Hitting the road

If there is one thing I love  and wish I had more time to do, its travel. I caught the travel bug shortly after college and it has a been a source of refreshment for me ever since.

With hectic jobs and sometimes hectic personal lives,  having the opportunity to get away, even just for a few days, can do wonders to renew and boost your spirit.

Deciding where to go can be a challenge for most people but whether you are a solo Maven traveler or a group traveler, here are some tips to help narrow down your next travel destination.

Duration:
Earlier this year, I was able to spend 3 months in Costa Rica as part of a break from work and attempt to boost my Spanish. Since I wasn’t short of time for my trip, I chose to go for a cheaper flight with a 1 stop layover, than pay $100+ for a direct flight.
So how much time off do you have to travel? Don’t forget to factor in departure and arrival dates.  Especially if you are flying to a different time zone, you need to accommodate as it can take a significant chunk out of your actual leisure time.

Think of your ideal flight pattern. Should you book the slightly more expensive direct flight OR can you get away with 1-3 layovers at a cheaper cost? If you have less than a week, ideally you want your travel time to be less than 6-8hours and seamless so you don’t spend too much time in transit.

I recently went to Turks and Caicos for my birthday. I only had 4 days (really 3.5 days) and I was leaving from the East coast. Direct flights were $$$ but luckily I was able to find an early morning (5aM) with 1 connection with my plane landing in Providenciales by 2pm. Giving me enough time to check in to my hotel, get some sun time on the beach and the most delicious dinner.

Weather:
Do you want fun in the sun, a ski getaway, or to go on a hike? If you are like me, you like warm weather so the options are narrowed down further depending if you plan to travel in January or June.

In our east coast winter months, I tend to prefer warmer weather destinations- Central America and the Caribbean are close options. But the prices for hotels can be pricier at this time of year since everyone is wishing for the same winter escape. Hotel prices for my trip to the Caribbean was $160/night in November. In January it was $350/night. Big difference for the same weather.

Farther options would be Australia, NZ, South Africa, Argentina..etc

Cost:
This of course is a limiting factor. Depending on the season (high vs low) there are options to snag travel deals to some popular locations. To save money, you may want to book towards the end of peak season to get better savings and also deal with less crowds. You can save on flight and lodging this way as well.

There are certain sites that cater to the avid traveler looking to score on flight deals: Thrifty Traveler  , Secret Flyer , The Flight Deal are such sites, but you have to be alert and some deals end rather quickly. You can sign up for email/text alerts.

Activity:

What is your goal with your travel? Do you want fun in the sun, relaxation, cultural experience, shopping, outdoor activity? I tend to peruse Tripadvisor months prior to my travel. I look for recent recommendations for hotels, activities and sights.  This is helpful especially when I travel solo. I usually map out the things I need/want to see and where I want to eat. Granted, plans can change but I feel more secure when I have an idea of what my days will be like.

Lodging:
Are you an AirBnB type of person, do you want the luxuries of a 4-5 star hotel or is a safe hostel something you are comfortable in? Hostels tend to be on the cheaper side of the scale in terms of lodging. I have never stayed in a hostel but depending on the city, you can find safe and clean facilities. Hostels.com and Hostelbookers.com are 2 sites for your search.
My AirBnB experience has been positive. I used the website twice while in Costa Rica. Overall I was satisfied with the service and the prices were levels cheaper than area hotels. Plus many include complimentary breakfast which is a great way to cut your daily spending (load up on breakfast).
I tend to favor small boutique hotels and I have stayed in a few domestically & internationally that provided great comfort and amenities at a fraction of the cost. Again, I usually start looking months in advance to decide if I am going to be staying in a hotel or more of a BnB setup.
For lodging information, I use Tripadvisor for recent reviews and pictures of the facilities before I go ahead and make my reservation.
If you have other tips you use when choosing your travel destination, please do comment.
~Citrine