Happy 2021, everyone! I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to a brand new year. In the spirit of said new year, today I want to share fifteen fun travel-related resolutions for 2021.
I know what you’re thinking. “Gwen, are you crazy? You’re talking about making travel resolutions when we’re all stuck in our houses and things only seem to be getting worse?!”
I am! Just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean that we can’t continue to explore the world virtually, culinarily, linguistically, or any number of other ways! Even though we’re deep in a terrible wave of new cases and heavy restrictions, I know the time will come when it will be permissible to leave our homes and gather in small groups again. Hopefully, things will continue to progress from there so that we can start taking small getaways, like many of us were able to do last summer. I’m hopeful that by mid to late 2021 we will be back to flying and traveling, even if it still looks different from those pre-COVID days.
With that optimism in view, check out the fifteen travel resolutions below! Some are easy to do without leaving your home, others are perfect for those happy days when we can start taking small steps back out into the world. Let me know in the comments which resolutions excite you most – or if you have made any that I missed! – and I’d love to hear how they go as you check them off!
Note: any suggestion below should only be followed in accordance with local and national government mandates. Some of these suggestions are for later!
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1.) Plan one extravagant dream vacation
Now is the time to let your imagination run wild, because it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the time off or financial flexibility to take your dream trip! We’re all in the same boat as far as wanting to travel but not having the ability, so why not reach for the stars? Stave off lockdown boredom by planning out your dream adventure. Where would you go and what would you do with unlimited money and/or time?
Do you dream of a romantic getaway to an overwater bungalow in the South Pacific? Spend some time swooning over the most gorgeous resorts and pick one. Longing to spend a few months traveling across Europe, South America, or Southeast Asia (or all three)? Plot out your route and decide all the things you’d love to see and do along the way. If you have a travel bucket list, see if you can’t figure out a way to knock off the entire list in one go.
Planning and anticipating travel, even if the trip doesn’t happen, can make you just as happy as traveling itself. So give your mental health a boost, and then make sure to keep that dream itinerary tucked away somewhere for the moment that finances, time off, and worldwide health crises allow you to finally jet off!
2.) Relive past trips by doing something fun with old photos and mementos
Since we can’t do much traveling yet, now is a great time to do something with all those photos and souvenirs from past vacations! If you’re anything like me, you probably have albums and hard drives full of travel photos that you’ve never printed, organized, or really used. The long winter months, especially if they’re filled with lockdowns and social isolation, would be the perfect time to sort through your old travel photos and mementos and turning them into something great.
In years past, my go-to post-travel souvenir was a photo book of the trip created through Shutterfly. I love being able to compile all my best photos and stories from a vacation into one beautiful book, and it’s certainly easier and more fun to look through those pages than a folder of digital photos. It’s been a while since I’ve made a photo book; the last one I made was of our getaway to Prague and Budapest in 2017. Maybe I’ll use this year to knock out Belize, Paris and Amsterdam, and/or Puerto Rico!
If photo books aren’t your thing, you can always go old school and get prints developed for a physical photo album. Craftier folks among us can make scrapbooks or wall collages, or you can collect all your mementos into a fun shadow box to hang on the wall. If you took lots of videos, make a highlight reel and share it on YouTube with friends and family. Whatever you choose, you’ll have fun going through old memories until you can get back out there and make new ones!
3.) Explore a nearby trail, nature preserve, or state park that you’ve never visited
One of the best ways to travel during the coronavirus pandemic is to get outside. While many other tourist sites are closed or restricted, there are lots of outdoor destinations where you can safely enjoy yourself while experiencing someplace new. If you’re anything like me, chances are that there are also plenty of places not far from you that you haven’t visited yet – or maybe even heard about!
While national parks tend to get a lot of the attention, don’t neglect your state parks and local nature preserves and trails. There’s lots of beauty there, too, and some of them can be just as stunning as the big guys! (I’m looking at you, Watkins Glen.)
