Imagine you have some time for travelling, maybe three weeks of vacation or even more. You are excited about it, you lose yourself in dreams of foreign countries and enjoy the prospect of being “away”. Until… you need to decide on a travel destination and out of a sudden, you’re feeling blocked and disoriented. Where do you start? Here are my 5 tips on how to choose your next travel destination.
Time and Budget
Most people will think about their travel budget and time eventually, but my experience is that they do not consider it in the first place. And I understand why: nobody likes to think of the limits first, people are stressed out by (not enough) time and by (making) money, so why should we make these criteria our top priority for travelling?
The answer is: knowing and admitting how much time and budget we have allows us to narrow down our options and to give us a first idea on our itinerary:
- do you have a high budget but not many days of vacation? → consider a city trip, even if the flight, accommodation or planned activity is expensive
- you have all the time of the world but your budget is low? → great, you can travel in length but make sure to know about the cost of transportation and cost of living. Travelling by bus and train is often less expensive than flying (but do check out budget airlines!) and your savings will last longer in some countries than in others (e.g. staying in Eastern Europe is a lot cheaper than in Western Europe).
- not much time and no money → that is a tough one, obviously, but still not impossible. Consider visiting a town not too far away from you where you can stay with friends or where you can book a dorm room in a hostel. Camping somewhere nearby is another option. As to transportation: look out for reduced tickets or consider alternative ways of transportation (such as car sharing) but cross hitchhiking off your list, it usually takes a long time to get from A to B.
- you don’t need to think about neither time nor money → the sky is the limit
Travel Wish List and Recommended Places
Some people have a travel wish list with places that they always wished to see. Others were told about a specific wonderful place and now they are curious and can’t get that place out of their head. Both is good because now the large amount of places from all over the world that match your time and budget has immediately shrunken to just a couple of preferred or recommended sites. Write them down and read up on these places. While doing so, keep in mind the three following travel criteria.
“Comfort” encompasses a lot more than just deciding between a luxury accommodation or wild camping. Below are just some of the many aspects you should give a thought before deciding on where to go:
company → will you travel alone, with a friend or with a group of people? how good to you know them? are you fairly flexible and open to compromises? make sure you have similar expectations about what to do and to see and what comfort means to you (click here to read about why communicating expectations matters). if you travel alone: are you an experienced solo traveller or is this all new to you? if you feel a bit nervous about travelling alone, consider staying in hostels and in places where it is easy to meet fellow solo travellers.
safety → Make sure to keep your safety standards in mind when choosing your next travel destination. Do you feel save travelling to a country with a high crime rate or with low health care standards? Are there any health risks, e.g. diseases typical for countries with tropical weather? Check out travel warnings and reports of the Foreign Office, media as well as travel blogs or forums when trying to get a feeling for a specific country.
politics, economy and culture → are you interested in different cultures and are you open to experience them? or do you prefer familiarity? think about food, religion, art, values, the way you and other people dress and what you might see in the streets (e.g. poverty, bargain culture etc.). when interacting with people, are you ready for a different behaviour compared to what is considered the “norm” in your country (e.g people being more reserved and unapproachable or the other way around: hassling you)? will it be a problem for you if people do not speak English or your language?
transportation & accommodation → which transportation and accommodation standards are important to you? do you need a bathroom on your own? do you prefer to not sleep in mixed dorm rooms? are you good with travelling via public transportation (e.g in slow and/or crowded buses) or would you rather rent a car?
Is there anything specific that you would like to see or do? Are sports important to you (e.g. trekking, surfing, mountain biking)? do you wish to travel to a place that is rich in history and culture? or would you simply enjoy some days at the beach or doing as much party as possible? Whatever it is, make sure you take a look at the places you have in mind so far, search for pictures and travel reports and then see which place covers your interests.
Follow your Heart
Last but not least: the good old gut feeling. If you have a rather rational personality (meaning your head leads the way more often than your heart), chances are high that you have neglected your gut feeling until this step of the decision process. Maybe you have followed and overthought all of the criteria above and now you are sitting here with a comparison chart of three or four places and are trying to weigh the pros and cons. That won’t work. Please don’t book a flight only because it covers most of your interests or because it is “in” to travel there. If you do not have a rush of sensation, a giggly feeling that is half nervousness half excitement when booking the trip, then wait. As with most things, if it is not a clear yes, it’s a no. Maybe read up on a couple of places again, talk about your travel plans and try not to convince yourself. You will have a good feeling with a place eventually.
What is your typical decision process? Do you decide spontaneously or do you enjoy thinking about which travel destination to choose next?