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You’re not going to start flossing. It’s best to just admit that to yourself now. But instead of committing to the same boring resolutions you try (and ultimately fail at) every year, why not embrace this optimistic month and overhaul your travel plans? Here are nine resolutions that every frequent flier should steal for the New Year.
1. Plan Travel Like It’s Your Job
If you regretted spending more time in 2017 on your couch than in Croatia — or whatever country you wanted to tick off your list — your issue might be a lack of planning. At work, if something’s not planned, it usually doesn’t get done, and the same rule holds true for travel. January’s a sleepy month, but life and obligations will soon pile up. Think about where you want to go each season and dedicate time each week to looking up destinations, hotels, flights and rates. Put these research hours in your calendar to make them stick.
2. Stay Open to Serendipity
This directly contradicts resolution #1, but they’re both possible. Planning sets an agenda and gets trips booked. But leaving breathing room for serendipity will keep you on your toes. Cold snap coming and you’d rather be in the Caribbean? Book now. Amazing deal for a flight that leaves tomorrow? As long as you won’t get fired or your spouse won’t leave you, what do you have to lose? And when you’re actually at your destination, be open to changing plans. Just because your coworker recommended 12 restaurants in Tokyo doesn’t mean you have to hit them all. Leave room for adjustments. In other words: Chill.
3. Upgrade Your Inefficient Gear
Still clinging to that college backpack or ancient carry-on with a broken zipper? You don’t need to go crazy (save your money for a great meal instead), but investing in high-quality travel gear, whether a new dopp kit or cozy travel blanket, can reinforce your travel commitments.
As Steph Korey, co-founder and CEO of the luggage start-up Away, says: “Everything you bring on your trip should make your overall experience more seamless. For so many people, the gear they use is an afterthought — even their suitcase, something they bring on every trip! But when you don’t have to worry about your bag breaking or your phone dying, you have so much more time to actually enjoy the journey and the destination.”
4. Jump Off the Bandwagon
“Well, this Instagram influencer is loving Antarctica, so even though I hate the cold, let me do a quick search on Google Flights …” Gathering inspiration from fellow travelers is wonderful, but the I-want-what-they-have game is not.
“Research shows that when you gauge yourself in comparison to others, your self-confidence and your self-esteem are very unstable. If you look at people who are worse off than you, you feel better, but then when you look at people who are better off than you, you feel worse and you don’t have an internal compass to evaluate your own status and situation,” says Dr. Pauline Wallin, a clinical psychologist in Camp Hill, PA.
Photos people selectively post on social media don’t tell the whole story and, as Dr. Wallin notes, “Whether they are having a good time or not has very little to do with whether you’re satisfied with your own life.” So think about places you want to go — bonus points if they’re not “cool” or trendy. Everyone’s heading to Iceland but you’d be pleased as punch to wander around Montana? Perfect. The most fulfilling trips are the ones you dream up yourself.
5. Exploit Your Every Travel Advantage
You probably already know a little something about maximizing your points — you’re reading TPG, after all. But the beginning of the year is a great time for a refresh. Are there better card options out there? Are you missing out on any benefits?
“Take inventory of all the cards in your wallet, and evaluate whether or not you’re getting enough value out of the ones that have high annual fees,” says Sarah Silbert, TPG’s Points and Miles Editor. “And if you have a card like the Amex Platinum that offers an annual travel credit tied to a specific airline, make sure you select the carrier that makes the most sense based on your plans.” Set up deal alerts for places you want to go. Squash excuses you make for why you can’t do something and plan so that you can.
6. Hatch a Trip with a Friend
Next time your college pal emails you a travel story saying, “OMG have you been? Looks amazing!” Follow up. Actually, go. Old friendships can be resuscitated with one great weekend trip and new friendships can be cemented (or, let’s be honest, demolished) by traveling together. Your buddies have travel dreams of their own, so chat about where you want to go and why. Joining forces gives you accountability — and a hard date on the calendar — to make those trips happen.
7. Get More Comfortable with Languages
“I have to become fluent in Mandarin by next month!” Somehow, between planning travel logistics, wrapping up day job tasks and, you know, life stuff, all your optimistic plans to learn a language can get waylaid. Take a cue from Jen Rubio, co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Away, who’s upgrading her translation routine for 2018.
“I’m frequently in off-the-beaten-path places, and while miming and a smile can get you far where you don’t speak the local language, a few key phrases can go a long way into giving you a better experience or even getting you out of a bind,” she says. “I tend to rely on Google Translate, but this year, I’m testing out tools like the Ili Wearable Translator, which is a little handheld device you can speak to for near-instant translation.”
8. Visit Somewhere Personal to You
For years, I’ve been saying I want to find all the other crazy Cutruzzulas in southern Italy, or nail down which island my mother’s family hails from in Portugal. Instead, other obligations or trips distracted me — none of which I regret — but I know that those two trips would be meaningful ones. Is there a person you want to visit? An ancient bit of family history you want to dig into? A destination you can visit with your parents, siblings or relatives? Finding those deeper reasons for travel can make that new stamp in your passport even more satisfying.
9. Settle on a Big Goal for 2019
I know what you’re thinking — slow your roll, this year’s still a newborn — but here’s the truth: 2019 will arrive very soon. There are probably some trips you’re dying take that aren’t realistic this year. Instead of moping, take time to plot your biggest and best travel year yet. Research and see what you need to make it happen, whether that’s saving money, gathering points, or hoarding your vacation days — and by this time next yearm you could be driving around the Maasai Mara or flying first class to Hong Kong.
With a little bit of foresight and smart planning, nothing’s out of reach.
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