This is one of the easiest ways to filter out options for vacation. If you would get bored sitting on a beach and soaking up the sun, then perhaps an island vacation is not in your future. If you are afraid of heights and don't care for roller coasters, perhaps a theme park is not either. Sometimes (most times) folks are looking for a little of both, so don't be afraid to make that clear. Indicate to your travel agent up front that you are looking for something that is relaxing, but has enough activities to keep you from getting bored. These are questions that most good travel agents will ask up front, but if you are ready and already know the answer, you will get through the process of elimination much quicker.
Deciding when to vacation is another great way of filtering out many of the available options. For example, February may not be the best time for a hike through the Appalachians and September may not be an ideal time of year for a Caribbean cruise. Why? Well, this is where our expertise comes into play and shows the value of our services. We know information about different destinations that can render them unfavorable during certain times of the year. Even if you are flexible try to narrow yourself down to a month or a season so that you don't drive yourself crazy wondering about all of the "options". You should be making your vacation suit your needs and not the other way around.
This may be the single most important decision you make about your vacation. We all know that flying adds complication, time, and expense, so deciding if you want to deal with all of that up front can help to save you a ton of time planning. If you don't want to fly, you are limited to a radius around your home equal to the amount of time you are willing to drive. So, if you are willing to drive 5 hours and live in New Jersey, DC is in and Florida is out. If you do want to fly, the world becomes your oyster again, but be aware that the cost of the flight is the driving factor in the price fluctuation of vacation packages. For example, if the round trip airfare to Punta Cana was $500 yesterday but $600 today, it is a good bet that the quote for your total package has gone up by about $100. If you let your agent wait to give you an exact quote until around the time you are ready to book, you will save both of you a lot of worry about pricing and a lot of back and forth with new quotes as days go by. If there is a more advantageous time to book (with regard to airfare) this is yet another advantage to using a travel agent since they should be able to give you those tips!
Always tell your travel agent up front exactly who is traveling. The suggestions that I would give for 2 adults and 2 children are much, much different than those that I would give for just you and your spouse. If it is just the two of you, you may want to consider a couples only resort destination. What if you are traveling with other families? By getting everyone on board with using one travel agent, you may be able to save the whole group money in the log run. Depending on the size of the group, you may be eligible for discounts on rooms, flights, excursions, and more...
This is an incredibly important question, how much work do you want to do for this vacation? As a Travel Agent who specializes in Disney, I have booked a lot of reservations over the years; resort reservations, dining reservation, tour reservations, fast passes...the list goes on and on. The problem is that I cannot book any of that without someone's input. As a travel agent, I can inform and advise (and be the one getting up at 6am to make the actual reservation), but I can't do any of that without your help. If you don't have an interest in a trip that takes up that much of your time for planning, perhaps you would prefer an all-inclusive or a cruise. There are limited planning requirements and, in theory, you could just show up on the date of departure and enjoy what is built into the standard package! Personal preferences with regard to planning is a key factor in the final decision on destination.
What do you think travelers and travel agents, did I miss something you really feel like you need to think about up front before you even start planning?