How do you choose where to go?

With so many wonderful places to discover and explore, how do you decide on where to go first...next...?

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Good question but sort of hard to answer. When I first started traveling outside of the US for personal travel (not business…not much control over where I go for work), I selected places I had always wanted to visit. Often, these were heavy hitters, like London, Paris, Venice, and so on. I still do a lot of trips based on places I’ve never been before but where I know there’s something seriously worth experiencing. On my very first trip, I was able to work a taste of Germany into my itinerary. I was hooked, and so I worked Germany into my next several itineraries. For other trips, an opportunity knocked that I wasn’t expecting, and that’s how I ended up visiting a certain place. I had never, ever considered Iceland, but after meeting some awesome new friends from Reykjavik, I decided to stop over there and have now done it twice. Sometimes, a good deal has dictated my itinerary. This was the case way back in 2009 when I nabbed tickets on Swiss for $500 each to Madrid. I really hadn't had a lot of interest in Spain up to that point, but it remains one of my best trips ever. Convenience sometimes plays a role…stopping in Tokyo is super easy on your way to Seoul. And sometimes, business or something else takes you to a place you end up loving, so you go back time and again. I'm not sure how many times I've been to Toronto in the last three or so years, but it's a lot. It's one of my favorite cities on the planet. So, it just kind of depends. I always have a list, either a mental list or an actual written list of what's next. It seems I start it on my flight home and am constantly changing it. I'll read something new or will watch a program about a place, and that place almost always ends up on the list somehow, but as I said, the list is constantly changing. It's just the way it is when you love traveling so much. Nice topic.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2171 posts

Choosing where to go has always been hard for me. I have a very long list of places I want to go pretty much arranged by importance to me, unfortunately some of the 'important' places are a bit out of reach for me now (should have hocked my soul and gone when I was younger). So now I choose based on when I'm able to travel and which place is most affordable at that time, although I do try to get to my most desired places first if at all possible. Choosing whether to go to A or B (or C) can be tough, something like choosing which child to keep and which to sacrifice to the gods. In the end, no matter where I end up choosing to go, I'm happy - I'm traveling and that's better than not traveling any day.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1970 posts

I'm just back in to International travel after a number of years of needing to stay close to home. My first trip was predicated on someone else's choice...we wanted to do a family trip including my brother, SIL, their adult sons and me. My brother and I voted for Scotland, the other 3 voted for Italy. We did a Rick Steves' Heart of Italy and had a fantastic time. The second trip I did solo so I picked Wales as there is a family connection and tacked London and Bath on to that. Next trip is a family venture, so the vote was Ireland. Next one after that is the one I have wanted to do since I first picked up a Rick tour brochure, the 21 day Classic with extra days in Paris. Funnily enough a good friend from our local RS meetup group is going to be in Paris for a week or so, so I scheduled my trip so we can meet up there.

I think we will insist on Scotland for 2015!

I love to look at the RS brochure as well as others. I also love going to the RS Travel festivals. That always gets me excited about something. I really did not have travel to Greece on my radar screen but sat thru the presentation in January at Rick's Test Drive a Tour guide and now know I will need to work that in. Plus more in England. And Wales again. And Germany. lol!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6033 posts

If a place has an ancient ruin or classical to Renaissance art, it goes on the list. Sometimes I pick a place on a map because I like the way the name sounds. I google images for places and decide if I want to be there. The hardest part is limiting the list. My trips get longer because I want to see new places but I can't give up the familiar ones that I love (too many to name).

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22011 posts

Marilyn,

I have much the same response as Michael in the first reply. It's a good question but somewhat hard to answer. There are a lot of factors in deciding where I'll go each year, along with which RS tour I'll take. Some of the things I consider....

  • Which area or countries do I feel like visiting. I usually try to include both places I haven't been to as well as a return to some favourites. Regardless of where I might travel in Europe, I always manage to get back to Italy every year.
  • Once I've decided on which tour I'll be taking, I start to work on destinations that will fit well with that tour both in terms of interest as well as ease of transportation.
  • I usually have a list of places that I want to visit, so I check that at the beginning of the year and try to get to at least one of those places every year so I can "scratch" it off the list. That was developed as a result of places I've seen on travel shows on TV (RS, Lonely Planet, Globe Trekker, etc.) or places that have been recommended by other travellers, relatives, etc.

I should add that at the present time, I haven't had any interest in travelling anywhere else except Europe. There are too many historic and interesting places there that I still want to see, and since travel funds are limited now it's necessary to prioritize. The only exception is that when the cold, gray, depressing days of winter arrive, I always think about getting back to a sunnier climate for a week or 10 days. I like Hawaii and have also considered Cuba. Lots of the people I know like to head for Mexico in the winter, but I've "been there, done that" so it's not really something I'm interested in now. I've also thought about Africa but would probably need to win the Lottery to make that happen as I won't be travelling on the "budget plan" if I go there.

