Nine Travel Resolutions You Can Actually Keep This Year

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Happy New Year to you all! From the golden sands of Koh Lanta, I wish you a very happy and healthy new year full of adventures, excitement, and dream fulfillment.

Let’s talk about resolutions. Every year, I meet people who want to travel more — but they never make it happen. They want to travel, but they don’t prioritize it, and for that reason, it doesn’t happen. We are going to end that crappy mindset right now.

Take a look at my resolution post from 2012 — Yes, You WILL Travel This Year Here’s How. Two years later, everything on that list is still true.

This year, I wanted to put together some specific resolutions that are easily achievable. Here they are!

Kate in Boracay

1) Spend Christmas 2014 on the beach.

If you’ve always dreamed of having Christmas on the beach someday, why not make 2014 the year? I guarantee it will be something you’ll remember forever, whether you go on your own, with family, with your partner, or with friends.

There are so many options. The Caribbean is a classic, but you can often get more for your money in Central America, especially places like Nicaragua. Or you could head to Asia like me, where it’s expensive to get to but very cheap on the ground.

How to do it: Of all the goals on the list, this is the one you should get started on right away. Once you decide on a destination, book accommodation as soon as you can because the most desirable places tend to sell out quickly at Christmas (especially one-of-a-kind places like Airbnb rentals), and prices seldom fluctuate. From that point, set up alerts for the flights you want, because these prices do fluctuate, and book as soon as they drop to a price you’re willing to pay.

2) Get into points and miles.

For the past few years, I’ve been flying for free or super-cheap thanks to accruing points and miles. There’s no denying that free flights are awesome! I did it on my own thanks to strategically joining credit cards when they offered large miles bonuses, and continuing to use those cards strategically to gain even more points. (FYI — contrary to popular belief, this has not affected my credit whatsoever).

How to do it: Familiarize yourself with the three alliances: Star Alliance, OneWorld, and Skyteam. Find out which airlines serve your hub well, or which ones you tend to fly most often, and choose to concentrate on earning miles on the alliance that best fits your needs. The Points Guy is my favorite resource for points and miles for Americans, and he has a list of top recommended credit card bonuses on the right margin that will jump-start your journey of free travel.

Sydney Opera House in Black and White

3) Visit that destination you have ALWAYS, ALWAYS dreamed of visiting.

Have you always dreamed about sipping a coffee at a cafe in Paris? What about seeing Machu Picchu rising in the mist at sunrise? Or seeing endangered rhinos on safari in South Africa?

This is the year you will make your dream trip finally happen — but it won’t happen unless you make it a priority in your life. Will it be worth it? Absolutely. This time next year, you’ll be remembering 2014 as the year that you went after your dream and got it.

How to do it: Start researching your dream destination. Figure out the best time of year to go. Calculate how much it will cost and then proceed to resolution #8 — because this will not happen unless you make a financial commitment to it.

4) Become a better travel photographer.

Have you always wished your travel photos were better? Dedicate this year to improving your photography. Many of my favorite photographers are entirely self-taught — it can be done!

An easy goal is upgrading to a DSLR or mirrorless camera (I did last year with my Nikon D5100 and Tamron 17-50 lens) and learning how to shoot in manual. No more auto for every situation!

How to do it: Even the best camera won’t salvage your photos unless you improve your technique. Start reading photography blogs and checking out their guides. Within the travel blogosphere, the photography guides on The Polar Route are great; Finding the Universe’s photography guides are nice as well. Learn how to edit your photos properly, too — YouTube has a lot of great tutorials for using Lightroom and Photoshop.

Bronte Airbnb Rental

5) Try staying in an Airbnb rental.

I started staying in Airbnb rentals this year and am now a huge, huge fan. I used to be creeped out at the notion of sleeping in other people’s houses — but by this point, I’ve seen how well hosts take care of their homes and make it a wonderful experience for the guests.

I think that Airbnb offers the best value when it comes to cities. An apartment (or even a room) in a certain neighborhood will go for a fraction of a hotel in the same neighborhood. A few years ago, Mario stayed in an Airbnb rental because it was the only way he could afford to stay in Manhattan. They’re also great for making you feel like a local, especially if you stay in a neighborhood with lots of restaurants, bars and cafes.

