My Best Holiday

When I decided to visit North-East of India in Apr 09, I had a lot of apprehensions in my mind due to our pre-conceived notion arising out of adverse media reports about North East. Yet I was so determined to visit as I felt that it was a god sent opportunity. To add fuel to my apprehensions, a bomb blast incident took place at Guwahati just one day prior to our departure. But it never deterred our enthusiasm and we boarded the Air India flight as per the schedule. It was a morning flight from Delhi. Air India served us a hot and delicious breakfast. While relishing the breakfast, we had an opportunity to see the aerial view of beautiful tea gardens of Bagdogra where our flight landed on our way to Guwahati. When we reached Guwahati airport, a cool breeze welcomed us. On the way to our Guest House, we were passing through beautiful buildings of the city. We were able to spot Guwahati University, High Court and other important landmarks of the city. Finally, we reached the famous Kamakhya temple. We were stunned to see the huge crowd standing on the queue to pay their obeisance to God. What we really surprised that the previous day bomb blast never had any impact on the life of Guwahati citizens as the whole city looked as usual as any other normal day.

Next day early morning we proceeded to Shillong. Our journey from Guwahati to Shillong was not only memorable but also a feast to the eyes. When we reached Shillong, we were completely awestruck over the beauty of Shillong. Its unique buildings, neat and clean roads, people with colourful attire added more beauty to the city. Initially we had difficulty in pronouncing the names of the roads of Shillong as it all resemble Chinese names. On our sight seeing trip, from Shillong peak we could able to see the whole city of Shillong. It was a breathtaking experience. Elephant falls not only enthralled us by its beauty but also its serene surroundings. We felt fresh and got rejuvenated after our boating at the most beautiful Wards Lake. Musical fountain at this place was simply superb. I was amazed to see 18 holes Golf Course the biggest Golf Course in Asia. I became spellbound over its lush green lawns. Our only disappointment in Shillong was that I could not able to see the famous Don Bosco Museum as it was closed due to Easter holidays. The climate of Shillong really soothed both my mind and body.

After my sight seeing trip to Shillong, I proceeded to our dream destination. Yes it was Cheerapunji, the wettest place on earth (this record has now been snatched away by a village called Mawsynram just 10 kms away from Cherrapunji). I joined with a conducted tour to Cheerapunji in a Meghalaya Transport Corporation Bus. The moment we boarded the bus, the guide welcomed us and started briefing us about the significance of Cheerapunji in tolerable English. After his briefing, we really got exited to see our dream destination. Cherrapunji is full of huge mountains, beautiful valleys and pleasing water falls. Certainly it is the most picturesque place we have ever visited. Noh-ka-Likai falls was an absolute beauty. We could not take our eyes away from it as long as we stand there. Gushing sound of water and reflection of rainbow at the end still lingering in our mind. It was really a scenic beauty and worth to watch. If you are bit adventurous you can visit Mawsmai caves. You may underestimate its deepness while entering the cave. Before coming out of the caves, you would miss few heart beats on the way. We were completely excited to see the seven sisters where seven water falls appeared in a row. We could not believe our eyes as we witnessed the Bangaldesh border from Cherrapunji. It was really a life time opportunity.

I enjoyed the whole trip. It is really a lovely place and it was one of my best holidays which I will remember for ever.



Add Some Holiday Spirit to Your Dogs Using Dog Costumes

With the holiday season coming, many dog lovers are looking for ways to include their beloved animals in the festivities. Costuming is an safe, easy and inexpensive way to add some holiday spirit to your pets!

Whether it is to add some ghoulish fright to your otherwise mild mannered pup for Halloween or to add some elegance and charm to you pooch for holiday pictures with the family, dog costumes are certainly the way to go.

Imagine taking your kids trick or treating this year with man’s best friend dressed to compliment your childrens’ costumes or handing out candy to all your ghoulish visitors with your best furry friend dressed as a pirate, cheer leader, scarecrow, fire fighter, witch, honeybee, superhero, clown, goblin or pumpkin.

You and your dog are sure to be the family or house to be remembered this holiday season. Or if Halloween is not your style…how about Christmas pictures? Wouldn’t it be great to add your pampered pooch to the picture wearing a fancy princess-like dress or a 007 like tux? Yours will definitely be the holiday cards to get, share and keep for years to come!

