STEP 1 Choosing the Destination

There are so many places to see and so many amazing experiences you can have, so it can be difficult to pick just the right vacation. Of course there are several things that come into play when selecting that perfect holiday spot. Sometimes we will plan a vacation close to home. It might be because of the limited amount of time we have or maybe our budget is limited and we cannot justify airline tickets.
First I want to talk about the types of vacations because this plays an important part in the vacation destination you select. Not every vacation has to be 7 days or more to an exotic destination.

The Day Trip

a-grand-floridianWe set a goal to do a unique and fun different experience with our kids at least once a month and this lead to some really nice vacation day trips. I have to say it was surprising how many destinations are right in your own back yard. Just an hour and a half away we explored caves and underground waterfalls, we squeezed through massive boulders at Rock City, and even went to a rodeo. There are loads of gardens, festivals, attractions, parks, and more probably right in your backyard.

These day trip allow you to save money on transportation costs and no hotel cost. It’s just a car ride away and the admission price, or some parks, gardens, beaches, and more are free depending what’s in your area. Also you might find an activity, hobby, or interest in your local explorations that leads you to booking a longer vacation someplace else in the world. So go for a hike, explore a beach or a lake, and just enjoy your local area.

The Weekend Road Trip

a-ny-vacationI love doing weekend and long weekend road trips. We pack up the station wagon. Yes we have a real 1984 Ford Station Wagon with the wayback seats and we take road trips. This is how we traveled when I was a kid and I love sharing that experience with our two girls. A weekend getaway allows you to drive further than on a day trip and you also get to stay in a hotel at least one night. This is still an affordable vacation if you budget for it. Our girls love when we do weekend getaways. We like to surprise them sometimes with these mini vacations. So check your area and see what’s maybe 7 hours or less away, leave early in the morning and you can get a great deal into two or three days even with the drive.

The Spontaneous Trip

a-orlando-vacation-hyattThere are two ways to plan your vacation. You can plan them well in advance and that allows you to save for them and also get a great deal by booking early. Or you can wake up, grab a bag and just go. Both types offer different experiences. Let’s talk about doing a spontaneous trip. If you are like us, you see all the great last minute vacation deals. So one morning we woke up and there was a 7 days cruise vacation on Disney Cruise Line over Thanksgiving break. The ship leaves tomorrow from Florida. I always see these deals and wish I was retired and could just get up, drop everything, and go. You know what, we did just that. We booked the cruise deal, packed our bags, jumped in the car and drove 12 hours to Miami Florida with our two kids and had the most amazing family vacation. Doing a spontaneous vacation for us is not easy to pull off. Like everyone we are taking kids to swim lessons, working, and just dealing with day to day life. But if you can break through all that, and see an amazing vacation deal, just one time, go for it.

The Dream Vacation

a-franceThese are those vacations that we plan out well in advance. We plan for it, save for it, research the activities, write up a daily literary and a packing and to do check list. We did this for our ten day road trip across America and are putting together a Griswold European Vacation right now over a year in advance.

Planning your vacation far in advance allows you to budget and make payments if you like. You also get the excitement of planning the vacation and counting down the days. I have labeled this type of Vacation “Dream Vacation” but that does not mean it is any more or less special that any of the other vacation types. Ultimately a dream vacation is anytime you can spend traveling by yourself, with family, friends, or a group and create memories. You will not remember how many rides you got on at a Walt Disney World Family Vacation. That’s not what’s important. What you always remember are your kids smiles when they hugged their favorite character or how they held your hand really tight on their first roller coaster. It’s those memories that make every vacation special.

What are Your Interests?

When picking your travel destination you know best what you and your travel companions’ interests are. Draw on your hobbies, interests, and dreams when deciding where to go. Individual travel, groups travel, family vacations are all a different dynamic so consider your groups dynamic when selecting that perfect vacation spot.

Don’t Try and Do it all?

So many times people go on vacation and spend every day from sun up to sundown going from attraction to attraction. You may only be in that country or destination once in your life and I know you want to see everything, but plan some down time. Schedule a beach day or hotel pool day if you are at a resort. Take a city or island tour, enjoy a drink in a hammock, or warm up with a hot coco by that lodge fire pit. Remember to slow down and enjoy, you are on vacation.

I was at a travel convention and Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel was there giving a keynote speech about her travels around the world. She has been pretty much everywhere and her favorite things are what she calls the Commas. The Commas are the little things in the sentence that you skim over. As a traveler most people are heading to the big attractions, the Eiffel Tower, Red Rock, The Great Wall! These are the exclamation marks. You should see some of these with the rest of the tourist but stop and enjoy the commas. Find that neighborhood café, talk with the locals, explore those streets behind Front Street and immerse yourself in the culture.

Get inspired

There are a few things that also get me excited about travel destinations besides them catering to my personal travel needs. They first is just browsing Pinterest and looking at all the exotic vacation photos. Some are so beautiful that they don’t even appear to be real. There are hotels made of ice, bungalows over clear blue water swarming with tropical fish, and countless endless beaches to explore. We have a Griswold Vacation Pinterest page with some amazing locations that might spark some interest for your next vacation.

Another common way that most of use pick our travel destinations is by taking with our friends and family. They come back from a fantastic vacation and share their videos, photos and stories. Their experience, advice and excitement help ease any reservations you may have had taking such an involved vacation.

So you can use either of these ways to start that vacation fire burning and then move on to more in-depth research here, online, or with a travel agent.

A Learning Experience

Travel can be more about escaping your day to day routine. Look into a vacation that betters you. You might want to learn a sport or participate in an outdoor activity like rock climbing, hiking, sailing, or scuba diving. Maybe you want to learn to cook, or learn about the complexities of wine. What better way to learn about wine then to go to the country, and take a class in the winery itself.

There are group cruises dedicated to music, to movie fans, and even culinary cruises you can take. You can take classes on photography, how to become an author and more. So think of vacations also as a way to learn by doing and by making friends, networking and experiencing it first hand.

Have A Home Base

a-road-tripIf you have limited time it makes sense to not spend you time moving from location to location, waiting for rooms to be ready so you can check in and unpack again. So look for a good central vacation to stay at and to explore, and then plan day trips from there. This says you a great deal of time, and time is just as precious or even more so than the money spend on your vacation.

Doing it again

There can be comfort in taking the same vacation every year. Maybe you have a timeshare and just never exchange it, or you grew up going to a beach resort. You know what to except, where to eat, and you are comfortable with everything. This can make for a nice vacation every year. But also don’t over look trying something new. Take a look at our Pinterest Vacation Boards and the rest of our Griswold website and hopefully that will spark your desire to travel and explore new locations.

There are many ways to starting determining your next vacation destination.
I would love to hear what you do to determine your next trip. Please leave a comment.

Do you like to travel?

Join our travel community of over 29,000 travelers and get our free email travel newsletter.

Continue to STEP 2 Budget and Saving for Your Vacation

Go to the start: 4 Steps to Planning Your Vacation