With exciting travel destinations constantly popping up in your social media feeds, and new listicles of “it” places appearing weekly, it’s hard to resist that feeling of wanderlust. The world is such a big place that sometimes it seems like an impossible task to narrow down your vacation plans to just one location. So, how should you go about choosing your next destination?
You could throw a dart at a world map, or take one of those quizzes that promises to divine your ideal getaway from your answers to a few questions about pizza. You could even create a Twitter poll and see where your followers want to send you. But really it’s a decision that should be made with care, and with a number of important factors in mind.
Work out your budget
Figuring out how much money you have to spend will probably rule out certain destinations immediately. If you’re working with the tightest of budgets, then you need to be realistic about what you’re going to be able to afford, and it may mean putting your dream destination on hold. Getting into debt for a vacation is never a good idea, so don’t be tempted to stick a five-star getaway on the credit card knowing you’ll struggle to pay it off. (See also: 6 Ways to Avoid Vacation Debt)
Calculate your holiday budget by adding together what you already have in your vacation fund to what you’re likely to have saved by the time you leave. From here, you can see whether that total matches your estimated costs for the destinations you’re considering. (See also: How to Build Your Best Travel Budget)
Think about what type of getaway you want
The type of vacation you want will have a big bearing on where you actually choose to go, whether it’s a bustling city, a cultural odyssey, or a laid back beach. Though there are some destinations that cater to virtually every type of getaway, it’s more common that certain locations are more suited to one.
Choose between an invigorating adventure or some serious relaxation, an epic road trip or an overseas escape, a touch of luxury or a no-frills budget break. Once you’ve narrowed this down, you can start to discard certain places and put others under more serious consideration. (See also: 6 Podcasts for Travel Lovers)
Consider who you are traveling with
If you’re planning on traveling solo, then you can ignore this one as you only have yourself to please. But if you’re going on a trip with friends or family, then you need to consider their interests as well as your own. This can be a tricky feat to pull off, particularly if everyone going wants different things, but there are ways to ensure that everyone is happy with the final decision.
The best way to do this is to get them involved in the decision-making process so they don’t feel like the destination is being forced on them. If you’re traveling as a family, as a couple, or as a group of friends, then it’s important to sit down and have a discussion about what will work for everyone. (See also: Affordable Vacations to Please Every Age Group)
Match your destination to your vacation day allotment
The amount of vacation time you have can mean the difference between staying closer to home and jetting off on a long haul flight. If you’ve only got a few days spare, then there’s no point wasting two of them on getting to and from your chosen destination. You probably don’t want to plan to pack too much moving around into a shorter time frame either, or you risk returning more exhausted than when you left.
As a rule of thumb, the less amount of time you have, the shorter distance you should travel, both to your destination and during your vacation. If you’ve got a few weeks or months to play with, then you can consider multiple countries or regions that may not otherwise be possible.
Look into safety risks
Safety needs to be a priority when choosing your next destination, and should always be at the forefront of your mind. Check for government travel warnings and alerts to see what the political landscape is like in the countries you’re considering before making your decision. You’ll find up-to-date information on things like upcoming elections that could potentially lead to disturbances, and recent health emergencies that you may need to be aware of.
Though you should take safety seriously, that doesn’t mean you should let outdated historical reputations put you off. Some places that have previously endured tough periods may now be perfectly safe to visit, so it pays to research thoroughly.
Schedule with special events in mind
Special events like festivals or annual celebrations can be a double-edged sword. You may have your heart set on visiting Rio de Janeiro for Carnival, or Mexico City for Day of the Dead celebrations. However, it’s important to know that the cost of everything from flights to accommodations and restaurants is likely to go up significantly.
Alternatively, you might hate crowds of people and want to avoid these events like the plague, in which case it still pays to know when they occur. Though the prices may only rise for a short period of time, in my experience, the number of visitors still swells significantly before and after big occasions.
Research the best time of year to go
When you visit a destination will usually determine what kinds of prices, weather, and even seasonal foods you’ll find. Making assumptions about any of these factors could ruin your trip. Personally, I’m a sun lover, but in the past I’ve made the mistake of assuming that somewhere was going to be warm, only to arrive to gray skies and low temperatures.
The time of year you choose to travel could also have a large impact on your budget, since prices fluctuate depending on whether it’s high or low season. If you really want to make your budget stretch, then it’s wise to head somewhere in its off season, when you’ll find costs far lower than at peak times. (See also: Why Timing Is Everything When Saving Money on Travel)