There are so many different types, styles and sizes of dog costumes to get you don’t need to worry about finding the perfect one to fit your own pup’s personality …just take a look around. Made of non-irritating fabrics and in styles that do not interfere with the various bodily functions your dog may need to perform, dog costumes are a safe and fun way to get your dog into the holiday spirit.

But hey! Do I need to put my dogs costumes away at the end of the holiday season? Of course not! Even your dog needs an image boost from time to time and what better way to get that than by dressing up and getting cooed at and petted by everyone they see?



Make This Summer Your Best Ever Family Vacation

With summer upon us, it will soon be time to load the kids into the car and head down the road to your dream destination. Any trip, whether it’s a week’s vacation or a day’s outing will be more fun if you plan ahead. Here are some quick tips for traveling with children.

# 1 Create a budget. Involve your entire family in saving for your trip. Help your children understand that they need to work and save for a goal. Stay within your financial limits.

#2 Decide on a destination and then make a list of things to do. Let every family member contribute. Although the final choices belong to the grown ups, try to include items from each child’s list. This will give everyone a special section of the trip to look forward to.

Use guidebooks, the travel section of the newspaper as sources.

Consider exploring your own city. Day trips and weekend outings are great opportunities.

#3 Let kids help prepare for the trip. Create a checklist of things to do.

Arrange for pet and plant care; stop the newspaper and mail.

Pack an emergency car kit with flashlight, jumper cables, first aid kit, wash packets, paper towels.

Pack pillows for the car, water bottles, snacks, clipboards, toys, music, and games.

Pre-address and print out mailing labels for postcards. Buy stamps.

Be ready to catch those summer memories. Give each child their own disposable camera. Be sure to write their name on top.

#4 Learn about the places you will be traveling. Highlight your travel route on a map. Make a “Trip Strip.” Use a roll of adding machine tape to mark, in sequence, Grandma’s house, various landmarks, cities, rivers, and hotels of your journey. As you pass each milestone, mark it off until you reach your destination.

#5 Have a variety of toys and games on hand. “Are we there yet?” usually means it’s time to switch to a new activity. Break the trip up into small segments. Play the alphabet game (find an object beginning with each letter of the alphabet) or license plate game (find one from every state.) Timeless games such as connect the dots, or string games like crow’s feet and cat’s paw are a great way to pass the time. Pull out the map or your “Trip Strip” so that children have a visual idea of how far they have traveled.

#6 Stop at a park or get out of the car. Allow children time to run around. Go for a walk or enjoy a roadside picnic. Play ball.

#7 Time zone changes and schedule changes are difficult for anyone, but especially small children. Your kids will be happiest if you keep regular meal and bedtime hours and allow for down time. Try to maintain their normal routine.

#8 Slow down. Chill out. Remember this is your vacation. It’s more important to enjoy your time together as a family than it is to accomplish everything on your list.

#9 Since you will probably be sharing a smaller place than you normally do at home, remember you don’t have to do everything together. Not everyone will have the same interests or attention span. It is OK to break off into smaller groups.

#10 Create a travel log each night. Collect postcards, napkins, and admission stubs to tape up in a scrapbook. And, don’t forget to mail a few of those postcards to family and friends.

You have permission to reprint this article electronically or in print, free of charge, provided that each article is:

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About the Author: Rondi Hillstrom Davis is the co-author of the award-winning book Together: Creating Family Traditions. To check out her website that’s jam packed with family ideas, visit http://www.togetherparenting.com



Winter Blues

Frustrated by the over-commercialization of the holiday season? Overwhelmed by rising costs and dwindling income? Not only do we see people spending money that they cannot afford around the holidays we also see people become nicer, more giving. It is easy to feel annoyed when we see people “into” the spirit of being a nice person for this short period of time only. A lot of talk and a lot of noise along with the pressure to buy, buy, buy – others find the holidays a time of additional stress because they are alone.

Many of us dream of attaining a simpler lifestyle and we can see the demand by all the information posted online and the newsletters on living a more simplistic or sustainable life. Use your favorite search engine to find them to find a myriad of articles, books and two positive radio programs that will help you in your journey.