How to do it: Simple — as soon as you have a trip planned, check out the Airbnb website. Be sure to double-check the rental’s cancellation policy, as some are stricter than others.

PLUS: If you’re new to Airbnb, sign up here and get $25 off your first stay from me!

6) Get your passport. Or renew it.

I know I’m speaking to a minority of my readers here, but fewer than half of Americans have their passport. Many people who do have their passport have one that’s about to expire. (Remember that many countries won’t let you in if your passport has less than six months of validity remaining.)

Not having a passport is simply an excuse. Don’t be that girl who can’t join her friends on that impromptu weekend in Montreal because she doesn’t have a passport.

Get your passport. Renew your passport. It’s easy and it’s good for ten years. Plus, you’ll be covered if the government is coming after you and you need to go on the run.

How to do it: For US Citizens, this page will get you started. You can get passport photos at most drugstores for around $10.

Kate on a Boat

7) Get outside your comfort zone.

If you’re used to traveling in Europe and North America, why not head to Asia or South America this time? If you’ve been trying to get in better shape, why not try a yoga retreat or a cycling or hiking trip? Try camping or sailing if you never have before. If you’re always avoiding the cold, try a winter trip to Scotland or Lapland or the Canadian Rockies.

Switch things up. You might find a new passion.

How to do it: It might seem glaringly obvious, but just Google around. Add in the word “blog” to your queries and it might pull up some travel blogs.

8) Start a travel savings account.

Having a savings account designated for travel and only travel, untouchable for any other use, is how I managed to save $13,000 in seven months. If you’re trying to save for travel casually without a specific plan, you likely won’t meet your goals.

How to do it: Start a savings account exclusively for travel. Decide on a set amount from your paycheck to put into the account. When your paycheck arrives, immediately transfer that exact amount into your account — and don’t touch it until you’re ready to travel.

Glacier Kate

9) Travel solo for the first time.

This is the big one — and one that I hope that a lot of you consider. Solo travel is empowering and gives you an incredible amount of freedom. It is, without a doubt, one of the best things I have done in my life.

If an entire solo trip sounds intimidating, I recommend starting your solo travels with a weekend away in a destination near you, just to see how you like it.

How to do it: It’s as simple as booking a trip and going! Here are some ways to meet people while traveling solo. I’m a big fan of Couchsurfing meetups.

What’s your travel resolution for 2014?

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71 thoughts on “Nine Travel Resolutions You Can Actually Keep This Year”

  1. OK, I absolutely love that photo of you in the lifejacket in what I hope is a speedboat hahaha! Brilliant. And yes to these resolutions. I’ve never really done the points thing before and, since I’ll be based in Taipei for a year (and most points expire within a year, no?), there’s not much incentive for me to start (and there’s no way anyone would give me a credit card, either). I was on the points scheme with Emirates before, but their service has been so bad on the past few flights I’ve taken (rude FAs, ridiculous delays), that I won’t fly with them anymore.

    I’m with you on the photo thing, though. One of my friends scolded me when he found out I just used auto, and he taught me how to use manual. Still getting to grips with it, but the photos are improving. I can even take non-terrible photos of fireworks now (thanks to a tutorial on the Beer & Beans site). Have yet to try Air BnB (tried Wimdu which is similar), although I’ve heard good things.

    Anyway, hope you have a wonderful 2014, and I hope that somehow our paths will cross again this year! 🙂

  2. A brilliant set of resolutions!

    I particularly like the one about moving outside your comfort zone. Because of work (and a need to keep resolution 8!) I’m largely restricted to places I can visit in a weekend at the moment. However, this pretty much means the rest of the UK or somewhere in Europe, which is bang smack in the middle of my comfort zone.

    But that got me thinking: stepping outside of your comfort zone doesn’t have to be about destination. It can be about style of trip as well. So let’s make this the year I go camping somewhere, and hike up a mountain. (Ben Nevis, perhaps…?)

