Choosing a destination

Old Aug 5th, 2016, 01:40 PM
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Choosing a destination

Hi guys,

I'm deciding between 3 cities (Sofia, Prague and Budapest) to travel to in late September. While they are all great cities with both positives and negatives it got me thinking.... what's the best way to pick a travel destination in Europe?

I often get the response 'it depends what matters to you the most' (which I agree) but wanted to get some opinions on how other people go about choosing where they would like to visit and whether money is a determining factor for most travel enthusiasts.

Any response would be much appreciated!
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Old Aug 5th, 2016, 02:35 PM
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I'll spend more to visit a more expensive place if there's some amazing appeal to it. London and Paris are both very expensive cities but also very worth visiting, in my opinion. I spent a day in Zurich, but everything was so expensive that I literally didn't spend a nickel there (I brought food and water for the afternoon on the bus), and I'm not sure I'd want to spend a night there - or not more than one.

I'm a photographer who prefers shooting landscapes and outdoor scenic pictures, so I tend to prefer places that are picturesque. I'm also a history buff to some extent. I visited Sarajevo last year and enjoyed the history very much but didn't find it a particularly picturesque city. I would say I'm glad I visited, but don't feel any burning need to return. But I have found cities like Prague extremely picturesque, so I visited a second time years after my first visit.

From what I've read of Sofia, it doesn't sound like a particularly picturesque city - more of a large metropolis. Plovdiv sounds much more appealing to me personally. Bulgaria is on my list to visit, and a stop in Sofia makes sense mostly because I'll be likely passing through anyway, but Sofia doesn't sound like a place I would go out of my way to visit.

Often when I plan an itinerary, I will include the places I most want to see and find myself passing near or through places that are less interesting but still significant or important in some way - so why not stop?
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Old Aug 5th, 2016, 05:06 PM
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No, we don;t factor money into the destinations we choose or the way we decide to travel. Until I retired recently getting any time off together was difficult, It;s a little easier now but with DH retiring in the next year he has tons of work responsibilities - so we still have to work around his schedule and can't worry about air or hotel rates at that time of year. And we want to live comfortable; we get either a larger deluxe room or a suite so we have places to relax and do wine and fruit in the evening if we like.

So we pick where we want to go, usually a mix of places we have and have not been before, depending on how much time we can get. Our focus is museums, palaces/castles, cathedrals, other historic sights, sitting in cafe watching the world go by, some fine dining in each city. We also like theater and ballet - and although we are strong walkers (like most NYers) we do not do anything like a hike or climb or whatever.

When we have time we will do road trips with a big city anchor at each end and smaller towns/villages in between, Never do 1 night stops; 2 for smaller towns and 3 nights for larger ones and never drive more than 4 or so hours per day - since we like to stop someplace interesting for lunch to see a couple of sights and have a relaxed meal.

Obviously many people travel differently but this is what is most enjoyable for us.
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Old Aug 5th, 2016, 05:08 PM
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Oh,and if I had to choose one it would be Prague which is one of my absolute favorites, although Budapest is also very interasting.
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Old Aug 5th, 2016, 09:20 PM
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I consider several factors when selecting destinations, including:
- my time frame (with the intent of matching the time I have to the things I want to see and experience),
- the time of year during which I will make the trip (and so how the likely weather might affect my experience),
- the extent to which a trip will likely add to the diversity of my experiences of other places in the world (whether to maximize diversity or to allow options to see just how different "similar" places can be), and
- whether a trip at this time would be better or worse than other trips I am considering (e.g., I currently place a greater priority on destinations that involve hiking, as I won't always be able to hike; and I place greater priority on destinations that are likely to be negatively impacted by climate change than other locations).

Most of these factors are unlikely to affect your current choice, but you did ask...
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Old Aug 5th, 2016, 09:36 PM
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Sorry -- I neglected to respond to your money question.

Yes, financial considerations do affect my planning, and have at times had a major impact on my choices. Bottom line: I need to have confidence that I can afford a trip before I commit to it! I'm sure that's not surprising, but it turns out that not everyone thinks of that when planning -- and even though I did think of it, my first two trips stretched my budget a bit too far for comfort; lesson learned!

So, for example, in 2008, I honestly could not identify a single affordable option for a trip to Europe that I wanted to take, in the way I wanted to take it, with the budget I had. Fortunately, I found an alternative that suited me very well -- the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas. And as another (very different) example, I knew that I wanted to spend some time in Switzerland, which is notoriously expensive, so I made sure to build up my travel budget by planning accordingly for several years beforehand.

