A Critical Thinking Exercise

This section provides a powerful real life critical thinking exercise for teaching critical thinking skills.

Click here on problem solving steps if you would like a refresher on these steps.

The Needed Vacation

This example shows how to achieve an objective

We all need and enjoy vacations to relax, have fun and recharge our batteries.

This is an example illustrates how to get the best vacation for the most reasonable cost.

The method to plan a vacation shown here is applicable to any type of vacation.

For example, it can be used for a weekend getaway or a multi-week vacation to any place in the world.

Doing investigation and having flexibility in your schedule are both important to keeping vacation costs down.

The prices for airline fares, hotels, restaurants and other travel costs vary widely. With proper research you will be able to locate relatively low cost, high value deals.

Part I: Define your objective

The objective is to take a vacation.

Part II: Structure and then complete it

Step 1: Use your past knowledge

Each vacation is different. Each will present new challenges in having a satisfying time away from home and work. The determining factors for taking most vacations are financial and taking time away from a job or other obligations.

Step 2: Visualize your desired results

The primary benefits will be having an enjoyable vacation, to relax and explore a new location.

Step 3: Frame your objective

Begin by writing a list of questions a check list of things you need to know in order to have a good vacation. This will start your logic stream and will lead to more questions. Questions should be focused on the following areas: finance, time, research, resources and consequences. Ask:

* What is your budget for the vacation?
* How long can you be gone from work and other obligations?
* What time of year would you like to go?
* How much research will you need to do?
* What resources will you need?
* Where would you like to go?

Step 4: Collect the facts and data

Answer the questions from the list in Step 3.

* What is the budget for your vacation?

This is a decision based on income and lifestyle and should be determined before taking a vacation. This is true unless you are one of the rare few where money is not a factor in deciding on a vacation.

Once you have decided on a budget there are some more questions to ask: Will you save up money for the vacation before taking it? Will you use a credit card or a bank loan and pay back later?

Once you have decided on a budget, you can develop the vacation options you can go for the available money.

* How long can you afford to be gone due to work and other obligations?

Like your budget, this is a personal question. It depends on work, family and other commitments.

* What time of year would you like to go?

For many destinations the time of year will govern your costs. Traveling off season can save you anywhere from 20-40% (sometimes more) of the costs.

Talk with travel agents or airline agents to determine the off season. Then, if you can adjust your vacation schedule to coincide with the off season you can save significant money.

* How much research will you need to do?

It can take a month or more of investigation to plan a vacation.

* What resources will you need?

The Internet and bookstores are good places to locate most of the information you need to plan a vacation. As noted earlier, travel agents and/or airline agents can be helpful in your investigation.

Step 5: Determine your available options

Continue answering the questions noted in Step 3.

* Where would you like to go?

Determining a vacation destination is another personal decision. The best way to decide on a vacation is to sit back, relax, have a cup of tea or coffee and daydream for a little while.

The possibilities are endless. Ask yourself:

* Where have I always wanted to go?
* What would I like to see?
* What would I like to do?
* Would I like to do some exploring?
* Would I enjoy relaxing on a beach?

The bookstores have a great number of travel destination books for just about any major place on our planet. They can give you great ideas on places to go. The Internet is a good resource for locating vacation spots.

An Australian Trip

For the purpose of this discussion consider a trip to Australia; leaving from central United States. The trip will take one and a half weeks since it is a long distance. Assume you have $3,000 available for your trip.

Since Australia is often visited by people from the US there are many good deals available. There are two options available for an Australian vacation.

Option 1: Take a guided tour

Travel agents have access to many fine tours if you decide to go this route. The agents are informative and helpful. You can choose a tour where you have a lot of free time, or a little. This depends on what you are looking for.

One advantage of a guided tour is that someone else plans the tour. All you need to do is pack, make sure you have home and work obligations taken care of while you are gone, and then show up and enjoy. Another advantage is that you can make new friends on tours.

There are two primary disadvantages.

First, a tour may not go to all the places you desire. If you are someone who likes to do your own exploring, or go to out of way places, tours may not be right for you.

Second, with a tour you don’t get to choose your fellow traveling companions. Sometimes there are people with whom you might not enjoy traveling with.

Option 2: Design your own vacation

To design your own vacation, use the web or visit bookstores to start your investigation.

Start researching on the web by typing the phrase: “Australia vacation” into a search engine. Other phrases like “Australian travel” will work as well.

Purchase one or two guide books from a book store and design your own vacation. It is a good investment to purchase one or two travel books for your vacation whether you design your own vacation, or go on a tour.

Travel books pay for themselves several times over again. They are filled with inexpensive but nice places to stay, travel tips, where to find bargains, and the best places to visit. Many also include worthwhile information about the history and culture of the area.

Note: Two travel books are usually better than one for long vacations to far away places. This is because each will have different information and various deals that are difficult to find with only one source. Looking through the various guides at a book store is the best way to select the travel book(s) that will meet your needs.

Step 6: Pick a solution and implement

I will use option two to illustrate how to design your own vacation.

