Tag: Travel

6 Tips to Planning a Stress-Free Vacation

A vacation should be relaxing.  It’s a time to escape the stress of everyday life and recharge.  As relaxing as the idea of going out of town can be, a few unplanned incidences can turn any trip into an overwhelming situation for all involved. In this week’s post I’ll share with you a few vacation planning tips that we used to plan our honeymoon.  Follow these tips to keep your vacation not only memorable, but most importantly, stress-free.



Travel has always been a passion of mine.  When I met my husband, I was on my second passport.  I ran out of pages in my original passport from having traveled to 26 countries on 4 continents.  Our honeymoon would be the first stamp in my husband’s passport.  Together we created a short list: Greece, Italy, Spain, and Australia.  Since this would be his first trip out of the country, we decided that he would get to pick our destination.


At one point in my career, I traveled 80% – both domestic and international.  Whether I was traveling for business or pleasure, I would share my adventures with my three nieces since they were quite young.   In their eyes, my office was anywhere in the world.  I originally created this map of our itinerary for them, yet it proved to be beneficial not only during the planning process but during our trip.

Planning Benefits:

  • Gain perspective on the size of the country
  • Aid in the estimation of travel time between cities
  • A fun and convenient way to share our itinerary with friends and family
  • Determining the mode of transportation given the amount of time and distance

honeymoon map

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Maps category, select the appropriate option.  The images used to note various activities were all found in the Symbol Library. 


International travel is becoming increasingly common, as technology opens the door to a more connected world.  This presents travelers with both advantages and disadvantages. While all the information needed to travel safely can easily be accessed from a smartphone, a forgotten charger or intermittent internet access can spell disaster.  Below is the first of a two-page comprehensive itinerary of our vacation.

Items to Include:

  • Time conversion table enables recipients of the itinerary to be mindful of the local time
  • Details of accommodations such as name of hotel property, address, and main phone number
  • Planned methods of travel to and from airports
  • Estimated travel times between airports and hotels
  • Airport codes, flight carriers, and flight numbers
  • Check-in and check-out dates

Travel Abroad Tip:

During my travels to South Africa, Zambia, Thailand, and Cambodia, I along with my travel partners enrolled in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  The Department of State urges U.S. citizens living overseas or planning to travel abroad to enroll. You’ll receive important safety and security announcements.  Enrolling will also make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact you in the event of an emergency.  Below is the type of information requested for enrollment.

Honeymoon Detailed Itinerary_pg1

SmartDraw Tip:  Navigate to the Popular Category.  In the Preview Screen, select the Manual Diagram template.  In the Ribbon, select the Table Tab.  Click the Table control.  The Table will appear in the Work Area.  


My love for travel is based on my thirst to explore and try new things.  With our wedding in May and our honeymoon in the November, we were able to do some online research on Australia.  I remember my college days of backpacking trips through Europe using travel guidebooks and cyber cafes that charged by the minute.  Today, our smartphones enable us to check-in to flights, make video calls, and receive restaurant recommendations based on our location.

Travel Guide Sites:

Favorite Travel Apps:


Sharing expectations with your travel partner(s) is key to planning a stress-free vacation.  My husband and I agreed that when we landed in Australia, we didn’t want to do anything but enjoy our honeymoon.  Here are two versions of our honeymoon plans tailored to each of our individual needs.

Our Vacation At-a-Glance Diagram includes:

  1. Dates and Cities
  2. Departure/Arrival Times and Airport Codes (yellow highlight)
  3. Open or Unplanned Times (grey highlight)

our honeymoon overview1.10.5

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Popular Category, select the Mind Map Template.  To add a Table to an existing Mind Map, navigate to the Ribbon.  Select the Table Tab.  Click the Table Control.  Click and drag the Table to the Mind Map in the Work Area.  The Table will snap onto the existing Mind Map.  