Cheers!

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10642 posts

It comes down to interest, priority, opportunity, and maneuvering yourself into a situation where the three converge. And then acting when those situations arise.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
6033 posts

I forgot the most obvious: I will see something interesting from the train window and either work it into the current trip or put it on the next trip list.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1150 posts

Zoe and Tom have hit the nail on the head; follow your interests and what most intrigues you. Ancient ruins? Art museums? English history? Start with your areas of interest, and then watch some travel programs to start choosing what looks good to you. Rick Steves program on PBS is great, or watch episodes via this website or YouTube. Other good programs on PBS include Rudy Maxa's World and Burt Wolf Travels. Go to the Tours section here on the Rick Steves website and browse itineraries for his tours. You may end up taking a RS tour for your first trip or just following the schedule for that trip and doing it yourself. If you have always loved English history, you may take a trip there first. London is one of the greatest cities in the world and has fine museums, historic sights and great architecture. But you can say the same thing about Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, and many other European cities. Which cities or countries excite you the most when you watch a travel program or a program on the History Channel? Start there.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

@Marilyn,

I have almost a dozen 3 ring binders with the Continents names on them and they all have dividers where i can jot down the names of countries/cities/towns on them.

I will google, use travel books and word of mouth to look/research whats what. If i like something, i will print out a page and then put it in my binders. I will do that at work when its slow or at home. A fellow co worker loves to read wiki and he will show me come cool or interesting thing hes read on it so i will use him as a resource too.

Since i like horses, i will readup on what a place may have to offer for horsey people. I also try to catch a ride in each city/country i visit. This time it may not happen.

I also have a background in Art/Architecture and everything (most) that was taught was over in Europe. So i choose to try and see some of the thing in the book i spent 1 year reading and also slides watching during class.

Im also a WWII buff so i try to see some of the sights/battlefields/areas of interest when i travel.

Odd things. I have a quirky side so odd things interest me. If i read/see something that may fit the bill, im all ears.

As far as my current travels, i more or less do the same. Read travel books, use google and ask friends.

The way i travel and this is MY way and you dont have to do it as others are more "winging it" but i look at where i want to go and try to plan my travels in a path, either circular or some route so that im not bouncing back and forth (wasting time & $$$) doing so. ALso, i try to take short hops again, not wasting time & $$$. And i also try to go to one place, usually a major city in each country so that i can see more different places than just one country. Again, this is how "I" do it and i like it. Others may disagree or do it differently. But thats them, not me. Also, i will say, that its not like i wont be back, but i try to get the city stuff out of the way so when i do go back, i can either go to another city or out into the country.

Day trips. I usually dont do them since i try to budget my time in the city. However, i have made exceptions and will do so this time in Prague and St. Petes.

I also dont plan my trips down to the minute. i do plan down to the day since my time = $$$$ and i try to make the most of my time on the ground. This doesnt mean i have to be @ X @ 1500, but i try to budget/guestimate my time at each attraction so that i can know how many days i will need to budget. Also, i dont budget my days so that im on the go 24/7, i plan each day for approximately 6~7 hours of doing. that leaves me some extra time to spend at an attraction if i want/need to or just chill somewhere. I PLAN my down time. Also, its not to say i cant stop or dump some attraction somewhere at sometime. Ive done that a couple times last year. the attraction wasnt that nifty/interesting when i got there.

My trip this year is going to have more flying (more $$$) in and its also more linear since i plan on in order (so far):

Moscow
St. Petes
Krakow
Budapest
Vienna
Prague
Munich
Switzerland ? (not looking good for now)

at this time i havent found anything (yet) in the countries im going to fly over or nearby, but that can change. Im still working my way across Europe so i plan on going back but not that far, but maybe to the Ukraine or nearby once things settles down.

for what its worth, if you not sure how to do it, try it and then make adjustments as necessary. Its not like some travel cop is going to arrest you for making changes on your itinerary. You will find out on your first time if you like how you did your trip.

happy trails.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
2918 posts

It's simple. I go where and when the flights are cheap. We caught a $728 flight this year into Budapest on a one day sale.

We missed Europe last year, but the a $220 round trip flight to New England got us closer to Nova Scotia. (We've been traveling various Canadian sights when Europe's too expensive.)

