Planes, trains, automobiles: the speed and accessibility of modern transport means you can go anywhere you desire. And that’s the question, isn’t it? Where do you want to go?
Actually going on vacation is an adventure, a reward. Deciding where to go is less of an adventure and more of a chore. The world may be at your fingertips, but how do you choose which part of it to explore next?
If you want a completely spontaneous vacation you could spin a globe and go wherever your finger lands. For those who want to tailor their vacation to their unique time frame, budget and tastes, try asking yourself a few questions to narrow down the possibilities:
What Can’t You Change?
Unless you’re an independently wealthy person of leisure, some factors will always be fixed. Your time and your budget tend to be the biggest, most influential fixed factors.
For instance, you may have the moola you need to fly to Bangladesh, but travel time alone would eat up most of your three day holiday weekend. You may have a month free between jobs to devote to your dream backpacking-through-Europe extravaganza, but the time is moot if you don’t have the dosh to get across the pond.
Besides money and time, what other fixed factors affect your travel? Do you get altitude sickness? Do spicy foods upset your stomach? You want to enjoy your vacation, so make sure you won’t be rushed, broke, or otherwise unwell during your trip.
Whose Opinion Matters?
I used to think I had to force myself to read every “classic” in order to truly consider myself well read. Similarly, many travelers feel obligated to tour certain cities or attractions in order to be considered well traveled.
Don’t be so afraid of the judgment or expectations of others that you waste time and money on destinations you won’t enjoy. If you like the idea of crossing classic must-see locations off your bucket list, more power to you. But there’s no shame in tossing those Parisian brochures in the waste bin. (Don’t worry, my thrift store copies of Hemingway will keep them company.)
Traveling with your family or a group of friends means trying to appease multiple opinions and personalities. In these cases, it’s best to put your ego on the backburner. Save locations that only interest you for a solo vacation, and instead work to find a destination where each member of your travel party can see or do at least one thing that interests them.
How Does That Make You Feel?
That question may sound like it belongs in a psychologist’s office, not a travel article. However, listening to your gut feelings can help cut through much of the destination indecision.
It can be hard to distinguish your first, gut reaction from the host of maybe’s and what-if’s that follow. Turning it into a game can help you isolate those gut feelings. In turn, those feelings can point you towards the vacation you’ll enjoy the most.
Enlist a friend to help you play word association with destinations. When they say a place, give the first word or phrase that comes to mind. Cross off any destinations that result in a negative association or narrow your list to the three most positive results.
Ask yourself yes or no questions, like a vacation version of Guess Who?
Or make it a game of would-you-rather:
Try writing possible destinations on index cards. Lay them out, face up, then start throwing out your least favorite until you only have one left.
Remember that those gut feelings can change due to a variety of circumstances. A recent bad sunburn may have you turning up your nose at a beach vacation on month, and a cold snap may have you wishing for hot sand the next. Check in with how you’re feeling each time you pick a vacation, rather than treating your preferences like they’re set in stone.
These three questions may seem overly simple, but simple is often best. Keep in mind that you’re making decisions for one vacation; there will be others. You don’t have to pack a lifetime of fun and culture into one trip. When it all boils down, you want to decide on a vacation you can afford to a destination that makes you happy. It’s as simple as that.