of the top results when I Googled brought me to Vegas Experience, a site focused on things to do downtown (also known as Fremont Street.) I was aware of the Fremont Street Experience and the zip line, but I did not know about the Neon Museum, which sounds cool. I also didn’t know The D (formerly Fitzgerald’s) has vintage games, including the horse derby game I played all night on a trip to Vegas after college some years ago. I’d definitely go visit that. Then I found another list at Vegas.com, which includes everything from machine guns (hard pass) to Hershey’s Chocolate World (now we’re talking!)

Sometimes I’ll check out Trip Advisor for tips, but I’ve noticed lately that there is much more focus on selling tours there – sometimes it’s hard to filter through top attractions without feeling like you’re really being spammed. It’s good if you’re not sure about a particular attraction, as it allows to you to read reviews from other travelers.

I know I want to shop, so my next step is to search for the outlet malls. As I recall, there are two major ones that are fairly easy to get to. Outlets North are accessible by taxi or public bus. Outlets South seem to be best accessed by taxi only.

Now that I know where I want to go on my vacation, let’s figure out how to get me there!

How to get around

You've chosen a destination and booked your hotel. Find out how to research activities and transportation options at your vacation destination.

Home of Hershey’s Chocolate World. Photo: Viva Las Vegas via photopin (license)

Having a car on the Vegas Strip can be more of an inconvenience than a help; traffic can be crazy and parking can be costly. However, along the strip you can walk from place to place, with some casinos connected with internal walkways. There’s also the monorail, which runs from MGM Grand in the south all the way up to SLS, which is about as close as you can get to the Stratosphere (you’ll have to walk ½ a mile.) Using Google Maps, I determined I’d need the “Deuce” bus to get to Fremont Street. The SDX bus gets you to the North Outlet Mall.

Another search tells me that I can get an all-day bus pass for $8, or a three-day pass for $20, which might be worth doing if I time my Fremont day right before or after my outlet mall trip. Monorail day passes start at $12 and multi-day options are cheaper, so again, I’d be better off to plan my travels around the Strip accordingly.

Where to eat

You've chosen a destination and booked your hotel. Find out how to research activities and transportation options at your vacation destination.

It looks cool, but is this restaurant gluten free-friendly? (Mixed reviews for Julian Serrano, Aria, on Find Me Gluten Free.) Photo: Chef Julian Serrano Restaurant (license)

This might not be as big a deal to some people, but if you’ve got a dietary restriction, it can make or break your vacation. I start on Yelp, searching for “gluten free” near “[destination]”. You can either narrow the results on the map or check out one of the lists users have created (there were at least three when I checked in Las Vegas). After that, I Google “gluten free in Las Vegas” – I found there’s a blog called Gluten Free in Las Vegas (handy!) There is even a post (albeit two years old) on Vegas.com about dining gluten free.  There’s also the Find Me Gluten Free website. (I also recommend downloading the app, which is handy if you find yourself starving and without a plan while traveling.)

Las Vegas was probably an easier example than most cities for gluten free, but I even had success using this method for Capri, Italy, which is pretty small – it does usually work.

With this research done, I would typically sketch out a rough itinerary of what I’d like to do each day. This allows me to plan my transport costs accordingly, saving a little money so I can give those derby horses a spin! Here’s my imaginary Vegas vacation itinerary:

Sample itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Las Vegas 10:51 am
Go to hotel: Stratosphere (taxi about $30 or bus $6)
Spend the afternoon + evening checking out the Stratosphere

Day 2: The Strip Day 1 (buy monorail 2-day pass)
Take the monorail from SLS to anywhere & walk around
–visit shopping center in Caesar’s Palace

Day 3: The Strip Day 2
Take the monorail from SLS to anywhere & walk around
—check out Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris for gluten free food
—Hershey’s Chocolate World in New York New York

Day 4: Chill out day
Hang by the pool, check out the margarita bar?

Day 5: Outlet Mall Day 1 (buy 3-day bus pass)
Take the bus to Outlets North and spend the day (eat at Chipotle?)

Day 6: Outlet Mall Day 2 or Fremont Street Experience
—Fremont: Neon Museum, vintage games, get a tall fruity drink!

Day 7: Fremont OR back to anything missed on Strip (by bus)
Check out & head to airport 6:30 pm (bus or taxi)
Depart Las Vegas 8:45 pm

And there you have it – my ultimate guide to figuring out what to do and where to go.

What tricks do you use to figure out what to see in a new destination? Where are you going on your summer vacation? Tell me in the comments!

Summer vacation series, part one: Choosing your trip destination

2 thoughts on “Planning your vacation (2)

  1. Corinne

    I never really plan a holiday, we kind of go and just YOLO it by having a wander around and see what’s around with maybe a few vague idea of things we might like to do. I’m not sure I’d like to be too planned!

    Corinne x

    1. GFTracy Post author

      My partner is very much a YOLO-style traveler. We end up feeling like we missed out sometimes though! I don’t like to be too planned either, I just usually like to have the few must-dos organized and YOLO the rest 🙂

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