Planning a trip or vacation can be one of the most excited (and exhausting) parts of the whole experience. There are some many places to see and destinations to explore. How can you possibly pick just one?! Let me help you narrow it down a bit. These are the eight things that I always take into account when picking my next destination.
1. The local cuisine
This is always the number one thing I consider when planning my trip. If the food is good and to my particular taste at that time, that’s the biggest determinant of where I’ll be going next. There are a lot of locations I’ve put on the back burner purely because I’m not craving the food they have to offer at this stage in life.
If you don’t like the types of food provided in the place you’re going, there’s a good chance you’re not going to have a super fabulous time. Plain and simple. There is nothing worse than exploring all day only to settle down to a meal that doesn’t make you salivate at the very idea of it. You should settle down to something you’re excited try and can’t wait to experience. Go somewhere where that’s possible! The way I look at it, my taste buds will continue to develop as I age and I can always travel then, too! And so can you!
2. The people
Different cultures bring different people with different attitudes. Some cultures promote friendliness and acceptance and a sense of hospitality, others not so much. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. At this stage in my life, I personally prefer places where the people are super friendly. Every traveler should assess what their needs and/or wants are before picking their destination. It can make or break the trip!
3. The currency exchange
This one is pretty straightforward. As a budget traveler, I generally avoid places where the currency is super strong and go to the places where the currency is weak. I do this for a couple reasons; it helps out weaker economies and you get a lot more bang for your buck. You can eat better, see more, and buy more (usually from mom and pop shops!) Making your money go further is something everyone wants to do, and when traveling this is the best way to do it.
Eastern Europe is the area I suggest most to fellow travelers. The currencies are weak the economies there could really use the economic boost that tourism brings, especially with the refugee situation. There aren’t many “chain” stores, so the money you’ll be spending at mom and pop shops will be going directly to putting food in their family’s bellies and roofs over their heads.
To give you a better idea of just how much you can get with your money, both Romania’s currency and Poland’s currency are worth a quarter of the US dollar. For 1USD you get 4 Polish Zloty or 4 Romanian Leu. When I went to Poland in 2014, I got a pastry for the equivalent of $0.11. That’s how cheap it is to travel in these areas.
On the other hand, in 2013 I went to the United Kingdom and spend the equivalent of $25 per day just for public transportation. With all the other costs I was spending well over $150 per day, which is way over any budget traveler’s budget.
4. Availability of public transportation
This is the biggest reason why I love Europe so much. Even though they might not always be on time, or even show up, trains are everywhere and connect you to just about anywhere. Every now and again you’ll have to catch a bus, but buses are available, too!
Travel in the US seems a bit trickier. You can get to all the big cities no problem, but it becomes a little more difficult and a lot more expensive. This is not to say you shouldn’t go to these places, because you totally should! But ask yourself first if it’s within your budget and/or capability (because sometimes you have to cave and rent a car!)
5. Vicinity to day trips
This is a big one! To get the most out of your trip, make sure the destination you’re choosing is close to other interesting areas that would make a great day trip. It’s much easier to set up base in one place than go from place to place with your entire luggage every day.
Also, you can often stay in towns outside of the big cities for significantly less cash, but still get to see the big city!
6. Exposure to the Western World
This again has a lot to do with personal taste. There are places like Amsterdam and Rome who, although are beautiful in their own way, often are more “Americanized” than not. These are the places where English is expected. It’s just overall much more “tourist friendly” and way easier if you have kids.
While that’s super great and works for a lot of people, these places are often much less “authentic”. Sure the culture is there, but it’s much harder to find. You’ll either have to dig a little deeper or be happy with less genuine culture.
Other options include those that haven’t been exposed to Western culture for long, but these places, too, bring their positives and negatives. The biggest positive is the real cultural value that exists within these places. You’re going to get the real flavor of the original cuisine. You’re going to meet people who create an opinion of you based on your personality, not your nationality.
The biggest negative to these places are that the people probably won’t speak English. It can be quite a challenge (although not impossible!) to get around when there isn’t a way to verbally communicate. But with enough charades you’ll understand and they’ll understand and you’ll have a great time.
7. The population’s acceptance of your nationality and culture
I’ve unfortunately had to deal with this first hand in Italy. Being American, I’m prone to people not liking me right off the bat because of American politics. I took a class this past semester that was taught by a professor who had lived in Russia for a while and I’m pretty sure had strong communist beliefs. That was fine for me, but it became very not fine when she failed me during a verbal exam before I’d even been able to get three sentences out. This really upset me because it seemed that no matter how much I knew or how much I studied there would be no way she would ever pass me simply because I’m American.
Granted you probably won’t be taking a verbal exam about contemporary European history during your trip, but there is still a chance you will experience this. This shouldn’t stop you from going to the places where this is common (unless it’s unsafe of course!)
Maybe right now you’re not in a confident enough state to be able to shrug off rude remarks based on your nationality, and that’s okay, too. When you do feel confident enough, go to these places and show them just what your nationality and culture is really about. Prove to them how kind and respectable you are as a citizen of your country! It’ll feel really good and boost your confidence that much more.
8. The type of travel you’re looking for
Everyone has something that motivates their desire to travel. It could be adventure seeking, relaxing by the beach, culture integration, or just the need to get away. The kind of trip you’re looking for limits your potential destinations. You simply can’t go to a place like New York City and expect a relaxing, soothing time.
Ask yourself what you truly want to get out of this trip. Ask yourself what you want to achieve mentally through this trip. If you’re looking for a deeper understanding of spirituality, go to northern India! If you’re looking to unplug and enjoy some countryside, simplistic living for a bit, go to Britain! Once you decide what you want for yourself, you’ll immediately know where you should go!