When we devote so much of our hard-earned cash to our vacations, they have to be perfect. With just the right balance of adventure and relaxation, great food, and a fantastic atmosphere, it can sometimes be a challenge to get the perfect concoction. It’s all in the planning, as it is with many things. Getting everything organized and down to a tee before you even board that jet plane is the best way to guarantee the perfect, hassle-free vacation. Here are just a few questions you should be asking yourself before you leave, and during the planning process, to make sure everything is in order and all can run smoothly.

Where does your heart desire?
Perhaps the most important question: where do you want to go? Is that location practical? How long will it take to travel, does it encourage solo travellers, are children welcome, is it within your price range? You might find that the destination of your dreams isn’t all it’s cracked up to be once you’ve done your homework. And you might find that reading around on similar locations pops up somewhere perfect that you’ve never even considered.

When you’re doing your research, it’s crucial to bear in mind your financial limitations. Don’t just consider the cost of accommodation and travel, but also the cost of living while you’re there. Read other travellers’ experiences about their average spend per day, and what some of their more surprising expenditures were. Is public transport particularly good value for money? How about the local traditional drinks, the food, or the interesting cultural excursions? Knowing how much money you’ll require each day is really important when you’re developing your budget.

How will you pay for it?
Speaking of budget, how do you plan to pay for your trip? Do you have savings that you can put up front, or do you plan on paying for it through finance? Does your credit card give you air miles or reduced cost on accommodation, like Chase? With these credit cards, many offer rewards such as Chase Ultimate Reward points, which can be cashed in with any of their partnered hotel chains or airlines. This can make a significant difference to the cost of a vacation, so make sure you check what bonuses your credit card affords you.

Alongside this, many people choose to create a thorough budget. This includes all the expenditure required for the trip, but goes far further than accommodation, flights, and spending money. Internal transport, including airport transfers, travel insurance, and even the additional clothing or medication you will need should be on this budget. It’ll give you a far better overview of how much to try to save on the lead up to the holiday, so you’re not scrambling around at the last minute for a few extra dollars.

How long do you have?
Planning an amazing vacation means choosing one which works with your limitations. There’s no point travelling to Australia if you’ve only got a week, but if you’ve got a few weeks and a bit of cash in your pocket, going further afield is more than encouraged.

But how does your vacation timing work out with everyone else’s? Are you clashing with school holidays, when prices are typically hiked astronomically? If you are, is there any wiggle room to try to avoid this disruption? It’s also worth considering the time at which you’re booking your trip. Straight after Thanksgiving or Christmas tends to see some great deals on air travel and accommodation costs, so they can be great times for booking the trip of a lifetime and bagging yourself a sweet deal.

What are your holiday priorities?
Do you want an adventure, with hiking and abseiling and hot air balloons? Or would you prefer a few days on the beach, by the pool, or in the bars? If you travel with a purpose, you’ll achieve everything you want. This even goes for a relaxing beach vacation.

Travelling with purpose means knowing exactly what you want to achieve from your holiday before you even get there. Not only does this affect where, and when, you choose to travel, but it will also affect how you use your time once you’re on the ground. If there are particular sights that you wish to see, knowing whether you need to prebook can save you a whole lot of hassle and heartache when you’re there. Knowing exactly what you and your traveling companions want to achieve from the holiday mean you can better tailor it to suit your expectations before you even set off.

What legalities are required?
Depending on where you choose to visit, there will be different legal requirements. For example, some countries require a tourist visa, which usually needs to be applied for online or even through their embassy in your own country. Knowing this ahead of time can save real issues once you get there, some of which could see you being rejected altogether from the country which you’re travelling to.

It’s also worthwhile checking requirements on the amount of time left on your passport or travel documents. Some countries require you to have upwards of six months left until your passport expires, otherwise you will not be allowed through customs or immigration control when you arrive at your destination. All of this information can be found on the website of the embassy of the country to which you’re traveling.

What do you need to pack?
Is there anything that ruins the holiday spirit quite like rushing around at the last minute, frantically trying to find all of the bits and bobs that you need to pack to bring with you? Start your list early so you’re not caught out when your electrical adaptors have gone walkabout, or your travel-sized toiletries are emptier than you expected. It’s also particularly useful to know if you will require any new clothes for this adventure, especially if the climate is new to you.

Being prepared for your trip means that nothing is left until the last minute, and the vacation can run as smoothly as can be.