Families are now going back to earlier traditions of making gifts by hand rather than buying them (plates of goodies, crafts, art, dried arrangements, dried or processed vegetables, herbs and jams from their gardens, etc). Some are making the most of family fun during the holidays by creating treasure hunts (as opposed to wrapping the gifts) – which is good for environment because it reduces waste. Many families are taking on environmental themes in their holiday gift giving by choosing gifts that will benefit the recipient and the environment.

Another sure way to break the blues is to make someone else’s life a little brighter. Do you have a relative or neighbor that finds it difficult to wrap gifts? Help them with the task or purchase some reusable gift bags and boxes for them to use. Individuals and groups of friends can volunteer at several places around their community, if only for an afternoon; check with the local volunteer office if you are looking for places that need a hand.

Occasionally look through your closets, pantries, library shelves and storage areas for things that have not been used in the last couple of years or items you longer wish to own. Choose one section of the home at a time if you have a lot to go through. Donate the items to the less fortunate through food kitchens, shelters for the homeless, women’s support centers and missions. Send books to the library and your local literacy programs – and don’t forget to drop off items to thrift stores that raise funds for charities or hospitals.

If you have a few dollars to spare, even $20 would do, take the family down to the local grocery or pet shop and try to get as many items as you can for that money. Go down as a group and donate them to a food bank or animal shelter. If you can, try to purchase one item per family member as a donation for the food bank every time you go shopping. Even one can of tuna a week can make a world of difference.

Some families have taken on the task of repairing broken toys purchased at garage sales and thrift shops, which they then donate to others during the holidays. Perhaps you have a talent at a craft such as knitting mittens and slippers that you can use to help others.

Creative ideas like these are guaranteed to take the blues right out of your season, while getting the family involved in your community. Doing various holiday activities gets us out of our houses and into some fresh air. Living a more frugal and simplistic life encourages bonding between family and friends. Meanwhile we are able to make a measurable difference in our community. These kinds of ideas bring more life, adventure and love to us all for an extended period of time – they are memories and legacies that will last a lifetime.



No Fly Holidays

No fly holidays are getting more popular now, that is a fact. So what are the reasons why more and more are turning to alternative holidays which do not involve planes and airports?

The 90s saw the real boom in budget airlines in Europe with EasyJet and RyanAir leading the way to low cost travel for everybody. UK tabloid newspapers such as The Sun and The Mirror ran offers where you could fly to Nice for £1 if you collected the ‘tokens’ from just 4 newspapers. All of a sudden a whole generation of people who only dreamed of going abroad were ‘nipping off’ for a quick weekend on The French Riviera or just going on a stag do in Prague. The budget airlines went further, destinations became Rome, Malaga, Lisbon or Berlin. Who could have predicted 100 years ago that the aviation would be available to everyone and not just the upper class?

Things have changed; budget airlines are not as cheap as they once were. There are now excesses charged for checking in luggage, taking skis, using a credit card. Travelling is more difficult now that you cannot take liquids or more than one piece of hand luggage on board, which makes travelling with children and babies very difficult indeed. But there are other factors that put people off flying which are potentially much more serious.

Terrorism reached its aviation peak with the 9/11 attacks of September 2001 which killed thousands of people. I travelled through New York myself on September 11th 2007 and even though it was 6 years on, there was a definite feeling of fear both in the air and on the ground.

Full body scanners are now being used at major European airports such as Manchester and Schipol, which many travellers are uneasy about. The scanners produce a naked image of travellers, which of course can include celebrities and children.

Carbon footprint. Aircraft cause severe destruction to our atmosphere and green campaigners have every right to fight for the right to preserve our planet. We will never stop flying, but aircraft will get greener and maybe the Earth’s population will take fewer unnecessary flights, but overall flying is never going to be an eco friendly option.

Natural phenomena. A superb example is the chaos that was caused by Iceland’s glacier-covered Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April 2010. The eruption of Eyjafjallajokull caused volcanic ash to be pumped into the atmosphere all over Europe, bringing the entire European aviation industry to a standstill for 4 days. The cost ran into billions and as I write this people are still trying to make their way home, two weeks after the eruption.