    Definitely something to think about. Thanks for getting the brain-cogs turning!

    1. I’m happy to hear that, Katie! If you REALLY wanted to leave your comfort zone, you could always do the Three Peaks Challenge. The highest peaks in Scotland, England, and Wales, all within 24 hours! (Or within a week.)

  3. All these resolutions are goals of mine! Well, except the last one. I went on my first solo vacation to Chicago this year and it was the best time of my life. I’d never been there, and just picked a city that I could wander around in for a few days and get out of my regular life for a while. It was brilliant.

  4. Great tips, Kate–and all super do-able. Another fun one if you already have an American passport is to get Global Entry to speed up the process when you return home after a trip. Costs $100 and lasts for 10 years–I’m super excited to use mine in 2014!

    1. Global Entry is good for ten years?! I thought it was only good for one! Thank you! Will definitely make that a priority this year, then, as soon as I get my new passport.

  5. I’ve never been a fan of new-years resolutions. Mostly because I’m not a fan of not living up to them. [laughs]. But these are great, and for the most part achievable! Hell jeah. Okay Kate, you’ve convinced me. I’d say my new years resolution would be to become a successful travel blogger. And… I’ve always wanted a tiger in my room (and I really just mean a tiger.) Even a horse would be fine, but I want something with four legs chilling in the corner of my room. That’s it.

    Great post! Love reading your articles.

  6. Really great list! I like the ones about using airbnb and taking better travel photos. I’ve been thinking a lot about travel goals for 2014 (who hasn’t, right?) and have a couple of my own. First, I want to visit three new countries. And second, I want to try to talk to more people/be more social when traveling. I am ok with being alone but the people I meet are always the best memories of a trip, so I’m trying to be better about meeting people. My version of getting out of my comfort zone I guess!

  7. Good list…I’ve done all but number 9 although I’ve often been known to ditch my travel companions for some alone time exploring. I finally spent Christmas at the beach this past year and although it was at first challenging to get into the Christmas mindset it turned out to be one of my most memorable Christmasses spent with complete strangers who I can now call friends.
    You’re so right about having to make travel a priority if it’s what you really want. I have spent my life listening to people say that they are so envious of the amount of travel I do as if I have some magic wand that makes it happen. In reality it’s just as achievable for most anyone but you may have to be willing to make sacrifices. Instead of buying that brand new flat screen TV or getting your nails done once a week put that money into a travel account and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you too are traveling.

    1. That’s one thing worth mentioning, Sarah — it’s harder to get into the Christmas spirit. Lots of times I’ve walked into stores in hot, sweaty Bangkok to hear Christmas music and have thought, “Oh. Yeah. Christmas.”

  8. I love traveling solo, but I havent had a chance to travel, period, since 2011. Last week I finally got my new passport and I have about 6 weeks of vaca time saved up at work – so I am looking at trips from weekend getaways to Latvia to a 2-week horse ranch in Croatia. My resolution is to actually follow through on these plans.

  9. Nice to read your travel resolutions! Becoming a better travel photographer is one of my resolutions too! And yes, I have already traveled solo quite a few times. 🙂 Opening a separate travel savings account is something I need to do. Thanks!

  10. Love the list, great inspiration (and action points) to get more people travelling! I’m with Amanda and should really become more serious about the points! Thanks for the reminder. Have a great 2014 Kate and Mario!

  11. I opened a travel account January 1st!!! One of my New Year’s Resolutions started. I’m so excited!!! Thank you for all of your advice. I love your blog.

  12. These are great resolutions, Kate! Especially as a European it’s so easy to simply forget to get a passport in time, because you don’t need it to travel on the continent…
    What really worked for me during the last few years was having a travel savings account. Although as a grad student I never had a lot of money, I always put my summer / part time job money in a special account and thus was able to travel way more than other students. I just tried to question myself what I really wanted: A new jeans for 70 Euros or a EuroLines bus ticket to Paris (and back!) for the exact same price? I think anyone can travel if they change their attitude towards spending money for eating out, going to the movies, buying coffee to go, or unnecessary cloths.

