Mexico? Europe? The Alps? If you are headed out of town for a summer trip, consider these tips for the perfect excursion and great ideas to make sure it goes off without a hitch.

Choose to go off the beaten path: Summer is a popular time to travel and choosing a destination that is under the radar means you’ll have less lines, better reservations and unique experiences. The allure of a nonstop flight may even be all the inspiration you need to visit a destination you’ve ever been. For example, ever consider a place like Zurich? There are often nonstop flights from various cities (maybe even yours) to view the famous Swiss Alps while everyone else floods the local beaches. The key to summer vacation is to look at less populated alternatives to your dream destination; like trading busy Santorini for quiet Malta or heading to Easter Island as an alternative to Machu Picchu. In a world filled with incredible experiences, why not have a trip tailored to you instead of (literally) following the crowd?

Plan: Giving yourself the max amount of time to plan for your trip could equate to better deals and more customizable experiences. Start planning for week-long trips at least 3 months in advance to best take advantage of all a travel advocate can offer. For example, certain accommodations and perks are subject to availability. The earlier you lock in your plans, the better. Plus, how good does it feel to have something on the calendar?

Travel with benefits: Opt for a travel agency to help you book your vacation. Many agencies have years of experience and as a result-built relationships and industry status with travel brands around the world. Their success and connections could result in more value for you than you can get by booking directly. The more personal you get with your travel advisor, the more they can leverage wow moments for you. Celebrating your 50th anniversary? Partial to red wines? You might just find a framed photo of your wedding day in your hotel room along with your favorite wine. In addition, giving your advisor the chance to log other important details, like frequent flier numbers or seating preferences, ensures a more seamless, enjoyable trip.

Leave it to the experts: DIY travel can be stressful and full of surprises. Instead of jumping from website to website looking for the best deal, contact a professional who has access to instant, real-time availability and pricing for every airline, hotel and rental car. In addition, having a travel industry expert on your side means you have someone to call if disaster strikes, like a cancelled flight, missing reservation or overbooked car rental that leaves you stranded. And if you simply need someone to call in a favor with an airline or negotiate a better room in the hotel, they’re there to advocate on your behalf.

Go ahead, start working on your summer vacation plans today so you can enjoy the trip of a lifetime without the hassle and worries of booking and arranging it at the last minute.