What’s next? How do we decide where to travel next?

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How do we decide where to go next?

The funny thing about bucket lists or travel wish lists is that they never actually get smaller. Well, at least not in our experience. The moment we achieve a goal and cross it off our list, it’s almost instantly replaced by something else.

Does that ever happen to you?

I suppose it’s because we want to see it all and experience as much as we can with this one life we’ve been given. But how do we decide where to go next? How does one take the entire world and shrink it down into two or three “next stops”

We’ve already had a full summer of new experiences and, to be honest, we’re looking forward to spending the next few weeks at home. But that feeling is often short lived and it won’t be long before we’re itching to board an airplane.

Connor looking out the window

That brings us back to today’s topic – how do we decide where to go next?

First of all, the age of our boys plays a big role in our decision making process. Our process has evolved quite a bit since having children. Currently, we look for destinations that are easier for family travel. We aren’t interested in doing multi-day jungle treks in South America right now (at least, not as a family).

Of course, the term “easier” is highly subjective based on your travel experiences and threshold for discomfort. We aren’t backpackers anymore, so our need for comfort and simplicity has become more of a priority.

Secondly, Connor’s food allergy also plays a role in our process because we need to be able to read food labels, so we tend to lean towards English speaking countries. That was one of the reasons we chose Ireland as our “big family trip” for the year. 

Third, we prefer to visit new destinations, so this removes a lot of destinations from the list. We have a goal to visit 100 countries before we turn 50 years old, so this goal is always in the back of our minds. That said, there are a handful of destinations that we love and will continue to re-visit over the years – Mexico, Germany, Hawaii and the Canadian Rockies, to name a few.

New to the planning criteria is… school. Yes, school! Braydon is starting Kindergarten in a few weeks so we now have to consider his school schedule. Writing these words is surreal. How do we have a boy going to Kindergarten already? Unbelievable.

This also impacts Connor’s daycare schedule, so we might end up being ‘spring break family travelers’ after all. Wow, the times they be changing.

Read more – When in the Canadian Rockies, you MUST visit THIS place

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Rock, Paper, Scissors… Destination?

We’ve been traveling as a couple since 2002 (yikes, that’s over 14 years!). Our first trip together was a road trip to San Francisco. Since that trip, our decision making process has been basically the same throughout the years – we go out for dinner, have a couple beers and put our top 5 destinations on the table. This starts the dialogue.

If there’s a duplicate entry, that makes things easy. We go there.

If not, we both make a case for each of our recommended destinations. Lately we’ve been influenced by our circle of travel bloggers friends. Every day our social feeds light up with amazing travel experiences, so our travel wish lists are constantly changing.

Read more – Highlights from our 2 week Ireland road trip

We actually had our “where to next” moment last weekend while drinking a few cold beers on a sunny patio in North Vancouver. As of today (and this is subject to change hourly), Nicole’s top 5 are Japan, South Korea, Bora Bora, Indonesia and Hawaii (Kauai to be specific). Cameron’s top 5 are Scandinavia, Tanzania (to trek Mount Kilimanjaro), Panama, Iceland and Morocco.

Many of these destinations won’t make the cut for 2017 but a few are now in play – Hawaii, Panama and Iceland.

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Start with free, then work backwards

Once we have an idea of where we want to go, the next step in our process is to check for flights and availability on Aeroplan. For those unfamiliar with Aeroplan, it’s one of the largest travel loyalty programs in Canada. We always start our flight research by looking for options to redeem our miles/points first. If that doesn’t work, we shift our focus to online search engines like Google Flights and Kayak.

The reason we were able to travel to Ireland last month was because we redeemed Aeroplan Miles for our flights. All in, we spent about $1,200 in taxes/fees for 4 round trip direct flights from Vancouver to Dublin.

Surprisingly, many people STILL don’t use customer loyalty programs to accumulate points/miles that can be redeemed for free travel. We shake our heads with disbelief. We can’t understand the logic because it’s such an easy way to reduce your travel expenses. But, everyone has their reasons for avoiding these types of programs. If that’s you, take a minute to check out this infographic that breaks a lot of myths surrounding the Aeroplan loyalty program.

Read more – 10 Interesting Ways to Use Your Aeroplan Miles

When we returned from our “where to next patio session” we found a few direct flights to Hawaii on Aeroplan, so that trip is already starting to take shape. If you have any Kauai travel tips, share them in the comments section below.

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Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to redeem our miles for flights. Sometimes there are simply no flights available to that particular destination or we may find better deals that make more sense then redeem miles.

If we can’t redeem miles or points for the flights we want, we start looking for destinations that have direct flights departing from Vancouver. If it’s a short distance, we’ll consider connecting flights, but our strong preference is to book direct. It’s not always feasible, but we’re happy to spend a little more on flights to avoid long layovers.

We’ve learned to pick our battles on travel days.

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Time for another road trip to the Canadian Rockies?

During our discussion, we talked about our personal life goals and what we can do today to cross a few of these off the list. One of Cameron’s goals is to snowboard at every ski resort in British Columbia. There are 40 resorts on the list, so it’s a lofty goal.

Given that Braydon enjoyed skiing last year (here’s a recap of his first time skiing at Sun Peaks Resort), we’ve been thinking it’s time to re-visit the Canadian Rockies during the winter. We have yet to snowboard at Kicking Horse, Revelstoke and Panorama ski resorts in British Columbia, so a multi-resort ski trip is now in the works.

Have you been to either of these resorts? Do you have any tips or recommendations about where to stay and what to do besides skiing/snowboarding?

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Planning a family trip can be a daunting task, especially when it’s an international trip. There are a lot of things to consider (where to stay, what to pack, what type of travel insurance do you get, etc) but the most important decisions are where to go and how to get there. Once that’s decided, the rest starts to fall into place.

What about you? How do you decide where to go next? 

Read next – 10 Family Travel Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

About Traveling Canucks

Cam and Nicole Wears are newbie parents living in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. A passion for travel and outdoor adventure has taken them to over 70 countries on 6 continents in the past 10 years. Learn more about their story here. Follow them on Instagram and subscribe to their monthly newsletter.