Trip Planning: Where to Go

Choosing a destination for your trip

The world is a big place, so choosing what exotic locale to visit can be the hardest part of planning any getaway. At least as I see it, the point of traveling is to go somewhere else to see and experience things you couldn’t at home, whether that’s foreign cultures, unique cuisine, mountainous landscapes, ancient ruins, a tropical climate, or famous artwork. Think about what you most want to experience, and plan from there. Sometimes it can be helpful to pick a theme. If archaeology is your thing, you could plan a trip to Mexico that’s focused on Pre-Columbian ruins (Chichen Itza, Palenque, Teotihuacan, and more!), then throw in a trip to the beach, a visit to a tequila factory, and a stop by the Museo Nacional de Antropologia–one of the world’s best–in Mexico City. Are castles more your style? You could plan a trip to Germany, to see one of the fairy tale-est castles ever, Neuschwanstein Castle, and add in a few of the other plethora of castles there, plus visit the Berlin Wall, Cologne Cathedral, the Black Forest, the Berlin Island Museum, or drive along the Romantic Road–whatever piques your fancy. The purpose is to have a diverse experience, so, after you’ve chosen a theme, go ahead and sprinkle in some other activities that interest you so you can experience as many facets of the local culture as you can.

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Warwick Castle, a few hours outside London

Note: Don’t overlook destinations in your own country! Any place in the world has its own culture, activities, and sights, so don’t disregard ones that may be in your own country, state/province, or even city, just because they doesn’t seem “exotic”. Great adventures can be had not too far from home, and often for much cheaper than an international airline ticket!

Also, keep in mind that inspiration can come from anywhere. Maybe you always wanted to see St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow because it was on a round-the-world calendar that you had as a kid. Maybe you met a man from Argentina, and after hearing about his country, you really wanted to go. Maybe you’ve always wanted to see kangaroos and koala bears up close and personal. Movies can be a great source of inspiration–scenes from Star Wars and Indiana Jones were filmed in places like Tikal (Mayan ruin in Guatemala), Petra (fabulous carved stone city in Jordan), Arches National Park (USA), Tunisia, Sri Lanka, and more. If you love the landscapes in Lord of the Rings, you can check them out for yourself in New Zealand (and you can even see the set of the Hobbit!). We actually first started looking into Puerto Rico as our honeymoon destination because my husband wanted to see Arecibo Observatory, which had been featured in Close Contact and a 007 movie. It wouldn’t have been worth it to go to Puerto Rico just to see the Observatory, but once I knew where it was I could research the region, and found all of the other great stuff Puerto Rico has to offer–forts from the age of piracy, bioluminescent bays, El Yunque rainforest, colorful architecture, and wonderful beaches, food, and people.

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Black Hills, South Dakota

Now that you’ve chosen where you would like to go, it might be a good idea to define “where” that is. It can be very tempting to cram in as much as you can–after all, most people only get about two-three weeks of vacation days a year–but it’s best to at least somewhat limit your scope. I wouldn’t recommend doing more than a few countries in a few weeks, especially if you want to really get a feel for that area of the world. A two week trip to Europe where you visit 12 countries sounds exciting until you get back and realize you didn’t have enough time to really “process” any of the things you saw, and therefore don’t have much to say about them. You could also even focus on just one city–a place like Rome, Sydney, New York City, Buenos Aires, or Shanghai has plenty to do in the city and the surrounding area without you needing to stray too far from your base of exploration. If you do decide to visit just one city, it can be a good idea to take a day trip or too while you’re there, just so you can feel like you’ve experienced more of the place you’re visiting. For example, if you chose London, you could take a day trip to Bath, Stonehenge, or maybe even a short stay in Edinburgh (about 4 hours away by train).

The first step in planning any trip is deciding where to go. Once you have this figured out, you can start to plan everything else–attractions, activities, lodging, transportation, restaurants, etc. Pick somewhere that’s interesting to you, for whatever reasons, and then figure out what areas of that place to go and you’ll be on track to having a fantastic trip!

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