4.) Support small businesses by playing tourist in your own city
Similar to the above, sometimes we’re the worst at visiting the tourist attractions that are right in our own backyards. Despite living in Pennsylvania all my life, for example, I didn’t make it to Philadelphia until I was in college. I know lots of people who haven’t visited the major attractions in their home regions, either because it’s “what the tourists do” or because we just get desensitized to the things we see on a regular basis.
This is your opportunity to be a tourist in your own city! Take a walking tour to learn more about the place where you live. Check out museums you haven’t visited. Eat in a new restaurant. You can even book an overnight at a fun boutique hotel! I’m sure that you’ll return home not only refreshed but with a much greater appreciation of your hometown. Plus, any tourist dollars you spend will stay and have an impact right in your own community.
5.) Plan an overnight or weekend trip within two hours of home
I will admit that I can be guilty of feeling like I’ve seen and done everything there is to see and do in my general area. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth! While over the course of my life I’ve been fortunate to visit a lot of the major destinations in the Mid-Atlantic, in reality there are plenty of small towns or off-the-beaten path destinations that I haven’t explored. I also have by no means exhausted all the great things to do in the places that I’ve actually visited. Just because I’ve been to New York City a number of times doesn’t mean that there’s not a ton more to do and see there.
Whet your traveling appetite by planning an overnight trip or long weekend somewhere close to home. Even if you’ve been there before, chances are you’ll find something new and fun to do. Either way, the change of scenery will do you good and you’ll help support businesses near you that are in dire need of it.
6.) Go camping in your backyard
For the outdoorsy folk among us, you don’t need to travel far to get the taste of camping again. Set up a tent in your backyard as soon as camping season hits, or, if the weather is nice enough, sleep out under the stars. This is also a great activity for kids who have been cooped up inside and are getting rammy.
7.) Plan an international meal night
One of the best ways to explore a new culture is through food, and trying new cuisines and dishes is one of the things I miss most about traveling! Set aside a night to try cooking a meal from a different culture. It could be a cuisine you’ve never tried before or a recipe that will bring back memories of a great trip from the past. For bonus points, play music from that culture while you’re cooking (you can probably find something on YouTube if nowhere else) and top off your night with a movie from that country or that was filmed there!
(Those of us who are less than stellar chefs – try grabbing takeout from a new international restaurant instead :))
8.) Visit an international food market and pick out some unfamiliar dishes/ingredients to sample
This could go hand in hand with your international meal above or just be a fun adventure on its own! If you have an international food market or bazaar nearby, head over and spend some time checking out the goods. Chances are there will be lots of things you haven’t seen before, from exotic fruits to new spices or unfamiliar snacks.
One of my favorite memories of living in Bucks County, PA, was when my friend Max visited and we went to the Food Bazaar in Trenton, New Jersey. We spent a long time strolling the aisles and marveling at the unfamiliar foods before picking up an assortment of ingredients to make a Peruvian/Bolivian dish at home. It was delicious, and just the break from routine I needed at the time!
9.) Travel the world virtually
Did you know you can see the world right from your own computer screen? As the travel industry has faced incredible change and loss, many companies have been really innovative in connecting with travelers virtually. Now, you can book hundreds of online experiences ranging from cooking classes and live city tours to interactive games and cultural lectures. Not only do you get to experience and learn about new places, foods, and cultures, but you also help support local guides whose incomes have been devastated by the virus.
While Airbnb has a plethora of options, I personally recommend the experiences offered by Tours By Locals. Many of my vacation planning clients have had great experiences with live Tours By Locals tours, and I’m all too happy to support them as they’ve gone virtual!
Oh, and PS: many of these experiences would make great dates or family fun nights! 😉
10.) Visit a friend in a new city
Most of us have at least one friend or family member who lives in a far-flung place. Now is the time to plan a visit! Use the fact that we need to keep travel small and intimate to spend time with someone you love but don’t see often.
