How to Choose the Right Travel Destination for You

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Where to go next: Choosing Your Next Travel or Vacation Spot


Jen hiking the Walls of Jerusalem National Park Tasmania
Hiking the Walls of Jerusalem National Park Tasmania

Consider The Time You Have Available To Travel

Many of us fantasize about having endless funds and ample time for traveling, but the truth is, we usually face limitations in budget and time. Firstly I consider the amount of time I have at my disposal. Whether it's a brief weekend escape or an extended months-long expedition, being aware of your time limits is key. This understanding will guide you in choosing a destination that can be thoroughly enjoyed within the time you have.

There's no point me planning a 2 week holiday in Portugal when it will take me 2 days each way to get there and back from Australia. Knowing I only have 2 weeks means I'm probably going to choose somewhere much closer to home. If I've only got a few weeks maybe I will go back to Samoa, or somewhere new I haven't been in New Zealand, but there is no way I'm spending 4 days out of 14 travelling. It just doesn't make sense.

If you are in Europe, of course you probably aren't going to come to Australia for a 2 week break. It makes more sense to go sailing in Türkiye or spend some time on a Greek Island. No matter where you are, this is a major consideration of where you might go.

Time also governs what style of trip I tend to do. I usually consider time away under a month as a vacation more than an adventure trip. Sure there are exceptions to that rule, but if I only have a few weeks, typically I'm going to pack in as much as I can in the first week and then relax for the second. I am not someone who can just keep going non stop and come home feeling OK. I need the RnR so a consideration for me is “is there somewhere I can relax for a few days (minimum) at the end of the trip”?

You might have other time considerations but its important to know what your limits are and create a plan around that.

Budget Restraints

It's important to take stock of your financial situation and decide on a travel budget that feels right for you. This step is crucial in filtering out travel destinations that align with your financial capacity.

I've done everything from spending almost a year on an overland truck in Africa to spending 4 days in Monaco for the Classique Grand Prix. Most of my trips are supremely budget focused, however there are occasions where I know I have to lash out and spend the money to have the experience.

Saving for a year to spend 10 days sailing in the British Virgin Islands for my cousin's 40th birthday was money very well spent, but would I do it again – NO! I've done that now so I'm not going to throw more money at the same experience. That is my choice though.

Swimming in the turquoise waters of the British Virgin Islands
Swimming in the turquoise waters of the British Virgin Islands

I have friends who spend 2 weeks in a pool villa in Bali every year. That's what they love so that's what they do.

Establishing your budget will enable you to combine that with the time frame you have to see exactly what you can get for your money.

As an example, everyone always talks about how expensive Japan is. I spent almost 6 weeks in Japan for just under $3000 AUD (+ my Japan Rail pass) so I wouldn't consider Japan expensive at all. Yes I stayed mostly in hostels, but the hostels in Japan are wonderful (for the most part), I ate fruit for breakfast, ramen for my main meal and shopped and cooked where I could. I left feeling like I saw everything I wanted to and I did Japan from Abashiri in the north to Fukuoka in the south so I covered a lot of ground.

Drift ice in Abashiri River Japan
Drift ice in Abashiri River Japan

Work Out Your Travel Goals and Interests

Reflecting on your travel goals and interests is a crucial step in planning a trip that you'll truly enjoy. Let's break down some key points to consider:

Travel Goals

  • Relaxation: If your goal is to relax, look for destinations known for their tranquil beaches, serene landscapes, or luxury wellness retreats.
  • Adventure: For an adrenaline rush, consider destinations with mountainous terrains for hiking, climbing, or skiing. Jungle safaris or extreme sports locations might also appeal.
  • Cultural Immersion: If you're after a cultural experience, seek out vibrant cities rich in history, art, and local traditions. Destinations with famous museums, historical landmarks, and cultural festivals would be ideal.

Interests and Hobbies

What you like at home is usually what you like when you travel. If you love visiting important historical sites and learning about the evolution of Rome for example, you will probably want to do that on your trip. Thinking about what you love will enable you to focus on places that can offer you what you are after.