Our Vacation Activities Diagram includes:

  1. Dates and Cities
  2. Departure/Arrival Times and Airport Codes (yellow highlight)
  3. Open or Unplanned Times (grey highlight)
  4. Tour & Activity Confirmation Codes and Vendors
  5. Hotel Transfers for Each Tour & Activity
  6. Meal Information
our honeymoon activity overview.10.29
 SmartDraw Tip: This diagram originated from the previous Mind Map.  In order to add further details additional columns were added to each of the Tables.


I felt that I could trust the time and energy put into planning our vacation.  When we went to the office of our phone carrier, I opted out of getting an international phone and data plan.  In other words, I decided to remain “unplugged.”  Not one moment was spent taking photos to post on Facebook or to tweet the events of the day.  It was just the two of us on our honeymoon . . . living in the moment.  It was wonderful.


10 Time & Money Saving Travel Tips for Your Next Vacation

https://static.pexels.com/photos/297755/pexels-photo-297755.jpegFor over thirteen years of my career I was a “road warrior.”  As a CRM software consultant, I traveled 80% of my job – both domestic and international.  It wasn’t long before I would achieved “rock star” status among the rewards programs I had joined.  My membership status included such levels as United Airlines Premier 1K Star Alliance Gold and Starwood Hotels Platinum Preferred Guest to name a few.

As a result of my extensive travels, I picked up a few time and money saving tips along the way.  In this week’s post, I’ll share with you some of the vacation planning diagrams my husband and I used for a trip we recently took up the coast to the Pacific Palisades and North Hollywood area.

Important Note: Every airline and hotel has its own rules and restrictions so it’s best to contact them directly or refer to their websites before you begin your trip.  Any pricing or rates in this post are not current and were only valid at the time the diagram was created.  


Travel Tip #1: PACK LIGHT

When You’re Flying: The majority of airlines have checked baggage fees.  At first, these fees may appear minimal, but they can add up.  The less bags you pack, the less it will cost.  Keep in mind that it’s not only the number of bags that are a factor, it’s also the size and weight.   For example, to avoid overweight charges, bags may not weigh more than 50 lbs (23 kg).  To avoid over-sized charges, bags may not exceed 62 linear inches, including wheels and handles (158 linear cm).

When You’re Driving: You’ll want to pack the car as light as possible.  The more weight, the harder the car works and the more gas is used.

Vacation Packing Mind Map Diagram

At one point in my career, I learned to pack a bag within 20 minutes.   Now, that I travel for leisure opposed to business, there’s no rush yet there are a number of essentials that remain the same.  Here is the packing list that I use whether it’s a weekend getaway or a long relaxing vacation.  Before I print my packing list, I update the mind map with the weather information provided by The Weather Channel.

packing list2

Click to download the Packing Mind Map

SmartDraw Tip: To add the Weather Table, navigate to the Table Ribbon.  In the Rows and Columns fields, select the appropriate values.  Click the Table control and the table will appear in the Work Area.  Click and drag the table to the appropriate location in the mind map.


If you’re faced with renting a vehicle for a large group, it’s more cost efficient when it comes to gas mileage to rent one large vehicle, such as an SUV or van, versus renting two smaller vehicles.


Once my husband and I decided how many vacation days we wanted to take, the next step was to decide where to stay.  So, I went online and did some initial research.  As I researched each property, I decided to enhance my mind map by making it into an information hub.  I essentially associated each hotel listed with a link to their respective website.   When I shared the hub with my husband, he was able to look at each hotel with just one-click.

Hotel Information Hub Diagram

Accomodations by LocationClick to download the Hotel Information Hub Diagram.


When traveling with a large group or with kids, you may be tempted to book two adjoining or separate rooms.  Book a room that has been upgraded with two king size beds instead and cut your hotel bill by almost half.


If your trip includes visiting a major attraction, such as Disneyland or Universal Studios, you may want to stay at one of their partner hotel properties.  These partner hotels typically come with a number of perks.  Such hotel properties are known to offer early entrance to the park, complimentary shuttle service to and from the park, as well as concierge services tailored for the local attractions.

