It’s mid-May and I’m looking longingly at the calendar. There are still 35 days to go before I leave for a weeklong South Carolina beach vacation with my family and two of my best friends, and exactly 126 days until I hop on a flight for a fishing trip to Alaska with my husband. Although I sometimes catch myself wishing away the (ahem…work) days until my vacations begin, I know there’s something to be said for delayed gratification, namely that postponing an immediate reward can result in gaining a better reward later. Which is why I almost always (often against my better judgment) book trips fairly far in advance. If I didn’t—if I just arranged my vacations the week before I was scheduled to travel—I would miss out on the chance to look forward to my journeys.

My point is that so much of the excitement of travel is generated by the anticipation of it. In the days and months before leaving on a trip—whether it’s to Telluride or Tel Aviv—you can imagine a vacation in its most idealized form. In that vision, you don’t think about losing your luggage or the hotel messing up your reservation or your kid melting down on the plane. Instead, you only think about that perfect meal, that magnificent view, that memory you’ll make. And that’s what you should do. My upcoming trip to the Isle of Palms might not be nearly so alluring without thoughts of an empty beach (unlikely) or the hours of uninterrupted time I’ll have to talk with my best friend (also unlikely, since she has a seven-month-old). My enthusiasm for my 12-years-in-the-making journey to the Last Frontier is buoyed by thoughts of pulling huge salmon out of the Copper River, even though my fly-fishing skills will more likely have me catching brush on the riverbank. Still, over the years and over many trips both close to home and abroad, I have learned the lead-up to a trip—filled with reading guidebooks, asking friends for recommendations, buying new cameras, booking side trips, and daydreaming in between meetings at the office—always makes the vacation that much sweeter once it finally begins (even if it isn’t exactly how you envisioned it).

So, in an attempt to encourage those anticipatory butterflies (and maybe a few travel arrangements) in the 5280 office, I asked the staff this question: If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? Their answers, which you can read on page 8, ranged widely—and made me think about all of the places, even places here in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West, I have yet to see. Which is, of course, what makes 5280 Traveler—our annual best-of-the-best compilation of 5280’s regional travel coverage*—such a fun magazine to publish. Fun, because I know that as you turn the pages of this issue, you will learn about (more than a few) places here in the Rocky Mountain region you’ve never been—and I truly hope you’ll find yourself anxiously awaiting the day when you can make a trip to whichever location makes you want to go there right now.

*Every story has been fact-checked and updated (where possible) with current information.