Time is limited and travel options are boundless. So how do you reconcile these opposing forces to make the most of your precious travel budget? Here are five tips to help you sort it out.

  1. Start with a goal in mind. Like most things in life, the best way to get what you want is to start with a goal. Do you want to relax and remove yourself from distractions so you can immerse yourself in that stack of books collecting dust on your nightstand? Do you want to be transported to another time by visiting a place rich in history? Do you want to get lost in another culture? Do you seek meaning by volunteering your time to make a difference in a community? Do you want to learn a new skill or pursue an interest such as rock climbing, cooking or studying a language?
  2. Create a wish list of travel options. Once you’ve thought through what you want to get out of your travels, put it in writing. Brainstorm the locations you’ve dreamed of seeing that fit with your goals. Determine when you can get away during the year and consider the work-related and personal events around those times. Match the trip type to the experience you’re seeking – whether it be decompressing from a stressful time period or recharging your batteries.
  3. Put the fun in research. If you’re passionate about travel, it’s likely you have more options than time and finances to fulfill. Anticipating and planning for travel is part of the adventure. Have some fun with your decision-making process. Designate a movie night where you watch a DVD or movie related to the destination in consideration. Assign family or friends to research one of the contenders and bring everyone together to talk about what they discovered. Turn it into a trivia game where you try to stump one another with the most interesting trivia. Or, focus on one location and host a dinner with foods and facts about the place being discussed.
  4. Pick in season. With your wish list of destinations in mind, find out which season will give you the best experience. In some cases, it might be high season where optimal weather is more likely and crowds are not a concern. Or, you may opt for a time when there are fewer tourists to give you a more authentic, intimate experience. Whatever your decision, take the time to Google “the best time to visit . . . .” This will help you plot when to plan the trip based on your schedule and interests.
  5. Plan ahead. We all know better deals come with planning, but in many cases it’s the only way to secure the best spot to make the most of your adventure. For example, staying at a historic lodge in a U.S. National Park requires booking up to a year in advance.

With your goals and wish list in hand, you have the foundation for building that perfect getaway and making your travel dreams come true.