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Spontaneous Travel: Where to go?

LoversBeachCaboWhen it’s time to get away, the hardest part can be deciding just where to go.  To someplace new?  Or a old hangout?

Even at the last moment, with your mobile device in hand, there are some easy steps to being that Decider.

Brainstorm a destination

For most of us, just finding the right spot can be mind-boggling.  You may want to go overseas, for example, but only have a week.  Or, you may want to go biking across Montana, but there are no organized tours.  So the first step is to brainstorm.  Like a good soup, throw in everything.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What type of getaway are you looking for?  A restful, kick-back and vegetate time?  Or an adventurous, go-somewhere-out-of-the-ordinary place?  A combo?
  • How much civilization do you need?  Do you need all the creature comforts?  Eg, that strong cup of java in the morning, those freshly baked cookies in the afternoon?
  • Do you want to be on the road most of the trip, or settled in?
  • What places excite you?
  • Do you want to go back to places you know you had a blast?  Or, explore new places?
  • What kind of food do you have in mind?

Based on these simple questions, start brainstorming.  Take our your phone and scribble ideas.  Draw them.  Or, take a piece of paper and do the same.

Put everything down.  Don’t worry about whether they make sense or if you have the time or resources to actually go there.  Just list them all.

Pick the top three

Once you have your list, pick the top three.  Yes, this may be hard to do, but whittle your list down to three.  Ask yourself:

  • Which place sounds the most exciting?
  • Which one is the most doable?
  • Which one is the one that you can do on short notice?

Most times it is a combination of the most exciting and the most doable.  As strange as it may sound, these destinations seem like a long shot or completely off the map when you start, but suddenly appear mysteriously on your top three.

Research the reviews

If you are looking at places that are new, start by researching the reviews.  Some of the best spots for reviews are on-line and accessible from your phone or tablet.  Find a WiFi spot to do your research.  (Usually I find a tall ice tea or a cup of steaming coffee helps the process).

Check out the top three at these sites:

  • TripAdvisor.  One of the best sites to start your research is TripAdvisor.  Enter in the place you are considering (in the Search bar at the top) and look at the various items. These are generally submitted by fellow travelers (although occasionally you may find a competing business entering misleading comments.  So, be on the lookout).
  • Fodor’s Travel.  With its decades of travel experience, Fodors can give you the lowdown very quickly, including its recommendations of places to stay.  The content is edited and classifies hotels, restaurants and other amenities by price and quality.
  • Wikitravel.  This crowd-sourced reference has even-handed reviews of most of popular destinations.
  • The Lonely Planet.  The Lonely Planet has a well-organized site with tips, hotels, things to see and do at locations, and easy-to-read guides.

Filter by  availability & price

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to pick a spot that has no availability.  This may be flights, or hotels, or campsites.  So, before settling on the best place to go, take moment and see what’s available (and at what price?)

There are a number of sites that do this for you.  Some will research travel multiple sites at once, eg Kayak.  Other travel sites include Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline, and the like.  Make sure that you look at flights, hotels, and other excursions.

Decide

Once you have all of the information in front of you, sit down with your travelmates and discuss the options.  No doubt there will be some discussion, but you will be in a perfect position to know what is available and at what price.

All that is left is to decide.

Book it with fallback

Once you’ve made up your mind, book your flights and hotels with as much fallback as possible.  By fallback, I mean, try to give yourself a way to back out of the reservations if you suddenly change your mind.  Hotels have lenient policies, although travel sites will vary.  Flights are harder, since there is more savings when you book ahead.

Get ready!

The next step is to get ready.  See part 2.

 

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