So what are the alternatives? Trains are one of the most eco-friendly forms of transport, but for someone like myself with a classic two parent, two children family, public transport is not going to work for me. We just have too much stuff to take with us.

A car plus tent is a nice option, but to be honest I am ‘pushing 50’ now and I expect a bit of comfort – even luxury. The best compromise for me is to hire a motorhome, load it with everything we need and head off towards France and then Spain, which is a country I adore. Sure it takes a while to get there, but with a motorhome it is all part of the fun. The interesting thing is that once we get to our destination we use no more diesel other than getting home again. We use bikes that we take with us, walk and use local buses.

Motorhome hire may not be the most eco friendly option for a no fly holiday, but it is in comparison much better than flying, more fun and more laid back.



Christmas Party Ideas for Kids

Children home on winter break are full of boundless energy and laughter. Why not harness all that winter joy and have a game day for your family? Maybe your family has a few beloved games that you’ve played over and over again and you need a break from the norm or maybe you’re family wants to begin a new holiday tradition and you need some inspiration… whatever the reason, we have plenty of wonderful holiday game suggestions that we’re sure will please every game lover in your home.

If you’ve invited older children over and you’d like to burn off some of their energy before moving on to cake and cookies, try holiday variations of the popular "Minute to Win It" games. Have your party-goers take turns and see who can take the biggest swallow of hot chocolate or who can sing "Rudoplh the Red-Nosed Reindeer" the fastest. If you want to be particularly silly, see how long it takes to pop a red pom pom on their Vaseline-covered noses. Be sure to take pictures!

If your friends and family are more artistic, try a gingerbread house decorating contest. Divide your guests into teams of 2-4 kids and then give each team its own house to decorate. You can use traditional gingerbread houses or go with the slightly more-kid-friendly route of using small milk cartons or graham crackers. Set the time for a specific time and see how creative and complicated the decorating can become in that time frame. All of the gingerbread houses can either be judged by all of your guests with polling boxes and slips of paper or you can have a few grown-ups or older kids be the judges and select the winner.

A holiday version of Pictionary lets the imagination fly. Write down lyric snippets from well-known carols and see who has the best drawing skills. You can also do this in reverse: If you have a talent for illustration or know someone who does, set out several depictions of popular carols and holiday songs and see how many your guests can correctly guess.

Scavenger hunts (also sometimes called treasure hunts) can be a fantastic way to incorporate holiday spirit, burn off excess energy and strengthen their minds. Use the clues to lead throughout the house or even outdoors where they may encounter Frosty or Rudolph (just make sure the kids are all appropriately prepared to be out of doors if you plan on this approach)?) in search of the big prize. Not only will they work their minds, but they might get a change to run off some of that sugar.

Even the smallest of your visitors will love these ideas and be begging for this for years. It’s easy to adapt preschool games for a Christmas part. Try "Pin the Hat on Frosty" or "Pin the Star over the Nativity". Strap on a set of fake antlers and a red nose to become Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and play a game of "Rudolph Says". Have a team relay race featuring Frosty’s black top hat instead of batons.

A different option is to try the Penguin Walk which is a lot of fun and causes much hilarity to ensue. Have the kids line up in teams of four to five people. Hand a balloon or a small soft ball to the child who’s lined up first.. Your guests place it in between their knees and then must navigate through the course you’ve laid out waddling the whole way like a penguin. The first team to finish is the winner.

One of the most traditional Christmas Party Games is the White Elephant or Gift Exchange. Based on your guests age and capability of following complex directions, you can host a white elephant gift exchange in many different ways. One option is to put all the presents on a table, have everyone pick one and open it at the same time, no exchanges allowed. Or try to have the kids all take turns allowing them to choose either a new gift from the pile or one that another child has already selected. Another creative way to exchange gifts, is to host an auction allowing your guests to bid on their favorite gift using fake money you’ve provided them.

Regardless of whether you are hosting a large party or simply playing with your own children, you’ll be able to create many wonderful memories and spread Christmas cheer..



Why Wales is Great For Family Cycling Holidays

Of all the places you can go for your UK holidays, Wales offers some of the very best scenery and for that reason, it is one of the top locations for a great cycling break.

