until the total solar eclipse.

20 New Year’s Resolutions for Travelers

Start 2020 off with this list of resolutions for travelers.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

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It seems like just yesterday we were waiting for computer to crash from Y2K and just this morning we celebrated the end of the first decade of the 21st century. Now it is January 1, 2020 and we are looking at a whole new decade ahead. What ever can we do?

I read somewhere a few weeks ago that it takes 60 days to establish a new habit. It sounded like an amazing goal because I have a few habits I would like to establish this year. Then it got me to thinking about travel habits.

I sat down with a coffee, music in my new Cowin Pro wireless headphones I got for Christmas, and I started writing a list of New Year’s resolutions for travelers. This list is a little bit of what I want to accomplish myself, a lot of what I already do, and few things I felt needed mentioning.

Take a look at the list and leave a comment below to let me know if you have any additional resolutions you hope to accomplish during your upcoming year of travel!

1. Go Local

I’ve always found it strangely curious when people travel a destination and eat at the same chain restaurant they can find fifteen minutes from their house. Why not seek out a locally owned restaurant? Try something new for a change?

This year try to spend more time doing things locally. Eat at local restaurants to discover regional foods. Shop local to support artisans around the world. Stay local at B&Bs to meet fellow travelers.

2. Seek Out Sustainable Travel

Sustainability is not a dirty word. Regardless of how you feel about climate change would it actually hurt if you decided to travel more sustainably in 2020?

Ditch single use plastics and pick up a reusable water bottle like the CamelBak Chute, my favorite water bottle! Seek out eco-friendly tours that utilize renewable resources and teach about sustainability. Instead of driving to each stop at a destination take public transportation or go for a walk.

3. %&#@ Instagram

Yeah, I know, a travel influencer telling you to forget a social media platform I use all the time. I’m not saying you can’t ever use it, just use it more wisely than I’ve seen in the past few years. Throughout 2019 I kept coming across people obsessed with capturing an “insta-worthy post”. This obsession has led to over-crowding and generally ruins the mood for earnest travelers.

Instead of making travel all about the Instagram post, focus instead on the experience of travel. Enjoy the moments. Savor the excitement. And use Instagram as a tool to share your experience rather than being the entire point of travel.

4. Visit Someplace New

Everyone has that favorite vacation spot that feels like a home away from home. You know where the local grocery store is, you’re friends with the owner at the best restaurant in town, and you know all the back roads to avoid traffic.

It’s a comfortable feeling, but nothing beats the excitement of visiting someplace new. I don’t know about you but every time I go someplace I’ve never been before I get a weightless feeling and burst into laughter. And who knows, maybe that new place you visit will become the new favorite vacation spot?

5. Get a Digital Detox

For many years my favorite week was when I left the digital world behind for a week of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. After the first night or two I felt my body readjust to Earth standard time; I woke at dawn, went to sleep at dusk, and achieved more during the daylight hours.

In 2020 take at least one three-day weekend for a digital detox. Go someplace in the mountains, head out to sea, anywhere that doesn’t have cellular reception. Leave the digital devices behind. Take a book. Forget about social media. Detox!

6. Learn a New Language

I love learning a new language! Besides the fact learning almost any other language is easier than learning English, it’s also a proud accomplishment to know I can speak another language. It also adds a level of comfort to know if I were to travel to a foreign country with the ability to speak the native language I will blend in better and get along easier.

One of the reasons learning a new language is such a great resolution is because it takes time. On average it takes about 3-6 months to learn a new language, giving you something to do a little bit at a time. Pull out your travel bucket list, pick a country you’ve always wanted to visit, and learn their language before traveling!

7. Make Saving for Travel a Monthly Expense

Saving money for travel can be more difficult than saving for a house. It’s almost strange, but I have always felt it’s because travel isn’t tangible. Almost anything else you save for is physical, occupies your life on an almost daily basis, and that seems to make it more real.

Travel is nothing but experiences and memories. That’s why the majority of people will only use one or two months of income to save for an upcoming trip. That often results in a tight travel budget, overburdened credit cards, and an unpleasant return home. In 2020 make a travel budget, divide by how many months you have until the trip begins, and make saving for travel a monthly expense.

8. Do Something Spontaneous

Nothings beats the thrill of spontaneous travel. I had that moment in October this past year when a friend (Forget Someday) sent me a message to ask if I would be interested in taking her time share at Beech Mountain, NC. It turned out to be the most relaxing and amazing week of the year during the peak of fall foliage in the North Carolina mountains!

It’s all well and good to have a planned vacation with complete itinerary. But not everything requires every moment to be planned. Not sure what to do with your three-day weekend? Just travel. Be spontaneous.

9. Get Away From the Tourist Hot Spots

How exactly does a particular restaurant, attraction, scenic overlook, or park become a “tourist hot spot”? It’s because of people like me. Travel bloggers, writers, and photographers scour the globe for that undiscovered destination. We photograph it, record it, write about it, talk about it, and share it.

The problem is when that particular spot goes from undiscovered to over-crowded, quaint to built up, or peaceful to tourist trap. It might still be a great place you really want to visit, but eventually you have to ask yourself if the time spent standing in line, paying increasing prices, and dealing with overcrowding are worth it? Instead, why not seek out an undiscovered destination for yourself, or at the very least visit the less popular tourist destinations?

