How to Deal with Too Much Choice: A Step-by-Step Guide
Most of us take a Do-It-Yourself approach to holiday planning, but making all those travel choices can be stressful. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to deal with too much choice.
Perhaps you’re one of almost 80% of Brits who now do most of their travel planning online? If so, you’ve probably found it can be a mammoth task to deal with all the travel choices that the Internet offers.
Over 70% of DIY travellers find that the Internet doesn’t save any time at all when planning a holiday. That’s why we’ve produced a step-by-step guide to help make dealing with all those choices more manageable and stress-free.
About 60% of us go to the Internet with the aim of “booking a holiday”, which is rather like going to the supermarket with the aim of “buying food”. Without a shopping list, you may be there for hours, and walk away with ingredients that don’t necessarily combine to make a meal that satisfies you. Think of your holiday destination as the meal that you want to prepare. We’re now going to set up a list of ingredients to help you make it a reality, long before we ever hit the online travel supermarket.
Your key to dealing with too much choice is choosing to limit your choices. In this guide, we’ll show you step-by-step how to create a framework for your choices. These are the parameters within which your travel choices will be made. By choosing to limit your choices, you are saving yourself time when you research and plan your holiday.
Limiting your choices means actively choosing not going to consider every possibility, and creating a framework for choices that meet your criteria. With your framework you can:
- save time
- reduce stress
- use the Internet to your maximum advantage
Here are five easy steps to help you frame your travel choices:
Step 1 – Dream Big
This is the first and only step, in which you embrace the multitude of travel choices out there and allow them to make you dream, fantasize, enthral and excite you.
During this step it’s important that you have no financial pressure and no time constraints. You are setting yourself free to let your imagination run wild.
Pick up travel magazines, or borrow them from the library, flick through e-books, blogs and travel websites like these for pictures and places that inspire you. It’s important that you note down the destinations that really catch your eye so that you can find them quickly later.
My husband and I carried out this planning session one Christmas holiday. We ended up pinning our favourite spots on a world map in our living room, with links to Internet articles and pictures we’d seen saved separately in a document on our laptop. But you can take your own approach: make a scrapbook, create a Pinterest or Dropmark account, or simply type ideas into your phone.
This brainstorming session helps you to identify places and destinations that you’d really like to see - the perfect preparation for your travel plans in the coming years. In order to take these a step closer to reality you can now research two things:
- Your Budget
- When to Travel
For our trip, I researched the average budget we would need for a holiday in each of our chosen places using an online budgeting tool. To help me decide when to travel, I also looked up what season would have the best weather for each destination. With this information, I knew which of my chosen destinations were suitable at what time of year for the next time I was planning a holiday.
Step 2 – Define Your Goal
Now it’s time to start drawing up that shopping list we mentioned at the beginning: setting parameters and framing the travel choices you will later make.
Let’s start by defining your goal:
What do you really want? Peace and quiet? Sunshine? Adventure? Exercise? Romance?
Where do you see yourself? Are you lying on the beach? Hiking the Alps? Sipping coffee, watching the world go by?
Close your eyes and imagine...
Got your vision? Now ask yourself which of your dream destinations it matches to. A taste for adventure might be best satiated with a Safari on that dream trip to South Africa, whilst a longing for the beach could mean the white sands of Crete.
Step 3 – Exchange Ideas
Talk to friends and family about your travel dreams. Ask them about their experiences and places they would recommend. One of the best things about travel is the memories that we take home, so people are usually more than happy to reminisce about their holiday experiences.
Be specific: ask them what towns they visited, what hotels they stayed at, what they enjoyed the most. That one, single recommendation from someone you trust will be worth more than the fifteen recommendations that you trawl through online.
What’s more, exchanging your ideas is a way of formulating and testing them. Things will become clearer as you describe them to someone else, and you will feel more confident in your decision making knowing that you’ve talked it through with someone you trust.
