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5 critical things to do before booking your next vacation

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all and do some relaxing in a place that isn't home. You don't have to go to a far-off country; maybe you can take a tour of America, or hit a few fascinating cities you've never been to before. Go ahead, take that bucket list trip.

But before you head out the door on your adventure, a little planning is in order. It can mean the difference between a relaxing getaway and an overpriced, stressful, hot-mess disaster. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when planning the next vacation.

1. Research your destination

I'm sure you have some idea of where you'd like to go on vacation and a few things you want to do there, but a little bit of research can go a long way. You might find that some activities only happen on certain days or in specific seasons. Maybe there are even days when activities are free.

Sites like Lonely Planet provide excellent online travel guides. You can get location history, historical weather, deals and safety information. Plus, you often get insights from frequent travelers and locals on hidden gems.

If you want something to take with you, you can print compact city guides from HostelWorld. For road trips, check out Roadside America for the biggest and smallest roadside attractions on your route.

Planning isn't just what activities you want to do when you arrive. If you're traveling overseas, make sure you brush up on the etiquette of the countries you're visiting. Click here for the Ultimate Guide to Worldwide Etiquette.

2. Find the cheapest tickets or fuel stops

Planning what you do at your vacation destination is good, but first you have to get there. No matter how you travel, that's going to involve spending some money.

If you overspend on travel, that's money you can't spend at your destination. That's why if you're flying, you want to start looking at ticket prices eight weeks in advance. That's when you'll start seeing reasonable prices.

Amazingly, the day you buy can make a difference, too. Click here to learn the least expensive days and times to buy tickets and travel. You should also make sure you're using the right comparison sites. And don't forget to know your rights before you fly.

If you're driving, you don't want to just go until you need to fill up with fuel. You might end up in the middle of nowhere filling up with the most expensive gas for 50 miles. Grab an app that helps you find the cheapest gas on your route.

Next page: Make sure your gadgets are ready to travel
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