How to Choose Your Travel Destination

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How do you decide where to travel? Do you have a long list of places you’d like to go to and need to narrow it down? Or need some new ideas on where to travel next?

Planning a trip, and especially deciding where to go, can be confusing. There are so many options and low-cost flights make it easier than ever to go just about anywhere.

But it doesn’t have to be confusing. Here are some of the main things to consider when planning your trip.  Just work through them and make life easier for yourself.

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How to Choose Your Travel Destination - travel planning tips

How much time do you have?

For a short trip, it’s wiser to go to one destination, or two at most. Think about it as preferring quality over quantity.

It’s nicer to immerse yourself in one place, get to know its culture and meet new people, than to rush around trying to see too much.

If you try to see too many places in one short trip, you’ll soon find that it’s too stressful, transportation may be both time consuming and exhausting, and that you’re left with less time to actually enjoy the holiday. After all, you’re going on a short break to relax, so don’t wear yourself out.

If you have more time and are planning a long trip, you have more options.

Do bear in mind that even if you plan to go to many destinations on your long trip, you’ll need some time to process the new experiences of each of them. So give yourself that time.

When planning a long trip, I like to start and end the trip in destinations I consider relaxing. It’s nicer to start the trip in a place you already know, or where you have friends or family – it’s a way to ease into travel, or to switch into travel mode.

After a relaxed, easy start, you can go on and explore new places as energetically as you like.

The end of a long trip is also best spent in a quiet, peaceful place. There comes a point when you’ve experienced so much on the trip that your mind is saturated and all you want to do is relax.

Frankly, this is something I wish I’d been told when I first started going on long trips…

How much money do you have?

Money is a determining factor for many people when it comes to travel. Some research online will help you find destinations that suit your budget.

One of the coolest feature on some flight search engines like SkyScanner is the flexible destination option: you enter “Everywhere” in the “to” box and get a list of places you can fly to and the lowest fare for each of them.

Flexible destination search on SkyScanner - How to Choose Your Travel Destination
Flexible destination search on SkyScanner

Off season travel can save you a lot of money on both flights and accommodation.

You can also research the cost of living at your potential destination very easily.

Use an online database like Numbeo and get a list of common expenses, such as a meal at a restaurant, a cup of coffee, public transportation and so on.

Expatisan is a similar service that will let you compare the cost of living in your city to that of your destination.  

For more travel budget tips, check out my guide: Travel doesn’t have to be expensive

What’s the weather?

While you can’t control the weather, you can plan your trip so as to avoid harsh conditions.

If you’re going skiing or going to the beach, the weather you’re looking for is fairly obvious.

For me ideal weather is springtime: not too hot, not too cold, so I can be out and about all day long and go out in the evening as well.

You can look at the average temperatures for any destination simply by Googling the name of the country or city you’re considering going to. Wikipedia has a handy list of countries by average yearly temperature that can be a good starting point.

Next you’ll want to focus on the parts of the country you might want to visit and the time of year.

For example, when planning a trip to Spain I Googled “average temperature madrid spain september” and then “average temperature seville spain september”. I found that Seville can be way too hot for me in September, while Madrid was just perfect.

Depending on how flexible you are and how much time you have, you can plan to avoid uncomfortable weather and aim for the ideal conditions for you.

What would you like to do on your trip?

Go hiking or skiing? Go to a festival? Visit museums? Try the local cuisine? Learn the local language? Just relax?

Ask yourself why you want to travel, what are your interests. You can go further and ask yourself what’s the purpose of your trip and what you want to get from it.

Once you clarify that, narrow down your list.

I know many people who go on a trip without making plans or even thinking about what they want to do on their trip.

That’s fine, but since you’ll have to decide what to do at some point, it’s better to decide before you go than to spend precious vacation time on making decisions.  

How do balance that with the need for spontaneity?  Simple make a general plan. You can change it later if you like when you arrive at your destination – there’s always room for that.

The thing you want to avoid is finding  yourself wasting way too much time on the internet during your trip, searching for things to do… do it in advance and make the most of your time when you travel.

Use a free itinerary planning tool to get ideas for destinations

RoutePerfect is a free itinerary planning site that can give you great ideas on where to travel to in Europe.

First, you enter your starting point and ending point (this can be the same city) and your dates. What you’ll get on the next page is a map of your suggested route.

Then you can play around with the sliders on the screen to add more of the things you like, for example: beaches, small towns, nightlife, nature and so on. Slide up or down according to your preferences, and see your route changing automatically on the screen.

routeperfect trip planning free online tool - screenshot of the map, route and preferences
Discover interesting destinations and see them on a map on RoutePerfect

One of the things you’ll notice is that the site will suggest new and different destinations and you may discover places you’ve not even heard of.

To learn about each of these destinations, scroll down and you’ll find more detailed info on each below the map.

RoutePerfect is one of the most user-friendly tools around. Have fun!

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After you go through the list above, you’ll end up with travel destinations that match your interests and your budget, that fall within the time frame you have for travelling and hopefully enjoy nice weather on your trip.

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