  • History Buffs: Destinations with historical significance, ancient ruins, museums, and heritage sites should be on your list.
  • Nature Lovers: Look for places known for natural beauty, such as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and scenic hiking trails.
  • Food Enthusiasts: Destinations famous for their cuisine, street food, cooking classes, and food festivals would be perfect.
  • Sports Fans: If you love sports, consider cities that host major sporting events, or places where you can engage in sports activities, like surfing, skiing, or golfing.

By listing out your interests and hobbies, you can look for destinations that caters to your specific preferences. There's no point going to the gulf of Thailand if you aren't a beach lover is there?

Jen at the Caldera on Mount Pinatubo
Me at the Caldera on Mount Pinatubo. I love hiking, snorkelling, the beach and seeing new things so the Philippines was amazing for me.

Research Destinations You've Never Considered

With your travel goals, interests, budget, and time constraints in mind, it’s time to start researching different destinations. Utilize travel websites, blogs, and social media platforms to gather inspiration and ideas. These platforms are treasure troves of information, featuring travel guides, itineraries, and first hand accounts from fellow travelers.

Explore different regions and countries that align with your interests. Consider the activities, attractions, and experiences each destination offers. Look for destinations that offer a good balance between your desired activities and the overall atmosphere you seek.

One of the best things that can expose you to new travel destinations is Google Flights. They have this amazing thing where you can select your departure city, your dates and choose “anywhere” as an option. It really helps you see where you might go, especially places you might not have considered.

Google flights with the anywhere option used
Google flights from Brisbane with the anywhere option used in the search bar.

When you click Explore you will see a map with destinations all around the globe and the flight costs to get there. I love this tool and have used it for quite a few trips I've planned.

Google anywhere flight search results
Google anywhere flight search results

Climate and Seasonal Conditions To Consider


When you're picking out your next travel spot, don't forget to think about the weather and what time of year it is there. Seriously, the weather can totally change the vibe of your trip and what you can do while you're there. We recently spent a week in The Maldives and while it was amazing the weather wasn't. I knew before we went we were in the off season so we were prepared and still loved it.

How many times have you heard a friend or colleague complain about how rainy it is in Bali or how hot it was in Türkiye? While wild weather events do happen, its pretty easy to find out what the typical conditions will be while you are visiting.

Start off by checking out the weather at the places you've got your eye on. What’s the deal with the temperature, rain, and how muggy or dry it is throughout the year? Some places have really distinct seasons, while others kind of stay the same all year round.

Think about what kind of weather you're into. Do you love soaking up the sun or are you more about cool, crisp air? Are you okay with sticky, humid days, or are you more about dry weather? Knowing what you're into will help you pick a place that's just right for you.

Next up, match the weather with what you want to do. Dreaming of a beach holiday? Look for somewhere sunny and warm most of the year. If you’re all about skiing or snowboarding, find a place that gets some good snow in the winter.

Also, think about any cool festivals or events that happen during certain seasons. Going to these can give you a real taste of the local culture and traditions. So, by doing a bit of homework on the weather and what’s happening throughout the year, you can figure out the best time to hit up your chosen spot, making sure it fits perfectly with the stuff you want to do.

Me at our bungalow at Cinnamon Dhonvelli The Maldives
Me at our bungalow at Cinnamon Dhonvelli The Maldives

Assess The Current Safety and Travel Conditions

We have an amazing facility in Australia called Smart Traveller. It's a government run website that gives you HEAPS of information about most destinations world wide. The government issues travel status levels and recommends you check them frequently.

While its easy to think “I'm a traveller, I know how to stay safe” that's not always the best policy. Yes I've been to some places most people wouldn't even consider, but I still check the Smart Traveller website every time.

I remember crossing the border from Canada to the USA around the Thousand Islands area and have a US border guard express extreme surprise that I had been to Mali. His exact comment was “I have a gun and I wouldn't go to Mali”. I wanted to say, that's probably why you shouldn't either, but I held my tongue and smiled and nodded.

Whether you have such a facility or not, its pretty easy to research just how safe a country or region is. Some countries are for the most part very safe but they have a particular area you just shouldn't go. Knowing this before you leave is crucial to not overstepping your welcome or just putting yourself in a bad situation.

!! BIG TRAVEL INSURANCE TIP

Most people aren't aware that if you deliberately go into a country or area that is designated “Do Not Travel” but any entity your travel insurance won't be valid. If you are already in the area and trouble breaks out, you should be fine, but if there is a change in the status or a warning issued before you enter – your travel insurance will most likely be invalid!