And in our off years, we can afford to go on a couple of inexpensive cruises to Mexico and/or the Caribbean.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
4381 posts

Opportunity plays such a big role. My first trip was as a student, and I could have gone to Germany or England. I chose Germany as it offered the best chance to see more of Europe. Of course, the first place I went to next for a lengthy trip was the UK. Then I had to go back to Greece. My next trip was driven by the need to visit the village where my grandmother grew up. I had such a good time that I had to go back. At that point, I discovered that I liked revisiting places. I had new views as I was older and had learned more history, heard more music, read more books. At times, I decide, that absolutely must break out of the "UK/Scotland Rut". Once I went to France, another time I went on the Berlin, Prague and Vienna tour. I'm saving a revisit to Italy to when I can go with my sister. I want to see more of Eastern Europe, as it's somewhere completely new. Work takes me to the UK, so that now plays into my mix.

So, I would say that my choices depend on opportunity, my love of the Scotland, and my determination to not just go to Scotland. :)

Pam

Posted by Karen (Leigh)
Missouri
434 posts

I have a travel wishlist that is so long I will never complete it. It is based on places I have seen on shows, read about in books, places of historic interest, places I have heard about from others, etc., that interest me. One reason I will never complete my list is that it is too long for the time and funds I have available. The other reason is because I keep going back to my favorite places. Sometimes I go to a certain place because of opportunity. If a friend who lives elsewhere invites me to visit, or if a friend invites me along on a trip to someplace, I'm there. But when choosing my own places, I am always torn between going someplace new, and returning to a favorite old place. The favorite old places have been winning out the last several trips, but when I decide on a new place, I decide as others mentioned, by combining interests with opportunity. China and Slovenia are both at the top of my wish list priorities, but Slovenia is easier to get to, so I will go there first.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4146 posts

With Slovenia you don't need a visa. Yes, much easier to get there. With China that's a requirement. You see people standing in line in the morning outside the Chinese Consulate here in SF, presumably, to get that visa.

Posted by Sharon
Atlanta
2727 posts

Many times we get our best ideas for future trips from other travelers. Then, we try to prioritize based on how cost effective the destination is.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1300 posts

Growing up, I had always wanted to see Greece and Scotland (maybe living in Nova Scotia has something to do with the Scotland thing, methinks). I was 35 before I was able to do my first overseas trip in 2008. (My biggest cities before that - Toronto, Montreal and Boston). And my first stop - Rome! Why? Because of Rick Steves! (and Rudy Maxa). I took to watching the travel shows on PBS, and I fell in love with Italy. Two subsequent trips back and I still haven't made it to Greece or Scotland! I have a list as long as my arm of places I want to visit, but still return to places we've already been (Venice/London - 3 times, Paris/Cinque Terre - 2 times). Unfortunately, after visiting these places, I always want to go back for more (I want to return to Switzerland so bad!).

As for where to go next, I do let my husband have a little tiny bit of input :) Last year, he was noncommittal, so I started planning a Vegas/Grand Canyon trip...but he couldn't seem to get on board for some reason and he suggested California (best idea he had in a long time). And he will throw in some places to see when we go overseas, tho I do the planning. But that backfires at times, such as our 2010 whirlwind 7 countries in 23 days trip...he kept adding places, but has now realized that slower is better (we were in Munich you say? I don't remember that!). But I have a little list of future travels I would like to do tucked away in my brain, and will hopefully be around long enough to tick them all off. We are hoping to celebrate 25 yrs together and my husband's 50th next year doing our dream trip to Australia.

But I do find it interesting why people like the places they do. I could never see myself visiting South America or Mexico or places like Thailand or Vietnam (Japan, maybe), or even going to the Dominican or Caribbean in the winter (tho I'd love to this year during our never ending winter). But I know people who go to Mexico or Dominican or Cuba every year, and would never even think to travel to Europe. Good thing we are all diverse!

(Edit - Ken, I hadn't even read your reply before doing mine - we have such similar views! lol And an African safari would be my next dream trip after Australia! Keep buying those 6/49's!)

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

Why couldn’t you see yourself visiting a place like Japan? Honestly, visiting much of East Asia for places like Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, or Taiwan is as easy as visiting anywhere in Europe. The flight(s) are a lot longer, but you don’t need a visa. English is widely understood (or understood enough). The sites are amazing, and the culture is beautiful. Everything is ultra advanced and more modern than anything you'll see in Europe. Some things are super unique and can be found nowhere else on Earth (like the DMZ). You’ll need a visa for places like Shanghai or Beijing, but that’s just paperwork…no big deal. Look at a good guidebook on Korea or Japan...you'll want to go. SE Asia might be pretty foreign or maybe even exotic for many, but some of the most fascinating sites in Asia are there – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, etc. They are on my list! :) Happy travels.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1300 posts

Hence the - 'I find it interesting why people like to visit some places over others'. Asia does not interest me - why is there something wrong with that? I prefer old to modern anyday. You'll find me at the Louvre, but never at any modern art museums. Ease of getting there doesn't matter to me. I'm not being down on Asia, it's just not MY thing. A lot of people hate Venice, but it's my fav place I've been to. I'm also not interested in Eastern Europe, or Scandinavia, or middle America or Middle Eastern countries...if someone wants to give me free tix to Asia, I'll go, but way too many other things on my plate before I ever get there...