Talking to someone, a real, live someone, rather than sitting alone in front of a computer screen can even be better for your mental health. Multi-tasking releases stress hormones because our brains are processing too much information at once. Often when we research holidays we have five or more different windows open on our computers, showing price comparisons, travel blogs, a hotel website, a page of travellers’ reviews...
Simply having a conversation focusses the mind. It simplifies things by reducing each query to one topic at a time. It reduces the information overload, and helps you organize your ideas.
What’s more, the whole concept of online reviews is based on a community of Internet users sharing information. I love the idea of taking that community back into the coffee shop and back into everyday conversation, and benefiting from the wisdom of people whom we see face to face.
Step 4 - Experience Counts
You’ve now gathered anecdotes from the experience of friends, family and experts, but don’t forget that your own experiences count as well. Build your next good choices based on your last good experiences, and use the bad experiences to help you limit your next choices.
For instance, I no longer use flight comparison websites to look for cheap flights, because there came a point when I realised there is a certain standard of service that I expect, which not every budget airline will offer. My set of standards, and the bad experiences I had when services didn’t meet my standards, are my choice limiting factor.
Decide based on your own experiences whether price or service are more important for you, and you can limit your choices accordingly. Perhaps there’s a particular airline or hotel you had good experiences with in the past.
Personally, I set a realistic budget of how much I am willing to pay for flights, and when I find flights within that budget with an airline that I trust, I purchase them. I don’t spend the next hour trawling through price comparison sites to see if I can find something cheaper. I’m happy to accept a good service for a price that I’m willing to pay.
Similarly with holidays. Although my husband and I often try something new, we’re delighted to base our holiday ideas off recommendations from friends, or even to return to places that we loved in the past.
In my family, the one place we kept returning to throughout my childhood were the Greek islands. My parents had spent a romantic holiday on Corfu, and then kept coming back. Holidays to Rhodes, Samos, Kos, and twice, to Crete. We loved the slower pace of life, the traditional villages, the openness and hospitality of the people and how family-oriented they were. We knew a holiday in Greece would be an enjoyable one – and so we returned again and again.
Step 5 - Maximise the quality of your time spent online
You now have your holiday parameters. You have framed your choices. You know where you’re going, when, and how much it should cost. You know what kind of holiday it’s going to be, and might even have a specific hotel, airline or activity in mind.
Now use the internet to your maximum advantage:
Use the search filters on the webpage to define your search. So if you are prioritising quality over price, change the setting from “lowest price first” to “most popular” or “5 stars” or “best reviews”. If you want a direct flight then plug those settings into your search engine. If you want to check online reviews, choose one review website. Only consider hotels or agencies that have a significant number of quality reviews. Usually 5 stars means everything is perfectly ok, but won’t reveal the little niggles some people had, whilst 1 star reviews can often be due more to the personality of the customer than to his or her actual experiences. Reviews in between the two extremes are often the most informative.
When it comes to hotels, I usually narrow it down to 2 or 3 that really appeal to me, and then phone them or write to them directly with any special requests and a booking enquiry.
The reason I make personal contact is firstly that it gives me a feel for the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. It also gives me the opportunity to clarify some other issues. I ask can how they recommend getting there from the airport, or whether they can organise breakfast to go for an early departure, whether they cater to my dietary requirements, or what there is to do in the surrounding area. I can also ask the hotel what activities they recommend that I book in advance. Often you’ll find only one or two main attractions require prior booking, and the rest can be arranged once you arrive. You will be amazed at the friendly service and extra attentiveness that many hotels provide. And if they don’t, that’s another way to limit your choices.
Hopefully with these tips you can work towards maximising the fun of travel planning and the opportunity of choice, and limiting the stress of all those Internet searches. If you find holiday planning stressful and need help crafting a more positive attitude towards your decision-making, see our article on How to Deal with Too Much Choice: Stress-free Decision-Making.
A passionate traveller, linguist and writer, Sarah has visited over 20 countries around the globe. She loves immersing herself in new cultures, learning the language, and getting to know the local people.
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