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If you love going on vacation, but dread the planning, you’re missing out on all the fun. Seriously, according to a recent survey, pre-trip planning is often the happiest part of vacationing. Who knew? Planners, that’s who!

RELATED: How to travel cheap when you’re not in your 20s anymore

From choosing where to go to packing your bags, the best vacations start with good planning. Sure, you can’t control everything (and probably wouldn’t want to), so think of pre-trip planning as the map that will help you get there and back with the least amount of stress. Here’s how non-planners can help ensure smooth travels while saving money and still allowing for free-spirited fun.

Delegate travel arrangements

Some credit card companies, like American Express, and membership programs, such as AARP, offer free travel planning to help you get the best deal on travel arrangements and manage the planning process. Alternatively, you can share the responsibility of making travel arrangements by delegating part of the planning to your traveling companions.

Get the best deals

Be prepared to spend top dollar to go to popular destinations during peak seasons. Book with CheapTickets.com to make sure you’re getting the best deals available, and then consider scheduling your trip to coincide with shoulder seasons when airfares and hotel prices are considerably lower. Booking your vacation as a package deal is a good way to reduce the cost.

Even better for non-planners? Book an all-inclusive getaway that simplifies your travel planning while also allowing you to budget for expenses more easily. If you decide at the last minute that you want a quick getaway, consider booking weekday versus weekend travel for better availability and better deals. When booking a room directly, always ask: Is there a discount available?

ALSO: Unpack major hotel savings with CheapCash—here’s how!

Pack like a boss

What do you need/want to bring with you? Make a packing list that includes daily vitamins and meds, sleepwear, underwear and socks, toothbrush, phone charger and other essentials. Star or highlight items you need to buy such as a new bathing suit, travel-size toiletries or packing aids.

Speaking of making packing easy, VELCRO® Brand fasteners come in handy for a variety of packing needs. Wrap your chargers and power cords together and secure them with a VELCRO® Brand One-Wrap Strap. You can also use VELCRO® Brand tape and fasteners to attach your luggage tag, bundle clothing inside your suitcase or create a custom travel bag that organizes your essentials.

Avoid overpacking by limiting footwear and choosing clothing that can be mixed and matched to create multiple outfits. Maximize space in your suitcase by stuffing small items inside shoes, rolling your clothing in bundles and by planning to wear your jacket and heaviest shoes, rather than packing them. Leave valuable jewelry at home.

Get the inside scoop

Before booking your lodgings, whether it’s a hotel or house rental, make sure to read reviews from travelers who have been there so you’re prepared for your arrival. Start an itinerary by looking up “top 10 things to do” at your destination and bookmarking your favorites. If there are popular activities that you know you want to do for sure, try purchasing tickets in advance, especially if availability is limited. Once you arrive, ask locals about their favorite things to do. You might learn about some hidden gems!

Donna Smallin Kuper is organizing guru and the author of a dozen bestselling books on decluttering. Currently writing for Home Depot, Donna shares some insightful ways to organize your life, from using VELCRO® Brand hook and loop fasteners to hold your chargers in place in your suitcase to separating your clothes in individual bags. Click here to see VELCRO® Brand fastener options.

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Tagged: Cheap Tips, Flights, Off-season, Seasonal, Tips & advice

Donna Smallin Kuper | Home Depot

Donna Smallin Kuper | Home Depot

Organizing and cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper is the author of a dozen best-selling books on uncluttering, organizing, cleaning and simplifying life. Currently writing for Home Depot, Donna is often quoted by the media, in Better Homes & Gardens, Real Simple and Woman's Day.

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