Posted by BB
Calgary
115 posts

I haven't done very much international travel, unlike most of you. I have travelled to most parts of Canada and to several locations in the US. My first overseas trip, not counting Hawai'i, was to Hong Kong and Tokyo (and a day trip to Macau) with two of our kids. Asia wasn't even on my list, but an opportunity arose, and we took it. At the time, my husband was working with a school that had an international program that took him to Taiwan once a year. It was going to be his second trip to Taiwan, and it happened that the end of his trip was going to coincide with our older daughter's exam week and semester break, and we were able to get permission for her to defer the one final exam that she would miss. Our daughters were in Grades 11 and 8--not crucial years here in terms of moving on to the next level of education. I was teaching in a year-round program at the time, which meant that I was able to take holiday time at an odd time (for a teacher). You might say that the stars aligned so that, for once, we did not have to pay peak fares for everything, which usually put overseas travel out of reach for our family. In addition, my husband's plane fare was already covered (he had to change planes in Hong Kong and Tokyo in returning from Taiwan, anyhow), so it made the trip affordable for us. I loved Hong Kong far more than I could have imagined. We were there in the days leading up to Chinese New Year (and, indeed, for the first couple of days of it), which made everything that much more special, colourful, and fun. I found Tokyo interesting and enjoyable, too, but it lacked some of the colour and exhuberance of Hong Kong, for me.

A couple of years later, Calgary schools had an extra long spring break, due to an early start to the school year engineered to coincide with the World Skills Competition here. For once, we had a Spring break long enough to go overseas, with a couple of days tacked on. My husband was still in that program, which involved working in the summer, so that meant he was able to add a couple of holiday days onto the trip. We took the opportunity to travel to Paris with our three kids, with a couple of days in London, since we had to change planes in London, anyway. Spring Break was in the last week of March, and peak season in Paris started in April, which meant we were able to rent a wonderful apartment for a not outrageous price. (I loved Paris so much!) We chose Paris because 1) our kids all went through French immersion 2) the majority of the family wanted to go there. 3) Paris is iconic.

Now, we are planning our third overseas trip. This time we are going on my dream trip (almost). Budapest-Vienna-Prague-Munich. (My true dream trip is Istanbul to Prague.) Prague has been at the top of my list for at least a dozen years. This time, we are going in summer, which is not ideal. (I sometimes get claustrophobic in crowds.) However, my husband is in a traditional school now and has to take holidays at peak times. Also, I have had a big health scare recently, and we have decided if we wait until my husband is retired, it's possible I may never get to go, if health issues crop up again.

If I have more opportunities to travel in the future, I would like to go to Greece and Turkey, with possibly Spain and Italy added. I loved studying Ancient Greece and Rome in university, and I'm also a student of belly dance, so those interests would inspire that trip. Of course, it would be nice to see some parts of the continents I have not yet seen--Africa, South America, Australia. I would also like to visit the parts of Canada I haven't been to: NWT, Nunavut and Newfoundland/Labrador.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

“Asia does not interest me - why is there something wrong with that?”

I don’t know why there would be something wrong with that. You didn’t initially say that Asia didn’t interest you, just that you couldn’t see yourself going, except maybe to Japan. Thus, my question. If it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. That’s cool.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1150 posts

Marilyn has not responded to anything we've said. Are we just talking among ourselves here? (Yes) Would like to know what her thoughts are, and if this is helping her to make up her own travel list.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
1451 posts

It looks like the responses so far broadly center around budget, time, what people want to see or what they want to do. Nobody so far has said much about eating. The order of those parameters varies from person to person.

When my husband and I went on our first trip to Europe together in 2009, the trip expanded from about 3 weeks in Italy to 2 months all over. We kept adding things, but not necessarily the "normal" things people want to do on a trip to Europe. I point this out because your "places to discover and explore" could be quite different from the traditional. There were many more than this, but these were the main locations on that 2009 trip, but...

  • Why Iceland? He has Icelandic ancestors. Not the food.

  • Why Germany? So he could drive the Nurburgring and so I could revisit Nurnberg where I lived for 3 years. And the food.

  • Why Italy? To visit our daughter and family at the NATO base in Sicily, see some typical sites in Rome, to ride along the Amalfi Coast road and to see Pompeii. And the food.

