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Do you have an overflowing, tantalizing bucket list? How will you pick one spot to start your travel adventure?
You may have read my previous posts about budgeting for travel.
- Is Going Better Than Staying? Travel or Job? It’s Your Decision!
- How to Budget for Travel Without Totally Cramping Your Style
Budgeting isn’t the most exciting topic – even when it’s for the exciting topic of travel.
But now the fun can begin. Any travel adventure, whether short or long, has three overall aspects –
While budgeting is a boring part of the anticipation aspect, choosing where to go is when the fun begins. You’ll look through travel magazines, do online research, go to travel lectures, read travel books – all in your effort to pick the location for your adventure.
Now’s the time to imagine yourself waking up in a bed and looking around to remember where you are – walking down a street and watching locals going about their daily activities – sitting at an outdoor café with a drink and writing in your journal about the excitement you’re feeling.
Narrow Your Choices
Yes, the difficult part of deciding where to go may be more about narrowing your choices rather than trying to come up with suggestions that interest you. Your bucket list is probably too long rather than too short.
The important thing is to start whittling down the list. You can make changes to the list as the planning stage progresses. That’s ok. For now, getting focused will help you design the overall gist of your trip –
- whether you will move around a lot
- whether you will concentrate on fewer locations in more depth
- whether you will head to Africa or Asia or wherever
- and so on
How Often Do You Want to Move Around?
How often you move around will affect your transportation costs – one of the main costs of your whole adventure. Because of that, arranging your stops in logical progression will help keep those costs down, especially if all or most of those moves involve flights or long train trips.
On the other hand, if you plan to stay longer in each place, the order you visit each destination probably won’t be as significant, but could still be important if flights are involved. You don’t want to build up large transportation costs that result from backtracking.
But maybe you want to keep your plans more flexible. You might not want to decide how often you’ll move around prior to your departure. Maybe you want to head to one place and just take it from there.
That works as well, but making some general decisions about destinations prior to your departure will help you determine what kind of airline ticket to buy. For example, if you have a specific date to return home and you know which places you’ll visit, an around-the-world airline ticket that includes your preferred stops and will be good for the appropriate length of time could be your best bet.
But if you prefer not to lock yourself into a definite schedule, you can buy an airline ticket to your first destination – or maybe even your first few destinations. In that way, you stay more flexible so that you can take advantage of valuable information that comes your way from other travelers you meet on the road.
Yes, as you travel, you’re sure to meet other travelers who will tell you about the very best snorkeling on an island off the coast of Thailand or the engaging orangutans in Borneo or some other delight that has you salivating. Keeping your options open with open flights will give you the freedom to take advantage of new information. If that sounds like you, then don’t buy flights for the whole trip.
What is important is that you figure out which style suits you better.
Get a big map of the world and put it up on a wall, and start putting pins into destinations that are calling out to you.
The cost of living is generally closely related to the cost of visiting. When you understand what goes into determining the cost of living, you can evaluate whether those items should be part of your evaluation or not.
Many factors are considered when estimating the cost of living, but not all the components will be important to your visit. If the quality of schools is not important to you as a temporary visitor, you can eliminate that element in your evaluation.
In no particular order, some of the factors used to determine the affordability of a city are –
- the cost of buying the average home
- how much the average family makes in a year
- school ratings which affect taxes
- crime rates which affect the cost of the police force
- costs for daily necessities
- unemployment rate
A lower unemployment rate, lower crime rate, higher average income, and better ranked education system will generally mean a higher cost of living. In addition, cities far from the coastlines will be cheaper to live in than those within a short drive of the beach, and capital cities usually have prices that are higher than outlying areas.
Spending time in locations where the cost of living is low will obviously allow you to travel longer than visiting places with a high cost of living.
But do you really want to visit developing countries that are less expensive to visit? My guess is that you do. In fact, you may already have some of these countries on your list because they seem exotic and alluring.
If you plan to visit a developing country, you need to be prepared to adopt a lifestyle that may be substantially different from what you’re used to. This can be a great adventure because you can learn about cultures that are vastly different from your own.
But in case you’re not sure how expensive a country will be for travelers, you can easily do some research online. Look up the name of the city, followed by the name of the country if outside of the U.S. or the state if inside the U.S., and then type in the words ‘cost of living’ without the quote marks. So your search entry will look like this –
- Oslo, Norway cost of living
- San Antonio, Texas cost of living
You should be able to find information on how expensive a place is using these search parameters.
Most countries have high (expensive) and low (less expensive) seasons. Again, online research will outline the peak seasons for the destinations you plan to visit. Just search ‘name of country high season,’ and you’ll find the information you need.
The high season in any location is the best for tourism for good reasons, usually because of the best weather. But if you’re trying to stretch your dollars, you’ll want to avoid the tourist season.
Yes, you don’t want to visit a place during horrible weather, but if you don’t have severe time restrictions, you can change plans fairly easily if you wake up to a terrible thunderstorm on the day you planned to spend outdoors.
During the tourist season, many places raise their prices in order to make higher profits. That’s only natural. Vendors need to make as much money when the tourists visit so that they can survive the rest of the year.
Once the tourist season is over, prices often drop dramatically. Visiting during the off or shoulder season will give you the chance to take advantage of these lower prices.
The off season is also when airfare will be the cheapest. Seats that people were fighting over during the tourist season will be more plentiful, meaning that the airlines will charge less to fill them.
In addition, choosing certain days of the week can mean less expensive tickets. The following is not 100%, but –
- Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are often the best days to travel.
- Mondays and Thursdays are usually crowded with businessmen attending meetings.
- Fridays and Sundays are normally packed with tourists hoping to spend a weekend away from home.
Remember, if you plan to travel for a few months, you don’t have the same restrictions as vacationers. You have the luxury of time, and you won't be bound by the traditional travel dates. Search for tickets on different days of the week so that you can compare prices.
The Bottom Line
This has been a brief overview of some of the factors to consider when choosing your travel destinations. They’re just items to help you start narrowing down your bucket list.