Depending on which source you acknowledge, there are somewhere in the region of 189-196 countries in the world. With that much choice, how do you decide which one to choose for your next adventure?
Knowing where to look for inspiration is one of the first hurdles you’ll encounter.
I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve planned and organised a fair few trips in my time, so here are a some of the ways in which I find inspiration for helping me decide where to travel to next.
#1 Read Travel Blogs
Travel Blogs are my number one source of travel inspiration. Three of the trips I’ve taken this year (Girona (Spain), Montenegro, and Luxembourg have been largely influenced by articles I’ve read on travel blogs.
Whether we’re digital nomads, long-term travellers or those who fit our travels around a full-time day job, one thing us travel bloggers all have in common is our passion for exploring the world and for sharing our experiences with others. For this reason, we’ve generally visited a fair few more countries than your average traveller, and also consistently documented our time in those countries. Ask us for a restaurant recommendation in any given town or city and we can not only tell you the names of a few we loved, but also the addresses, and what you should eat there. We can even show you a photo of our favourite dish. Yep, we’re pretty well informed about the places we’ve visited!
And not only that, but we’re all seeking out unique and authentic experiences, new and exciting concepts, off-the-beaten-adventures, and alternative sights and activities, because who wants to read about something or somewhere that they’ve read about ten times before? We want to be intrepid, we want to introduce our readers to concepts that they’ve not read anywhere else. In short, we do the research so you don’t have to.
Which destinations have your favourite travel bloggers visited recently and loved? We follow bloggers because we relate to them or we have something in common with them, so chances are we’ll love the places they love.
#2 Browse Instagram
I love browsing Instagram for inspiration. It’s like flicking through the pages of a giant photo album of the world.
As human beings we’re incredibly visual creatures and all it takes is one image of somewhere amazing to plant a seed of curiosity and intrigue in our heads. It’s on Instagram that I first saw the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, and immediately Turkey was added to my growing bucket list of adventures.
Most users will geo-tag the shots they post, so you’ll know exactly where to go to seek out that stunning viewpoint, those incredible landscapes, that awesome castle, or those ridiculously colourful colonial streets. And if they don’t, ask the question. Instagram is a great platform for engaging with other travellers.
There are SO MANY different hashtags and user accounts you can follow for inspiration, but you could try starting with #BeautifulDestinations, #CultureTrip #TravelDeeper, #PassionPassport, #NatGeoTravelPic, or #TheGlobeWanderer.
While you’re browsing, be sure to head over to my profile and give me a follow! I’m currently sharing photos of a recent trip to Luxembourg, but you’ll also find inspiration for Montenegro, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Wales, Thailand, Myanmar, and Poland (and that’s just within the last 12 months!)
The quiet backstreets of Echternach, Luxembourg. . . This small town, which lies right on the border with Germany, makes a great half-day trip from Luxembourg city. . . The hills you can see in the background of this shot are known as “Little Switzerland” – a maze of spectacular craggy outcrops, pathways, gorges, and valleys. . . If you like hiking, Little Switzerland is THE place to come 😀
#3 Peruse Pinterest
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pinterest, it works much like a digital scrapbook, whereby you can ‘pin’ clickable images from web pages to boards which you create. It’s an easy way to keep everything you love all in one place – design ideas for your home, recipe ideas for your kitchen, fashion ideas for your wardrobe, and travel inspiration.
You can follow users much like you can on other social media channels, but your feed will not only consist of pins from those you follow but also pins that Pinterest suggests for you based on your likes and saves. You can also search for articles on any given town, city, region, country or continent. Alternatively you can be more specific: “hiking in Peru“, “roadtripping in Slovenia” or “cycling in Cuba.”
If you’re not quite sure where to start you can always head over to my page and give me a follow (another shameless plug!); I’m slowly but surely collecting articles on and photographs of every country on the planet.
#4 Sign up to newsletters from travel companies and airlines
Do be selective about which ones you sign up to; being inundated by emails can be overwhelming, which will cause you stress rather than give you inspiration. Also choose companies who promote the types of trips that you love, at the kind of cost you can afford. I’m signed up to Lonely Planet, Wanderlust, and Nat Geo Traveller’s newsletters, to name but a few.
That dreaded Monday morning commute to work suddenly doesn’t seem so bad when you’re reading about “extraordinary journeys into Vietnam’s hidden corners” or “road tripping through Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.” I guarantee it will have you searching for flights on your lunch break.
It also pays to sign up to newsletters from your favourite airlines, because when they decide to launch a 24-hour flash sale or add new routes to their existing network of flights, you’ll be one of the first to hear about it.