  • Why France? The Cote d'Azur, Carcassonne, the Lascaux Caves, Paris and the Normandy beaches. And the food.

  • Why Spain? The Prado, the Guernica, the Mezquita, Flamenco in Sevilla and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. And the food.

  • Why England? London for the changing of the guard, a musical in the West End, to tour the Globe, see the Tower and so he could go to the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. Not the food.

  • Why Scotland? To see a bit of the Highlands and stay in Inverness. Not the food, except I did have the best wild salmon there along with my first sticky toffee pudding.

  • Why Northern Ireland? To see where his race car was built near Belfast.

  • Why the Republic of Ireland? We both have Irish heritage, the Book of Kells, the high crosses and Newgrange. Not the food.

I keep mentioning the food thing because it was the primary reason for going to France instead of Great Britain for a month in 2012. You can tell by looking at us that we both can find something to eat anywhere, but, unlike many, the food is a major part of any of our trips. Like most, I have a few trips waiting in the chute, and for 2012 I figured out that we could go for a month to France or to GB for about the same cost. I asked my husband, who rarely participates in the planning, which he would prefer. His response was, "I would rather eat than communicate." So we went to France. I would still like to spend a month in GB, and we will some day. Maybe I can entice him with driving on the other side of the road.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
944 posts

Total solar eclipse was the decider for three trips to Mexico (1991), Turkey (2006) and China (2009)

For those, we took special-focus tours arranged around the best viewing sites with good things to see before/after.

Posted by gone
2081 posts

@Lo

"It looks like the responses so far broadly center around budget, time, what people want to see or what they want to do. Nobody so far has said much about eating."

I will chime in here about that subject.

I love food, but its 2nd on my list. I see food as necessary to prolong (or not) my life to do what i want to do. Same with sleep. If i could operate w/o food and sleep i would do so, but as of this time in my life and the world, i have to stop to refuel and recharge.

As far as part of my travels, i dont go to a place for the food. If there is something cool, delicious or different, i may make a short detour if im in the same city/town/village/reststop, but thats all i will do.

happy trails.

Posted by Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
947 posts

Our first trip was a long time dream that came sooner than we thought due to illness and realizing that life is too short to wait. We were invited to visit friends in Germany and since we were able to stay with them, the trip became affordable, so we jumped on it. During that visit we realized we were close enough to take a side trip to Paris and a big dream of mine, to go to Switzerland. On that trip we caught the bug, big time! We got ourselves onto a rigid budget so we could continue to travel. So, our next trip was our dream locations, Germany, Austria for hubby, Italy for me. We discovered that we really love history, architecture, medieval small villages, mountains, etc. We also love to mix it up, small villages with cities and cities and nature. We love being in Italy one morning and Switzerland in the afternoon. We love taking it slower, yet still moving so our 4 week trip actually feels like lots of individual trips. Since we now know what we prefer, we plan trips accordingly. This year: Paris, Loire Valley, Burgundy, Eguisheim, friends in Germany, Rothenburg, Ramsau am Dachstein, Slovenia, Zell am See, Munich. We are moving much more that I prefer to, and our distances are a bit far, but seeing a mix of environments. I wanted Paris, we both wanted to visit our friends, hubby wanted Austria, I wanted Lake Bled, so we pieced it altogether. We like to go to new places, but also find that we tend to want to see more of France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland. Other countries have not been pulling at us, yet I think we have done our must see sights, so it is getting more difficult to chose. It is like we want to see everything, but there is no longer a "top of the list". We watch lots of travel shows, talk to people, watch You Tube, etc. and they give us an idea of what we may like or what we really don't want. Like others, Asia, South America, even Australia really don't draw me. I love Europe, and always want to go there. Feels like it is in my bones!