Accomodations Mind Map Table1Click to download the Accommodations by Location Hub Diagram

SmartDraw Tip:  To add a hyperlink to text, navigate to the webpage to which you would like to link the text to.  Use Ctrl+C to copy the url address.  Navigate to the Work Area, then highlight the text you wish to associate the hyperlink to.  Right+click and select Add Hyperlink.  The Hyperlink Dialogue window will appear.  Use Ctrl+V to paste the url into the Add Hyperlink field.  Click OK.  


One of the benefits of being a hotel or credit card rewards program member is that you have the opportunity accrue points over time.  Signing up for rewards programs is free.  When you accrue a certain amount of points, they can be applied towards free hotel stays or room upgrades.  If you don’t have enough points, many hotels offer the option to use “cash & points.”


  • Daily Newspaper: There are some hotel properties that will automatically delivery the daily newspaper every morning unless you opt-out.  This option is made available to you during the check-in process. Be sure to read the forms closely when you check in or you may incur additional costs.
  • Internet: Many hotels charge a daily rate for wireless speed internet access in guest rooms.  Avoid the charges by going to the lobby for internet access, its free.
  • Printing: Since airlines have allowed passengers to print their boarding passes in advance, it’s not uncommon for hotels to offer to print your boarding passes at no additional charge.  Save yourself the hassle of rushing to the airport to check-in, simply check-in using the hotel business center typically located near the lobby.
  • Room Service: Typically, a 15% service fee and an “in-room dining” charge ranging from $5-12 will be added automatically to the bill. Add in tax, you’re suddenly looking at a $25+ sandwich. Instead, take a trip down to the restaurant and enjoy the service provided by the wait staff.  You’ll be guaranteed a hot meal when it arrives and enjoy a full dining experience.



A refrigerator stocked with beverages and snacks in your hotel room is considered standard.  Yet, did you know that you can ask for the refrigerator to be emptied? You can stock it with the food and beverages that you and your family enjoy. Some hotels offer microwaves as well.  These amenities vary from hotel to hotel so it’s best to call ahead – especially during high seasons.


As a former concierge, it was not uncommon to make dinner reservations on behalf of our guests. Since our hotel had existing relationships with several restaurants throughout San Diego, our guests would receive such perks as preferred seating, a reservation even though the establishment is fully booked, or a complimentary appetizer or dessert.  In other words, it never hurts to ask for some assistance.



I’ve traveled with all sizes of groups from a single travel partner to 28 relatives on a cruise ship to 40 co-workers on a nationwide CRM training rollout over a 10 week period.  You can only imagine the challenges that the size of a group has on the dynamics of the trip.  With that in mind, it’s a best practice to brainstorm what you’d like to do on the trip with your fellow travel partners.

When you brainstorm in SmartDraw: Simply use the mind map template to capture ideas.  My husband and I were toying with a number of activities in the area.


Click to download the Activities Hub Diagram

SmartDraw Tip: To add a picture to a shape, begin by selecting the appropriate shape.  In the Insert Ribbon select Picture.  In the Add Picture window, select Replace Text.  Browse to locate the appropriate picture, then click Open.  

When you plan to share your mind map as a pdf: As a pdf with live links, you enable recipients to quickly and easily access the information that you have gathered.  As a result, you are able to facilitate the decision-making process.

activities informationSmartDraw Tip:  To add a note, simply right+click on the shape you wish to associate a note.  In the menu, select Add Note.  Enter the appropriate information into the window. Click off the window and a yellow box will appear.  

Exporting a diagram into a pdf is quite easy.  Once you’ve completed your mind map, navigate to the File Ribbon and select Print.  In the Printer drop-down menu, select SmartDraw PDF Export V2.  Adjust the Setting options as needed.  You can validate the layout in the preview area displayed to the right of the Print menu.  Click Print.


Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to travel.  Some want every detail planned down to the minute while others would rather “wing it.”  To prevent any undue anxiety or stress when planning a vacation, it’s best to have a general itinerary that meets everyone’s comfort level on the trip.

Here are the initial itineraries that we came up with during our initial vacation planning.

Itinerary Options2