I’ve been to many places, so I do get asked this question; I usually reply with a few more questions to help them narrow it down. I now pass the checklist to you all, hold for applause, and as the Rock said in Moana, You’re Welcome.
Question 1: How much time do you have? I feel I need to clarify for any European readers that you don’t get a lot of vacation or holiday time in the US, which is why college kids and almost retirees are the two groups that visit Europe. That’s because they are the two groups with a lot of time and money, well the college kids don’t have money their parents do. This means in the US, the question of time is an important one. If you only have one week off, then don’t go to Australia, it’s wonderful but depending on where you live that 2-4 days of travel. It’s not worth it, mate. Please wait until you have 2 or 3 weeks and then another week to recover because the jet lag is brutal on that trip (but worth it).
Question 2: How long are you willing to travel? If you don’t like planes or driving, it narrows down to large Coach Bus travel or Train. Are you okay with flying but want a direct flight because you have been burned with layovers before (I feel you)? See how we are narrowing down to places you are willing to travel to. Next, what do you want to see?.
Question 3: What are you looking for? Do you love the nightlife and want to boogie, then start looking for cities in your travel area. Looking to go back to nature and stay in a yurt for a week (I mean why, but okay), then start looking for National and State Parks. Don’t forget State Parks; they can be hidden Jems. Want to go someplace with culture and nature then start with a city you like and see what kind of day trips are nearby. For example, Miami is next to a couple of national parks, so you have the nightlight, fine dining, and then the next day allegators. I’ve never had any issues with any day trips I book using https://www.viator.com (They don’t pay me); Viator is the middle man and deals with the booking. You don’t have to use them; you can book direct, but it gives you an idea of the type of day trips available in the area you pick.
Question 4: I want to go on a Spa Trip. Sorry, I can’t help you there, if I want the Spa, I’ll save the hassle of travel and stay at home for a week.
The first two questions narrow down the area you can or will travel to; the third question helps you to really think about what you want and leads you to one or a few places. Then you compare the places; which are cheaper, closer, and has the most actives you want to do? Or write the places on paper, put it in a hat, and pick one.
It also helps if you start a list of places or actives you want to do someday for future travel plans. When you have a 30 mins break on train/metro/waiting for a plane, look around on Pinterest or Instagram and see what catches your eye. If you already have a pre-made travel list, it is easier to decide when you have a long weekend and are itchy to go somewhere. It is also useful to find some travel websites and sign up for last-minute deal notifications. If you already have a list of things to see/do in multiple places, then you can jump on the deal.
P.S. If you have never traveled before, please travel in-country before going international. It’s like training wheels; this way, you know what’s going on even if you don’t speak the language. I only speak English, but I’ve seen the airline safety video so many times I don’t need it in English anymore. At this point, they could mime it to me.