Posted by Deanna
Piedmont Triad, NC
161 posts

Our trips have been a combination of luck, opportunity, budget, etc., with a lot of spontaneity thrown in. Most often our trips have been decided by an opportunity presenting itself, rather than an active decision on our part. Our first trip was London, Paris, Lake District, Edinburgh for our fifteenth anniversary - this was one of our only trips where we chose the destinations. We hadn't been to Europe before so decided to start with London and Paris, and my husband wanted to see the Military tattoo in Edinburgh, and the Lake District was a handy stop on the way. Then my husband took a job where he had a lot of international travel, so I tagged along to Germany (several times) and Australia. Like Susan, I, too had not much of a desire to go to Australia, but thought that since my husband's half of the trip was paid for, I should take the opportunity, and ended up loving it! SO different from Europe but completely amazing in it's own way! Then my husband switched jobs, and while at a conference, won a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, so off we went:) For our 20th anniversary, we went to Prague, Paris, Normandy and Amsterdam. We went with another couple - he wanted Prague, she wanted the tulips in Amsterdam, my husband wanted Normandy, and I love Paris….so we cobbled them all together. My daughter wanted a big party for her 16th birthday - it kept getting bigger and bigger - one day I was joking and said that if we used frequent flyer miles, we could go to Paris for the weekend cheaper than the party was going to be…so off we went for a long weekend in Paris! That was the trip with the tightest budget, but we had a blast! And a great investment in our relationship, so much better than a drama-filled party which would have ended in tears (her parties always did somehow lol). Then a family friend (who is a nun) got stationed in Rome for a few years; she wrote and said the Generalate had rooms set aside for visiting friends and family, so we took our teens to Rome. It was my son's senior year in high school so we knew it was the last time all three kids would have the same school breaks. And with five of us, the free lodging was a tremendous help, and staying with the Sisters for a week was an amazing experience! Then my parents booked a villa in Tuscany for the whole family for their 50th anniversary, so off we went to Italy. We knew after two weeks with the family we'd want a few days just us and the kids, so we looked on EasyJet for cheap flights out of Pisa, and found a flight to Berlin for $50, so we tacked on a few days in Berlin before heading home. We always stay in budget places, and have hit a few clunkers here and there, but the majority of our places have been lovely. I'm in the midst of planning a trip right now for our 25th anniversary - trying to decide between southern/western France, Greece, or England/Wales - there are still so many places we haven't been! The more I travel, the longer my list gets!!!

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7961 posts

Where to go?

First priority for me, somewhere I've never been. While I've probably been to more places than most - there is still a lot of the world to see.

Second question, what are you interested in? Only you can answer that question.

Third, how long do I have to travel? Travel time is the next most important consideration. If you have two weeks, plan ONLY two weeks worth of things to see and be realistic about time lost to travel, both getting there (and back) as well as time needed to get around. For example plan southern Bavaria for two weeks (Munich, Salzburg and some nearby sights) rather than England, France and Italy. If you plan too much, you will end up seeing nearly nothing.

Posted by Marilyn
Monterey Bay
15 posts

Finally got a chance to read all the wonderful replies! Like many of you, I have a list in my head that always seems to get added to as the years roll by. I had asked my question in a way to help me narrow down my itinerary that I have planned. I grew up in the northern part of France (Lille) and have seen Paris many times I know it better than the town I live in now...but really haven't traveled much outside of France and England. I would love to explore more out there but I have a sister that I will be traveling with that is not comfortable with the unknown and crowds. I am trying to fit in enough to make both of us happy (family for her, WWII for me). I believe the itinerary so far looks to be the following: SFO to Strasbourg (2 nights), Munich w/trip to Dachau (3 nights), Berlin (3 nights), Hamburg (2 nights), Amsterdam with/trip to Leiden (3 nights), Brussels w/trip to family hometown (3 nights), Roubaix (2 nights), Paris (2 nights). All travel on the continent will be by train (sister would not do smaller planes) I hope to see more of Germany with daytrips around Munich, Berlin and Hamburg - just trying to do as much research as I can while on my break at work. Any ideas would be much helpful. If I could hire a car in Germany I would (but can't due to sister's anxiety). Thank you all again for your wonderful replies and help

Posted by gone
2081 posts

@ Marilyn,

There an saying....."better living through chemistry".

just a thought.

happy trails and i dont envy you and what you have to do.

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
692 posts

What an interesting question, it's one that makes me think a lot because the process has been different from trip to trip. My wife and I are a 40s/50s couple, have been to Europe about fifteen times in the fifteen years since we were married. Some trips we have chosen due to an expectation of world class, over-the-top wonderful sights. Some have been because we wanted to get off the beaten path a bit. Usually we try to mix it up between the two within a trip. We have taken cruises a couple of times because it made sense at the time - on our honeymoon when it was a gift from my in-laws, and again in 2011 when I was between jobs and needed to get something planned quickly before the job search. Generally we prefer independent travel though, ocean going cruises are very limiting in a number of ways. I am the travel planner in our family, and usually the choice of which countries to visit is not that hard, but which places to visit within a country is much harder. In fact, I really obsess over the latter. We like to revisit places that we have been before, but venture out and discover new places within a country. (Edit) I also go on Flickr and look at other people's travel photos to see if it's a place that looks interesting. And within country, I trust Rick's advice very highly as to what locations merit a visit.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4146 posts

Hi,

"Where to go...next?" That is the question that is answered based on time and interest, assuming that money is sufficient. Regardless if you have no interest in Asia, East Asia, Eastern Europe, middle America, or the Middle East, an overseas trip still is based on priorities and interests within the amount of time, a factor which can be dictated by the sum of $ you're willing to let go. The Middle East, South America and middle America don't interest me. My travelgoals and historical interests are located elsewhere. My time and money are reserved for traveling in Europe, a tour or two to Japan and China within the next couple of years, and some parts of the US and Canada. Just on the European capitals there are those I still need to visit, revisit for the "n" time, or spend more time....London, Brussels, Paris, Budapest, Warsaw, Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Helsinki, and Rome. On the trip to Japan: I certainly would do that if it were free.

