Blog travel

How To Decide Where To Include On Your Travel Bucket List

Modern transport, low cost fares and easier access to visas has made travel, adventure and exploring a lot easier and more accessible to all. With return flights to Spain costing less than most capital city train tickets for a daily commute it’s easy to see why we are often choosing Sangria over subway stations.

For people who love to explore and adventure, the question is less about how, and more about where. Where should we go to next? Like many people I have my own ‘bucket list’ of dream destinations I hope to visit over the next few years, but trying to decide what we included, or where we should go next, involves a lot of deliberation. 

Unless you’re a full time travel editor, blogger or don’t need to work, non-stop travelling isn’t a long-term reality. We may get a few weeks a year, a gap-year opportunity or a career break but still within these periods we need to make some hard choices about where we visit, what we see and what countries are non-negotiable in our explorations.

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Several factors helped to shape our destination dream-list, but overall, every place we put on there needs to do three things:

  • Are we going because it will provide us with an experience, memory, or taste of culture we want to experience and take-away? Not every experience is for everyone, so whilst one person may have loved the place, make sure you’re visiting it for the right reasons or you may be disappointed in your experience.
  • Do we know enough about it? It’s easy to choose a place down to photos or Pinterest inspiration alone, but before any place goes on our list, we make sure we know about everything from what the cities can offer, to the climate, food and adventures on offer at the destination. A white sand beach looks incredible on a photo, but if that’s all the place has to offer and you need daily action and activities, you may find the trip lacking.
  • Will a trip here make us happy? Make sure you’re going for the right reasons. I know many people who have travelled to a place because it’s the ‘hit’ place to be seen (myself included!) and yet when they get there, it’s not comparable to what they saw the online bloggers, travel journalists and influencers experiencing. This is because often they have the budget, know-how and infrastructure of a team working with them to make the trip look the best it can, because at the end of the day, it will be used to sell more of the same going forward. We’ve all seen and learnt from Fyre Festival right?! So choose somewhere that makes you feel happy and excited to go to, no one else.

But before we get to assess a place using the above criteria, and adding it to our list, we firstly need the inspiration. Now there’s no right or wrong way to get ideas for your next trip, but here’s some insight into how we discover places, in case it helps you.

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Visual search

Whether on Pinterest feeds, Instagram wanderlust accounts or a quick google search for iconic places, a picture speaks a thousand words.

Often, after seeing the photo, we start to do some research into the place it was taken. What else is there on offer? Does it always look like this or is this some clever influencer framing going on? If we discover that that photo is just the tip of the iceberg and the place has way more to offer in terms of adventure, good food and good views, it goes onto the list.

Interest based

Find something you love to do, and then find the best places to do this across the world. If you’re a top surfer, looking for the best places to ride waves worldwide is a good way to begin compiling your bucket list.

For us, we love good food, watersports (especially on boats), mountains and hiking, and photography. Often we use these as checkpoints to make sure a destination can offer us elements of all or most of the above. We know when we get to do all of this on a trip, we have the best times.

We won’t put anywhere on our list that’s just ‘I want to go to this country’. It has to be ‘I want to go to this country and do this’ because this way, it’s more concrete as to why this destination appeals.

Speak to others

So I know my point one of deciding if a place should be on your list says be wary of recommendations, but this is only if you fall in love with the idea of a place because someone says ‘it’s the best place they’ve ever been’ and you leave it at that and book your flights.

Often, the best travel advice I have got is from my close friends who also travel regularly too. I make sure when they are telling me about somewhere I ask for the details, like why was the place so amazing for you, what did you do there, or what was the food, culture and transport like?

If you go for more of the insider tip route and dig deeper into their passion, you will quickly discover if their experience is similar to what you are seeking. If they went for the best beach holiday, and you’re after more of a city hopping vibe, you’ll find out that perhaps it’s not for you.

Rely on the experts

Lonely planet, National Geographic, and many big travel editors and bloggers are still around and being listened to for a reason.

If you are looking for new inspiration, or want to check if a place really is for you, their websites are a great place to get ideas flowing.

I don’t visit any place without the latest Lonely Planet guide in my backpack.

Final thoughts

All the above is great for choosing where, but then you need to choose when. For this element, it becomes a little easier because you can think more pragmatically.

Budgets, weather at the destination, what kind of escape (City, beach snow) you are seeking or who you are travelling with will help you whittle down where’s next.

At the end of the day, there’s so many places to choose from, but there’s no right or wrong. Just choose places you dream of, that make you happy. Don’t follow the crowd to be disappointed, at the end of the day, it’s only your memories you’ll be impacting.

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