This is part two of a three-part series on Travel Planning. Last week's post, Travel Planning 101, discussed how to conduct an efficient internet search for travel information. Next week's post, Travel Planning 103, shares my favourite travel apps.
"Where should I go?" This is the hardest decision for me because I want to go everywhere that I've already been (except Pula, phuck Pula) and everywhere I haven't been to yet. I want to visit all the cities, view all the landscapes, experience all the cultures, and learn all the things I don't know.
I am often asked for my advice on where someone should travel. This is tricky because my travel experiences are based upon what I seek from travel. I have friends who choose destinations to recharge in nature. Others use their travel budget to indulge in luxurious pampering. Some like to fill their trip with vigorous adrenaline-filled adventures, others want to spend time observing wildlife. Some enjoy cold weather, a few seem paralyzed by high temperatures. Some have big budgets, others need to watch pennies more closely. For anyone, but especially for budget travellers, travel is a big expense that needs to be considered carefully.
We need to choose a destination that suits our travel expectations and circumstances. If you enjoy how you spent your time in a place, you will enjoy the place. It's the travel experiences that make or break a destination.
Decide what you want to do on your trip. Reasons for choosing destinations may include extending business travel, attending social events, or visiting friends or family. They may be chosen as the result of thoughtful inspirations or sudden whimsy. You might have a bucket list of destinations you want to see before you die. A travel buddy may suggest an intriguing destination from their list. It's good to have a constantly evolving list of bucket-list destinations, but keep it flexible enough to take advantage of a good fare! Be aware that these bucket lists never seem to get shorter, no matter how much travelling happens. It's one of life's mysteries, I suppose.
If you are going to enjoy your activities you need to include your personal interests in your travel experience. What are your interests? What do you want to see or experience? Do you prefer to hike in the mountains or walk through museums and historical buildings? Are you looking for wildlife or Michelin star restaurants? Are you intrigued by family history? Do you like to cook? Do you like to see how things are made? Do you want to learn a language or participate in an ecotour? Is there a special place associated with your passion? What are the available options to indulge in your interests?
It's always wise to check your country's travel advisory and the destination's entry requirements. This is even more urgent due to shifting COVID protocols. Other entry requirements may include visas, vaccinations, pre-booked return tickets, reserved accommodations, health insurance, etc. Keep up-to-date on re-entry requirements, too. Over the last couple of years, we have seen some very rapid shifts in policies. A tip for the current times is to be clear if/what type of test is required, where/how that test can be completed, the cost, and the turnaround time.
The really defining questions often revolve around practicalities. For most of us, travel is organized around other responsibilities. How long do you want to be away? How much money do you have to spend? What time of the year is best for your desired experiences? When is high, shoulder, and low season? What is the average price for food, lodgings, and transportation at the destination? Are there times of the year to avoid due to extreme weather conditions?
Consider both your physical and emotional comfort. Are you looking for a national or international destination? Do you require enhanced accessibility or accommodations? How comfortable are you with unfamiliar food, language, and culture? What is your fitness level? Are you looking for luxurious private lodgings or are you okay rooming with a stranger? Will you use public transportation or do you need a private vehicle? Will you feel safe? Do you have any medical limitations that might make a destination challenging? What compromises are you willing to make to meet your budget? What comfort requirements are essential? Now, make your travel bucket list!
Use these questions and reflections to create a list of possible destinations or regions. Begin to do some preliminary research to discover which destinations best fit or need to be moved from the shortlist. Consider destinations that might be a tad out of your comfort zone. For those just beginning to travel, it's probably wise not to push your boundaries too far unless you are a truly adventurous soul. Be realistic about your both fitness and your ability to embrace differences when choosing activities and destinations. For a brutally humbling experience, ask your kids to assess your fitness for the activity.
Once your shortlist is created, start watching fares. Get ready to book when you are inspired by the right price, intriguing tour, or something else. Remember travel doesn't have to be an epic quest, sometimes it might be parking one's bottom in a chaise lounge at an all-inclusive resort, or a shopping weekend in a neighbouring city. You do you.
Figure out where you REALLY want to go, then start researching and looking for good deals. Conduct google searches, read travel blogs and forums, and watch YouTube videos. Sign up for a couple travel sites like SecretFlying or YVRDeals. Use your favourite aggregate site to put price trackers on flights to each of your shortlist destinations. Spend time planning, researching, and tracking prices, dates, and travel tips.. and before you know it - you will feel like you “know” your destination(s). You will be SO excited for your trip that your nerves turn into anticipation. Just BEGIN.
There are no rules. Start small with a local weekend trip or go big and do a transcontinental journey. Where do you want to be? What are the most important considerations for you when choosing a destination? Happy travels!
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