If you make and keep New Year’s resolutions, add to your list a commitment to travel more and travel smarter in 2018!
Begin by picking dates and selecting destinations for this year’s adventures.
Commit to taking at least four trips – best to make it one per season. Three can be short weekend escapes, but one should be of sufficient duration for you to break away from your routine and fully explore a city or region.
At least one of your trips should be to a place you’ve never been before. It doesn’t matter whether it’s as near as an historic site or monument in the county next to yours or as far away as a cultural capital or pristine wilderness on the other side of the globe, just as long as it’s a place that sparks your curiosity and imagination and is a destination that you can afford without putting yourself deep into debt.
If there’s a big event on your calendar this year – a wedding, a ‘big-0’ birthday or golden anniversary, for example, or a long-awaited family reunion – that entails travel for you and other family members or friends, suggest that the celebration be held in a destination that would be fun, of interest and affordable for all. Celebrate your event and explore the world at the same time.
Do some preliminary research and pick three or four possible destinations that will appeal to the majority of the people who will be attending. Make sure the destinations are centrally located so everyone has to travel more or less the same distance to get to them. And make sure the transportation and lodging are reasonably priced, so all can attend without budget stress.
Then recruit support for your plan by sending out a group message that details your suggested destinations – and see which flag flies highest. You’ll find that many hotels, resorts, cruise lines and other tour operators will offer group discounts if you’ve got a large party of people who are making reservations at the same time.
If you’re financially challenged – and who isn’t these days? – start a savings plan for travel. You can open a new savings account that is designated to cover travel expenses, or add to an already existing account on a regular basis.
If another of your New Year’s resolutions entails giving up a costly habit – smoking, for example, or stopping at Starbucks for costly coffee several times a day – put the money you’re saving into your travel account. It adds up. Maybe not quickly, but steadily.
Sign up for travel deal alerts from the airlines, from discount travel Websites and other online travel sources. Get them all. Sure, you’ll have to wade through a lot junk, but you can also score some irresistible bargains. But when booking via discounted travel Websites always be sure to verify the details, and get written confirmation of your itinerary and all it includes, and keep that document with you throughout the trip.
If you’re used to flying solo, try to recruit a friend to be your travel buddy for this year’s adventures. Sharing experiences with someone who has similar interests but won’t cramp your individual style can enhance your experiences, and save each of you money on hotel accommodations, ground transportation and other travel fundamentals. Or look for and consider joining a local travel club that pairs solo travelers who want to share expenses.
When you’re on the road, travel light. Pack minimally. Unless you have to bring equipment with you – skis or golf clubs, for example – travel only with carry-on luggage. You may have to wear the same outfit several days in a row, so pack things that you can wash in your room overnight and that don’t require ironing. Well-coordinated travel wardrobes for women and men are available from online purveyors. Even if you have a closet that’s stuffed with clothing and don’t want to buy additional garments, take a look at the pro-travel sites to see what they offer and use that as a guide to packing efficiently.
If you have a smartphone that’s under contract to a US server and you’re traveling abroad, get your phone unlocked so you can sign up for a short term service plan at your destination. Either that or keep you phone in airplane mode for the entire time you’re away. Otherwise, your phone will accrue roaming fees and other costs that are prohibitively expensive. Even if you don’t purchase a local SIM card and plan, you can use local WiFi hotspots for getting and sending email messages that keep you in touch with family and friends at home.
For seeing all the sites in some US cities, you can purchase a CityPASS card that covers admission to most museums and other local attractions, as well as discounts for some eateries and shops in several North American cities. Check www.citypass.com for the list of cities. If you’re traveling abroad, major cities have their own discount cards. For example, in Amsterdam, the I (heart) Amsterdam Card, sold by the visitor and convention bureau, covers admission to museums, a boat tour of the canals and local transportation. Similar cards are available in other European cities, as well.
While you’re visiting another city, state or country, use local ground transportation whenever possible. The Paris Metro, London Underground, Amsterdam trams, NYC Subway and San Francisco’s BART are so much less expensive than hired cars or taxis, and they offer great opportunities for you to interact with local citizens. For extra savings, get multi-ride cards that cost less per ride.
If you’re traveling from city to city in Europe, look into taking the train instead of flying. Trains leave from and arrive in the center of town, so there’s no long ride from the airport. And, European trains are quite comfortable and impressively clean and well cared for. Look into buying a Eurailpass for convenience and cost efficiency. You’ll find schedules and current deals at www.eurail.com.
Keep a travel journal that covers your considerations while planning your adventures as well as the impressions you form during your trips. Share your excitement with people back home via Facebook and Twitter, encouraging them to travel more, too.
Always be respectful of local people and local culture, even behavior and customs seem odd to you. And, always be considerate of fellow travelers.
Here’s to a happy 2018, filled with the joys of discovering and experiencing new places.