Where Do You Want To Go?

I had an interesting conversation last week.  A friend of mine told me that he always wanted to travel, but could never decide where he wanted to go.  He explained that he was overwhelmed by all the possibilities.  As a result, his vacations tended to be very repetitive, and had become so boring that it had been two years (TWO YEARS!?!?) since had really been anywhere.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what is the process a person should go through when putting together a trip. It can be a weekend get away or a life changing trip to the far reaches of the globe, but I think the process is the same.  I’ve put together a list of a few basic things to consider when planning your trip that I hope, will help point you in the direction you need to be headed.

Step 1

What’s your budget?

In all likelihood, this is the most important question you’ll have to answer.  It is absolutely imperative that you have a firm answer for this question before you seriously start your planning.  DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT plan a luxurious dream vacation to Hawaii when your budget is more in line with a weekend getaway.   Travel can be great, but no trip is worth putting yourself into bankruptcy.  If you look around, there are numerous travel options just a few hours from wherever you are.  Simply keep an open mind about your options, and you can find something that fits your tastes and your budget.

Step 2

What are your interests?

Everyone is different and everyone is looking for something different in a vacation of any sort.  Some people go to search out history, others for family experiences.  There are those for whom a lazy week at the beach is heaven, but others find the idea doing nothing to be nothing short of boring.  Are you seeking out winter experiences and vistas, or summertime treks?  Step 1 requires that you know your financial situation.  This step of the decision making process requires you to know yourself.  What’s going to make you happy?  If you are pulled along on a trip that doesn’t interest you on a basic level, you aren’t going to enjoy yourself, and resentment about it will absolutely follow.

Step 3

Do your homework.

Research what your options are and what’s in store.  Simply put, know what you’re getting into.   A few years ago, while standing in front of Westminster Abbey, two British women walked up to me, and asked what everyone was waiting on.  I told them, and they said, “Oh.  Isn’t there a church around here or something.”  They had no idea what the Abbey was or even where they were.  It was astonishing.  The whole experience of their first trip to London was completely wasted on them.  Don’t travel to Alabama in August and complain about the heat.  Don’t go to Colorado in February and complain about the snow.  Don’t get on a plane if you hate to fly.  You should know better before you ever leave home.

Step 4

When is the best time for you to travel?

Look at your work schedule and your life schedule.  What time period works, and what doesn’t?  Can you sneak away for a long weekend, or can you disappear for months at a time?  What is your time frame?  Once this has been settled, look at your options, and refer back to Steps 1 and 2.  Can you or do you want to travel at high season or low season?  If you travel during the “off” or “low” season you will absolutely save money.  This works if you want to go to Europe.  Everything will be there, and it will be cheaper, and be far less crowded.  It’s a win-win situation, in my opinion.  All of the same factors will apply to a trip to the beach as well.  If you go during the off-season, it will all be there, but cheaper, and with fewer people.  It will also be much colder, and much grayer.  If you are a sunbather, this probably isn’t your best option, but if you just like to listen to the waves, this could be perfect for you.

Step 5

Is it even possible?

Make sure your plan is “doable.”  Don’t have too much on your plate or you will be rushed, and if you don’t meet your expectations, you’re likely to feel like you’ve somehow failed yourself or failed the vacation gods.  Don’t fall into this trap.  I have a friend who works for a travel company that offers what seems like an amazing trip.  It includes almost every city in Europe and covers them all in just under a month.  It sounds great, but his office actually refers to it, backhandedly, as the “Prisoners of Europe” tour.  You are constantly in a relentless state of motion.  You are on the go, and daily goals must be met.  You visit each city, each attraction only long enough to take a few pictures and then move on.  It never seems to end, and you never get the chance to fully experience and appreciate what you’ve seen.  Have a schedule that follows a pace with which you are comfortable.  Remember the scene in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” where the Griswalds visit the Louvre?  Don’t be those people.

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