My travels have taken me to an interesting collection of places. I’ve been to Rapa Nui, but I haven’t made it to Canada or Mexico, despite having lived in the U.S. all of my life. I’ve been to India, but I haven’t been to Boston.
This week, I’ve been trying to pick a destination for a trip with some friends next year. We’ve tossed around a lot of ideas, and my current inability to decide which option I like best has got me thinking about how I typically decide on destinations.
Here are the most important factors I consider when planning a trip.
HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE?
I’m a graduate student, so my vacation time tends to be somewhat limited. I usually opt for weekend trips, with one or two longer trips thrown in throughout the year.
DO I KNOW ANYONE THERE?
Most of my international trips have involved visiting someone. My trip to India last year was primarily for visiting family.
Earlier this year, I visited a friend in Japan. I’d been planning this trip since he moved there a few years ago, and it finally happened this spring, just in time for cherry blossom season.
A lot of my travel this year has revolved around friends’ weddings. I’ve combined some adventuring with the out-of-town weddings to make a fun weekend trip that is a mix of activity and relaxation.
HOW EXPENSIVE IS IT?
Despite all of my efforts to save money for adventures, my student stipend will only stretch so far. I’ve been dreaming of going to the Galapagos for a few years now, but it can be one of the most expensive destinations in the world.
Central America and parts of Asia are cheaper travel destinations, and even when I go to expensive places, I stay in cheaper hotels/hostels and eat cheaply in order to save money.
DOES IT HAVE A VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES/ATTRACTIONS?
I like my trips to have some variety. I aim for a mix of culture and nature so I can do something a little different every day. My weekend in Seattle was ideal in that way because I had some time to explore the city and some time to go hiking in a scenic national park.
IS IT SOMETHING NEW?
I will be the first to admit to being a creature of habit. When I find something I like, I tend to keep going back to it instead of looking for something new. I usually go to the same restaurants again and again in Chicago, and when I travel, I like to plan activities that I know I’ll enjoy. However, if I only did things I know I enjoy, I would have a fairly limited range of options, so on every trip, I try out something new. So even though I don’t like swimming, I jumped off a waterfall in Guatemala.
IS IT ON MY BUCKET LIST?
I have a fairly long bucket list. Interestingly, when I’m deciding on trips these days, I rarely think about what is on that list. Maybe it is because most of those items still seem like dreams or maybe it is because many of them are more expensive than I can hope to afford in the near future. Whatever the reason, adventures on my bucket list seem to find me as opposed to me seeking them. And I kind of like it that way.
How do you decide where to go next?