Myself and the other overlanders on a Nile River cruise in Bamako in Mali
Myself and the other overlanders on a Nile River cruise in Bamako in Mali

Consider The Accessibility and Logistics Once You Are There

Alright, not that you've zeroed in on where to go, don't forget to think about how easy it is to get there and move around once you're there. Check out flight costs – are they easy to find and not going to break the bank? We looked at using Google Flights earlier but however great they are, they are only based on the information that is available to them.

In the past I've planned out an entire trip and then when I've gone to book, the airline no longer offers the flight at that price, or once they just stopped that route. One of the keys to this is to not leave it too long between research and booking.

Also, dig into what you need to do before you go, like visas or any travel rules. You don’t want to get caught off guard by needing a visa or some health paperwork at the last minute.

A travel vaccination booklet

A vaccination record book is a great idea. I have one that I got 8 years ago before my big Africa trip and its been so useful.

I'm heading to Brazil in March and they need to see a record of your yellow fever vaccination which is in my record book so I don't have to worry about tracking down and getting a statement from my doctor.

I've added in Tetanus vaccinations, and printed out my COVID records and just keep them inside it as well.

It's the same size as your passport so super easy to carry together.

Your doctor should be able to supply you but if they can't you can order one for a few dollars at Travel Vax.

Also, think about what it's like there on the ground. Are the buses or trains reliable? Can you find a cool place to stay that's not crazy expensive? Looking into this stuff means you're less likely to hit bumps on your trip, and you'll have a way better time.

Picking where to go isn't just about pinning a map and taking off. It’s about lining up what you want to do and see with what you can spend and how much time you’ve got. Research the places, figure out if they're safe and easy to get around, and then you're good to go.


Accommodation Levels and Options

Another big thing to think about when picking your travel spot is where you're going to crash and what the place is like overall. This can totally make or break how comfy and easy your trip is.

Start by scoping out where you can stay. What’s your style? Fancy hotel, chill hostel, cool rental spot? Dive into what’s out there, how much it costs, and what other travelers are saying. This helps you figure out if the place has the kind of digs you’re looking for without going over your budget.

But it's not just about the bed. Check out how you'll get around. Are there buses, taxis, or rental cars? If you want to wander beyond the main spots, see if it's easy to get around. I've seen so many people jump on a cheap AirBnB room or bed but not research how they are going to get from there to town.

I have a policy I use for accommodation which I call my LATER scale. Check it out for more info on choosing the right hotel, hostel or home for you.

Also, don't forget to look at the basics like hospitals, banks, and stores. Knowing you can grab what you need or get help if something goes sideways can really give you peace of mind.

Finally – look at the other visitors to the area. We had a wonderful 2 weeks in Malta a few years ago but listened to another traveller I had met who told us to visit Bugibba. We hopped on the bus with our beach towels and hats but never even got off. It was just not us at all. It was mass tourism at it's worst (in our opinion) and just wasn't Malta at all.

I constantly hear people complaining about how Mexico isn't really Mexico any more but they've only ever been to a huge resort in Cancun! You can't judge a country or location if you don't actually really experience it. If you are looking for a week long sunbaking adventure in Spain – sure head to the islands, but if you are looking for a more local adventure, consider something lesser known.

So, looking at both where you'll stay and how the place runs will give you a good idea if a destination’s got what you need for a smooth and awesome trip.

Jen and Brad at the Mdina Rabat Malta
Me and Brad at the Mdina Rabat Malta

Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She's always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.


Cultural and Communication Compatibility

When you're heading to a new spot, it's super important to get the lowdown on the local culture – like what's cool and what's not. Every place has its own vibe and ways of doing things, and they can be way different from what you're used to. Getting a handle on this stuff can really make your trip way more awesome and help you gel with the locals.

Do some homework on what's polite and what's not where you're going. What to wear, how to say hi, and even the little things you do can mean a lot. Knowing this can help you fit in and not accidentally step on any toes.

Language is a big deal too. Think about what language they speak there and if you're cool with working through a language barrier. Sure, lots of places have folks who speak English, but it's not a sure thing everywhere. If you're not up on the local lingo, see if you can find places where they speak your language, like info centers or tour guides.

