At my day job, we talk a lot about travel and the comparison of different locations. It comes up naturally due to the nature of our business. I work for an engineering consulting firm and we design projects all over the world (not me personally, I am not an engineer). Our engineers are on the road a lot and they get to visit some pretty cool places. To be fair, they also have to travel to some pretty crummy places as well. Regardless, travel is a common topic around the water cooler. Added to that, I have a close group of coworker-friends that all enjoy a good vacation. So we talk destinations and vacation hours and generally get ourselves worked up on a regular basis. It is both wonderful and frustrating all at the same time.
Just last week, I had a conversation with a coworker about her next vacation (we will call her L). She is in the very initial stages of planning her next trip and is trying to decide where to go. Choosing just one place can be a very difficult task. As we discussed the pros and cons of various countries, I remembered the post I recently wrote about choosing your next travel destination. I thought it might be fun to test out my questions on a real-life example (other than my own). L was more than happy to be my guinea pig.
To recap, here is the list of questions I posed when choosing your next travel destination:
- How much time do you have?
- How much money can you spend?
- What time of year is it?
- What is your risk threshold?
- Do you have any special requirements?
- Is there an alternative option?
Luckily, L had answers for most of the questions. She also had a handful of destinations she was considering choosing (e.g. Amsterdam, Thailand, Spain, Guatemala and Slovenia). I just had to decide how I wanted to compare and contrast the information I was given. After several false starts, I settled on an Excel document. I am not a big fan of Excel (I’m more of an InDesign girl), but since I wanted to try and quantify the results, it seemed the best option.
Research, Research, Research
After setting up my document, I started researching. Since I have not been to all of the destinations L is considering, it seemed best to research all of them equally (stay tuned for a future post on what websites I like to use for researching trips). For each question, I would research a destination and then give it a number between zero and three—three points being the highest and zero being…well, zero. After I finished with the last question, Excel added up the total number of points for each destination. Of course, numbers do not tell the whole story. But it was interesting to see how her destinations added up.
Curious what the results were? Given L’s particular set of circumstances, Guatemala came out on top with Amsterdam coming in a close second. You can see all of the numbers as well as my notes in the photo of the Excel document below. The best part was seeing L’s reaction and I cannot wait to hear which destination she ends up choosing—even if it is not one of the destinations I did the research for!
Remain Objective…If Possible
For me, it was fascinating to research various destinations and not be emotionally invested. Since I will not be going on this particular vacation, it was easy for me to be objective. And having that objectivity helped tremendously in rating each country. I am not sure it would have been so easy if I was planning this trip for myself. (Although I did make notes for future trips.)
It was also fun. Like really fun. I knew I enjoyed planning my own adventures. But I had no idea I would enjoy planning someone else’s adventure just as much. I guess the next best thing to actually traveling really is planning a trip—whether it’s your own or not!
Speaking of which, do you want some help planning your next vacation? I had so much fun helping L plan hers that I would love to hear from you if you’d like a little assistance. Just send us a comment if you are having a hard time deciding between Venice and Bali and we can do a comparison for you.
Asking some basic questions and comparing the answers side-by-side can help you narrow down your choices and focus your plans. If nothing else, it can help set realistic expectations for your destination.
UPDATE: L chose Amsterdam and her and husband had a wonderful time exploring that great city.