So, you know you want to take a vacation, but how do you decide where to go? There are several things you should take into consideration:
1. Who is going on this trip? Is it just adults? Will kids be going? What are their ages?
2. How long do you have for this trip?
3. What kind of vacation do you like? Do you like to relax a lot or keep busy? Shopping? History? Beaches? etc.
Once you've answered these questions, you should have a pretty good idea of the type of place you want to visit, and maybe some of the types of activities that your travleing party would enjoy. Next I would consider if you need someplace within driving distance or if you can afford to buy plane tickets. Get out your map and highlight some of the areas that pop out at you based upon your transportation mode and type of place you want to visit (i.e. city, beach, historical area, etc.).
I know I'm going to drive, I live in Indianapolis and it's the whole family going. We like to keep busy on vacation by shopping, sightseeing and doing some fun family activities. So, I'll look at my map and pick out a few cities within driving distance - Chicago, St. Louis, Columbus, Louisville, etc. Or, I might pick a distance I want to drive - say 200 miles and draw a radius around Indianapolis to see what is within that range.
My next step is to do a quick web search of those locations to see if anything interesting pops out at me. I'll usually check a few good travel boards like http://www.frommers.com/ or http://www.fodors.com/ and also do a google search on each city/ county for tourism information. I always ask my friends and family if they know anything about some of the locations I'm thinking about.
Usually after a bit of research (no more than a few hours) I feel pretty comfortable with one of the ideas as the choice for this vacation. I haven't planned out activities at this point, but I have a general feel for what the location has to offer and I will have bookmarked or made a note of anything special for further research. Often I find great stuff for many locations, so I put them in a file for future reference for a future trip. I'll run my thoughts by the rest of the family and if everyone thinks it sounds like the place to go, we'll start the next part of the planning process.
This might seem like a lot of work at first, but I find it fun and I've been researching vacations for so many years now that I can skip a lot of the preliminaries and just look at the map and pick a place to go - I've already done some homework to discover what many places have to offer.
Another thing to remember is that with a little creativity and a good attitude, you can have a great vacation just about anywhere, even by staying at home and exploring your own city or nearby locations via day trips - my motto is that there is always something fun to do, you just have to look! So don't worry if your budget or gas prices are keeping you near home this year, you can still have a terrific getaway.