Keeping your New Year’s resolutions is tough. Whether it’s to exercise more, spend less, or finally take that big trip you’ve been dreaming about, it seems we’re all guilty of making big plans that never seem to pan out. While we can’t really help with the money and exercise stuff, we’ve got some great tips from top travel writers to help you make this year different and experience the vacation of a lifetime!
1. Use all of your vacation time.
“This is step one. Research firm Harris Interactive reports that only 51 percent of U.S. employees use their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off. What’s worse, 61 percent of Americans who do take a holiday still work while they’re away. This martyrdom has got to stop. Time off is essential to a healthy work-life balance, and most rational people agree that seeing the world and meeting people unlike yourself makes you a more interesting and compassionate person. Point being: If you’re an underling at your company, take your vacation time to set boundaries. If you’re the boss, lead by example. Use your days and don’t harangue your employees with inquiries from the beach in Naxos—unless, of course, it’s to ask for food recommendations.” Ashlea Halper, Conde Nast Traveler
2. Get out of your comfort zone
“Step out of your comfort zone. You are getting older. The older you get, the more precious is your time and the greater the need to acquire new experiences. So, think of the place where you feel most comfortable, and do the opposite. If your “happy place” is, say, a waterside taverna on a Greek island, get yourself off to the Iranian desert (or rather, get a good adventure tour operator to get you there). Conversely, if you are most content kayaking off Vancouver Island or hiking New Zealand’s South Island, try a package in Benidorm.” Simon Calder, Independent
3. Travel Alone
“Apologies to my dear boyfriend, who was a trooper throughout this last year of adventuring, but I regret not splitting off to do a little solo traveling. Although we got along marvelously, there’s just something about entering a strange land alone that compels you to interact more intensely with it, and to connect more with others—a taxi driver, a bartender, a stranger in the ticket line–in a way you otherwise might not because you’d just talk to your travel companion instead. Traveling with others, especially a significant other, is easier and more comfortable, but traveling alone is validating and confidence-building. Even if you don’t want to take an entire vacation by yourself, consider separating from your partner just for a day. You do what you want, they do what they want, everyone is happy.” Ashlea Halper, Conde Nast Traveler
4. Think for yourself
“It’s okay to not like ancient temples. Or palaces. Or history museums. Just because it’s in the guidebooks or on someone else’s bucket list doesn’t mean it should be on yours. Traveling nonstop for a year taught us this, as we sometimes found ourselves trudging through an itinerary of someone else’s making. We didn’t care about what we were seeing; we were just going through the motions. That’s lame. If you want to blow through the Prado in half an hour and spend 45 minutes in the gift shop, that’s your prerogative. If you’re an obsessive bibliophile who’d rather spend her time combing the aisles of Siem Reap’s independent bookstores than getting sweaty at Angkor Wat, so be it. It’s your trip. If you’re not having fun, what’s the point?” Ashlea Halper, Conde Nast Traveler
5. Explore Your Own City
“No one is a tourist at home, so it’s common — and somewhat embarrassing — to have major, must-see sites in your own city that you have never actually set your eyes on. The next time a friend or family member comes to town, have yourself a tourist day and keep your secret safe by doubling as an educational host.
Once the mainstream attractions are out of the way, head off the beaten path for urban hidden gems. From an outdoor bike racing track in New York City to an abandoned Nazi camp in Los Angeles and a Technicolor church in Washington, D.C.’s arts district, reference Thrillist for city lists of creative things to do that you didn’t even know existed.” Jackie Strause, Yahoo Travel
Leave your phone at home. In today’s day and age, everyone is so reliant on mobile and technological devices that a weeklong rejuvenating spa retreat might not be enough relaxation to steer you back to center. “Digital detoxes” are leading the growing unplugging trend by stripping participants from any connection to the outside world, and that includes social media. When you quietly camp in Big Sur, watch real birds chirp in Chile and graduate from a Stress Release & Burnout class in Thailand, that vibrating urgency of your smartphone will be a distant need. Jackie Strause, Yahoo Travel