With careful planning you can do a trip covering those countries that are outside the Schengen zone. That allows you to extend your stay beyond that 90 day constraint.

@ Michael...what about traveling to Manchuria?

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2193 posts

"@ Michael...what about traveling to Manchuria?"

Lots of interesting history, but I seriously doubt Western tourists (or even Chinese tourists) would be drawn to Manchuria for vacation, unless they’re interested in coal or heavy industry. Bhutan, Nepal, or Tibet? Now you’re talking cool destinations.

Yes...Mongolia....Gobi Desert would be a once in a lifetime experience. The "yellow dust" that blows into Korea each spring hails from the Gobi. It would be interesting if not for being laced with toxic pollution it picks up along the way...masks are a must!

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
4146 posts

It is exactly for that reason of its "interesting history" that you go to Manchuria, regardless of the place being visited by Western tourists or not. True, about the prresence of its heavy industry and pollution, which is why three countries fought over this province. I would find it fascinating to see those historical places...Port Arthur, Mukden, Harbin.

Maybe Mongolia has more of a calling effect?

Posted by christa
alameda, ca, usa
362 posts

I travel alone so I happily go wherever I want. For my first trip out of the US it was a no-brainer: England and Scotland. I'd wanted to visit them since I was a child (and will definitely return) and I felt comfortable immediately so it was the perfect start to my annual travels to foreign countries. I have a list of places I want to visit but I realized certain ones called out more forcefully than others, and decided to focus on the "countries of my people"--I am 1/4 Scottish, German, Estonian and Hungarian. Last year I spent a wonderful week in Tallinn, Estonia and this year I am visiting Austria and Hungary. Germany has so many areas I want to see that it will get its own trip, maybe next year. My top-priority list also includes Belgium, Poland, Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Spain and Portugal.

Posted by Bob
Reading, PA, USA
335 posts

My first overseas travel was with the US Navy. It was their choice where I went, not mine.

After getting out of the Navy I had a 3 month work assignment in Germany. For the next trip we went to Ireland as my wife is Irish. Other trips had various reasons. My son was stationed overseas while in the Air Force so that determined where we went as we wanted to see our grandchildren. Somewhere in there was a trip to China because talking to a friend's frend at a Christmas party we found a not to be missed bargain trip to China. Recently we have done Hawaii (wife's choice) and Alaska (my choice). We are going to Italy this spring as a place both of us have wanted to go. So many places and so little time (and money).

Posted by KoreyJoseph
2494 Bernville Rd Ste G05 Reading, PA 19605
3 posts

The place about which I have heard a lot I go there.

Posted by April
Portland, OR
374 posts

We love to watch Rick Steves, House Hunters International, Anthony Bourdain, Samantha Brown, Extra Virgin, David Rocco, etc. So we watch these shows and learn some about culture and food (which are of high interest to us) and then we do more research on the areas that interest us and plan accordingly. We go each year at least once to Europe and then several smaller vacations. We know that if we don't get to it this time, we will get there eventually.

As far as traveling with your sister and her anxiety issues, make sure that you sit down and talk about a game plan if she starts getting overwhelmed. My ex husband had these issues also and our first trip was a disaster and we ended up coming home two weeks early on a four week trip that I had planned and planned for a year. We met with his psychologist for a year before the next trip and discussed scenarios where he might become overwhelmed and what we would do. So in Siena he started losing it and we found a quiet cafe, sat down, ordered an espresso (wine for me!) and just regrouped. No matter how long it took. Just sat, cleared his thoughts, calmed down, and then we moved on. That only happened twice on the trip and he worked through it. This is a really important step though, so I hope that you don't overlook this and even practice before the trip.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
808 posts

Picking is the hardest for me. We love food, art & architecture - not necessarily in that order. We usually end up returning to a favorite place and adding some new places. And of course there is the Paris Rule - If you are in Europe you must go to Paris! I love that rule - so glad I made it up! I am just starting to plan a six week trip for June 2015- St. Petersburg, Slovenia, Croatia & Southern Italy are musts so far as well as returns to Paris, Barcelona & Florence. We will end with 4 or 5 days in England to visit a friend and sail home on the QM2 - the crossing is in addition to the six weeks. This trip will undoubtedly include more flying within Europe than we normally do - we are big rail fans so that will be a bit different. This site is a big help in narrowing down our choices and figuring logistics.

