First, let’s assume you are going to travel to a destination for enjoyment, not work, necessity or to a predetermined location such as a visit to home/relatives/parents/grandparents/school/etc..
How much are you willing to spend?
Finances can be the most limiting factor in determining the destination and its affordability. With adequate funds you can fly all travelers, get rental vehicles, afford convenient lodging and reach any domestic or international destination quickly so as to maximize your trip. If you are limited to what you can afford, read on – I’m cheap and am always looking for the best prices. Why pay more than you have to?
How much time do I have for the trip?
The second consideration is ‘how much time do you have from when you
leave your door to when you return to your door’. This is a finite number usually determined by the amount of time you can get off work plus the nonworking days during the trip. Normally five days during the week can add the weekends at each end to get 9 days for the trip.
When my children were little and we were returning home to visit family on military leave, we would steal a little time from each end of our trip to maximize our time at home. In other words, sacrifice our comfort and convenience for time at home for the children. We would lay down the seats in our station wagon, layer our clothes in the flat area to save luggage space and cover the clothes with a blanket, making a cushioned bed. My wife would feed, then dress our children in pajamas. When I came home from work she would have sandwiches packed, I would change into travel clothes and we would hop in the car to drive cross country. We would drive all night, only stopping for fuel/toilet stops while the children slept. We would generally arrive around noon, exhausted but home while the children would be ready to start a vacation with their many relatives. Our return would be the reverse, timing our arrival so I could shower, get back in uniform then return to my duty station. Fortunately, I was always able to operate effectively missing the occasional night’s sleep.
Once you have determined the amount of time you have, you can start narrowing down your destinations.
What type of activities do you want to do?
- Domestic wonders of nature such as Natural Parks, rivers, mountains, trails, lakes, beaches, and locations such as the Black Hills, Grand Canyon…
- Domestic man-made locations such as large cities, harbors, or structures like covered bridges, Mount Rushmore, the Hoover Dam…
- Domestic historical sites such as battlefields, monuments, cemeteries, old western towns, forts, Spanish missions…
- Domestic entertainment such as theme parks, museums, musical venues and events, film studios…*
- Scheduled sightseeing trips such as cruises, trains, river boats, or even driving around the country side without a fixed destination…*
- Shopping such as commercial centers in big cities, outlet malls…*
- Health and well being facilities such as spas, exercise camps, athletic training camps…*
- Personal experience and training such as dude ranches, guided hunting or fishing trips, rafting trips, climbing expeditions…*
- The International versions of all the above *
All activities have an associated cost, but those marked with a * can generally have a much, much higher cost than mere observation activities such as looking at things available to the public.
How will you travel?
This is usually determined by cost, distance, and convenience. Traveling by automobile is usually the most convenient and is frequently the least
expensive, but takes time and does have an associated cost of food and lodging, plus wear and tear on your vehicle. Those costs can be lowered at the cost of some comfort or convenience by carrying food from home and marathon driving.
Will the destination include the travel to get there?
By this I mean, will you be taking a scenic route to enjoy the sights and places along the route and possibly stopping to visit different sights or try to get from your originating point to the destination as quickly as possible. In other words, travel as a means or travel as part of the adventure.
Determining the final destination
This is a deeply personal decision based on the travelers’ desires, likes and needs, limited by comparing cost and time with the desired enjoyment
type. These options can be further limited by the form of transportation to be used (again influenced by cost) and the route to get to the destination.
Damn, Mary was right! I sound like an engineer. This is a decision tree and not a checklist.
At least it gives some small insight into selecting the best destinations based on your circumstances. Sometimes, people save for years to take that special vacation. In those cases, it’s even more important
to plan well to maximize your vacation and minimize your inconvenience.
So, where did we go on our first trip?