There can be few things that feel more liberating than sitting in the saddle, powering yourself along many times faster than you could walk, yet just as able to feel with wind in your hair, while smelling the scents of the flowers or the sea air. Yet you can take a stop whenever you feel like it to explore some point of interest, enjoy a spot of lunch or visit one of the many historic buildings dotted around Wales.

All this comes with a huge variety of possible routes, from family-friendly ones that are quite flat to huge hills that you can hurtle down with a great surge of adrenalin. You can also enjoy areas of rugged mountain scenery or much gentler terrain with green fields and meadows. And of course there is always the sea, with plenty of chances to ride along some of the many coastal paths on or near the shores that offer panoramic views across the Irish Sea or the Bristol Channel. You can also take the chance to visit a couple of beaches while pedalling around.

And as people like lots of different things on their activity holidays in the UK, it may be good to know that there is lots of variety to be sampled in the 11 cycling activity centres that are available. All of these provide cycle hire and with the appropriate bike will come a safety helmet. Then, once you are in the saddle, you and your family can head off and enjoy yourselves.

What makes these among the best UK family activity holidays is the great choice you have. The 11 centres are spread out across Wales and vary from locations among mountains like Brecon in the Brecon Beacons and Dolgellau in Snowdonia to coastal destinations such as Aberaeron and the Llyn Peninsula, as well as areas near the English border such as Knighton and Prestigne.

With over 330 miles of traffic-free cycle paths across Wales, you can tailor your outdoor activity holidays to your own tastes. The routes you can enjoy from these centres are as varied as the locations themselves and this means you can choose big hills or gentle slopes, short rides or long ones, dense forest or wide open spaces.

For instance, from the centre at Tywi Valley you could enjoy a trip to the Welsh National Garden on a 20-mile route, or the 12-mile Medieval Mystery ride, taking in the sights – and chocolate flapjacks – of Cerreg Cennen Castle. At Dolgellau you can enjoy an easy family-friendly ride on low-lying terrain to Barmouth or a dramatic circular ride around Cadair Idris before climbing the same mountain the next day. Another great ride from here is to Machynlleth, which provides a challenging uphill climb followed by a fantastic long downhill surge.

And while enjoying the great scenery you can also indulge in a little bit of history. For instance, from Aberearon or New Quay you can ride from one town to the other via the various plaques that mark the Dylan Thomas Trail, which includes his former home at Ceri Bach beach. If you go to Saundersfoot in Pembrokeshire, there are several rides involving local castles and one of these – Carew Castle – might include a sighting of the ghosts of Sir Roland Rhys and his pet ape.

But the best thing of all about Wales is its wonderful, green countryside and the gentle pace of life it provides. This means that you and your family can enjoy a really refreshing break with the great feeling of empowerment that being on a bike provides. And as the countryside of Wales offers so much beauty – a fifth of it is covered by one of its three national parks – you will take away memories of its grandeur so rich you will be keen to come riding back. Whether it is the golden sands and rugged cliffs, the green fields or steepling mountains, the gushing rivers and waterfalls or gorgeous lakes, the scenery of Wales is a captivating thing and a wonderful reason to come and have a holiday on a bike.



3 Little Known Tips to Saving Money on Beach Vacation Travel

Here’s a really simple way to save on beach vacation travel. We are going to show you 3 ways to save you some bucks when booking your next beach vacation. The beach is an incredible experience. No matter whether you’ve traveled to far western Australia or taken a quick weekend trip to the Jersey Shore, barring rain, the beach is usually a really enjoyable experience. We’ve taken trips all over the world we’ve missed giant opportunities of money savings that were seemingly all around us if we had just taken the time to do a little extra research. Well, you are in luck. The travel research has been done for you, all you have to do is be willing to keep reading. Before you know it, you’ll be taking the beach vacation of your life, for a steeply discounted price. Here we go:

1)Buy it used. Well, not really used: more like discounted (or unused actually). Sometimes, people can put their vacation opportunities up at real discounts. Did you know that there are all sorts of people out there who own time shares but can’t use them for various reasons? Maybe the season isn’t right, or they can’t seem to get the flight that they need. eBay has a thriving market for timeshare opportunities. A lot of the listings are permanent (e.g. people looking for others to buy their times shares out completely), but sometimes people are just looking to monetize a weeks worth of timeshare that they can’t seem to use themselves. Their loss can be your opportunity. eBay is an auction, and the highest price wins usually.

