While many travelers have vacationed closer to home over the past two years, if at all, overseas tourism is beginning to see a resurgence as borders open and international travel tentatively finds its feet. If you’re dreaming of your next big getaway this year, now’s the ideal time to plan. But before you do, consider these nine New Year’s resolutions for travelers this year.
Dream Big and Treat Yourself
This could be the year you make up for lost time. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many trips planned to celebrate milestone birthdays and anniversaries have been postponed. Newlyweds have deferred honeymoons. Scattered families have been forced to place family reunions on a temporary hold. However, consumer optimism is rising, and, new variants notwithstanding, the travel industry has recently reported an uptick in bookings for bucket-list trips.
So your first resolution should be allowing yourself to dream big. Splurge on a bucket-list activity: Go hot air ballooning above Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys in Turkey, ride a snowmobile across a snow-covered glacier in Iceland, or admire the rock-hewn architecture of Petra’s rose red canyon in Jordan. Upgrade to a fancier hotel or reserve a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant. This is the year to make the kind of memories that will last you a lifetime — you deserve it.
Adopt a More Flexible Approach to Your Travels
Although restrictions are easing as overseas travel resumes, it’s likely that there will be a few speed bumps along the way, such as the recent news of the Omicrom variant. Mitigate your risks by checking the fine print on your insurance policy and make bookings that offer free changes or cancellations where possible. Frequent changes to government policies — both in your home country and the one you’re visiting — will require you to be prepared to change your plans if you have to.
If you’ve always been a meticulous planner, now’s the time to embrace spontaneity and book last-minute. Or take it one stage further and leave the decision-making entirely to someone else. Companies such as Magical Mystery Tours and Pack Up & Go will arrange a surprise trip somewhere in the U.S. based on the parameters you provide via a simple questionnaire.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Is this the year you’ll try something you’ve never considered before on your travels? Challenging yourself is good for your physical and mental wellbeing, but it can be easy to find yourself in a vacation rut. So, whether you’ve booked a short city break or a longer trip out in nature, now is the time to ramp up the thrill factor.
The possibilities are as varied as the landscapes you’ll find yourself in. Try rappelling into a hidden cenote on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula or canyoning down an Alpine gorge in Austria. Don a harness and take in an extraordinary 360-degree view of London as you walk across the roof of the O2, or attempt to keep your eyes open as you leap off the Strat in Las Vegas attached to a bungee cord.
Consider Your Impact on the Planet
Sustainable travel has never been more important. As we begin to cross international borders again, it’s important that we don’t fall back into old habits. Before booking a trip, consider how it will affect wildlife and fragile landscapes. Choose a tour operator that actively mitigates negative impacts on our planet and consider supporting effective carbon offsetting programs.
The pandemic has created an opportunity for accommodation providers to push the reset button. Hotel chains such as Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott have moved away from daily housekeeping by default as a response to guest preferences. Embrace these new opt-in protocols whose knock-on effect has been to cut down the amount of laundry detergents and other cleaning products needed.
Consider New Ways to Get Around
The rental car industry has had a rocky ride during the pandemic. A global shortage of new vehicles coupled with unpredictable demand has fueled an increase in rental car prices in many countries. Turn that to your advantage and, instead of planning a fly-and-drive vacation, consider taking the train instead.
The most tempting train journeys range from single-day excursions to long-distance trips of a lifetime. Board Switzerland’s Glacier Express for a scenic ride past snow-capped mountain peaks or set out for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu in Peru. Take an epic ride across Canada from Niagara to the Rockies, or cross Russia on the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway.
Prioritize Your Mental Health
While some of us have relished the freedom that comes with working from home, others have found the stress of the “new normal” a challenging adjustment. On your next vacation, don’t add to the stress — resist the temptation to try to see and do everything. After all, checklist tourism achieves nothing but burnout.
Instead, try to declutter your trip and make it a plan to have no plan. If you can’t bear to have a blank calendar, arrange activities that promote wellbeing and mindfulness. Reserve your spot on a meditation retreat, book a yoga class, pamper yourself with a spa treatment, or simply schedule a stroll on a remote beach. If you’re brave enough to plunge headlong into a full-on digital detox, set up your out-of-office notification, turn off your cellphone, and disconnect from WiFi — your wellbeing will thank you.
Take Things at Your Own Pace
In recent months, we’ve looked with fresh eyes at the tourist attractions at our own doorsteps. While some travelers couldn’t wait to hop on an international flight, others are still daunted by the idea (and understandably so). Many travelers have been surprised at just how rewarding a staycation can be, and some are unlikely to switch things up.
If you’re not quite ready to head overseas, why not book a relatively local trip to build confidence? You don’t even need to leave your own state to discover something new. Seek out an idyllic beach house or a lakeside cabin and give yourself permission to take it easy.
Support Independently-Owned Travel Businesses
The pandemic has clearly taken a toll on the travel industry, especially smaller businesses. When you travel, you get to choose where you spend your dollars, so try making a conscious effort to switch to local companies instead of the big-name brands you’re already familiar with.
Wait until you arrive to hire a guide and you might just unlock a more authentic travel experience. Local guides can enable you to seek out one-of-a-kind neighborhood shops, drink coffee at independent cafés, and dine in their favorite hidden-gem restaurants. Afterward, leave positive reviews on social media sites to encourage others to do the same.
Use All Your Vacation Days
According to the latest data from the U.S. Travel Association, American travelers chose not to take an average of 33% of their paid vacation days in 2020. This figure is part of an ongoing trend that can’t be explained purely by the pandemic. The Center for Economic Policy and Research suggests that almost 25% of U.S. workers don’t qualify for paid vacation or holidays at all.
If you are lucky enough to receive a paid vacation allowance, make it one of your New Year's resolutions to use it. Studies have shown that taking a vacation makes you happier, reduces stress, improves physical and mental health, and improves motivation and productivity when you return to work. Now who can argue with that?