As the clock chimes midnight and the champagne pops, you resolve that this is your year to travel more. You look up at a disco ball and imagine dancing the night away at a club in Ibiza, or waking up tomorrow to freshly baked Rúgbrauð in Reykjavik. Welcome to the first step on your journey to new lands and New Year’s resolution success.
To help you get started we’ve found the perfect guide to getaways. Tom Hall is the Editorial Director at Lonely Planet. Below, Tom shares his advice for achieving your New Year’s resolution to travel.
Create Time Blocks
“No matter what stage you’re at in life, or what type of plan you’re striving to do, carving out time well in advance is a great way to commit to making the plan happen,” Tom explains. “You might not even know where you’re going, but time gets eaten up pretty easily. Block it out, and start from there. How long? As long as you can, and as many blocks as you can put in place.”
Tom believes that after specific chunks of time have been allocated for travel, it is easier to plan the rest of your life. “Once time’s put in, other commitments can be shaped around this and you can begin planning in earnest,” he says.
He also advises that it’s okay to be flexible, too, as long as you or someone else is holding you accountable. “If you’re a serial switcher, who moves or cancels planned travel, you may find it useful to plan to travel with someone else, and to book in some fixed points you’re less likely to move away from, like an event that will only take place during that time.”
“Having fewer more clearly articulated goals makes it more likely that you’ll hit them. Saying ‘I want to go to East Africa’ is vague and requires further definition, but saying ‘I want to write a feature on cycling the Lushoto Hills of Tanzania before the rainy season’ gives you plenty of specifics.”
Articulate Your Travel Goals
Start by picking a time and place to travel to, then consider the steps involved in planning and getting there. But don’t be vague: make sure to prioritize your travel goals by clearly stating what you want to achieve.
As Tom says, “Having fewer more clearly articulated goals makes it more likely that you’ll hit them. Saying ‘I want to go to East Africa’ is vague and requires further definition, but saying ‘I want to write a feature on cycling the Lushoto Hills of Tanzania before the rainy season’ gives you plenty of specifics.”
Once you’ve established a time and place, start tackling the next steps: make sure your passport is up to date, research the sites to see, and learn a bit about the culture where you are going.
The Time Is Now
If you find yourself hesitating on purchasing that flight or booking your accommodations, Tom is quick to warn that there is no better time than the present. “The longer you leave booking flights and accommodation the more expensive there’ll be with less choice available, so the clock is ticking,” he says.
Of course planning a trip is always much easier when you have the right tools. Here are Tom’s favorite sites for travel information and trip planning:
- ITA Matrix is an excellent place to seek out airfares you can then take to a travel agent.
- FlightRadar24 is addictive, great fun and hugely useful when you’re on the move.
- Lonely Planet’s website is a very good place to plan, book and seek the views of an active travel community.
- I get a lot of specific tips on cities in particular by asking my followers on Twitter.
- Airbnb’s properties are generally not in touristy parts of town so this site is a great place to find somewhere to stay that shows an authentic side of the city.
Maximize Your Time Away
Once your vacation begins, Tom has 5 crucial takeaways for getting the most out of your trip:
- Try to make every journey into something memorable. Even a one-day business trip can have something interesting in it.
- Don’t plan everything into oblivion. Sometimes the best discoveries are spontaneous.
- Remember to put your phone down and look around. Sitting still and listening can center you in one place, and give where you are a chance to get into your head.
- Consider staying in more than one location when you’re somewhere new - it can show you different perspectives on the same place.
- Get up early. You fit more in, and escape the crowds.
Are you ready to make this year your best travel year yet? Good! Tom has one last tidbit, which he considers the most important travel advice he has ever heard: “Take half the stuff I was planning on packing and twice the money. Even if I haven’t always got the money, I still try to divide my packing list. Lighter means happier.”
Travel Planning Sample Trello Board
Check out a vacation planning board template to get you started.