New Year’s Travel Resolutions: 10 Ways to Change How You Travel

It’s the time of year when it’s hard to avoid thinking about change. Some years I’m really into setting resolutions and goals. This year…not so much. We’re meeting goals every day just trying to survive and stay sane! Any extra effort can seem exhausting. So I thought it might be more fun to think about resolutions in terms of how to change how we travel, because it involves dreaming about our next trip.

My resolutions: (1) Actually plan for and budget for trips instead of being opportunistic and last-minute. (2) Think more about the true purpose of my trip; I often don’t leave time for relaxation and come home exhausted. If you don’t know where to start with your travel resolutions, here are some categories to help you: 

Pack lighter

We struggle with this one a lot–most of us are over-packers. Even if I’m backpacking it, I find I only end up using half of what I bring. If you want to change how you pack for a trip, ease into it so you don’t get overwhelmed. Categorize your clothing with packing cubes, or research a specialized day pack or suitcase that will help you stay organized. Invest in travel clothing that will help you pack lighter and smarter (check out Orvis and ExOfficio). Google travel packing lists and “what to pack for a ____ trip.” So many have written about this topic. And don’t overthink your road trips…we’ve got a packing list to help you out. 

Plan more

There are so many ways to plan, and some of us are not great at them! One thing I feel like I have mastered, however, is the travel planning doc. Creating a planning doc can help get you started. Check out our tips, here. Other than simply getting started, budgeting might be the biggest planning concern. Start setting aside travel funds yesterday. Even if you don’t have a specific trip in mind, plan a trip anyway to get a ballpark estimate of how much money to sock away (don’t forget incidentals like food, local transport, and entertainment, which are huge hidden costs). Planning might also include signing up for services like TSA PreCheck or the Global Entry program so you can finally skip the security line. And if budget travel is important to you, sign up for email alert services that alert you in real-time when deals pop up (Scott’s Cheap Flights, TravelZoo, etc.). Finally, much of travel planning is getting good at research. Here are our five favorite ways to deep-dive into travel research.

Choose your travel companions wisely

Know yourself. Do you need more trips with immediate or extended family? More girls-only trips? More trips with just you and your significant other? Or maybe you experience travel better when you’re alone. Think about some of the best trips you’ve ever taken, and about exactly why they were the best. Who was with you, or who wasn’t with you? Who helps you feel relaxed or adventurous? 

Focus on health

This is a big one for most of us. We all overindulge on vacation and regret it. Earlier this year, we wrote about ways to keep yourself in check.

See more nature

You can’t go wrong with seeing more of nature wherever you go. Whether it’s strolling a city park, taking a hike, or catching a sunrise or a sunset…you won’t regret it. Also think about branching out and going to a new region/ecosystem/country. If you’re a one-trick pony who always goes to the beach, think about how your pony self might feel in Iceland, Austria, or even on the closest mountain range to where you live. 

Find a new home base

Think outside of your normal box. If you usually stay in hotels, try a vacation rental with a kitchenette. If you’ve done both of those, try an eco resort, a houseboat, a yurt, an all-inclusive resort, a cabin with no electricity…possibilities are endless.

Make more connections

Have you had any memorable, life-changing experiences with a local while traveling…someone whose first language is not your own? If you find yourself in your own “bubble,” especially while traveling internationally, put yourself in more situations that require you to interact with locals. Sign up for a walking tour or a cooking class. Choose smaller and/or locally-owned restaurants and businesses to support, either through research or asking around.

Cultivate compassion

Maybe you’ve felt a bit guilty or uncomfortable after a particularly indulgent vacation. If so, you might consider scaling things back, or roughing it, consider traveling closer to home, or even try “voluntourism.” Alternatively, maybe invite a friend or relative along who is either new to travel, or who needs help affording a trip. Compassionate travel could mean inviting one of your child’s friends along on a family day trip. Or it could also be as simple as practicing being more mindful, present, and patient when circumstances are outside of your control.

Learn a new language

There are different levels of commitment when it comes to this one. This isn’t something that I’m currently prioritizing, but I can idly commit to apps like Duolingo. If you’re more serious than I am, but want lower-cost ways to learn, check out classes hosted by your local community/rec center or library. Check out our tips for how to start learning a new language now.

Put down (or pick up) your phone or camera

It can be tempting to constantly Instagram, Facebook, and live-tweet your journey, but you can obviously miss out on experiences this way. If you’re a phone addict, put it down. If you need something to do with your hands, a book or a cup of coffee can lead you to new adventures. And if you’re like me and forget to take pictures and regret it later, come up with a photo project for the trip (e.g., capture flowers + architecture), or think about investing in a professional camera. 

If you really want to dive into your travel resolutions for this year, check out our post on SMART travel goals, and let us know what you’re thinking. Happy 2021! 

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