I’m a picky traveler when it comes to weather: I want it not too hot or too cold or too wet or too humid. Unfortunately, I also seem to be almost magnetically drawn to hot, wet, tropical places. And I hate to leave my home in Minnesota in late spring/early summer or anytime in the fall because it is so perfect right here at those times.
So travel planning can be a bit of a challenge.
Fortunately, I have a new tool to help me narrow my travel options based on temperature and rainfall.
Calculate the best time to visit anywhere in the world – based on weather alone
A new tool for travel planning
DecisionData recently released planning tools that use basic weather information to determine either the Best Time to Visit Anywhere in the World or the Best Places to Visit on Any Given Week.
There are two slightly different tools. Both show the “best” place to visit as a red dot on a map.
The Best Time to Visit Anywhere in the World lets users define what constitutes good weather. You choose a specific week and then establish what is acceptable weather based on the median (average) temperature range, the highest temperature, the lowest temperature, and number of rainy days. Based on that information, the map indicates all of the places where the weather has fit within those parameters over the past 10 years. If you know when you want to travel, but don’t know where, this is the tool to use.
The Best Places to Visit on Any Given Week uses fixed parameters for good weather (moderate temperatures and little or no rain) to show where they occur every week of the year. It’s a less flexible version of the Best Time to Visit Anywhere in the world, but it makes it easier to look at weather throughout the year for a specific location. If you know where you want to visit, but have no idea of when, this is an easy way to see when the weather is likely to be the “best.”
Both tools use 10 years of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) data on temperature and precipitation. This includes data on temperatures from across the planet. Unfortunately, precipitation data is more limited outside North America and Europe and may not be reflected in the tool as accurately.
Looking for the best time to visit anywhere in the world
While I often begin my travel planning by deciding where I want to go and then figuring out when the best time of year would be, that isn’t always the case. For example, I’m not a big fan of Minnesota at the end of July/beginning of August. The weather tends to be oppressively hot and humid and I don’t own a lake house, so I’m ready to get out of town.
Searching on the week of July 30, I can set a number of parameters. In my case, I’m looking for a place that is warm (it is summer after all), but not hot or rainy. To limit the options, I set my temperature range pretty narrow, with a mean temperature between 66 and 78F, a low of 62F, a high of 80F, and no rain.
You’ll notice that northern Minnesota and Wisconsin come up as options. That’s not surprising, since that’s where everyone here has a lake cabin. It’s also where I usually head in summer, either going to the North Shore or lake country in Minnesota or heading to Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands for a little sailing. Equally unsurprising are options are along the New England coast. If I had the money I’d spend the summer on Nantucket too. Nor am I surprised to see the France and Italian Riviera show up. Likewise, that little hot spot where Denmark, Germany, and Poland meet the sea may surprise Americans, but it’s a popular summer holiday location for northern Europeans.
While it shouldn’t have been a surprise, I often forget that the northern summer is a great time to visit parts of Australia. Likewise, it can be easy to forget that many Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, have beautiful weather during the northern summer.
On the other hand, I’ve never really thought about visiting Japan in the summer. Going by weather alone, July and August might be a good time to plan a trip.
I’m more surprised by what doesn’t show up. Most of Scandinavia, the British Isles, and the Pacific Northwest are missing. I assume this is because they are too cold and/or wet. The Rocky Mountain states don’t show up either, which also seems odd. I think of them as being generally pleasant during the summer. Perhaps they are also too cool for the weather specified.
To check, I changed the settings slightly, lowering both the mean and low temperatures, but keeping everything else the same. As expected, this identified more places throughout Canada and along the Pacific Northwest and California coasts. It also added a lot more European and Australian locations.
I expected all of that. But what’s up with all those locations in Brazil?! Or Kenya? I wouldn’t have guessed that those might be surprisingly pleasant at this time of year.
Note that the dots might not always show up on the right spot on the map . . . or might not have the right labels. Some that look like they are in Ohio or Indiana are actually labeled as being in California.
I also had an issue with zooming in to get more details. In my Mozilla browser, zooming on the maps sometimes caused the search parameters to change back to the default.
Looking for the Best Places to Visit on Any Given Week
There is also a secondary search called the Best Time to Visit Anywhere in the World.
In this tool, the map loads as an animated GIF. Apparently I should be able to both zoom in to a particular location and click through (and stop) at specific time periods. Unfortunately, neither of these features work in my Mozilla browser.
I wish they did, because this would be fun and easy to use tool.
It’s fascinating just to watch the seasons change around the world. Still, I’d like to be able to zoom in on Costa Rica or Chile and then stop the program to take a closer look at exactly when and where those red dots appear. Not to mention the fact that I can’t even see Bali!
As is, I can see that the best time to visit Japan weather-wise is actually spring and fall. (Summer is nice in some parts of Japan, but not in as many places as spring and fall.)
You can’t change the parameters either. It’s based on having no more than one day of rain, a high of no more than 85, a low above 55, and mean temperatures between 60 and 75. I’d love it if it had a hot, medium, and cold weather setting, since “comfortable” weather isn’t always what I’m looking for.
There’s more to the story, but weather information is useful
Of course, there is a lot more to consider than just weather when making travel plans.
If you want to see carnival in Venice, you’ll have to visit in the winter even though the weather is cold and damp. Likewise, if it’s the northern lights you are seeking, you’ll have to head north in the winter. The Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City will always be on Thanksgiving Day, even though the weather is often terrible. Events of all sorts occur on a schedule regardless of the weather.
Then there is the fact that, short of a notable event of some sort, the peak tourist period usually occurs when the weather is at its best. That can lead to high prices, long lines, and frayed nerves. The Italian Riviera is gorgeous in summer, but you’ll be paying top dollar and sharing it with thousands of other people. That’s equally true for Cape Cod in July. The weather may be glorious weather, but nothing will be cheap and there will be lots of other people there.
Of course, the best weather varies with the destination and what you want to do while there. Winter in the Alps doesn’t fit the usual definition of good weather, but it’s ideal if you’re planning a ski trip. Similarly, if I want to spend my time snorkeling, I want hot weather and no wind.
As for wind, that’s an important bit of weather not accounted for in this tool. Whether you are hoping to view the Giant’s Causeway without being blown into the sea or counting on the trade winds to cool your cabana and power your sailboat, wind plays a huge factor in how comfortable the weather feels.
And, of course, there are some places that generally have uncomfortable weather all of the time. I don’t think Cambodia ever shows up on anyone’s list as a place with good weather, but that’s no reason to skip Angkor Wat. The same is true of Alaska, but Alaska is an incredible place well worth visiting despite the likelihood of cool, damp weather.
While they can’t tell you exactly when to go where or where to go when, DecisionData’s nifty weather maps are a good addition to your vacation planning tool box. Check them out for yourself at The Best Time to Visit Anywhere.