One of the most exciting parts about retirement is the freedom to travel more extensively and to places that weren’t as feasible while you were still working. As exciting as it is to plan trips, it can be a little daunting too. Maybe you already have a short list of cities, states, or countries you’ve been eager to see or you’re completely open-minded about your next destination.

Either way, here are a few tips to help you make the decision:

Begin with a “dream list.” Don’t think too much about it—just get out your pen and paper, pour yourself a cup of tea, and dream! What makes your top 10 list in the U.S.? Where do you want to go internationally? It’s okay to start big too. Maybe you know you want to go to Europe, but you’re not sure exactly which countries. Put it on the list and come back to it later.

Look at your budget. Think about your travel budget as an annual expense to give yourself a little flexibility. Maybe you want to take one longer, international trip each year combined with a few less expensive jaunts around the country. Maybe you prefer all short vacations to make your dollars go further. Knowing approximately how much you can spend on travel each year will help you narrow your choices to destinations within financial reach and budget them appropriately.

Think about your favorite things to do. Sometimes it’s easier to think about the type of trip you’d like to take rather than the exact location. So, what appeals to you? Being active by hiking, walking, or biking? Food and wine tasting? Adventure seeking and touring places with significant historical or cultural significance? Rejuvenation and wellness? Relaxing and soaking up the sun? Note that your answers to these questions might vary from vacation to vacation. Most people don’t want to repeat the exact same trip over and over, after all. But when thinking about your next destination, what types of activities sound fun and interesting?

Consider the season. If you’re retired and flexible on your travel dates, it’s wise to plan your trips during the right season based on your goals. And by “season,” we’re referring to two things: the time of year (summer/fall/winter/spring) and the tourist season. The sweet spot is the time of year when your destination has good weather but isn’t swarming with other travelers, but you’ll need to decide which tradeoff you’re most comfortable with. If you’re avoiding tourist season by going somewhere during its coldest month of the year, will you still enjoy yourself and be able to do everything you want to do?

Create a loose three-year calendar. It can be hard to narrow down a long list of ideas to just one, but picking several top destinations and putting tentative months/years to them might make this process easier. Once you have a few places in front of you, you can move things around after you do your homework on the best seasons to travel to each place and price out flights and hotel stays.

Get the help of a travel agent. If you have some general ideas about where you want to vacation, but you’re overwhelmed by the idea of researching specific locales and planning it all out, a travel agent or group travel company can help. (Be sure to check out our blog, Great Resources for Senior Travel, which has some excellent resources.) Of course, when you’re a Trilogy Member, you can participate in Explore 360, our cross-community travel program that has taken Members to places like the Mediterranean Coast and Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

As you begin this exciting “post-professional” phase of life where it’s all about you, vacation planning may very well become your new favorite hobby! And remember not to put too much pressure on crafting the “perfect” destination. Every trip you take will be a journey you’ll always cherish. So, hop on a travel review website, get out your map, and dive right in. Planning and anticipating your next vacation is half the fun!

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