Assume a ten day visit to Sydney Australia. It is a large city with many sights to see.

Plan on traveling for three days (there and back). You will stay in Sydney for seven days and eight nights. For the purposes of this example you will travel with one other person. This will help you save on hotel costs and provide you with companionship. Here are the primary expenses for the vacation.

The dominating costs for vacations are: travel, hotel expenses, food, excursions, gifts and souvenirs. Depending on your planning budget, there are a number of opportunities for savings. Let’s look at each of these separately.

Travel expenses

* Flying—Airline tickets can vary in price by 100-200% or more in cost. Comparison shopping can help you save significant sums of money.

Airline tickets are less expensive during the off season. This is especially true for international travel. You will usually find better rates if your vacation schedule is flexible. To find out when the off season is (and the rates) for a particular location, talk to an airline agent(s), or travel agent(s).

International traveling is often the best use of frequent flier miles. The number of frequent flier miles required for an international flight ticket is a better bargain than using miles for a domestic flight.

For example, I took a trip to South America during the off season using 40,000 frequent flier miles. The cost of the ticket would have been well over $1,000.

Note: When you are traveling to a destination that has a stopover in a place that is of interest to you, ask the airline agent if you can stay for a couple of extra days. If allowed, you will be able to fly to two destinations for the price of one!

This method worked well for a friend and me in late 2005. We traveled to Cairns Australia for a dive vacation with a stop over in Sydney. We asked; and were allowed to stay in Sydney an extra day without paying extra for the stop.

* Rental cars—Once you get to your destination you may need a rental car. They can be found though an Internet search or using the phone book.

Renting cars internationally is not recommended for someone who hasn’t traveled much abroad. Insurance, laws governing driving and different driving patterns can be both dangerous and stressful for the visitor.

It is best to use trains, planes, buses, and taxis until you are comfortable with driving in the area.

Hotel expenses

As with airline tickets; the difference in hotel prices can vary by as much as 100-200%, or more. The off season rates also provide many saving opportunities.

Selecting a hotel in a central location can save costs on taxi, bus and train fares. Investigation once again is the key to finding good deals.

A first priority should always be locating hotels that are clean and safe and in a decent part of the city you are visiting. Hotels like these are known as three star hotels on such websites as Travelocity.com® or Orbitz.com™.

Some hotels charge astronomical prices. Frequently, the only benefit is a mint on the pillow and a paper at the door in the morning. Is this worth an extra $50 to $75 a night—or more?

Consider staying at a bed and breakfast location. Meeting the people who run these establishments and absorbing the atmosphere that embraces the local culture can be an added benefit to your vacation experience. Also, room rates are frequently more reasonable than at hotels.

Some hotels include in the price of the room a continental breakfast or full breakfast. This is good for two reasons.

First, the difference in cost of a hotel that includes breakfast is frequently less than the cost of a breakfast purchased outside the hotel. Second, eating at the hotel gives you more time to enjoy the sites and experiences.


There are reasonably priced restaurants in most cities. If you constantly eat at four and five star restaurants you will pay much more. This will increase the price of your vacation. Eating at nice, but inexpensive restaurants can save on vacation costs considerably.

Having said that, it is important to relax and enjoy your stay. One or two dinners at special restaurants won’t change the overall cost of your vacation significantly—and, it will be an added treat to your vacation.


Excursions are a great way to visit and learn about various areas. The costs of excursions in comparison to the other costs of travel are usually reasonable.

A word of caution: Some excursions aren’t worth your time or money. Check with an informed hotel staff member if you are unsure of the quality of an excursion(s) you are considering. Many times he or she will be able to direct you to the best one(s).

Gifts and souvenirs

Buying gifts and souvenirs are not usually primary expenses of most vacations. However, you may want to consider doing some of your birthday or Christmas shopping while on vacation. Many people enjoy getting a thoughtful gift from a far away place.

Your Australian Vacation

For an Australia trip at the time of this writing a discounted fare of $1,330 to Sydney from the central United States during the off season was available.

The average price of good, inexpensive, clean and safe hotels in Sydney at the time of this writing were in the range of $90-$150 US dollars including tax. You could select a hotel for $120/night. That includes a regular breakfast at the hotel you stay at. You will be sharing with a friend so your cost is $60 average per night.

Your food costs will only be for lunch and dinner. Allocate $65/day. By being conservative on your food bills for most days you will have enough extra money for a couple of evenings at high end restaurants and keep within your budget.

This plan includes taking four excursions found on the web. The average cost allocated is $70 each. These are day trips to some outlying areas.

Allocate $320 for gifts, souvenirs and miscellaneous expenses, to complete your trip expenses.

It is smart to lock in the plane fare and hotel prices as soon as you are sure you are going on a vacation and have firmed up the dates. Otherwise, you might be shocked to discover a cost increase of several hundred dollars for a trip like this one.

The closer to the trip time you are, the fewer seats will be available on international flights, and the availability of inexpensive good hotels will decrease.

Austrailia Vacation Form

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