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Where should we go?

I get a surprising number of questions asking about where and when someone should take a trip. One recent inquiry was short and to the point: “What are the best places to go to in July?” Clearly, there’s no “short answer” to that question—or even a realistic long answer.

Instead, to be of any help at all, I’d have to know what sort of group would travel, what their interests are, how much time they have, what their budget targets or limitations are, what sort of activities interest them, what kind of climate they prefer, and on, and on, and on. Given all those variables, the best I can do is provide some ideas about resources that can help travelers decide where and how they want to go.

Setting the parameters

Your fundamental question is probably not as open-ended as a “best places to go in July” question might indicate. You must have some general ideas about how long your trip will be, how far you want to go from home, and how much you have to spend. You can probably decide rather quickly whether you’d prefer Branson or Paris, Las Vegas or the Gaspé Peninsula, Yellowstone or Times Square, a luxury cruise or a cabin on a Wisconsin lake, the Painted Desert or a rain forest, a drive in the family RV or a first-class flight on Air France. Unless you can set some of these parameters, you’ll have a really tough time zeroing in on anything.

However, once you have winnowed your choices to a more practical list of possibilities, you can find lots of information to help you decide.

General destination information

If you’re interested in examining a broad range of information about a wide range of destinations, one good place to start is in the travel press. You might start by asking around for ideas among your friends, relatives, and co-workers. But unless you know some really frequent travelers, their input may be too limited for your needs.

Instead, I’d say that the best place to start is with some heavy reading: the travel section of your nearest big-city Sunday newspaper (or a national paper such as The New York Times), monthly issues of Condé Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel, and similar sources all have a lot of information about destinations around the world. In all of them, I’d guess that at least 50 to 80 percent of their total editorial content focuses on destinations, one way or another, and the more extensive ads can also provide some clues about where you might want to visit. If you’re looking mainly for short weekend trips, stick with local newspapers, which usually feature accessible weekend destinations. These same sources can also help you decide what sort of vacation you want: single-destination, multi-stop tour, cruise, all-inclusive resort, or special-interest (golf, tennis, horseback) resort.

Some online sites can also help. For example, Travelago claims to have one of the largest online travel video libraries available.

Specific destination details

Once you’ve decided on an area—or perhaps two or three to compare—you can find almost limitless resources.

Guidebooks cover the world, either in large doses (e.g., all-encompassing guides to Europe, Asia, or South America) or in exceedingly small doses (e.g., things to do on the Oregon Coast or a guide to the colleges of Oxford), and anything in between. These days, you can quickly find guides to just about any sort of travel through quick online searches—either by using a search engine like Google or by searching on Amazon or some other big online bookseller.

These days, just about any destination that hopes to welcome a tourist or two maintains a website. The best place to start is Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory.

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