How To Deal with So Many Adventure Travel Options

It's a great big world out there and the possibilities for adventure travel are endless. It's exciting to think about how many places there are to play, but at some point, it can get overwhelming trying to figure out where to go or what to do next.

If you're anything like me, you've thrown up your hands in frustration because there's just too much awesome out there. Case and point? I have a trip to Colorado planned this summer and five days with no set schedule. At one point, I found myself with 23 tabs open in my browser related to backpacking trips, and that was for a place I'd already decided to go. What about all of the places I haven't been yet? The trails I haven't hiked yet? Time for a strategic approach. Here are a few tips:

Where do you really want to go?

It's paralyzing, thinking about how big the world is and how many amazing places there are to experience. But you can use a few tricks to make the list of options a little less scary. Start by making a list of places you want to visit, and identify those you could get to in the next six months, year, even five years. Think about the time you'd need away from work, budget, who you want to travel with, and which destinations are the most interesting. Keeping your bucket list of trips organized will help you narrow options for the short term and long term.

What can't you do close to home?

Why would you want to buy a $600 plane ticket, fly five hours, and then drive another six hours just to go hiking when there are plenty of trails within two hours of home? I flew to California to hike half of the Lost Coast Trail with friends earlier this year (read more here and here), and for a split second, spending that much to go sleep outside seemed a little silly. But that feeling didn't last long. Sure, it's backpacking, which I can do close to home, but the Lost Coast is an incredibly unique place, and hiking on a beach was completely new to me.

When you're thinking about trip planning, shrinking your list of options will help you deal with feeling overwhelmed. Think about familiar activities you'd love to try in a new place, or unfamiliar activities you can't do at home, but have always wanted to try, and go from there.

Allow outside factors to influence your trip.
On my upcoming trip to Colorado, I have five days to play in between two sets of commitments. This means week-long backpacking trips are out, but overnight treks and day hikes are still very much an option. It's summer, so visiting ski resorts to hit the slopes is off the list, but going to mountain bike parks is absolutely do-able.

Though it might sound obvious, letting things like season, weather, and the length of the trip dictate what you do can help narrow things down. If you know you're working with a specific number of days during a specific season, the list of available activities gets shorter. It might sound like a bad thing, but if you're having trouble dealing with too many options, parameters can help you eliminate activities.

Even in the summer, you can enjoy a ski hill! Trestle MTB Park at Winterpark, just outside of Denver, is one place to try. Devil's Thumb Ranch, about 80 miles west of Denver is one place to try mountain biking.

Be spontaneous.
On a trip to Ireland years ago, a friend and I each had a list of things we wanted to do. Instead of booking all our hostels and making bus reservations far in advance, we made a few plans, then decided what else to do based on what we were interested in when we got there.

Though it might be scary to go without an itinerary, that doesn't mean you can't give it a try. Planning too much can mean you're stuck with an inflexible timeline, especially if your plans come with cancellation penalties. Take a lesson from Dean Cattell and wing it, at least a little bit. Consider making a list of destinations you're interested in and choosing based on how you feel. But remember, spontaneity is no excuse for poor planning. If you're venturing out at the last minute, be sure you've got the proper permits and equipment.

Accept that you might not be able to do everything, at least not right away.
Prioritizing locations, focusing on things I can't do at home, taking outside factors into account, and trying not to over-plan can still leave me feeling overwhelmed by possibilities. For my Colorado trip, I have a folder full of emails and notes from trusted resources around options for overnight backpacking trips and hikes. Even narrowing down the region, trail features I'm looking for, and length of trip weren't enough to entirely protect me from the fear of missing something amazing.

But that's okay. Part of what makes life so exciting is the fact that there's always a new mountain to climb, another trail to explore, another sunset to watch, or another body of water to toss a kayak into. Sometimes, wanting to do everything can prevent us from remembering how amazing the world is. Instead of being overwhelmed by options, be in awe of the world and the endless possibilities for adventure.

What trip planning strategies do you use to narrow your list of possibilities? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!
posted by
Katie Levy
Blogger at Adventure-Inspired
Katie Levy is a self-proclaimed outdoor adventure addict and loves sharing her passion for playing outside with anyone willing to listen. Though currently based in Philadelphia, spending her formative years in upstate New York and two years in Alaska fostered a lifelong passion for the outdoors. After 13 years as a competitive swimmer, she followed that passion on backpacking trips in the Adirondacks, on sub-zero winter hikes in the Chugach Mountains and up Mount Rainier. These days, if she's not out on the trail, you'll find working on her other passion, Adventure-Inspired, or getting her WOD on at CrossFit Love. Team Sierra bloggers receive promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post.
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