Friday, 23 March 2012

Choosing where and when to go

There are a few questions we always get asked about travelling. The most common is how we can afford it at all alongside our day-to-day life and expenses at home, but after that the conversation usually drifts towards how we choose where to go, and when, and whether we ever get tired of travelling.

Most of our decisions are based on a combination of budget, activities we are keen on doing and ensuring that we have lots of variety each year regarding the places we visit. If, like us, you do not travel full-time, then there are added constraints with when you may be able to take time off work to travel. Here's the lowdown on some of our considerations when planning a trip...

The 'When'

- Think about your priorities and reasons for visiting, and how this may affect when you visit. When planning our trip to the Philippines last year, our biggest priority was swimming with whale sharks, giving us a relatively small time frame to help increase our chances (which had the secondary result of meaning we were there during high season with everyone else who had the same idea). However, if the main attractions/activities for us are year-round, we'll usually choose low season to visit. The weather may be worse, but we'd prefer to stand alone at a site being rained on than jostling with thousands of other visitors in the sunshine!

                                                The benefits of low season visiting

- Consider costs are different times. One of the reasons we are able to travel so often is that we keep our costs relatively low. Flight prices, accommodation, entrance fees, even transport costs can vary widely throughout the year. If travelling in low season, accommodation is often better arranged once there, with huge discounts available to fill empty rooms. In high season, the opposite is true, and booking in advance might secure a slight discount. The same is true for activities. We've arrived at a few archaeological sites in the past and been let in for free as we we the only visitors that day and the guards/ticket booth workers were just happy to have some people to chat to.

                     The guard said he hadn't seen another visitor for weeks before we arrived!

The 'Where'

- Choosing where to go is always the trickiest part for us. Most travellers have a long list of dream destinations, and picking one over another is tough. Our decisions are often based on a few elements. Firstly, is there a reason we should visit soon? Will one of the places we are interested in change/become more popular/risk of instability etc. Burma/Myanmar had long been on our radar, and with the boycott lifted, interest in the region was exploding. It soon jumped to the top of our list, and we were very lucky to experience the country seeing only a few other tourists. Secondly, we try to balance out different types of holiday. Too many temples, and we stop appreciating them in the way we should. So over a year, we try to have a mix of archaeology, wildlife, cities and nature. If we can combine that with a range of environments (desert, jungle etc) too, then all the better! This helps us to approach a trip excited and without falling into making comparisons with the last trip.

                                                             A very empty Bagan

By mixing up environments, climates and activities, we never get tired of seeing the same things or experience 'travel fatigue'. Other people prefer to stick to one region, and explore it fully before moving on, so it's entirely dependent on your travel preferences and personality!

- Think about the type of activities you enjoy doing, and see what countries offer the best opportunities. I love ancient history, so archaeological sites are often top of my agenda. I also adore seeing animals in the wild, and extreme sports/adventures. So a country which can cater for that is often at the top of the list. Neither F or I are big beach lovers (unless diving), so many small islands, although beautiful, hold little interest for us.

                          Occasionally we make exceptions for particularly gorgeous beaches!

- Do you have any links in that country? China was never in our immediate plans until F's brother moved there, providing us with the opportunity to visit him and save some money on accommodation whilst we were at it! Visiting friends/family can help keep the budget low, and experience a small glimpse of life as an expat in that country.

- If stretching to a big trip isn't possible within your time or budget, why not look for more local city breaks? Europe probably has the best opportunities for this, with numerous online deals for weekend getaways, especially during the winter. But even a domestic trip to a new city or part of the countryside can result in new experiences and appreciation for your home country.

                                      A new experience doesn't have to be far away...

How do you plan where and when to travel?

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