Getting the scoop on the culture and language before you go can really help you dive into the place and improve communication with the people you meet there.

Me on Zapatilla Beach, Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Me on Zapatilla Beach, Bocas Del Toro, Panama while I was at Spanish School

Use Forums and Groups For More Info

While I almost never use forum anymore, I do frequently join Facebook Groups that are unique to the area I wish to go. I started doing this with Hiking groups, but have now fully embraced travel groups as well.

While you do get some tools (like you do anywhere) I have found it invaluable for contacts for local tour operators, out of the way places and just general info.


Don't Assume Everything You See On Instagram Is Real!

Goodness – I can't believe I should have to say this but please, don't assume that anything you see on Instagram is exactly how it is. Sure sometimes, it is, but often these influencers are up before sunrise to be the first at a location, or they've paid for it to be blocked off for an hour for them to take photos. YES that happens and I've seen it.

While social media is a great tool for inspiration don't assume that you will arrive at an amazing “locals spot” and not find it swarming with people. There are billions of people exposed to these posts and you're not the only one who's visiting based on those images.

Just be a little prepared for what you might find.

We visited Samoa in 2019 and loved it. It is amazing, however we were smack bang in the middle of a measles epidemic. We were all vaccinated so were fine but the usual story of Samoa having all its offshore workers come home for Christmas that year just didn't work. We swam in To-Sua Ocean trench alone, we snorkelled Paleo Deep alone, we swam with the giant clams – yup: alone!

While Samoa is stunning at any time, we all very much knew that what was awful for Samoa was amazing for us. I have to believe that visiting Samoa in December usually would mean competing for space at all their main tourism attractions. We just got lucky.

Jen at Piula Cave Pool Samoa
Jen at Piula Cave Pool Samoa

Is a Tour The Right Choice For This Trip?

I love tours. They are frequently my go to when my time is limited. I've done Nicaragua on a tour, Egypt and Jordan on a tour and many more sections of countries on a multi-day tour.

Tours are easy. You just find one that hits most of the spots you want to see, pay your money and get to the meeting point.

I see a lot of travellers dissing tours and it is definitely more expensive to travel this way, but honestly, often the time you spend trying to find a bus from A to B, having to spend an extra day waiting for it and just not being able to get where you want to go is outweighed by your desire to go there.

Yes tours do mean that you follow a dedicated route, but if you find good tour agencies you will usually have choices at each location for things to do and a decent amount of free time.

There are also countries you can do without being on a tour. The last tour I did was North Korea I think and Young Pioneers did a great job of enabling me to see way more than I thought I would.

My only real consideration with tours is that they are with a reputable company. We got stiffed BIG TIME in Luzon in the Philippines by a local guide I found on the net so I've pretty much stayed with larger more reputable companies since then. I also book a decent amount of the tours I do through Tour Radar. I love that they are a third party between you and the operator so if you have challenges there is someone to help you. I've also used Travel Talk, Intrepid Travel and G Adventures

Waiting at the border in Nicaragua. It was SO HOT!
Crossing the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua (fortunately) with a tour group because it was a massive drama that day.

Conclusion: How To Choose The Right Travel Destination For You

Choosing the right travel destination is a personal journey. It's about balancing your desires with practical considerations and embracing the adventure that awaits. Remember, the perfect destination is one that aligns with your personal travel goals and leaves you with unforgettable memories.


FAQ's About Choosing A Travel Destination

How important is budget in choosing a travel destination?

Budget is a crucial factor as it determines the destinations you can afford and the type of experiences you can enjoy there.

Should I consider travel advisories before choosing a destination?

Yes, always check travel advisories for safety and health information about potential destinations.

How can I ensure my travel is environmentally friendly?

Choose eco-friendly accommodations, minimize your carbon footprint, and respect local environments and wildlife.

What should I do if I don't speak the local language?

Learn basic phrases, use translation apps, and carry a phrasebook to help navigate language barriers. There are also quite a few apps now that do translation for you. Good old Google Translate is often my go to if I'm really stuck.

Is it better to plan every detail or leave room for spontaneity?

It's a personal choice. Some travelers prefer a detailed itinerary, while others enjoy spontaneous adventures. Find a balance that works for you. I usually try and have at least one day free every week just for things that I might learn about from other travellers or locals.