One military benefit is free travel to nice places- for me Italy and Germany; but you travel to some not so nice places.

As a civilian or former military and are looking to do something interesting; you think going on an ‘adventure’ is your solution.  By ‘adventure’, I mean ‘holiday’, well, ‘vacation’ really.  Hopefully all will go well and the vacation will not turn into an ‘adventure’ to include a book deal and made for television movie.

It is all about you! Vacation is all about you, unless you have a significant other and kids; who get a vote- a veto might better describe their influence on the group vacation decision.

Before you call a travel agent [do they still exist?] or head to the internet and see what Travelocity [ https://www.travelocity.com/ ]  or Expedia   [https://www.expedia.com/ ] have to offer, you need to first figure out what you want; based on more than ‘I want an adventure’.

Resources?  Being a former military logistics guy, the first question I ask is requirements versus capability.  To effectively plan a vacation, you do not need a five paragraph OPORD, but it will cover all the important areas.  Time and money are your biggest constraints.  So here we begin:

     Time:  How much time to travel do you have?  I would love to visit Australia, but cannot do it on a long weekend since the one-way travel time is about 18 hours [best case scenario].  How many days can you realistically travel and add the one day on the end for recovery?

     Money:  What is your budget?  How much can you spend & how much do you want to spend?  Be realistic and honest- no need to lie to yourself.

     Weather:  Weather gets a vote and maybe even a veto.  What you want to do can and will be influenced by the weather.  Traveling anytime in the winter is more risky then traveling during the summer- unless it is hurricane season.  Of course if you are going overseas, then you might not want to go to Panama during the rainy season, unless the rain will not affect your vacation intentions.  Weather becomes very important and its potential impact does need consideration.

     Risk:  How much risk are you willing to take?  After Al Gore invented the internet, there is no need to travel anywhere and be surprised the country of your ancestors is in the middle of a 10 year revolution or Ebola pandemic.  The US State Department can help you figure out what is going on:  https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings.html .  I am a low risk guy, so that eliminates 90% of the world’s countries and seven US states.

Interests?  What is the mission; I mean intent, sorry for the army talk I am still deprogramming; what are your interests, what is the purpose of the vacation?  What do you want to do?  Rest and relax on a sandy tropical beach?  Eat your why through Europe?  Have an unforgettable Peruvian cultural experience?

Based on your resources and interests, you can begin to develop a realistic vacation plan covering what you want to do, or not do; as well as staying within your financial and time constraints.

Domestic?  America is about 3 million square miles, not counting several US territories [think Guam, Puerto Rico and American Samoa].  America offers a whole host of cultural and historical sites as well as many outdoor activities such as rock and mountain climbing, skiing, desert camping and even hardwood rain forests to explore.  If this sounds too tiresome, the US has miles and miles of sandy beaches to hang around and sip refreshing drinks.

Overseas?  If domestic travel sounds too domesticated, there is always the overseas option.  With just under 200 countries, overseas travel offers many, many vacation options.  So if you really gave the travel bug, surly there is a country that can meet your financial and time constraints.  If you are considering overseas travel, then you will need a US passport.  It can take 8 weeks to get, so for more details:  http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html ; that time requirement could affect your travel plans.   While looking at the State Department’s website for passport requirements, you might want to check if your country requires a visa.  In general, developed countries, like Western Europe and Japan can be expensive, you might want to be sure you will not blow budget on day three of seven days.

Language skills.  It is pointless to take a crash language course.  Unless you plan well in advance, there is not enough time to become reasonably proficient:  you sound will like child four when of talking.   Yeah, really, you will sound that bad.  ‘Yes’, ‘no’,’ please’ and ever so important ‘thank you’ is enough.  Plus smile, you will look less fearsome.

Medical:  If you decide to travel overseas, the Center for Disease Control [CDC- http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/ ] offers medical advice.  Having traveled to a few nasty countries, you can never be too safe or immunized.  You might want to research or at least confirm what coverage your medical insurance provides and even then, buying additional travel coverage could be the best money you spend.  Before you travel, a doctor’s visit could confirm your fitness to travel as well as refill any meds you need.  While traveling with medicines, follow the rules– do not mix pills, keep the prescription meds in their containers.  No one wants to have an extended vacation in a third world prison cell.

Food and Water:  Where you travel to will determine what and where you will eat and drink.  Western Europe and Japan discovered soap and water plus refrigeration, so most places should be safe to eat and drink at- do your country research just in case I am wrong.   The rest of the world eating and drinking the water anywhere could lead to a bad experience.  This will limit your choices to higher end hotels and restaurants.  Not saying eating lamb and rice from a Turkish food cart will get you sick, but why take the chance.  If you have ever been deployed, you know what I mean.

Money:  ATMs live all over the world, whether traveling in the US or overseas, no need to bring a ton of cash.  You might want to let your credit/debit card company you are traveling overseas and they might give you some travel tips.

How to travel?  This is not about mode of travel as it is about size: self, small group or tourist group.

     Self? The reward is you can do whatever you want, whenever you want; change the plan, add or subtract activities.  You are in total control.  The cost is you are by yourself, alone with no one to help you with your stuff or to go to the pharmacy and buy you some anti-diarrhea medicine, which you forgot to pack, as you lay in your bed in a feverish state.  So does having a travel-buddy make some sense?

     Small Group? Best compromise between the vacation plan, changes and security- you have to watch your stuff at all times.

     Tourist Group?  ‘Put your mind on hold and do what you are told!’  You lose control of your vacation and can be more costly- groups tend to stay at higher end hotels and eat at good restaurants.  Once you select the ‘tour’ of your choice [there are many choices], they do all the planning and coordination.  Very doubtful you will stay at a dumpy place, eat at a low end restaurant or travel on that back of a ‘jingle truck’ with the chickens and goats.  From a security stand point, a large group can be an excellent terrorist target; which is somewhat of a down side.

So, where to go?  That decision is all yours.  If the vacation does not work out, there is always next year.

What to pack?  Travel light, if you can.  Unless a pack mule is part of your travel party, you have to carry what you bring.  If your trip includes small children, then you have to carry all their gear as well- good luck with that!  Try to pack light, which is very weather dependent.  No need to change your clothes everyday [ok, your undies and socks are an exception], rotating them is good enough.  Comfortable footgear is important, avoid sandals or flip-flops if you can, unless you are on the beach.  High end ‘adventure’ sandals are ok.  If you are not going to eat at formal restaurants, then no need to bring your tweed jacket and formal wear.

Vacations and travel can be fun and educational.  If you plan ahead, do your research and pack accordingly, a vacation can recharge your body and soul.

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