Where to Go? 8 Ways to Choose Your Next Travel Destination

030110 - Books 1Perhaps 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.

030110 - Atlas> 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?

030110 - Books 2> 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.

27 Responses to “Where to Go? 8 Ways to Choose Your Next Travel Destination”

  1. Gray

    I find that the more travel writing I read, the more places get added to my list, which makes it even harder to decide where to go. I’ve often chosen my travel destinations based on climate (warm) and budget considerations, but recently I searched my heart and said “If I only had a year to live, what place or places do I want to see before then?” That really helps narrow the focus quite a lot.

  2. Anny at BikeHike Adventures

    A lot of our BikeHike clients choose their destinations based on what activities they like (ex. if they really love mountain biking, they often end up choosing our Morocco Mountain Biking trip), but a ton of people end up just calling and saying “I’ve got 2 weeks off during days x through y, what’s a great place to go?”

    Weather, festivals & events, and an assortment of your favourite activities whether it be active sport or street market shopping are some of the key ingredients for a fabulous adventure.

  3. ayngelina

    I think there’s a fear of not going to the perfect place. I felt that pressure even starting out my first flight for my RTW. However, I took the advice of point #6 and found the cheapest flight into Mexico – Cancun. Sure it doesn’t seem like a backpackers starting point but it doesn’t need to be perfect!

  4. Amiee

    Have you seen the book 1000 Places to See Before You Die? I love browsing it and dreaming up my next trip.

  5. JoAnna

    @Amiee ~ I absolutely ADORE that book. I have a few like that. 501 Must-Take Journeys and Off the Tourist Trail: 1000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives are also great reads. I got the idea to take the train to for our upcoming trip to New Orleans from Off the Tourist Trail.

  6. Keith

    Helpful tips here. Another book you might like is the 100 Best Vacations to Enrich Your Life (USA and World editions). They have some very cool ideas in there.

  7. Stephanie

    I like to browse wikitravel, just clicking random links and seeing where I end up. It’s how I decided to visit Bosnia which was my favorite trip so far!

  8. JoAnna

    @Keith ~ Wow! Sounds like a great book! I’ll definitely have to check that one out.

    Have you ever made a decision to travel somewhere based on something you found in that book?

  9. JoAnna

    @Gray ~ I think you bring up a good point. A lot of people will just take a vacation because they have a money. As a result, they have a lot of little, insignificant travel experiences instead of saving for THE ONE, which is what they’d most enjoy but takes more work to achieve.

  10. Alouise

    I’ve always wanted a globe just so I could spin it, put my finger down and go wherever it happened to be. Of course with my luck my finger would stop in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 😀

    Or if you have a map and a bulletin board (or a wall you can damage), you could always tack the map up, throw a dart and go wherever it lands. I like the randomness of that.

    My trip to Seattle I took because I’d caught some travel show where the host spent a day in a city. I’d never really thought about going to Seattle before that, but I ended really loving it.

  11. Anil

    Sometimes, picking the most random place can help shake up your plans, even if you don’t end up going there it’s a good way to kick-start the process.

  12. Keith

    JoAnna – not yet, though I’ve been using some of the ideas as springboards to new options. Definitely worth a look.

  13. Nancy

    Great post, JoAnna. I’m a sucker for #1. I have these inexplicable draws to places. Right now I’m most wanting to go to India.

  14. Emily @ Maiden Voyage

    I love this list — there are so many great ways to get inspiration. I have always had many places on my list of where to travel, but I got even more years last year when I used the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die desktop calendar. It was full of pretty pictures and interesting bits of facts and history. It has definitely added more spots to my list!

  15. Michelle

    Thats a great list. I did the random travel earlier. Just booked a ticket to nepal and left within 3 days its was my 1st solo-backpacking trip.
    It was excellent, was actully making plans on that flight, but it was the best. I made a lot of friends, lived in a hut with the locals as i did not have accomodation in Lumbini.
    All in all don’t regret it one bit:))

  16. Susan

    Great tips! And i really like the first one, FOLLOW YOUR HEART! That’s what makes you happy. 🙂

  17. Mary R

    I have a large coffee table lonely planet travel book, and one summer I told myself that I’d go wherever I happened to randomly open the book.

    The first time I tried it, I got Dominican Republic. I tried it one more time, and I got Dominican Republic again!

    I was a little freaked and never made the trip there, but I do have a fantasy of going there one day since it seems to be in the cards.

  18. ayngelina

    It’s so funny I just read my last comment and wanted to add to it. On March 1 I was a bit skeptical of Mexico but now on May 2nd I have been here a month and have fallen in love with the country. I’m sad that I’ll only be here another 10 days.

    The point is, just as there is no perfect place, you may be pleasantly surprised by a country that doesn’t seem perfect.

    • JoAnna

      I’m so glad you stopped by to share your experience, ayngelina! Enjoy the rest of your trip!

  19. Cam

    All good options – we tend to lean towards the “listen to others”, especially with like minded people. Of course, tossing a dart at the globe map can be an interesting approach too!

  20. Great Irish Destinations

    I love your list on how to choose your next destination. I love adventurous holidays as well as sight seeing and discovering. I’m always looking out for the best ways to enjoy my holiday.

  21. Ian [EagerExistence]

    I find picking destinations the hardest part. People ask me everywhere I go where Im going next, and are shocked when I say “I dont know yet”.

    • JoAnna

      “I don’t know” is a completely acceptable answer. 🙂



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