How to Decide Where to Travel

How to Decide Where to Travel

Idyllic Nungwi Beach - Zanzibar

Idyllic Nungwi Beach – Zanzibar

It is no surprise that the decision about where to travel is not an easy one. The world is filled with thousands upon thousands of destinations. The choice can be bewildering. It is why one often hears this statement: “I want to travel, but where do you think I should go?” This is a question frequently asked of me in person or found on Social Media or in forums on travel websites. It is impossible to answer with any degree of confidence unless the intending traveller asks a few questions of themselves. Ask these questions early in your travel planning as it can take time to answer each one thoroughly.

What Are My Interests?

This is your most important question. To narrow your choice, consider what pastimes do you like to pursue, and what activities do you enjoy most. Is it bustling cities, natural wonders, historical sites, religious sites, cultural activities, fine restaurants, shopping excursions, the fine arts (galleries, theatres, concerts), unspoilt beaches, pulsating nightlife, adventure activities, recreational activities, luxury hotels or resorts, relaxing spas, sporting events, and educational tours (such as to learn a language or take cooking classes)?. The list is only restricted by what you like to do with your time.

If you are still unsure of your interests, then read travel brochures, speak to friends who have travelled before, watch travel shows or documentaries, and read blogs such as those on at TravelBlog. My travels to Ethiopia, Somaliland and Tajikistan have directly resulted from reading blogs on that site.  These sources are excellent for providing you with ideas.

How Much Time Do I Have To Travel?

If you only have a week, then you are best to travel nearer to home. You do not want to be taking 14+ hour flights one way just to spend five days exploring in a city. By the time you get over jetlag, your sightseeing time will be significantly reduced. If you have a more extended period to travel, try finding a cluster of attractions or countries in a region or continent and see those instead. Longer travel also allows you to explore a single location more deeply, so having a more extended period of time does not necessarily equate to seeing more places.

To extend the time you have available to travel, consider leaving the evening of your final day of work or the day after your last day. When you return, I find it is good to have a day or two to adjust to your home time zone, get a fantastic night’s sleep in your bed, and catch up on all that washing!

How Much Money Can I Spend?

Your budget is a major determinant of how long you travel, but equally important where you travel. For example, if you do not have a lot of spare funds, travelling to Europe is inadvisable as your funds will quickly diminish, and you may be reduced to eating only bread and condiments for an extended period. In contrast, South-East Asia is a much better choice for the unsurpassed value for money that the region brings. If you don’t have the money for a luxurious African safari, maybe see another part of Africa instead that does not involve such expensive safaris.  Look at less travelled destinations too and also more popular places during shoulder and low season – there are bargains to be found.

There are many ways to make your money go further when you travel, and advice about this is included in detail elsewhere on this website, just follow the link below.

Read more: Cheaper Travel

When Will I Travel?

Generally wise avoid places of extreme heat or cold unless there is a specific reason to do so (such as to see the Northern Lights in winter). It is more difficult to enjoy your holiday is you are constantly battling the weather. Also, be aware of humidity – if you are not used to humidity, even temperature of 32 Celsius in humid South-East Asia is going to be extremely uncomfortable, and it will feel the equivalent of 40 Celsius or hotter in a dry climate. Try to visit such places when humidity is lower unless you too live in a tropical climate and such weather will not cause you any problems.

Be aware of such things as typhoon season in Asia, monsoon season in India, and cyclone season in Australia. If these strikes while on holiday, you may need to change your itinerary drastically or may even have to cancel your entire holiday. I would caution against travelling during any of these seasons. Likewise, in places such as Kenya, rainy season means that most of the wildlife parks are closed, so do your research before you travel. Rainy season in the tropics can mean one of the two things – it could involve only a short period (1-2 hours) of rain per day and the rest the day is hot sunny weather. This is not much of an inconvenience. But, rainy seasons in parts of Africa and Europe can mean plenty of rain spread throughout the whole day. Useful to avoid such places unless you plan to be indoors the entire time.

Who Am I Travelling With?

If travelling alone, then this is an easy question to answer. However, if anyone else is travelling with you than all of the above questions need to be answered by everyone else in your group.  Remember, even if you are travelling in a group it does mean you need to do everything together. For example, if a party of four is travelling in a city, there is nothing wrong with two of the group visiting an art gallery while the other two relax in a spa. It is a good idea to openly discuss with your fellow travellers before the trip that this idea is comfortable with everyone. Suddenly heading off on your own during a journey may have the rest of your party thinking that either something is troubling you, or that they have caused you problems. Also, who you travel with need to be considered – if you have children who are very young or you are travelling with older people, this will largely determine what you can do in a single day.

I attended a conference once when the speaker said that there were two types of travellers – the explorers and the relaxers. Explorers are those people who primarily wish to see new things to experience as much about the place as possible. Relaxers are those that want to do very little apart from laze around a pool, get treated at a spa and do as little with their time as possible. These two traveller types do not travel well together. Best to either find fellow explorers or fellow relaxers to travel with.

How Do I Plan An Itinerary?

Once all of the above is done, it is time to make an itinerary, which I find to be one of the most enjoyable and exciting parts of the travel experience. There are two itineraries to consider. First, is to write down the most important places, sites or experiences of a trip (approximately five) and then build my itinerary around seeing each of these highlights. Your itinerary will quickly fall into place if you list a few essential stops along the way.  Look at a map and determine the best route (including factoring in travel time) to link in the sites and your itinerary is almost complete.

Once you have decided which places you will visit, you then need to determine what you will do when you are in each city or town that you stop at on your itinerary. Remember not to make a busy itinerary where almost every hour of your day is occupied, for that restricts you too much if any other opportunities come your way. For example, you may want to spend time with people you have just met (whether they be fellow travellers or locals) or you might come across a hidden gem that you wish to visit, or maybe there is a concert or other event in town that you wish to attend. A full itinerary does not allow you to explore any of these options. When planning an itinerary for a city, I usually leave half a day free every second day with nothing planned except for the joy of just wandering and seeing what happens.

Also, consider who (if anyone) you are travelling with. If you are solo, it is easier and faster to add more items to your daily routine, but if travelling with others, and especially with children, this will slow down your ability to move around quickly or to see a lot in a day.

Finally, remember that tourist attractions are at their quietest early in the morning. If you wish to see the city’s most popular attraction, plan to do so when the place opens in the morning and save the other and less popular places for later in the day.

Read more: The Benefits of Slow Travel