Perhaps you are like me and have a bucket list a few feet long that taunts you about all the places you haven’t been. Or maybe you would like to travel more but just aren’t sure about where to go. Regardless of which of these two categories fits your current state of travel curiosity, you’ll eventually need to narrow down your choices and make a solid decision about where to go.
I love the idea of spinning a globe and hopping on the next flight headed to that city, region or country. Admittedly, I’ve never chosen to travel that way, though it would make for an interesting adventure. In any case, you’ve got to start somewhere when deciding where to travel next. Here are 8 suggestions on how to choose your next vacation destination:
> Follow your heart. I know it sounds cheesy, but have you always had a desire to visit a particular place at a particular time? Or is there a festival or event, such as Mardi Gras or the Fringe Festival, that you’d really like to attend? Let your interests guide your decisions. If you have a true interest in visiting a place, let that destination become a priority. Save money for that particular trip instead of settling on going somewhere else.
> Consult “best of” lists. “Best of” lists created by authoritative sources can provide a great start for your destination research. These lists are particularly popular at the end and beginning of the year and include everything from the best eco-destinations and beach resorts to the best train rides and places to sample local food. I suggest finding a publication or source that speaks to you. For example, if you’re into high-end travel, check out the lists created by Travel & Leisure. Those strapped for cash might want to check out Budget Travel for their “best of” listings. A number of travel blogs, which focus on specific areas of the world or particular travel styles, are also good resources for lists that will help narrow down your travel options.
> Browse the travel section of your local bookstore. Spend some time flipping through the pages of guidebooks and looking at the pictures in glossy coffee table books. Perhaps a passage or photograph will grab your attention and encourage further research about a place. Travel narratives may also inspire travel in a particular locale.
> List your priorities. Think about how long you want to travel for and what method you would like to travel by. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway somewhere on the East Coast of the United States, that obviously rules a lot of places out. By considering what you can afford, how you’d like to travel and the things you’d like to do, you’ll have a better idea of the place that’s right for you.
> Read and listen. Most newspapers, magazines and online publications have travel sections. Read through them and see if anything sparks your interest. Watch and listen to TV shows, documentaries and radio programs that might also focus on particular places. Don’t forget to look beyond the travel news for other ideas that might spark an interest. For example, does news about the 2010 World Cup pique your interest about South Africa? Are you interested in exploring glacial destinations before they’ve completely disappeared?
> Look for discounts. Several travel companies offer discounts on vacations, flights, hotels and car rentals because they need to fill them. If you’re budget conscious, use these discounts as a guide for your next vacation. Consider signing up for the weekly travel discount newsletters from Travelzoo, TripAdvisor and Kayak for ideas.
> Visit forums and ask others. Check out an online travel forum, such as the one at Lonely Planet, and see what destinations other people are chatting about. These are a great place to get ideas on where people have gone as well as ask questions you might have about a particular destination. And don’t forget to ask other people about their travels. Your family and friends have probably been to many interesting places, some of which may spark an interest in you.
> Be inspired. If you really don’t know where you’d like to go or for how long, give chance a chance. Spin the globe, open to a random page in the atlas or check out a website that helps inspire travel.
Where else do you find travel inspiration? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.