5 Creative New Years Travel Resolutions for 2021
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
2020 was an absolute struggle when it comes to traveling. Kyle and I had so many travel resolutions for such a big year and a new decade. However, we were only really able to achieve a few in the beginning of the year before COVID hit, and hit some local exploration goals. BUT, with the vaccine now in sight, we're starting to feel more hopeful for hitting some of our travel resolutions for 2021.
Here are 5 New Years travel resolutions to help spark your creativity and get you ready for a bounce-back year of travelling in 2021!
1. Travel Somewhere New Every Month
Okay, I know this sounds overwhelming, but trust me, it's VERY do-able. Hear me out... going somewhere new every month doesn't have to be going abroad, or even getting on a plane! During COVID, Kyle and I really started to embrace (safe) local exploration and learning about Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs.
We recommend at the beginning of the year, start by blocking your calendars. This could be a weekend days, entire weekends, or even a long weekend with a PTO day here and there (we'll talk more in resolution #2). In addition to opportunities to get out of the country, try incorporate some of these ideas to your monthly time block:
Explore the next town over. Get out of your bubble. If you live in the city, go out to the burbs and check out some garage sales or thrift stores. If you live in the burbs, get into the city and explore a specific neighborhood you've always had your eye on!
Walk down streets in your neighborhood that you've never explored. We promise there are a lot of cute houses to dream about and even Instagram opportunities!
Do a weekend trip to a nearby state with no goal or touristy activities in mind, just get away for a day or two!
Go on a hike or find a new local trail
Discover new foods and flavors (this could even be specialized grocery stores in your own neighborhood that you've walked by a million times)
2. Use And Optimize Your PTO Days
I've always been the type of person to use a couple of PTOs in the beginning of the year to enjoy my January birthday, then let the year slip by before blowing all my PTO days at the end of the year when I realize I'm running out of time. Please don't let this be you! PLAN AHEAD and PLAN SMART!
First, embrace our first resolution of traveling somewhere new every month. If you can build your travel into your calendar ahead of time, you'll be able to more evenly disburse your vacation time or pick and choose which month you want to allocate more days than others.
Second, block the day before and the day after a national holiday long before they happen. When we travel internationally, we always plan around a long weekend or a free holiday. This creates opportunity for you to take a longer trip (eg. fly to a different continent and deal with jet lag! Duh - we call ourselves Jet Lag Journey for a reason)
Third, and this is for folks who plan to have only one or two major travel journeys a year, is a method we call: Accrue and Commit. Accrue the dates, and then actually commit to using them. We have a lot of family and friends who accrue a ton of vacation days, but when the time comes, they talk themselves out of using all the dates. Eventually, they have maxed out their roll-over days and they are forced to waste random days off sitting at home. Personally, we're fans of taking a ton of shorter trips, but if you plan to take a big trip, accrue then commit! Pick a destination, book a future flight, and start planning!
3. Maximize Credit Card Rewards, Airline Miles, and Hotel Points
Trust us, traveling doesn't have to be expensive if you earn and use your points the right way! Coming from airline and consulting background, this is something Kyle and I are very passionate about (more on this in future posts). But since 2020 was a wash, hotels and airline companies were able to extend their customers' status levels. So going into 2021, we'd like to continue maximizing how we use our points when it comes to trip planning.
Here are a couple things we do now if you're interested:
First, we recommend getting a general credit card to earn points faster and not be tied to a specific hotel chain or airline. Our favorite is the Chase Sapphire Reserve (but there are a lot of great cards out there) but whatever card you choose make sure you are getting rewarded for the travel spending you already do, whether it's dining, getting around, or booking flights and hotel stays. These cards will often provide additional benefits like free TSA Pre check or Global Entry, DoorDash reimbursements, and airport lounge access as part of their annual fee. When combining the points you earn for your normal spending with the additional benefits, you'll often find that you get way more benefit than the cost of the annual fee
For more frequent travelers like us, we also recommend a cobranded hotel credit card. If you travel a lot and have status or loyalty to a specific hotel brand these cards can provide significantly better points value than your general travel credit card can offer. Hotel credit cards also include benefits like free elite night credits, guaranteed status, free night certificates, and much more. It's important to note that these added benefits may only be worth it if you are spending a decent chunk of change with that specific hotel brand, so this is only a tip for those of us who spend a dozen or more nights in a hotel room each year.
Based on Resolution 1 & 2, ideally you already know what your general travel plans are for the year, and you can schedule your reward nights at the right time, at the right hotel!
There's sooo much more to discuss in this category, but these are just a few things we do that help with maximizing earning and using points and rewards. Don't worry, we'll have a dedicated article (or two? or three?) in the future just on travel points and miles. Let us know in the comments if this is something you want us to focus on soon!
4. Stay Overnight at a Unique Location
Chain hotels can be great and reliable, but many of them are copy and paste experiences no matter what city you might find yourself in. One thing we learned from our journeys in 2019 that we'd like to bring into 2021 is to stay at more unique hotels, and we were delighted to find that we can get a boutique hotel experience without leaving the points and status opportunities of the larger hotel brands.
Let me explain... we all know about the typical hotels you might find as part of a hotel chain. Let's take Marriott as an example. We all know of chains brands like Fairfield Inn, Sheraton, or Westin. But when you search on marriott.com you will find that there may be some hotels you have never heard of in the city you are headed to. Often times, these hotels are fall into one of three categories:
Boutique hotels that may be individually owned, but have a partnership with a major hotel chain's loyalty program
Historic hotels hotels that are landmarks in the city they are in
Smaller hotel that have been acquired by the bigger brands, but kept as their own original branding and experience
So next time you are booking your next hotel stay look for the following collections and brand for a more unique stay than you might have thought possible:
Loyal to Hilton? Check out Curio Collection
Loyal to IHG? Check out Kimpton Hotels
Loyal to Hyatt? Check out Small Luxury Hotels of the World
Going back to our last resolution, use your newly found points wealth to find some unique stays during your upcoming travels. We have done this a couple times (and hoping for more soon), most memorably our pre-COVID 2020 birthday tri p to Amsterdam trip where we stayed at a hotel called Sir Adam. And best of all, we were able to get this unique experience for even cheaper than it would have cost for the familiar Amsterdam Marriott hotel.
5. Be More Intentional with Immersing in the Local Culture
I sometimes fall for the trap of going for a restaurant I recognize when I dine during a trip (*cough cough* McDonalds). But in the last year of being stuck at home, I realized how much I am missing out on when I settle for an American chain food restaurant when I travel. Please, if you do one thing travel-related in 2021, learn from my mistakes and take that extra 5 mins to look up local restaurant reviews Try to suppress the need for that familiar Big Mac flavor and experience something you may never get to experience again!
This resolution doesn't just apply to travel abroad, but it can work wonders when staying local too. If anything, this is even harder to suppress because there's a chain restaurant every other block across the US. So if you are traveling domestically, or even still stuck at home in early 2021, commit to exploring different cultures in creative ways! This can be what I mentioned in Resolution #1 - go to your neighborhood specialty store and try new spices and flavors. Be more intentional.
Which resolution are you holding yourself to in 2021?
Those are the top 5 things that we've been thinking a lot about. As I reflect back, I've been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel to so many countries and experience so much. But there's still much more I can do better with to understand and embrace each unique place and culture.
Whether its one of the resolutions I listed above, or something else entirely, let me know in the comments, what are your 2021 travel resolutions?