Friday, June 21, 2013

How to Research and Plan Your International Trip: Choosing Your Destination

You want to travel, but don't know where to begin?
(Photo in Budapest, Hungary)

This is a four part series where we'll explore:
1.  Choosing Your Destination
2.  Researching it Out
3. Budgeting for your Trip
4.  Building a Rough Itinerary

Choosing Your Destination:
We have a never-ending list of places we'd love to go, so choosing a destination depends on the
1. Time allotment we have available
2. Season of travel
3. Our current mood, if you will.

If you are just starting to feed your travel bug, you may find one of those "101 Places to See Before You Die" books helpful to spark your curiosity.  We subscribe to National Geographic's Adventure Magazine, which has inspired more than one of our trips.  (That magazine is the reason we ended up in Montenegro and Hercegovina. Don't know where that is?  I couldn't grasp it until I got there either...)  Pinterest boards get my wheels turning, as well as talking to friends and family about travel highlights. Having your "Travel Bucket List" of places, or things to do is a great way to start!

1.  Time Allotment

It is tough to make time to travel when you have (The traditionally American) 10 days off, and you're expected to use 4 of them for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is really tough.  But once you make travel your priority, I guarantee you can find a way.
Negotiate more time off when starting a new job, take a break between jobs, volunteer to take unpaid days off, schedule your trip over a holiday weekend...  Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July are all good times that have worked for us.  If you can travel around/on the holidays, you'll get Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, and New Years Day off, you can count 4 days of weekend, and only take 4 days paid vacation to = 12 days you could be on an international trip!
Try to maximize the time you have off to make your long, expensive flight worthwhile.
(I half joke about my primary goal each year being to "Ride in a BIG plane." This is one of my first BIG plane rides to Europe as a 14 year old.)

2.  Season of Travel

Something to think about when choosing your destination is to determine what exactly you hope to do there, and if/when a fun event is going on.  We were in Vietnam for Chinese New Year which made our experience so much richer!  Fresh flowers and kites everywhere, even more street food than normal, and heaps of exercise groups in the park!
I am waiting for a 10-14 day window during the end of April to plan my trip to Holland, so I can go to the tulip festival.  My point: Consider the season before planning your trip.

Another thing, I have incredibly better travel experiences when I go with a purpose.  For example, my goal on our Peru trip was to pet a llama at Machu Picchu, and to paraglide over the Sacred Valley. Mission accomplished!  Having these goals gave our trip structure, and it gave me a starting point in my planning.

3.  Our current mood.

Travelling and Vacationing are two very different things.  We love both.  Having just returned from 3 months in Costa Rica and 10 days in Peru, we are looking forward to making our next trip a "vacation."  Decide with your travel partner what the goals are for your trip. Do you want a relaxing, possibly romantic, sunny beach experience?  Ko Hai, Thailand is my recommendation for you!  Are you looking for an adventurous, full-on, explorative trip?  New Zealand is your place! From my experiences, vacations are much easier to plan.  Pick 1-2 spots, relatively close together, pack a single suitcase with a swim suit and some dinner attire.  I have yet to try an all inclusive, but I think it sounds lovely.  Trips require planning multiple events for each day, navigating transportation, and they require strategy in allotting your time and money.
What are you in the mood for?

Stay tuned for the next installment: Researching it Out!


Kali and JT said...

Loved this!!!!

Chelsea said...

I love your differentiation between "vacations" and "trips." Chris and I are always trying to strike a balance between them! He prefers relaxing vacations and I prefer explorative trips. So far we've managed to plan a few that have had a little of both, but we're leaning towards the idea of switching off every-other time to be able to make the most of it!

Heather said...

What a wonderful series, sharing your vast knowledge on a subject you know well.