How to Choose the Right Destination

By Nomadic Matt | Published February 10th, 2009

Looking for the right destinationMost of us want to travel, but we’re not always 100% sure of where to go. You have this urge to leave the comfort of your home, discover unfamiliar places, meet new people, and experience other cultures. The question is always where to go. Here’s some advice on how to choose the right destination for you:

Duration
Regardless of whether you live in Europe, America, or Asia, the duration of your trip often depends on work and what you can afford. Once you have a fair idea of the length of your impending trip, start looking at different options. If you can’t travel for more than a week, consider destinations reasonably close to home. No point in flying overseas if you only have seven days to spare. The same applies to the reverse situation. If you can travel for a month or more, why not pick a place further away?

Your Budget
Before picturing yourself somewhere exotic, think about what you really can afford. How much have you saved? Write that figure down and consider all initial costs: flight/train ticket, guide books, gear or equipment you need to buy before leaving. Also multiply daily costs such as accommodation, food, sightseeing and local transportation by the number of days you will be away. Remember there’s no set budget for anything.

No matter if you travel with a backpack or a suitcase, how well you budget can make or break your trip. Based on your estimations, it probably shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what part of the world is best for you.

Looking for the right destinationCurrency Rates
The current exchange rates may not affect your travel plans, but smart travelers do take advantage of shifting currency rates. Where in the world would you get best value for your money? Check what your currency is worth abroad and in which countries you will get the most for the least.

Climate
Where to travel in terms of climate all comes down to personal preferences. Some of us need sun and warm temperatures to relax and unwind; others can’t get enough of snow and wintry landscapes. Either way, the question is what you long for now. Research which destinations offer the weather you prefer and make sure to double-check when the hurricane or cyclone seasons occur. You wouldn’t want to end up in Southeast Asia, with visions of warm days on the beach under a blue sky, just to discover you arrived during the wrong time of year.

Language
Since people more or less speak English everywhere, there’s no need to worry about whether locals will understand you or if you can make yourself understood. If you’re in a country like Japan where even the younger generation’s knowledge in English is poor, take advantage of body language and signs. Or perhaps there’s some language you’ve always wanted to learn, or improve. Travel to the country where you can speak and hear it the most. But never let any language barriers hinder you from visiting new destinations. You will always get by and survive. Non-verbal communication goes a long way.

Arriving at the right destinationAdvice from other travelers
Let’s face it: sometimes tips and recommendations from other travelers carry more weight than what you’ve read in a guidebook. The people you know or meet have ‘non-edited’ and honest advice you probably won’t find in a book or a glossy magazine. Ask around among those who have spent time at the destinations you’re interested in. Try social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, and online travel communities and review sites where people gladly share their highs and lows of recent trips. You might stumble upon great advice you would never have found otherwise.

Your interests
What activities you like plays a big role when picking your next destination. Are you into skiing, surfing, trekking, climbing, diving, and other adventurous sports? Or does a day at museums and art galleries appeal to you more? What about history, culture, shopping, food and wine, nightlife? Once you know exactly what you’d like to do while away, selecting the best destination will get much easier.

Erica Johansson is a freelance writer based in Sweden. She runs the very popular travel site, Travel Blissful.

comments 7 Comments

Nice summary. I think for first time travellers, they should select a more comfortable country – maybe one that speaks their language, maybe one that is culturally a little more similar and maybe one which has less challenges in terms of food quality and water. That let’s people get the hang of travelling before embarking on something more ambitious. One more point, trying to cover too much first time means frustrations at rushing and not seeing places properly.

very helpful list…its imp to get the priorities right as they say

C K

Thanks Erica (and Matt too) for the great post.

For us, we rely a lot on guide books. Call us cheapskate but we do browse quite a bit in the travel section in Borders before deciding on the destination (and which book to get of course!).

Safety is one primary factor for us. It would be pretty hard to to persuade us to go to a place if security is a concern. Like you mentioned, language is not so much as a problem – I rely quite a bit on hand gestures during a trip to the Italian countryside.

a very nice list. would be very helpful for first time traveler.

NomadicMatt

@CK: Don’t worry! I’ve sat in barnes and nobles getting info from travel guides too :)

Charlotte

Hi Matt,

Good post (and well written Erica). Some really sound advice for travellers and especially for first time travellers. I think one thing a lot of people forget to do, is work out their budget and they just assume they’ll have enough money without actually knowing how much. Although budgeting can be scary, it really is a must.

Charlotte

OH Barcelona

@Mark, Good tip for first time travelers! Whether they follow that advice or not might depend on how adventurous they are. I know one girl who had barely been outside Sweden who picked India as her first time abroad experience. But Norway, the UK, Denmark and other nearby countries are obviously way more popular among, at least, young Swedish travelers. And yes, attempting to see too much in a short time is not a good bet. During my first stay in Paris I tried to cover all the major sights in one day. Since then I’ve learnt that faster doesn’t equal better.

@C K and @Nomadic Matt, Same here! The travel sections in Borders, Barnes & Noble and Waterstone’s are all great ‘first steps’ before booking any trip. I won’t even mention how much time I’ve spent there researching trips and new destinations over the years.

@Charlotte, Budgeting can certainly be easy to put off, but it is a necessity – unless you want to wake up one morning and realize you only have $90 left in your account and 3 more days to spend at your destination before your booked flight departs (happened to me when I was 19 in NYC and didn’t know how to budget!) Suffice to say, I’m glad I finally learnt that working out a budget is well worth it in the end.

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