How to Decide Where to Travel: 5 Questions to Help You Pick Your Next Destination

If you have wanderlust running through your veins, you’re not alone. For most people, the question isn’t whether or not to travel, it’s where to go. Because you want to see it all, and narrowing it down to just one place is no fun.

Don’t let choosing a location stress you out. We’ve got the top questions you need to ask yourself before you start planning, so you can decide where to travel.

Why am I traveling?

This is the big one, and can be the most important factor of all. Are you feeling overworked and frazzled, and feel the need to get it away from it all? Or maybe you’re craving time in nature. Possibly you just want to immerse yourself in a different culture. Whatever your reasons, write them all down. Be as specific as you can be. Then research and make a list of places that offer what you’re looking for.

If you want sunshine, a beach is a sure bet. But if you want sunshine, and to be away from civilization, then you would probably be better off considering a smaller “locals only” island than a vacation hot spot like Santa Monica or Cannes. And if you really drill down and realize that you want sunshine, no civilization, and another culture? Then you can research smaller beaches in other countries – Costa Rica has quite a few non-touristy beaches, as does Portugal. This is where being specific comes into play.

Considering your vacation goals is crucial to planning a getaway that you will 100% enjoy.

How much time do I have?

This will help narrow down your possibilities even further. If you want to go to another country, or even to the other coast, you’re going to want more than just the standard weeklong vacation.

A flight to Europe from the east coast is at least 6 hours – and that’s without layovers. When you add in going through security, baggage claim, and travel time to the airport and then to your hotel, you’ll end up losing about a day to travel, each way. So is the cost of the flight worth it if you’ll only enjoy Paris for 5 days? Probably not.

Same goes for flying to the other coast. Flying from Virginia to L.A. for just a week will cost you almost 2 days of travel time. But the relatively short flights Virginia to Boston, or Tennessee, or Atlanta, would allow you to make the most of your vacation days.

If you only have a long weekend, maybe even 4-5 days, look into some fun road trips. Pick someplace nearby, so you can maximize the time you spend at your destination. Or, choose a longer route that will allow you to stop at interesting cities along the way.

Pro Tip: check out the travel math calculator to get a pretty good estimate of how long your trip will take.

What’s my budget?

This is the one that hurts the most. It’s frustrating when you know exactly where you want to go, and have the vacation time, but can’t quite afford it. You could alway keep saving and go another year, but if you’re really feeling that wanderlust kicking in, then it’s time to come up with some alternatives.

Take a hard look at your finances and be honest with yourself. Can you really afford that trip? If not, maybe there are other ways to save money and still go on that dream trip. Do you have rewards points or mileage that will help? Can you book an Airbnb instead of a hotel?

If you really just can’t swing it, it’s time to get creative. What are some more affordable alternatives? If you’re dreaming of seeing NYC for the first time, you’ll find much less expensive hotels outside the city. Similarly, you could pick a lesser-known Caribbean island instead of, say, the Virgin Islands, but still enjoy the same vibe.

If you can be flexible with your vacation plans, you’ll easily find something amazing to do on your budget!

What do I want to do?

Beyond just “where do I want to go?”, you have to know what you want to do while you’re there. This can help you decide not just what country/state you want to visit, but also specific cities.

Most people think of Rome when they want to go to Italy – and with good reason. It’s an exciting, vibrant city. But if you’re more interested in wine and scenic views, then you’re better off spending the majority of your time in Tuscany, instead. Or maybe you think you want to go to the Florida Keys, but what you really want is to lounge on a white sand beach… which you won’t find much of in the Keys, but rather in the Florida Panhandle.

If you’re not really sure what you want to do, think of some of your hobbies. An avid runner? Check out a marathon or half-marathon in a cool city like Las Vegas or Cancun. Love wine? Napa Valley is calling your name. Yoga retreats on the beach, cooking lessons in Provence, your favorite band playing in London – all of these can inspire you to pick a destination.

Who am I traveling with?

If you’re a solo traveler, then you don’t have to worry about this at all. But most people travel with family, friends, or a significant other. And you don’t necessarily all want to do the same thing. Make sure you take everyone’s vacation preferences in mind, so that everyone can have a good time.

So if you really want to go to Spain, and your travel buddies just want to hit the beach, compromise and spend time in gorgeous Marbella. You’ll get the culture and the ocean, both. It’s not always easy – if one person wants to ski and the other person wants to sail, you’ll probably have to find a third option, or hit two cities in one trip.

But taking everyone’s vacation goals into consideration will also help you choose where to travel. Plus, it’s fun to plan things out with your crew!

These 5 questions can help you give some more thought to what you really want to do on your vacation and help you decide where you want to travel. If all else fails, you can always rely on the old stand-bys: pull city names out of a hat or throw a dart at a world map!