Samantha Brown is a travel expert and the host of the PBS television series “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love.” She serves as travel ambassador for the U.S. Travel Association.
Forget resolving to give up caffeine or sugar. Why not make 2021 the year you resolve to do something that’s actually fun! There are so many ways to incorporate more travel into your new year goals. Yes, even during a pandemic. Here’s a few of my favorites.
Use all your vacation days.
Here’s a staggering fact: American workers left an average of 33% of their paid time off on the table last year. Make 2021 the year you enjoy your time off. If you’re not comfortable getting on a plane yet, you don’t have to. You can take a road trip or try a staycation in your own town (or one a short distance away).
The best way I’ve found to ensuring you use all your days? Add National Plan for Vacation Day to your calendar. This year, it’s January 26, 2021. On that day, thousands unite to encourage Americans to start planning how to use their time off in the year ahead. If you set aside a little time on that day to plan your vacations, it’s much more likely to happen.
Plan a dream vacation.
Did you know the psychologists say that just PLANNING a vacation puts you in the same happy zone as going on one? Planning gets you ever closer to your dream. Plus, it’s absolutely free. With all the leg work you do now, you’re that much closer to making your dream happen.
Not sure where to start? This beautiful Look Book (https://www.letsgothere.travel/lookbook ) from the Let’s Go There coalition will give you tons of ideas for places to visit in your region and beyond. You can also check out hotel websites. Read travel blogs on your dream destination. Watch movies that mentally transport you there. Create a Pinterest board featuring your destination and what you’ll do while there. Imagine what you want to pack. Planning is a least half the fun.
Enroll in Trusted Traveler Programs
People are flying less at the moment. But travel will come back, and when it does, you’ll thank your past self for the gift of TSA Precheck or Global Entry. For someone who travels as much as me, TSA Precheck is a game changer. You get your own line! You can keep your shoes on! The laptop and liquids can stay in your bag. Light jacket and belt stays on! However, if you plan on ever traveling abroad, I’d also enroll in Global Entry. It’s only $15 more, you apply, sign up for an interview and now you have both TSA Precheck privileges as well as Global Entry, which allows you to pass by long immigration lines EVERY TIME you come home. It’s fabulous.
Get a passport.
Only 36% of US citizens hold a valid passport. This year, get yours! And then why not take it a step further and plan an international trip? Speaking of…
Sometimes travel is less about the destination than it is about the opportunity to unplug. There are times where taking an epic trip is just too hard… like when you have small children, a demanding job, or are facing a global pandemic. I encourage you to shrink your thinking. It’s okay to make travel easy. Plan a getaway within driving distance or book a long weekend in a mid-sized city with lots of direct flights. I like to treat travel as a habit. It’s muscle you can strengthen, and the more you do it, the more you want to do it. Trust me: making the space for a smaller trip is better than no trip at all!
Embrace the cold.
A lot of people are pausing their annual warm weather vacations. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a winter vacation. From cozy lodges to posh hotels, there are plenty of lovely places you can get to on less than a tank of gas. Look for places with a hot tub, sauna, fireplace, anything that really dials up that hygge vibe (that’s the Danish word for cozy). Is it close to fun outdoor activities, like snowshoeing, cross country skiing or trails? Sign me up! I suggest calling the hotel directly (not the 1-800 number, but the actual hotel) to see what they’re doing to ensure safety for guests and staff. Also ask what common areas are like, and the onsite and nearby food situation. Doesn’t having food delivered outside your hotel room sound heavenly? I sure think so!
Do an extended stay somewhere.
Are you already working remotely? Could you work remotely from somewhere else that has more sunshine and less snowstorms? I know many vacation rentals offer major discounts for those who book month-long stays. This may be the year to pile everyone into the car and set up shop at a different latitude. That sure sounds magical to me!