It’s a great big world out there… and when it comes to exploring all of its corners, the sky is the limit! Yet, with an endless amount of things to see, being limitless can start to feel like a curse. You’ve got all the freedom in the world, and not a clue what to do with it. You’ve bookmarked a few dreamy photos on Instagram and collected some pages from travel magazines… but really, where do you even begin when it comes to choosing the best place to go? Lucky for you, you found this guide to narrow things down, and show you the way to your next adventure.
Consider your Budget
It’s safe to say that some destinations are far easier on the wallet than others. Switzerland, Singapore, Costa Rica… sure, it’d be awesome to knock all of these places off of the bucket list, but it probably won’t be budget-friendly. You could spend three weeks in central Mexico for the price it might cost you to spend just one week in Rome… and that would be if you really were a careful spender in the latter. The U.S. dollar goes a long way in some countries, and not far at all in others. Do your research before buying your ticket. Browse accommodation costs, research how much the average meal will be, and consider daily transportation. Don’t get yourself in over your head; pick a place/region that is appropriate for your bank account!
Some cultures are more suitable to certain travelers than others. For example: consider the native language. Things go downhill fast when you’re in a foreign country dying to find a bathroom, but not a soul around you can understand a single word you’re frantically saying. There are many countries around the world where a large percentage of the locals speak and understand the English language and many countries where extremely few people do. This is definitely worth taking into account when choosing your destination!
It is also wise to consider other aspects of culture, such as human rights, dress-code, etc. For instance, if you’re planning a romantic getaway for you and your significant other of the same sex, it’s probably best to avoid visiting countries where it is illegal for two men or two women to hold hands in public. Similarly, it is considered extremely inappropriate in some parts of the world for women to wear clothing that leaves the shoulders and knees exposed. If this makes you uncomfortable, for your own sake, it might be best to choose another region.
It is vital to consider how safe your destination prospects are before committing to a plane ticket. This is easy enough to research; Google search news in your prospective destination, and if there are rebellions, riots, strikes, or the obvious roadblocks such as gang violence, attacks on tourists, or active wars, you should probably think twice before booking. Still not sure what to think? Check online with the U.S. Department of State to see if there are any Travel Advisories out for your destination of choice. Countries will be classified as Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, or Level 4, which respectively labels them with “exercise normal precautions,” “exercise increased caution,” “reconsider travel,” or “do not travel.” Safety can be city dependent, so it is more than possible to travel to even a Level 3 country without worry or incident, but for the inexperienced traveler, it is best to do your research and trust the advisories. Safety first!
This is an easy one to forget about and can cause a whole lot of headache if not carefully observed. A two-second google search can tell you whether or not you will need a visa to visit a certain country, but processing times, cost, or ability to enter at all will vary from country to country. In some places, you won’t be permitted entry whatsoever, visa or not. In others, you’ll only be permitted entry if you can prove that you haven’t been to certain other countries prior to your trip, or if you can prove that you have certain vaccinations, among other criteria. Seriously–don’t risk detainment, deportation, or an involuntary cavity search (yes, it can, and will happen if you aren’t prepared). Figure out your visa situation early on, and give yourself room for error in processing time.
If you’ve never seen snow before in your life and are trying to plan a trip to Northern Norway in the dead of winter, take a step back to look at your wardrobe. How can you possibly pack appropriately when you don’t have the equipment to do so, or the luggage space to pack for ten layers of clothing each day? Alternatively, say that you want to knock out two destinations in one go: Central Africa during the summer, and St. Petersburg in the winter. Is it really efficient to pack two entirely different wardrobes for two opposite climates? If you haven’t guessed it already, the answer is no. Stick with weather conditions that your packing list and itinerary can accommodate — jumping in the water at Ha Long Bay, while an epic feat under any circumstances, is going to be far more enjoyable in the spring than in the summer. Plan accordingly to make the best use of your travel budget.