This can be especially fun if your loved one lives in a place that you wouldn’t normally prioritize for a vacation. My cousin, for example, just moved to Lincoln, Nebraska. Normally, Lincoln wouldn’t be crowning my list of must-see destinations, but I’m sure there are plenty of hidden gems and fun things to do there! Planning this kind of trip gives the double benefit of time with a loved one you don’t see often coupled with new travel experiences you otherwise might never have had.
11.) Read books by diverse authors from different countries
While you can definitely feed your wanderlust by reading books about travel, why not broaden your horizons a bit by reading some international authors? You’ll get a much better perspective on culture, history, and place by reading the words of people who know them best.
I’ll admit that this is an area where I’m hoping to grow in 2021. While I think I read a decently diverse array of books, I heretofore haven’t been very intentional about seeking out international authors, especially those from non-European countries. If you have any recommendations, let me know in the comments! Book club, anyone??
12.) Donate to relief efforts worldwide
If you can’t use your dollars as a tourist in local communities, you can at least make donations that positively impact them. Hundreds of millions of people around the world have been hurt by COVID’s devastation of the tourism industry, and in many places, a little bit can go a long way. If you’re already the charitable type, consider funneling some of your 2021 giving into organizations that make an impact in at-risk communities. If you’re not a regular giver, consider making generosity part of your New Year’s resolutions.
Not sure where to start? The Points Guy has a solid shortlist of travel-supported charities that are in need right now. Local food banks and homeless shelters are great options, or you can donate to museums, parks, theaters, and other tourist destinations whose lack of admissions dollars may have hampered their ability to pay employees.
Tip: Before donating to a new nonprofit organization, I always check them out on a website like Charity Navigator to make sure they’re on the up-and-up. Do a little due diligence, especially if you’ve found an organization through Google, to ensure that your money is used in the best way possible.
13.) Learn a new language
Resolving to learn a new language isn’t a new idea, but it’s definitely travel-related! Language is a great way to appreciate culture, and being able to speak even a few words in the local tongue can be hugely helpful when you travel. Nowadays, there are countless ways to learn a new language, from YouTube tutorials to simple apps like Duolingo to the ever-popular Rosetta Stone.
Maybe there’s a language you’ve always wanted to learn – now’s your chance! Or you can keep things casual and lighthearted and pick up some phrases and vocabulary from that dream destination you planned, above 🙂
14.) Add travel to your fitness routine
For many of us, getting in shape is one of our top New Year’s resolutions. This is the year we’re finally going to start working out regularly, or meet that running mileage goal, or take on a new exercise class. Watch out world, here we come!
Did you know that you can add a travel component to many fitness routines? Companies like iFit offer a variety of workouts that allow you to travel the world virtually while you break a sweat. I tend to get bored when running, so being able to sprint through a Turkish bazaar or along a stunning Irish coastline would definitely help pass the time.
Another fun idea would be to plan out a travel route and use it as a running or workout goal for the year. Achieve a certain number of miles, workouts, or calories burned and color in your progress from point A to B to C and beyond. For example, it’s roughly 3,000 miles from Boston to San Diego. If you set a goal of running 300 miles in 2021, you could check off ten miles for every mile you accomplish until you make your way across the United States!
15. Check out a travel podcast
I’m not a hugely devoted podcast listener, but I will occasionally throw one on while I’m cooking supper, cleaning, or driving. It makes for a nice break from my music collection, which can get repetitive because I’m not that cool, and gives me something to think or laugh about while I’m doing other activities.
Podcasts are an excellent way to incorporate travel into your day-to-day life, with stories from across the globe, interviews with fascinating people, and lots of helpful tips and inspiration. Since there are zillions of podcasts out there, it might take a little bit to find one that really excites you and fits your travel style. I found these lists from Nomadic Matt, Travel + Leisure, and Wanderlust to be a great place to start combing through the good stuff.
Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Don’t forget to include some travel resolutions! Again, let me know in the comments which ones you’ve added to your list, and I’d love to hear about your experiences!
Happy New Year, and here’s to a fantastic 2021!
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