  13. Kate…I am seriously in love with your post . I envy you….I always want this kind of a life…hey I am sorry going little offbeat ….\,,,/ Cheers

  14. Great tips! Some I already do and some I’m planning on doing. With all my traveling I don’t know why I haven’t started doing a frequent flyer miles card. This year I learned how to use my camera in manual. Makes a huge difference. I’ve been using Airbnb and homeaway and they are amazing! And the last one I think is really important. This year I traveled to Naples and the surrounding area for the first time solo! It’s a not a place a lot of people would go to solo but it was awesome!

  15. They are some great ideas for realistic travel resolutions! I thought about it just before New Years Eve, as easy as it is to say I will travel more and go to go x, x, and x destinations, the reality is that plans change, and things come up, and nothing ever goes as planned. Part of travelling is going with the flow.

    I do need to work more on airline points/miles, I am a member of two that suit me, but I need to learn some more tricks and ways to earn points (there seems to be a lot more information about this online for US citizens, and not so much for other countries).

    I do have my one dream destination that I will make it to this year, which no one can take away from me, but the thing I want to do most this year is just make better use of my time whilst travelling. That might sound strange, but I am on the road all summer for work, and sometimes when I am somewhere for the third or forth time that summer, I can get lazy and instead of going to explore the place more or do some different day trips, I tend to get lazy when I have free time. After all, quality over quantity, right?!

  16. We bought ourselves a nice, new, shiny dslr for boxing day so ‘take better photographs’ is high on my list! I’m reading books and watching videos and learning how to get out of auto and am so excited to have some pictures I’m proud of on my next trip!

    I’d also like to try airbnb this year, as I’ve yet to test it out. Sounds awesome, can’t wait.

    Happy new year to you and Mario!

  17. Thanks for this post! I read a lot of travel blog posts that say things like, “You can go on a yearlong, round-the-world solo trip this year!” While that can be doable, I really appreciate that you included smaller goals here such as simply getting a passport. I am a university student, so it isn’t feasible for me to work full-time to save up ten thousand dollars in a short period of time. For others in my situation, doing small things such as starting a savings account or getting a travel credit card are great places to start. As the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

  18. Yup, take better travel photos is definitely a great one for the list! I just got the Canon T3i, should arrive any day now. Other than that, I’m looking forward to crusing through the Galapagos Islands in just a couple of months!

  19. lol… Funny you saying “Spend Christmas on the beach”. I’m from Brazil and here it is so typical to spend Christmas on the beach. I lived in Minnesota for four years, and the best part of winter was to have a white Christmas. Beautiful!

    Thanks for sharing your advices!

  20. I love your traveling tips! They opened my mind on how to plan my next trip: Spain and France. Like you, traveling is a must in life. I have many friends who say they want to travel, but they don’t prioritize and make the necessary cutbacks. I started a travel fund ten years ago after a month long trip to Japan. Since then, I’ve been to Europe twice and throughout U.S. People often wait until they are married or have a lucrative career. The truth is there’s never going to be a perfect time. So hats off to you for inspiring women (and men) everywhere.

    I typically don’t make comments on blogs, but I am so thrilled to have come across yours that I just must! Have a happy 2014. Looking forward to reading more about your trips.

  21. Happy New Year Kate. Great tips! I have already done five of the nine points except:

    #1: Spend xmas on the beach – I’m not really a beach person as two or three days are enough. I like sailing but I don’t like swimming in the open sea. I have however, spent Xmas in the mountains. Does that count?
    #4: Become a better travel photographer – I’m a very new blogger (just 11 weeks) and I tend to make quirky photographs but I wouldn’t mind learning some new tips as to how to be sharper or quicker on the move!
    #5: Try staying in an Airbnb rental – I have already made enquiries about a house and bungalow in Bali.
    #7: Get outside your comfort zone – I don’t like monkeys yet, I’m taking my family to Asia next summer where they are everywhere. Sigh!

  22. Such great advice, Kate! Even as a travel blogger I try to keep travel resolutions every year. 2014 includes both getting out of my comfort zone AND visiting a country that’s been on my bucket list forever: adventures in Iceland! Should be exciting.