2) Compare everything. Guess what? Expedia and Orbitz seem like they are juggernauts of internet travel and they control a lot of the market. BUT, they don’t have every vendor available. A lot of the discount airlines like SouthWest and JetBlue don’t use either of these massive companies and you can only get their deals by going directly to their website. Don’t’ tell anyone, but from what we’ve heard JetBlue is supposed to have really nice seats and monitors on new planes with really good prices. We haven’t used JetBlue ourselves yet, but it’s supposed be really good (especially at delivering good value on Northeast to Florida routes). That tip alone could save you some bucks while getting you a really nice flight.

3)The first 2 points are perfectly valid in any trip planning but almost worthless when you consider that you might have to shell out a lot more bucks for destinations abroad. There is a beautiful beach state located not too far from anyone East of the Mississippi. That’s right. Florida. Florida is back and it’s beaches are still fantastic. Florida is still beautiful. There has been a lot of development of Florida during the last 50 years, but Florida is still a massive state with plenty of undiscovered beaches. The state of Florida can be great if you know where to look. It’s pretty nice. Trust us….the undiscovered spots of Florida can really be something else. However, they are becoming more and more difficult to find as thousands of people move to Florida every month.



5 Reasons Why Cruising is a Great Value

For many years, taking a cruise for a family vacation was considered an expensive luxury that few people could afford. Most people hardly ever considered a vacation cruise as an option for themselves. Times have changed, though, as more and more people are discovering that cruising is a great value for a family vacation.

1. What you get

The price you pay for your cruise includes a huge number of things. It covers your accommodations (cabin) for the duration of the cruise, all of the food you can eat, and a huge variety of shipboard amenities and activities. A good way to see the value of what you get for yourself is to compare the direct costs of a cruise with the direct costs of a typical vacation. Add up the cost of comparable travel, hotel, food, and activities, you will quickly see that the price of a cruise is indeed a bargain when you take into consideration everything that you get.

2. Shipboard amenities

Modern cruise ships have an amazing array of amenities. Nearly all ships have the expected swimming pools, restaurants, bars, and other common attractions. More and more, though, cruise ships offer other amenities that may surprise you. These may include:

o Wine, cigar and specialty bars

o Ice skating rink

o Rock climbing wall

o Luxury spa

o Modern fitness facility

o Jogging track

o Game room

o Broadway entertainment

o Multi-room staterooms

o Specialty facilities for special needs

o Miniature golf

Each ship is different, so find out the amenities on whatever ship you are considering and select the one that best matches your wants and needs.

3. Shipboard activities

Activities abound on a cruise ship, and it is the rare person indeed who can manage to take part in all of them. There is literally something for everyone to do on a cruise ship, so you can be assured you will always be occupied and entertained.

The list of shipboard activities will vary, but these items are some typical examples:

o Dance lessons

o Swimming pool games

o Shuffleboard

o Ping pong

o Skeet shooting

o Lectures and workshops

o History and culture of ports of call

o Arts and crafts

o Photography classes

o Sports and game competitions

o Scavenger hunts

o Discussion groups

o Mix and mingle hour

o Wine tasting

o Painting lessons

o Clay and pottery lessons

The list goes on and on, and changes regularly. Some cruises are even considered “theme” cruises, where activities are designed around a particular topic or special interest.

4. Ports of call

Being on a cruise ship is like being at a fine resort with great food, lots of fun, and exceptional facilities. In addition to all of this, though, a cruise also takes you to one or more ports of call. At each stop, you can experience the culture of a location, explore the area, go on a special excursion, and then return to the comfort of your floating hotel.

Some cruises visit only a handful of locations, while others stop at four, five, or even more places. You can choose a cruise that goes to as many or as few ports of call as you like. Many cruise aficionados say that cruising is a great way to see a wide variety of places and determine which ones they would like to go back and visit for a more extended stay.

5. Choices

A cruise is a great value because it offers so many choices. You can do as much or as little as you like, and be very spontaneous about participating in activities. You have the freedom to relax and do nothing or spend your time being busy – it’s all up to you.

