How I choose my next destination
Happy New Year, fellow travellers. As we embark on 2019, thoughts inevitably turn to the year ahead and for me, that means thinking about where I’d like to travel in the coming year. One of the questions I’m inevitably asked is how I decide where to go. The answer’s not a simple one, but here’s how I choose my next destination.
As an independent traveller who likes to pay her own way, the biggest outlay for many of my trips, particularly long haul ones, is the cost of my flights. I’m always on the lookout for a good deal, so I sign up for airline newsletters and that way, I’m the first to know of any special offers. That’s how, on Black Friday 2017, I snagged Air New Zealand’s £399 flight deal to Auckland via LAX. There were only 50 seats on offer at that price, so had I been surfing the net, I’d almost certainly have missed out. Similarly, to make the most of Ryanair’s flash sales it’s important to be ahead of the pack. But with a bit of creativity, it’s possible to save on flight costs by searching for error fares and utilise reward schemes as I did for my recent trip to Barbados.
My Twitter feed is full of photographs of exotic locations and every now and again, something stands out from the pack. Georgia (the country) first entered my radar in this way, as did those cute swimming pigs in the Bahamas, and I wasn’t disappointed with either. On Facebook, members of the My Wanderlusters group provide inspiration for destinations through their own holidays snaps. Some are friends in real life and I have the double privilege of seeing their travels via their personal accounts too. I maintain a file of e-clippings (the old-fashioned way, in a folder, rather than via something more creative like Pinterest). This April, Brexit-permitting, I’m off to Alberobello in Italy to stay in a trullo after seeing it on someone’s timeline. I expect Santorini will also feature at some point for the same reason.
I love watching TV documentaries and travelling without leaving the sofa. Joanna Lumley’s Japan series has been bookmarked for a return trip one day. It’s been over a decade since I visited but seeing the country through her eyes has made me yearn to go back. Levison Wood’s adventures also give me inspiration; I especially enjoyed his Nile walk though it’s way too energetic for this traveller. Chris Tarrant has, in the past, done some incredible rail trips, from the Trans-Sib to some distinctly more adventurous destinations. Sometimes, though, even a venerated presenter can’t entice me: Michael Palin’s recent foray into North Korea was a charm to watch, but the country itself doesn’t appeal to me.
Magazines and other tourist literature
Whether it’s via a magazine that plops through the letter box or a tourist leaflet picked up at a trade show, there’s always something to tempt me to investigate a place a bit further. During a visit to World Travel Market in autumn 2017, I got chatting to a lady manning the Uganda stall. I’d previously visited other parts of East Africa, notably Kenya and Tanzania, but Uganda is a new one for me. When I mentioned it in passing to a couple of fellow villagers here at home, I discovered they ran a school out there, so I’m now looking forward to a trip in February when I’ll combine a visit to their school with a couple of safaris. No gorillas, but look out for tree-climbing lions if I’m lucky enough to spot them.
Festivals and other special events
Sometimes it’s not only the destination that’s the attraction, but a particular event that requires a visit at a particular time of year. I visited Mexico long before I managed to schedule a trip to coincide with the Day of the Dead celebrations. That was several years ago now, but it remains one of my favourite trips of all times. Cusco’s Inti Raymi festival was also on my radar long before I was able to time a visit to Peru to experience it. The colourful costumes, dancers and theatrical spectacle made this a memorable holiday too. Most recently, I headed off to Moldova to join Chisinau’s residents for their National Wine Day, which was fun.
As a relative newbie to travel writing with an expanding portfolio, I’ve yet to be inundated with press trips, though I do get offered one now and again. Every so often, an offer comes along that’s too good to resist and that’s how I found myself in the Faroe Islands in May 2018. It was a beautiful country and I’d love to return one day to explore a little further. Without wishing to sound ungrateful, I do struggle with a prescribed itinerary which can be a little stifling, as I’m so used to travelling solo and doing as I please. That said, I’m always delighted to be offered such visits even when I choose not to go.
How do you choose where to visit? Like me, do you have an ever-growing wish list? I’d love to hear what motivates your travel choices.
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January 1, 2019 at 12:52 pm
Glad to see you are still enjoying your travel adventures Julia. I was recently invited by one of my students to stay at his aunty’s house in Sayabouri for the elephant festival in late February. I went three years ago so at least I know what to expect. Lots of elephants being paraded about and thousands of school kids dancing in unison. People and elephants all dressed in fantasticly colourful costumes. Maybe stick it on your bucket list? Happy New Year XXX
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January 1, 2019 at 3:23 pm
Yes, definitely! Thanks for the tip, Ian!
January 1, 2019 at 4:11 pm
Great post Julia! I like reading about how others choose their trips and I have to say, I am inspired by many of the same reasons as you are. Unfortunately, being a uni prof means I’m limited to school holidays, but I also have a research budget which allows me to travel internationally for conferences. So I do spend a lot of time looking for conferences in places I’d like to visit. Of course I have to pay my own way once there, but at least the cost of the long-haul flight is covered. That’s how I’ll be doing a combined trip to Greece and Poland this March. No Santorini for me though (just not enough time). Even though it’s a strange mix of countries, I’m really looking forward to it.
Happy New Year and hope you have an amazing year of travels!
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January 2, 2019 at 2:50 am
Thanks Rachelle. I look forward to reading about your Europe trip!
January 2, 2019 at 9:15 am
Helpful tips! I especially like using social media for inspiration. I often find myself scrolling through Instagram and then almost immediately looking up fares! We are budget travelers as well, so finding cheap flights is probably number one on our list. We love the skyscanner “everywhere” option to find the cheapest places to fly! I’ll definitely be signing up for airline newsletters, though. That fare to Auckland is amazing!
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January 3, 2019 at 5:18 pm