How to Choose A Travel Destination - Nisos Thira Greece
Travel Planning,  Weekend Getaways

How to Choose a Travel Destination

With so many bucket list locations all over the world, it can be overwhelming to know how to choose a travel destination. After all, we don’t always have unlimited time and budget, so when you plan a trip, you want it to be just right.

Practical Factors to Consider – How to Choose a Travel Destination

In order to locate the perfect location for your next trip, there are both practical and desire factors that can help you narrow down your options.

How Much Time Do You Have to Travel?

You may have several months, a week, or only a long weekend in which to get away. It is important to determine approximately how much time you have. This matters because you likely do not want to spend the majority of your days off, trying to arrive to your destination.

Determine whether you are forming an extensive travel plan or a week’s getaway. Choose a place appropriate to your timeframe.

How Far is Your Destination?

The distance to your destination is an important factor, especially if you have limited time. In addition to maximizing your time enjoying your vacation, further destinations may be more costly. It may not be worth spending large sums of money to have extremely limited time in your destination.

Of course, if you have an opportunity to visit a bucket list destination, even for a short period, it may be worth it. Sometimes there is no better time than the present. Still, in order to get the most time to explore, you may want to pick somewhere to go that matches your travel time frame appropriately.

Remember with further destinations that you may also be contending with time differences and jet lag.

Do You Prefer International or Domestic Travel – How to Choose a Travel Destination

Are you prepared to travel internationally? Do you need a visa, a new passport, or health documents, and if so, are you prepared? Do you have enough time to gather the required documents prior to your trip? Do you speak the language of the country you are visiting? If not, have you at least practiced a few basic phrases? Do you have traveler’s insurance?

What is Your Preferred Method of Transportation?

If you know that you only want to fly, or refuse to take a ferry, this will help determine the places you can reach. Some areas have great bus coverage, but few trains, such a much of Mexico. Other areas lack suitable public transportation and you will need to rent a car. Are you okay with driving?

Think about what type of transport you are comfortable with and what is available not only to reach your destination, but also to get around once you arrive.

 How to Choose a Travel Destination - Airplanes on runway in snow
Photo: Jennifer Barbaro

What is Your Budget?

Consider your budget for this trip. If you are on a limited budget, see what destinations are offering deals on accommodations or airfare. If you have a specific destination in mind and a great deal of travel time, but are conserving money, perhaps you can save some money by taking a flight or train that is not the most direct.

Also look for packages that may combine transportation and hotel and even rental cars at a reduced cost.

Big cities such as New York and Paris can be more costly than smaller villages. Also, sometimes Islands or harder to reach places have higher costs of food and gasoline. Popular tourist destinations may cost more than nearby local towns.

Another consideration is exchange rates if you are traveling internationally. Currency rates can fluctuate regularly. You can check exchange rates to compare your currency to the country’s you plan on visiting. Consider this as well as any additional exchange fees or international credit card fees.

Often you can use miles or other airline certificates to receive discounted or free airfare. Always compare various sites to find any specials or the best possible rates. Try a Travel Comparison Site that compares rates across a wide range of options.

Some days, weeks, months, or seasons are less expensive to travel than others if your dates are flexible. Off season can be quieter, less crowded and less expensive, but always check weather and climate to be sure it meets your needs. Often travel prices increase during festivals, popular events, and holidays.

How Difficult is it To Reach Your Destination? – How to Choose a Travel Destination

Are there Direct or non-stop flights available to your destination? Sometimes even seemingly close destinations can take long to reach if there are no direct flights. How long is the layover? Compare flights to your desired destination to see all availability.

Is there a ferry this time of year? Are there multiple trains a day? Are rental cars available, and if so, are you comfortable driving one? Compare rental cars for the lowest prices.

Do you need to take multiple busses to arrive? Check all available bus routes.

Bus in Iceland  - How to choose a travel destination
Photo: Juan Encalada 

Have you Allowed for Contingencies?

Occasionally there are transportation delays that may take up some of you enjoyment time. If this were to happen, are you allotting time for it without ruining your trip? Jet lag is also a consideration when traveling abroad. It may take you some time to adjust, even for the most seasoned traveler.