One thing is for certain – when you go on a cruise, you will seldom be bored. Some people return from their cruise saying they want to do it again because they didn’t have time to do all of the activities they wanted, while others return and want to do it again because they had a great time doing absolutely nothing. Cruising truly does offer something for everyone.



Your Las Vegas Vacation – Making it Happen (Part I)

With luck, your trip to Vegas will be smooth and uneventful, and your accommodations will be everything you hoped for. These tips will help make your stay more enjoyable. Part I deals with good prior planning. Part II speaks to what you need to do once you get here.

Prior Planning. Don’t let anyone tell you that planning ahead spoils spontaneity. If anything, it gives you the flexibility to change your mind later.

Step 1: Meet with your partner or companion. Decide on the basics. How much can we spend, and what do we want to be sure to do? Make a budget. Than add as big a “fudge factor” as you comfortably can. There’s no way you can predict everything you will want to spend money on once you arrive.

Step 2: Check the weather before you pack. If it’s winter, ask if the pool is still open.

Step 3: Golfer? Rent clubs. They have nice ones, maybe better than yours.

Step 4: Call ahead right now for show tickets, or go on line immediately. If you know where you’re staying, get in touch with the concierge. Show tickets must be purchased well in advance, sometimes months ahead of time.

Step 5: Reserve that “Must Visit” restaurant. Like the shows, some restaurants are fully booked for weeks in advance, especially around holiday times.

Step 6: Research your shopping. Clearly it will be fun to browse once you get to town, but if you know that you’ll be looking for certain items, go browsing early over the Internet. Get an idea of where you want to go and how much you’ll probably spend. This will save time, avoid stress and sticker shock, and direct you to the shops and stores that really interest you.

Step 7: Evaluate your luggage. Is there room for what you want to take with you and also for what you might buy? Look into shipping stuff home if your plans involve a bulky or fragile purchase.

Step 8: Discuss gambling. Separate out a bankroll for each of you and agree to limit your play to it. Don’t risk the egg money. Discuss how much time each of you expects to spend in the casinos. If it’s out of balance, make adjustments (to avoid breached expectations).

Step 9: Practice gambling. Sign up for some on-line play. Learn what you like before showing up in Vegas. Learn the rules and the ropes.

Step 10: Find out what else is going on. Las Vegas is, of course, much more than casinos, shows, restaurants and nightclubs. Consider outings to Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Red Rock Canyon or any of the many other sights and excursions. To make the most of your vacation time, decide in advance if you’re a candidate for a side trip to some non-casino destination.

Step 11: Consciously program time for each other. If you do not, you will arrive home with the feeling you were so busy you barely had time to visit with your partner. That would be a shame. Plan a little “nothing” into your schedule.

Step 12: Learn where things are. Study the map. Many people waste time because they have the wrong idea about how close together or far apart are different points of interest.

Step 13: Pack for comfort – especially the footwear. Distances in Las Vegas can be large, especially for pedestrians, and even more so if it’s hot! During the days you will be glad to have comfortable, casual clothes.

Step 14: Pack for style. You will probably want to go out to fancy places a couple of times. This may be to a restaurant or a nightclub or a show. So you want to have a couple of things in the suitcase for such special occasions. Be sure everything fits before laying it out for the trip. Do not waste room in the suitcase with cutoffs, baggy pants, hoodies, torn jeans and the like, which are not welcomed in most restaurants and night spots.

Step 15 Plan to spend money on taxis and other local transport. It is false economy to lay out a lot of money to be in Las Vegas and then spend most of that time on the sidewalk. Speed, efficiency and comfort require taking taxis and limos a good bit of the time, to say nothing of the pleasure of not being lost!

Step 16: Consider going “cold turkey” on electronics. Leave the Blackberry at the house. With the laptop. A couple may decide to take cell phones as a means of keeping in touch with each other, but really, if you can’t leave work and emails behind for a few days, maybe you should rethink the whole idea of taking a vacation.

Step 17: Remember a watch, sun block and camera. Las Vegas does not want you to know what time it is, so clocks are scarce. If that’s something you’d like to know, bring your watch.

If you follow the items on this list, you’ll be ready to go. Part two of this series gives you tips about what to do once you actually arrive on your vacation.