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10. Use Every Single Vacation Day

What do Americans have against vacation days? It’s not like those days are spent staying at home because in 2019 a whopping 54% of all earned vacation days were never used at all. This past year only 23% of people with vacation days used them all, and 10% didn’t use any at all.

In 2020 make it a goal to use every vacation day you are entitled to take. Use them to build your own three-day weekends for short getaways. Coordinate with school closings and the spouse’s schedule to take better family vacations. Play tourist in your own backyard!

11. Stay Fit While Traveling

I don’t know about you but if I go an entire week without working out I’ll gain ten pounds. Seriously. Every time I visit my parents’ house for the Superbowl I chow down on the gargantuan amount of food my mom makes and end up gaining five pounds in a single day.

I never realized how important it was to stay fit for travel until I found myself extremely unfit for travel. Horseback riding, ziplining, and most hiking trails were suddenly off limits to me. In 2020 we should all find a way to remain fit while traveling. Use the hotel gym, even if it only has a bicycle and multi-station machine. Find boardwalks to go for a walk. Pass on the dessert menu.

12. Go on a Road Trip

I’m not just saying this to promote myself, because I do happen to write about road trips, but a recent study has found a 64% increase in people interested in road tripping since 2012! I feel 2020 could be the year the Great American Road Trip returns as a popular vacation.

Even if you don’t want to spend your entire vacation road tripping, at least make a portion of it a road trip. Instead of driving straight to your vacation destination take two or three days to get there. Go for short three-day road trips over long weekends. Take an overnight road trip when heading over to visit the family.

13. Send Postcards

The grandmother made a special request of me this year: she wanted me to send her postcards from all the destinations I visit. For a couple of years now I have been using the MyPostcard app for sending postcards to clients I have worked with. This year I’ll add another recipient to the list!

However you decide to do it, try sending some postcards to friends and family this year. Pick one or two best photos from a vacation. Make it a collage. Send them to yourself! It will give you something to flip through when you get home.

14. Learn a New Skill

One of my favorite experiences of 2019 was learning how to shoot clay pigeons at the Palmetto Shooting Complex in South Carolina. I had never fired a shotgun before, but after a two-hour lesson and one hundred rounds of ammunition I was absolutely hooked.

In 2020 take the time for a class, lesson, or instruction to learn a new skill as you travel. Archery, glassblowing, cooking, there are so many options. Call the local art center to see what they are offering the day you arrive and book a session, or think of something you have always wanted to learn and creation a vacation around it!

15. Master the Art of Packing

My brother never thought the art of packing was important until I bought him some packing cubes for Christmas. Now he sorts his entire luggage set into packing cubes as he flies around the country for work.

Learning how to pack properly is far more valuable than just saving room in your suitcase. It also helps prevent leaving items behind, cuts down on time spent sifting through a large bag looking for one particular item, and keeps clothes wrinkle free until you need them.

16. Vacation in Your Own Backyard

Many years ago I spent a week with an old friend in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She met me at several of the places I visited like the old jail and a hole-in-wall place where I found the best hot dogs. When the week was over she commented, “I never knew all these things were in my backyard!”

Travel doesn’t always have to involve spending thousands of dollars to fly to another country. Stay at home while exploring your hometown. Or even better: check into a bed and breakfast an hour away and go to places you’ve never been before. At least it will be a short drive home when you check out!

17. Use Accommodations Other Than a Hotel

Airbnb has had its moment. Controversy notwithstanding, Airbnb is still a great option for finding inexpensive lodging while traveling, but people are starting to realize the market is full of options other than traditional hotels.

I have used VRBO a few times now to rent entire homes or condos and found some great lodging. Hostels have never really been an option in the US, but they are very slowly growing. Glamping tents are coming into fashion now at locally owned campgrounds and state parks are beginning to install yurts.

18. Check More Off the Bucket List Than You Add

I keep a running list of all the places I want to visit and experiences I want to have. Each year I look back at the list to realize I added more than I checked off. Needless to say at this rate I’ll never get it done.

In 2020 focus more on the travel bucket list. There is a reason you added that particular destination or experience; it’s time to check it off the list. In fact, try building every vacation this year around something on that list and you’re almost guaranteed to have the most amazing year of travel yet.

19. Go on a Solo Adventure

I was hesitant to include this on the list of resolutions because I don’t feel it’s actually necessary to go solo. But then I got to thinking that’s probably because I am a solo traveler; I’m always looking for a partner in crime!

Family vacations and weekend getaways with the significant other are great, but sometimes you just need a solo adventure. Unselfishly make yourself the center of attention, go someplace you have always wanted to visit but hesitant to suggest, and pamper yourself until the last minute.

20. Do Something New

I thrive on doing new things while I travel. A couple of years ago I discovered Adventure Sports Innovation in Chattanooga and went on an off-road adventure in a SWINCAR. The all-electric ATV zipped through the arboretum at nearly forty miles per hour for one of the most thrilling hours of the year.

This year do something new. Go SCUBA diving, take a flight in a seaplane, take the train instead of flying, or take dancing lessons. Whatever you do, just make sure it’s new and savor every moment of the excitement.

Do you have any other resolutions for travelers to add to the list? Leave a comment below and let me know!

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

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Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.

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