  23. Happy new year to you too! I LOVE Airbnb, and my partner and I will definitely be using their service a lot this year; in fact, we already have 10 days in a Budapest studio booked in less than two weeks!

  24. Nr. 3 is spot on. When I started travelling internationally often, it meant sacrificing that precious post 5pm bar time with my friends. In Boston, $100 is gone in no time (as you know) which then became savings. Over the course of a few months it REALLY adds up–you just need to prioritize your lifestyle. Again, great post!

  25. Hi Kate,
    I really love your blog! I have decided this year I would really like to travel. My main goal is Ireland, but it seems like I’ll be going on my own if I do travel there this year, which is fine because since I was 10 always wanted to travel on my own. My question is do you think I should try it on my own? I’m only 18, but I’ve been around Canada (my home country), but never alone. Do you think this is too big of a step? Thanks!

    PS. You are incredibly;y inspiring!

    1. Ireland is one of the best destinations for first-time solo female travelers that I can think of! You’ll have a great time and meet lots of friendly Irish people. ABSOLUTELY go for it!

  26. I’m a Kiwi, so Christmas on the beach is kind of a given. My version is a wish to see a white Christmas!

    This year I want to do more local travel – after spending all our money and time last year RTWing we gotta stick close to home and NZ has a lot to offer.

  27. I’m definitely one of those people that makes a resolution to travel more in the new year and then doesn’t. I started a travel savings account a few months ago, and this is my year! Thanks for the Points Guy website, it was really helpful.

  28. I couldn’t agree more with the advice to improve your photography and, in particular, learn how to use your camera. It drives me batty to see how many people spend oodles of money on good cameras and equipment, then do things that show they have no clue how to use it, like using the flash in broad daylight to shoot things a half mile away. Was just at Machu Piccu yesterday and saw no fewer than 7 or 8 people doing that. Why spend all that money if you’re not going to come out of it with better pictures than the ones you got with a point-and-shoot?

  29. Rebecca,
    I’ve spent tons of time in Ireland and can tell you it’s a very safe place and a great start for solo travel, even at your age. That’s an age when a lot of Irish people themselves start to venture out into the world, so they’ll be able to relate to your travels. They’re also some of the most hospitable and friendliest people on the planet. Just be smart… there are a few unsavory parts of Dublin so research it first, and when you’re there take the usual precautions and don’t drink yourself into oblivion. But definitely give it a try!

  30. I was lucky. When I was 11 my parents took me to New Zealand for a month. So I have already done the beach thing at christmas. I will hopefully do it again sometime, but not this year.

    Having a savings account for travel is a great idea. And I will set one up … as soon as I have finished paying off my credit card and overdraft.

    And the photo’s. Definitely. I have a DSLR and should be getting a better lens for it soon. I have actually set a New Years Resolution to take 25 photos every day. (I am also posting one a day onto my flickr.

  31. I need to do #4! I take pictures all the time but since my camera busted I have been lazy. I just got it fixed and 2014 will definitely be photographed better. 🙂

  32. Love this! My travel resolution is to get outside of my comfort zone – I’m heading on my first-ever solo trip to Central America which is outside of my comfort zone to begin with but I want to push myself to say “yes” even more….maybe to a hanging bridge in Costa Rica?

  33. Awesome tips all around! I’m just now seeing this and glad to say I did a lot of these in 2014 (traveled solo, Christmas on the beach), and am really working on some of them in 2015. Improving my photography will be a huge one: I’ve finally gotten most of my photos thumb-free but that’s about the only positive thing I can say about it haha.

    Thanks for the tips and safe travels in 2015!

  34. As relevant in 2015 as it was in 2014. The only thing I’d add is to say “Yes” more! It’s amazing how many of us turn down opportunities to travel more, even if they are destinations close to home. Going on a business trip? Add a couple of days – that’s how I ended up exploring San Francisco. Have a favourite band? Find a city they’re touring with that you want to explore and hit two birds with one stone. So many ways to expand your travel opportunities if people just say yes first.

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