You budget along with the type of destination you want to visit will the primary starting points for your decision to travel anywhere in the world. A budget of $50 a day or less would be sufficient for cheaper destinations like South Asia, Africa and some parts of the Far East. About $100 per day can be sufficient for most of the places in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South America. $150-200 a day can get you through in almost any place in the world including the topmost cities if you are willing to stay in budget accommodations. This budget is exclusive of airfare.
So the first thing is to decide what kind of vacation you want – beach, mountains, nature, exotic places, a spiritual journey, specific festivals and events, or just the most famous places in the world that you proudly say you have visited. Once you have decided which one of the above categories you want to explore, then you can start short listing the options. I’ll give an example for the mountains. Suppose you want to visit some mountains during the month of June when it’s quite warm in North America and Western Europe and people often want to escape to colder environments.
The first step is to list out all the options which could be Switzerland, the Andes in South America, and the Himalayas in India. For simplicity let’s just shortlist to three although 5 options is a good number. As I mentioned above the travel in the Himalayas can be done in $50/day, about $100/day within the Andes and $150-200 per day in Switzerland, so you choose based on your budget. Also if you are travelling from North America then the airfares would also play an important part as they can themselves be around $1000. One of the best websites that I have found is Kayak.com which integrates the best fares from over 200 travel websites to gives you the best fare which truly can’t be beat.
So once you have the location and airfare locked down, you can start working on the accommodation. If multiple people are traveling together you have the added advantage or sharing a double room as well as food costs. The time of the year is critical as one should try their best to avoid going to any place during their peak season or else you can easily end up spending far more than you budgeted as well as face crowds at all popular destinations. Wikipedia can actually help you know a lot more about any destination that you have shortlisted as a one page is far more beneficial to make your decision than reading a whole book about the place. Once you have locked down your destination with your initial research then definitely get your favorite travel guide for the location from your nearby book store.
As I mentioned, keep your options to 5 at the maximum based on the criteria mentioned above and then read the one page about each of them on Wikipedia. The right one will speak to your heart and you’ll find yourself there sooner than later.