2 most common questions I get every now and then –
Where are you travelling next ? followed by ….How do you choose where to travel next ?
And yes I reply very confidently with my choice of destination making it seem as an obvious choice . The fact is that choosing a travel destination is a little more complicated than it sounds. I am an Indian living in United States on work visa. So I have my fair share of problems in deciding any travel destination. For most countries I require Visa . And between renewals and maintaining the status in United States , deciding on a travel destination is literally a constant battle. And did I mention that I work full time in an IT company so I do have deliverables and deadlines. If any of these reasons sounds familiar , I am sure you will enjoy this blog post. You now understand that the desire to see the world in 18 vacation days has to be fueled by passion coupled with maximizing bank for buck and time. So I decided to write “how I choose my next travel destination” because this is the most complicated step in my whole planning process.
I start with my Bucket List :
Yes , its all about dreams . Just that very often I pen down my dreams in form of bucket list ( link to this year bucket list) . The fact is, this bucket –list keeps me honest and true to my dreams. It reminds me that if I work hard , do some extra hours at work , or even work over the weekends – my coveted prize is going to be an exclusive trip to one of these destinations with the love of my life. But funny thing about bucket list is that the moment I scratch one item off , it gets replaced with a new one. Does it happen to you too? Here are few dreams I am chasing these days ;
- New Zealand – I actually want to roam around in this country in a camper van , not sure how feasible that will be considering the time and money aspect. Nonetheless this is one country that I really want to see.
- Antarctica – Ever since I have been to Chile , I have had one thought in my mind – “ If this is so pretty , how beautiful will be Antarctica”. Now considering this is not an easy travel destination and will require a lot of planning , I am pursuing this destination quite vigorously.
- Bolivia – I got taste of salt flats at Bad Water Basin in Death Valley , so I can only imagine how beautiful will be Salar- de Uyuni. Add pink flamingoes on top of it , and you have got a perfect dream.
- Hiking in the Alps : One of the most famous hikes in Alps is Tour du Mont Blanc . It is a 170km route which encircles Western Europe’s highest mountain, crosses through 3 different countries and has some of the most dramatic alpine scenery in the world. Do I need any more reasons?
I come up with my Tentative Dates:
I live in Boston where winters are excessively long and boring. So getting break from the weather and taking advantage of shoulder seasons in other parts of the world are driving forces for finalizing any destination. It was for this reason I planned my trip to Patagonia in March. It was almost end of summer in South America so I got good deals and it was still brutally cold in Boston – A total win, win !
I also look for ways to maximize my vacation days. I know it might sound like “ Duhhhh its so obvious 😉 “ but trust me it’s a lot difficult . For most of the destinations , the prices go up in the long weekend. So I try to take a week off before the long weekend starts as compared to the actual week of holiday. That ways I don’t pay exorbitant prices to airlines and hotels.
I look for travel Pre-requisites –
Ooooh and here comes the keep researching on internet – until your brain cannot take any more part of finalizing the destination (phew). Yes guys , its not that easy. I have an Indian Passport and I require visa for almost all the countries. I can’t tell you how many times do I give up on a destination just because either getting visa is too expensive or time consuming or the embassy of my desired destination is not in the same city as I live. It is for this very reason that I cancelled my trip to London and Ireland. I wanted to do both countries but I needed visa for both of them which was coming out to be too expensive and then the consulates were not even in my hometown. My bucket –list always take into account the travel pre- requisites of my desired destinations. I maintain an excel sheet with the visa requirement / embassy details/ in person interview vs mail in documents requirements for almost all the places of my desire. It does make me sound like a geek 😛 , Isn’it it ? Once I know the ins and outs of the pre- requisites , I then will come up with the time frame and hence my tentative dates to see which date will work for which destination.
Easy so far … Right??? Once I know my time frame , travel perquisites , I dive to the next step
I plan my Budget :
Money , right – It all boils down to a simple question – “How much money would you like to spend?” I will not go over the money saving tips for travel here coz I am sure we all do our best to save money , its just the difference in priority. Some save for future , I save for my travels. That being said my travel destinations are a mix of luxury and not so expensive destinations. I will try to include a trip to Europe ( which as per me is luxury) and then some destination in central America or south east Asia ( which again as per me are a bit economical). I also try to calculate the food expenses. For destinations like Lofoten , where food options for vegetarians are limited and expensive , I try to come up with alternatives ( carry your own food , book accommodation with kitchen etc.) so that I stick to budget .
My destination choice is experience based :
I pick a destination based on experience I want to seek. My decisions are heavily influenced by things like what can I do as a couple vs family vs solo. Since right now its just me and Manhar , we try to pick destinations that we know we cannot do as a family ( kids or parents) or even things that we might don’t get to do 5 years from now. For this very reason we tend to lean towards backpacking and hiking based trips for now because we know our choice will change with time. We also try to time our trips with local festivals or cultural fests so that we may experience that as well. In general this is the checklist I follow :
- City, beach or countryside?
- Adventure or relaxation?
- Shopping, culture or adventure?
- Wildlife or city?
- Independent travel or group travel?
- Safe destination or Off the beaten track?
- Backpacking or hotel stay.
Once I know what experience I want , I am a step closer to my choice of destination.
Other factors :
- Distance is a key factor for me to decide on my travel destination. Since I am in Boston , I tend to lean more towards Scandinavian and European countries which are relatively closer than destinations in south-east asia. Who wants to spend more time in travel than on actual destination, isn’t it?
- I keep an eye on political and environmental changes related to my dream destinations. Yes I don’t think climate change is a hoax :), its very much real guys. It is for this reason I have Antarctica on top of my list. I want to go there sooner than later 😉
- Since I work and not so often I get to travel because of my work , I try to look at places that I can club with my work trips.
- Meeting friends and family is always a good reason to narrow down a destination. I am blessed with having many friends and a big family. Meeting them and giving them a fleeting visit while seeing a new place – A total win
- Travel deals …. Yes I tend to sway by them quite a lot. Last year was a year of travel deals specially airfares. I purchased my tickets to Santiago , Iceland and Lofoten all on same day last year . Yes I am crazy 😛 ….
P.S. – > I have learnt it hard way that never ever plan your trips more than 6 months in advance. But I will leave that story for later 😛
To sum it up here is how I go about it :
Norway is on top of my bucket list but I will love to visit it when I can do hiking and drive to the country side. I think summer in Norway will be the best time and if I do it in July , I can probably take advantage of July 4 long weekend. And while we are there we can catch up with my uncle and stay with them for some days to get more local feel of the country. Flight time, hmmmm ???? It is just 7 or 8 hours of flight to Norway , so I will not be spending too much time in travelling . And I have a Schengen visa too , that will save me the trouble of applying for yet another visa and I will save some money. Ok then , locked and loaded – Let the hunt for the best airfares- begin .
Does my planning sound anything like how you finalize a travel destination. I will love to hear from you. Let me know in comments the things you consider while short-listing a destination. Thank you so much for stopping by.
Care to share your steps of selecting a destination?