People often ask me, “so, where are you traveling next?” Usually, by the end of one trip, I have a rough plan for the next one. As I write this during a worldwide pandemic, for the first time in two years, I do not have an answer. Do I dream of places? Absolutely. Khazakstan, Southeast Asia, and even Antarctica are currently at the top of my list- all very different locations. When it comes to pinpointing where I will book next, these are the things I consider:
- Length of travel. The shorter the amount of time you have available, the less time you can afford to waste on traveling to the destination. If you have less than a week to go on vacation, consider staying in a similar timezone and choosing shorter flights to avoid entire days lost to travel and jet lag. By the time you have been on a semi-lengthy flight, even a trip from the Midwest to Los Angeles tends to cut vacations significantly short due to the 3-hour time difference. If you have an extended amount of time, consider taking it as an opportunity to go a little further.
- Budget is also important to consider up front. If you find cheap flights to a place, but the cost of living is extremely high, then you aren’t really saving yourself money at the end of the day. As a poor, recent college graduate, I try to choose countries that the US dollar is most powerful in. I go to a cost of living index, sort by country, and start at the bottom to see if any place strikes my fancy that I had not previously suspected to be so affordable. Colombia is a great example of a country where you can dine like a king for less than $15 a day. This can also be a good gauge if you are looking to go somewhere a little more upscale, in which case you may want to start at the top of the list.
- To relax or explore? When you picture yourself on this trip, are you relaxing in a spa or going on tours? This isn’t to say you can’t have both, but seriously consider if you want to do most of the work or if you want someone to do it for you. When I want to go on a vacation, cruises are my go-to. On the opposite end, my version of traveling is rarely a “vacation.” For example: you know you want to go to Italy. If you want to see all of the sights, take all of the tours, and try all of the food, Rome is the place for you. If you want a little more R&R with a nice glass of wine, head to the countryside in Tuscany. If time and budget allows, absolutely do both.
- Weather can really make or a break a trip, and I don’t just mean an occasional shower. Research the overall climate. Many places have distinct times of year that tourists are not advised to visit- India is miserable in the summer, Alaska might be snowed in in the winter. Beyond that, do you prefer to go somewhere hot or cold? Mountains or beaches? This can narrow the list very quickly.
- Time of the year can affect all of the above. Is there a major holiday you want to partake in? Or avoid? Oktoberfest in Germany, Carnival in Brazil, or maybe St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. Many people enjoy traveling for authentic cultural events. On the reverse, holiday travel can get expensive and busy, so many people opt to find down seasons.
- Do you know somebody there? Having a local guide or even someone to stay with is always nice. It can make the travel transition easier, help save money, and give you a more authentic experience (especially if you are traveling abroad).
Where do you WANT to go? Don’t waste time and money on choosing a travel destination out of convenience. If you have always wanted to go to Spain, make it happen. If you are dying to see the pyramids, do it. Will you look back at your life and regret the times you said yes or regret the times you said no?