#5 Familiarise yourself with the “everywhere” search feature on flight booking websites
I am completely obsessed with this feature and use it to help me decide upon the destination for almost every long weekend break or short trip I’ve ended up taking. I generally head over to Skyscanner as my first port of call, but an increasing number of flight booking websites now offer the facility to be able to do this.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of the time when I plan a trip, I know roughly when I want to travel (whether that be over Easter to take advantage of the bank holidays, or towards the end of June for my birthday, or in November to escape a large chunk of the UK’s depressingly cold and wet Autumn, and the ridiculously early build-up to Christmas) and I have some idea of how much money I have to spend, but I need some help with deciding where to go.
So I’ll choose my dates (you can select specific dates or a whole month), and search “all UK airports” (you can just choose one, but at least four of the major UK airports are accessible for me) to “everywhere.” This then returns a list of countries (and cities within those countries) and corresponding flight prices for the dates I’ve selected. Searching a whole month allows you to see the cheapest days of the week to fly to and return from a specific airport.
I’ve recently become a little addicted to the Secret Flying website as well and *almost* spontaneously booked return flights to New Zealand for a little over £500!!! Currently I’m seriously tempted by their India flight deals…
#6 Play the Travel Name Game
The Flight Centre UK have introduced a fun little feature on their website called the Travel Name Game, which allows you to discover the cities around the world that you’re most likely to travel to, based on your name. The feature is based on actual data pulled from their customers’ bookings, and is designed to inspire us to visit destinations that we may not otherwise have considered.
I got Atlanta (Georgia) and Johannesburg and Durban (South Africa). Considering that South Africa has been calling my name a lot of late (primarily as a result of reading posts from two of my favourite travel bloggers, Victoria from Bridges and Balloons, and Lauren from Never Ending Footsteps), maybe it’s a definite sign that I need to start planning a trip there!
If you’d like to have a go at the Travel Name Game, it’s a fun, easy, and innovative way of finding some holiday inspiration for your next trip.
#7 Don’t forget pre-digital-age methods
Remember when, in an attempt to decide where to go on holiday next, you visited your local travel agent and subsequently returned home with as many free brochures as your little arms could carry? (or am I just showing my age now?!?). Well, this is still a method I use to find travel inspiration, only the free brochures I now flick through are from adventure travel companies like Explore, Exodus, Intrepid, and Dragoman.
I have booked a few trips with Explore and Exodus (this hiking adventure and this 3-week tour of China) in the past, because they’re a great way to explore a country with like-minded people when you’re short on time. However I primarily use their brochures to find inspiration for my own independently organised travels. Their pages are packed with country-specific information (on sights, activities, customs, climates) and photos, and their itineraries help me to figure out exactly what it’s logistically possible to see and do in a specific, given timescale.
Of course, all of these companies have websites that you can browse as well, and I’ll often use their search function to look for, say, “walking and trekking holidays” or “festivals”, as this helps me figure out which countries are good to visit in which months of the year. If I have leave booked for a specific month I can just search for trips running in that month.
#8 Talk to friends, family, and work colleagues
This is another source of inspiration that often gets overlooked in this digital day and age, but so many of my trips have been inspired by talking to others about their adventures.
My parents travelled to Slovenia, Montenegro, Turkey, and China well before I did, and hearing them wax lyrical about the places they loved encouraged me to research those destinations a little further.
I’m also lucky enough to work with a couple of colleagues who are passionate about travel (one of whom organises independent adventures with her two young children) and who are a continual source of inspiration to me. We bounce ideas off each other, share contacts and web addresses, and generally spend all the time when we’re not working, talking about travel.
And then there are my two close friends, Kath and Gloria, whom I holiday with every year (Poznan last year, Riga the year before). Conversations with these two have definitely piqued my interest in visiting a few of the places they’ve explored (namely, Cape Town and Lake Ohrid, Macedonia).
Once you’ve curated a list of all the places you’d like to visit, start to research the best time of year to visit each of these places. For example I’ve discovered that November is an awful time of year to visit Kyrgyzstan but one of the best months to travel to India. Similarly April-August in a fantastic time of year to travel around Peru and Bolivia, but for much of Southeast Asia, it’s monsoon season during these months. And whilst Southeast Asia is at its driest during January and February, the rains in Peru are so bad at this time of year that the entire Inca Trail is closed to trekkers.
Your bargain flights may not be so much of a bargain if the weather prevents you from doing almost everything you’d planned to do in any given country.
So, make yourself a little chart with all the months of the year on it and then list all the countries that it’s feasible to visit during these months. It makes deciding where to visit next so much easier!
What about you, where did you travel to most recently, and what or whom inspired you to go there?
*This article was written in collaboration with The Flight Centre*