Hope that helps!
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Old Aug 6th, 2016, 02:20 AM
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I choose biking holidays with flat landscapes and good train links.

I choose wine buying trips with good vinyards and easy access for a car from the UK

When I want to see more cultural places (whatever that means) I tend to be excited by books I've read. So Patrick Leigh Fermour is my go to guy for much of the region you mention, Eric Newby for Italy, Ireland and Afganistan, etc

Once I've selected a region then the rough guide is the next logical book, they will guide me to other authors (there is always a good literature section) and so it goes on.

One real trick for Europe is don't get in a car unless you really have to. Cars seal you away from the place you are visiting, don't wear dark glasses when you meet people for the same reason. Visiting a country should be just that, not hiding in a transfered version of your own country.
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Old Aug 6th, 2016, 08:06 AM
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I am especially interested in history--primarily WWII and Cold War history, so I often visit cities that were important in these times. I speak German and Spanish (though not as well as I'd like), so I'm attracted to German- or Spanish-speaking areas. I love beautiful architecture, interesting buildings, gorgeous churches and palaces.

I enjoy taking in the ambiance of a country, wandering around the cities. I don't care much for art museums, having seen too many old masters over the past 50 years, but I do like open air museums like Den Gamle Boo in Arhus or the ones in Helsinki and Talinn, Estonia whose names I forget.

To some extent money does affect my travel. I go to Europe in the summer, and plane fare from the northwest is always $1700 or $1800. There's no skimping on that. I don't really try to save money, anyway. I don't look for deals or for ways to cut down on costs. Too much trouble and fuss.

I choose hotels that I consider inexpensive--in the $100 or $150 per night range. It's important to me that they be attractive and comfortable, so I research them on the internet and consult Trip Advisor for travelers' comments.

I don't hike, and the past couple of years, even walking too much is hard on my legs. I'm in the process of losing some weight, and I hope that weight loss will make it easier to walk a lot, which has always been one of the great pleasures of travel in Europe.

In the meantime, I'm going to Málaga for Semana Santa and will rent a seat by the parade so I don't have to stand for hours. Then I'll spend a month at a Spanish language school in Nerja.
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Old Aug 6th, 2016, 12:45 PM
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Thanks guys for all your comments! I originally thought only a couple of factors determined the destination (e.g. price, season) but it's interesting to read all the diverse reasons you consider before picking a holiday.

P.S. Chose my destination.....Prague!
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Old Aug 6th, 2016, 02:34 PM
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From what I've read of Sofia, it doesn't sound like a particularly picturesque city - more of a large metropolis. Plovdiv sounds much more appealing to me personally. Bulgaria is on my list to visit, and a stop in Sofia makes sense mostly because I'll be likely passing through anyway, but Sofia doesn't sound like a place I would go out of my way to visit.>>

The centre of Sophia is perhaps not as picturesque as Prague or Budapest but there's plenty to see for a day or two and it's noticeably cheaper than either of the other two. We were there for 3 nights last November for a friend's daughter's wedding and we were surprised about how much we liked it. As well as the Cathedral, there are several interesting churches, museums, & roman ruins; we vey much enjoyed the walk we did with Free tours of Sophia and of course we tipped well at the end.

There is also a very good public transport system.

There are no wrong answers here and I hope you enjoy Prague.
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Old Aug 7th, 2016, 11:37 AM
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Sofia is a backwater capital compared to Budapest, pleasant enough, but no match. We were just in Sofia, Bucharest and Budapest this spring (working on a trip report). In terms of attraction, Budapest is first, and then Bucharest and then Sofia. It's been too long since we were in Prague for me to include it in the comparison.

Here are the pictures: a compendium of three visits
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Old Aug 7th, 2016, 07:04 PM
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DH and base our travel destinations on a couple of factors: How much vacation time do we have available, what will the weather be, and what interests us.

We both have to take off the week between Xmas & New Years, so we have take a couple of trips that included that week (aside from Caribbean cruises). We traveled to Australia, since it's their summertime; and Italy. We stuck to cities in Italy focusing on Venice, Florence & Rome.

We like to travel in September since school is back in session so sites won't be as crowded. Generally, we like to split out time between cities and countryside. This helps keeps costs in check since B&Bs outside a city will be less expensive than hotels in a city.

Sometimes we think we're going one place, but end up not going once we do some research. When we went to Australia the original plan was to go to Greece, but we determined it would be too cold. So we kicked around a few ideas and hit on Australia.
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