How to pick your next travel destination

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A lot of people ask us how we choose where to go next, and where we start with planning our next big trip. We don’t really have an exact recipe for how we plan where to go next (mostly because sometimes impulse and spontaneity take over) but we have a few steps we try to consistently do that will hopefully help you when planning your next adventure!

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The most important thing to take away from this blog, though, is to grab some wine and enjoy the process – dreaming and planning should be fun!! We usually do all of this over the course of a few days (sometimes less, sometimes more). It typically looks like both of us at the kitchen counter with our laptops out, with some wine & music, and we just start researching.  Also remember, partner travel is for both of you to explore the world together and share new memories, so make sure you align on each other’s expectations for the trip so you both get what you want/need out of it.

Throughout this post I’ll use the example of how we planned our last trip to Greece, Portugal & Morocco so hopefully that provides some good context! 

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Step 1: Choose when & how long

We generally start with a time of year & how long we plan to be gone for, and we start a quick planning doc with these inputs (yes, we’re nerds and have shared planning documents). This usually revolves around our work calendars, weddings/extra curricular commitments and when the weather at home (currently Seattle) is going to be sub par haha. I know some folks start with a place and then optimize the trip dates based on the best time to go to that region, but for us the opposite seems to work best!

For our latest trip it looked something like:

  • General time frame: August/September 2018
  • Days: ~15 days / 16 with travel
  • Date ranges that could work:
    • August 3 – 18
    • Aug 27 – Sept 10
    • Aug 31 – Sept 15 (probably best)

Step 2: Dream & invoke your sense of wanderlust!

We do this in a few steps but I’m sure it’ll look different for everyone!

  1. Go to google.com/maps and take a look at the globe. Seriously, just play around, get your bearings and explore! This can help get you in the wanderlust mindset, but also if geography was never your strong-suit (cough, like me), it can help orient you.

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2. Take a look at your bucket list (or start one!) and see what pops out at you! We literally have a shared doc in OneNote with a never ending list of places that we want to travel, broken out by continent. I also ‘Save’ a lot of posts on Instagram of places I want to go to, and that serves as another bucket list for us!  

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Step 3: Make a list!

Next we make a list of the top places we want to go. This part is super fun but also superrrr hard because seriously every time I struggle so hard with coming back down to earth after dreaming and narrowing down where to go to a reasonable list!

This is also where we get a little bit hand-wavy in our planning “process”… Usually someplace (or more likely, a few places) on our bucket list are calling to us. Either because we know it’s a super special time of year in a certain place (like Japanese cherry blossom season or Austrian Christmas markets), or we’re going to be in that general region for something else or just because we’ve been dreaming of that place for one reason or another.

Step 4: Research

After we have a short list of places, we start researching!

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Weather there at that time – this is crucial! A quick “September weather in Morocco” Google search is def worth your time. Often times we dream of going certain places but it’s their wet season or monsoon season or 120 degrees or something that makes us scratch it off our list.

We’ve made the mistake of not doing this and definitely paid the price haha…

What’s going on there at that time – if we’re only going to each country once or twice, does it make sense to visit it on this trip or should we save this one for another time of year that would be more iconic?

We missed Japanese cherry blossom season by two weeks(!!) when we went because we were silly and impulsive and didn’t do our proper research

Womp womp: how much it costs to get to these places

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Step 5: Decide your anchor

After doing all of your initial research, your list has probably narrowed itself down. Now it’s time to choose your “anchor,” or the one place you want to 100% hit on this trip. The world is super big and if you’re planning a multi-country trip, something has to serve as your anchor to help narrow down your options.

For our latest trip, I knew it would still be a beautiful (and warm) time in the Greek Islands. Scott had never been & ever since I went with a girlfriend in 2014 I’d always dreamed of going back with a spouse. So with Scott on board with that, we set that as our “anchor.”

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Step 6: Add on to your anchor

At this point we go back to our map & our bucket list and see what geographically makes sense to combo with our anchor. You don’t want to spend all of your time traveling between places so it’s important to look a the map, see what’s close, and research into how easy it is to travel between those places.

We generally look at:

  • What’s on our list and close to your anchor?
  • Is it easy to get to from your anchor/from the other places on your list?
    • Marrakesh was an hour and a half flight from Lisbon, plus it was a new continent for both of us. How could we NOT hit that on our trip? Too easy to pass up! 
  • Do we have at least 1 new country for each of us on the list?
  • What are our expectations for this trip? Is it all adventure or should we combo an adventure destination with somewhere we can just chill by the pool?

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So there you have it!

So there you have it, your list of places you want to explore on your next trip! At some point we’ll write another blog post (or two) about what we do once we have our list, including how we find flights, decide how long to spend in each place, book hotels, decide which order to go in, etc.

Hopefully this post helps you get started on planning your next adventure! Let us know if you have any questions or want to know more!

XO,

Kylie & Scott

@lovehardtraveloften

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks Kylie & Scott. Definitely putting these to use. We are travelling to Spain and Portugal this year and I’m literally following your Lisbon itinerary step by step. Cheers

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