Also see Jenny In Wanderland article on Managing Jet Lag.

With Whom Are You Traveling?

Are you traveling solo, in a group, or as a couple? This may help you to determine where you want to go. For example, as a solo traveler, you may want to be in a larger city where there are many activities and people around. Or you may have certain safety concerns where you feel more comfortable in a specific area or activity. As a couple, you may choose a quieter more secluded destination, such as a wine region. Groups may want a ski lodge or a destination conducive to larger gatherings.

How to choose a travel destination
Photo: Levi Guzman

Are You Looking to Move Around or Stay in One Place?

If you are looking to stay put, perhaps you are willing to work a bit harder to arrive at your destination. Or perhaps this means you are looking for a place that offers plenty to do for the amount of time you are there. An example is a city like Paris where there is so much to see and do, it would take over a lifetime to experience it all. It could also mean a resort, an all inclusive, or an island where once you arrive, you are a bit more attached to your accommodation or the area.

Moving place to place may be great if you plan on visiting the highlights of several large cities or if you are driving the Tuscan countryside, for example. This may also be an option if you are touring a continent, for example, Asia. Perhaps you want to visit several countries over a long period of time.

There are many advantages to both ways of traveling; Knowing your goal will help you to narrow down where you’d like to go.

Also See Jenny In Wanderland article on Moving Around Versus Staying in One Place.

Desire Factors to Consider – How to Choose a Travel Destination

What Type of Travel are You Looking to Do?

Do you have a specific purpose for planning this trip? Are you in need of relaxation? Do you love hiking? Are you in need of a shopping trip or a girls’ weekend? Do you love the beach? Are you jonesing to go skiing? Do you want to be in a big city? Are you in need of some art or culture? Are you looking for a bit of everything? Do the places you are considering fulfill your needs?

Answering these questions can really help you narrow down your travel destination.

How to choose a travel destination- Canary Islands Sunset
Photo: Jennifer Barbaro

What Type of Weather/Climate are You Looking to Experience?

Are you looking for warmth and sun to escape the Winter blues? Are you wanting to enjoy some Fall foliage? Perhaps you want to cozy up by the fire and enjoy some peaceful snow. Be sure to check the weather and climate and that it meets your expectations.

See some of Jenny In Wanderland‘s favorite Warm Winter Travel Destinations

What is the Availability at your Desired Destination?

Several factors affect availability and cost, including seasons, events, and holidays. If you are planning travel during high season or at a popular time, book ahead. Before you get to far into planning, you may want to run a quick check just to be sure the place you are planning is not fully booked or overly crowded. You can check by simply entering the city in the search bar and seeing the pricing and availability that comes up on a first search. It should be immediately obvious if you may have an issue.

Also, your experience of a place will differ drastically between high crowds and low times. For example a tiny lake town may be normally quiet and quaint with relatively short lines or attractions and restaurants. However, during a festival, the same area may be loud, overrun with people, and crowded. If you are there specifically for the event, this may be really fun; Otherwise, it may be disappointing.

Decide if you are looking for remote, local, quiet locations, or if you want a big city experience. This will also help you narrow down where you want to go. If you know you’d like to visit France and want your destination to be train accessible, you could open a map of France and search Paris. Then enlarge the map and look for small towns outside it. They will generally have train service and may be a good starting point.

Another way to search is to look for attractions or spas, or beach towns in France (for example) and find a list. Then look at the town the attraction is in that most interests you and work backward. Perhaps pull it up on a map and see what transportation it is near and then go from there.

Map of Paris and surrounding area - How to Choose a Travel Destination

Are You Traveling to a Special Event?

Are you traveling to specifically visit a festival, event, or holiday? In this case, double check the dates. Then, you want to figure out the best location for your experience. Do you want to be in walking distance to the event?

If it is a cultural festival, does it take place in multiple cities? If so, which looks most interesting? If you are celebrating holidays, check to see what cities or towns offer celebrations, decorations, or events that will fulfill your expectations.