Posted by Denny
Columbus, OH, USA
1004 posts

Teachers touch lives. When I was in 9th or 10th grade I took a one semester course in art history. That teacher opened a whole new world to me, and fifty years later it still reverberates. To call myself a dilettante would even be an exaggeration, but that experience and the interest it aroused in me has informed just about every travel decision we have made for many years. I only wish that I could have known how much she was going to touch my savings account as well! And whatever your own interests may be , if you can read this, thank a teacher.

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
2171 posts

@Denny - I can relate. I had my initiation into art history in the 11th grade and then a couple of courses in college also. Those classes (and teachers) really shaped my travel dreams. They made me want to seek out the museums where I could see in person those artworks that we studied and that 'spoke' to me, and also to see the actual physical places that inspired the artists.

Posted by Janet
Lakewood, WA
100 posts

I know it sounds silly but I usually like to go to places because they look pretty on TV or in movies.
I went to New Zealand because of how the islands looked in the Lord of the Rings movies and in TV shows.

I also like to go to places that have some historical significance in world history. Like Rome or London.

But I do have a list of places I would like to visit in my head so I am always looking for ways to travel.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
790 posts

I start with where can I fly direct from Newark. Then I get my window of time that I can fly ( this year I looked for April 17-26 to coincide with school break). Then I start plugging in cities to united.com and hopefully find mileage award tix. Some cities never come available (Barcelona, Rome) but so far this is the way we choose.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Read. Read like the devil is going to pluck your eyes out if you put the book down. Read about everything everywhere. Have a rough idea about most everywhere and start building on what interests you.

Watch prices to key general areas. Buy some tickets when you spot a deal - - even if it's not exactly close. Go- - even if it's next week. Go - - even if it's tomorrow. You can do a lot of cramming in a few days or even a few hours.

The other half is that ticket prices often don't change that much. If you find a hole in your schedule, pick up and haul tail - - hopefully to an area you know something about, but even that doesn't really matter. No place in the world sucks.

Posted by Chuck
USA
33 posts

I gave this a lot of thought when I decided to go overseas for the first time, 10 years ago. (Looking back, I have no idea why I waited so long.)

I asked myself, what do I enjoy here in the states that I could also enjoy overseas, sometimes with a different "flavor", and what would I like to see/do overseas that I can't do here in the states?

The answers are music and really old buildings, respectively (OK, I have seen a number of nifty ancient cliff dwellings in the SW USA).

I've seen a fair amount of Europe (and a wee taste of Africa and Asia) since that first trip, and music and castles have partially shaped my itinerary on all but one trip.

Beyond that, a lot of random reading, googling, transportation price fluctuations, etc, have played a part.

Posted by ann
staten island, new york, usa
376 posts

It was interesting to read and find myself agreeing with a lot of people's answers. I generally go alone on Rick Steve tours so I of course am the one making the decisions. I have to take into account time off, weather and what I have already visited and if I want to return. I have been to Paris a few times and I really would love to go back, same with London. I love museums, French Impressionists, and great food and Paris is one of my favorite cities. One year, I could only go on vacation during the summer so I looked at all the Rick Steve scrapbooks on line to see what would interested me and I found Ireland. I never had Ireland on my list, but after seeing all the wonderful photos I decided to go in late June one year and the tour was wonderful and relaxing. It was nice not to go to tons of museums and shops, but to see wonderful scenery and the sky, ocean, hiking, and just seeing nature. I am from NYC so it was a nice change of pace and different from running from museum to church to seeing buildings! Reading books, reviewing all that is on this web site and talking to people to hear where they went and what they experienced is something I also do to determine where to go. I also look at YouTube where you can see tons of free travel videos on places you think would interest you. When RS came out with the week long tour of Istanbul, I was curious. I did not know anything about Istanbul, but talking to people I found so many people have either wanted to go or have been to Istanbul. The more I studied up, the more I wanted to go and I went in 2013 and loved it! Istanbul would never have occurred to me if it had not been for the RS week long tour! You may not take his tours but just reading all the tours peaked my interests and I found myself wanting to research these places, countries and cities to determine where to go next. I have found a whole new world just reading about the tours and seeing photos or videos of these places. This helped me in deciding where to go next.

Posted by Robert
Liberty, Missouri
129 posts

Dr Seuss had these thoughts on travel.

YOU have brains in your head

YOU have feet in your shoes

YOU can steer yourself any direction YOU choose

YOU are on your own and YOU know what YOU know

and YOU are the one who'll decide where YOU go.