Is It Important to Check Off a Destination on Your Bucket List?

Have you been keeping a bucket list of all the destinations you want to visit in the world and it just keeps getting longer? Me too! Perhaps you want to check one of those places off your list.

Incidentally, if you love travel, a bucket list is a fundamental way to put your dreams into action. The first sep is verbalizing them. Choosing travel that is right for you can be a difficult task. Sometimes you just know what you need or want, or have a special place on your bucket list(free bucket list download).

Have You Been There Before? – How to Choose a Travel Destination

Is it important to you to visit somewhere you have never been? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. It is always exciting to arrive in a brand new destination that you can explore for the first time. It is that exciting feeling when everything is new and unfamiliar and different.

On the flip side, there is something nice to returning to a favorite place you have been. Perhaps there will be some familiar faces from your last visit. Perhaps you are visiting friends. Additionally, there is not as much pressure to tour the top attractions the next time around. This could leave you more time to just relax, or explore like a local.

Does the Destination Need to Have a “Wow” Factor?

Are you looking for the exotic? Are you craving something obscure or perhaps something you have seen in history books? Are you looking for pyramids ruins, or wild animals, or are you happy to sip wine in a small mountain town?

How to choose a travel destination - Zebra
Photo: Jennifer Barbaro

Are there Specific Attractions You Want to Visit?

Sometimes I choose the place I am going to travel by something I really want to see. An example is the Eiffel Tower or the Giza Pyramids or even a Broadway show.

Are they open in the time that you are there? For example, some attractions are not open on Sundays or during holidays. Is it important for you to visit all your desired tourist sites in one trip? If so, will you have the time that you need to not only see them, but enjoy them?

Do You Have Friends or Family to Visit?

If so, you may want to plan your trip around seeing your loved ones. This does not necessarily mean you will be spending all of your travel time with them. However, if you’d like to make them a factor, then you will need to consider their location and its proximity to your travel route.

Where to Find Your Next Travel Destination

There are a variety of places to get ideas on exciting travel destinations, such as books, movies, from friends, travel websites, such as Jenny In Wanderland and of course on social media. Have you looked on Pinterest to get ideas? It offers tons of photos and visuals, as does Instagram.

Additionally, if I know a country or region I’d like to visit, I open up a map and zoom in to look at the various towns and cities. Then, I look them up to see more about them. This method is especially helpful if you know that you are moving around and you have some destinations already selected, but need to find an in between point for logistical reasons. For example, because they are too far apart, or there is a gap in your plans.

Also see Planning Tips Using Google Maps.

Summary Questions to Ask Yourself on How to Choose a Travel Destination

  • Determine the length of your trip.
  • How far is your destination?
  • Are you planning Domestic or International Travel?
  • What is your preferred method of transportation?
  • What is your budget?
  • What are the exchange rates?
  • How difficult is it to reach your destination?
  • Do you have time in case of delays or jet lag?
  • What type of travel do you want? (Relaxation, Hiking, Skiing, Cultural, etc.)
  • What weather/climate are you looking to experience?
  • What is the availability at your desired destination?
  • Decide if you want popular versus remote locations.
  • Are you traveling to a special event?
  • Is it important to check a location off your Bucket List?
  • Have you been there before?
  • Does the destination have to have a “wow” factor?
  • Are there specific attractions you want to visit?
  • Are you traveling solo, as a couple, or with a group?
  • Do you have friends or family that you’d like to visit?
  • Have you looked on Travel Sites such as Jenny In Wanderland and Social Media, such as Pinterest to get ideas?

There are ultimately many factors that go into how to choose a travel destination. Once you are able to think about and answer all of these questions, you will be well on your way to planning your next trip!

Have questions about a specific destination or travel in general? Ask Jenny to receive a personal response, as well as the ability for fellow travelers to chime in too.

Also see Jenny in Wanderland, How to Choose A Vacation Rental

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  • Susan Saltzburg

    How to choose a travel destination was an amazing article. So much to consider – and choosing is in the details. Your insight helps to highlight the details and focus on meaningful travel decision-making.

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