It has been a couple of years since I’ve made New Year’s resolutions about travel. But if there was ever a year to resolve to travel differently, 2021 is the year to do it!
The past year has been devastating for travel. In 2020, family trips – to the extent that they happened at all – have been filled with socially distanced standalone vacation rentals or camping in the great outdoors.
The lessons of the transformative year of 2020 are many, and quite a few of these lessons apply to how we will travel in the future. Most of us suspect 2021 will be very different by the time the year us up, but how exactly that will evolve in the 12 months between then and now still seems pretty opaque.
So in this age of uncertainty mixed with hope, we are all still making plans – specifically travel plans! Here’s how I resolve to do things differently in our family’s travel life this year. I’d of course love to hear what resolutions you are making as well.
Related: Why & How You Should be Planning 2021 Travel Right Now
2021 Travel Resolutions
1. Prioritize Visiting & Traveling with Family
So many Americans have been separated from family this past year. Some have tragically lost loved ones before they could say goodbye. Seeing family again is going to be a travel priority for so many when it is safe, myself included.
It has been almost a year to the day since I last saw my parents in person. We visited them the week between Christmas and New Year’s in 2019. On New Year’s Eve as they dropped us off on the curb at the Charlotte Airport as they usually do, I could never have imagined that it would be more than a year until I could hug them again. The first airplane I’m going to be on in 2021 is to North Carolina for a long overdue hug!
In the medium and long term, we are going to keep traveling with my parents and with other family members. Traveling to be with family doesn’t always have to mean sitting around at someone’s home. We have found that meeting up in vacation destinations so you can hit your bucket list while reconnecting with loved ones is often the best of both travel worlds.
We luckily had a large family reunion in the summer of 2019 in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. And we regularly take multigenerational trips with my parents (see our adventures in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks a few years back). More of that will most definitely be in our travel plans in the coming months and years.
2. Only Make Flexible Bookings
If it’s not cancellable, changeable, or otherwise flexible, I’m not booking it in 2021. Too many friends spent the first few weeks of their stay-at-home experience last March dealing with airlines and travel agencies trying to get their money back for travel that had to the canceled or postponed. Luckily, I had booked with travel providers where this was much easier. I’m profoundly grateful for that (shoutout to Southwest and Get Away Today especially!)
Luckily, this is a lesson that many in the travel industry have now taken to heart. More airlines are now relaxing their previous restrictions, offering some kind of no change fee policy. Other travel providers have more generous cancellation or rescheduling policies as well.
As customers, this means we have more choice to take our business to providers that respect our need for flexibility. And I will!
3. Not Stress so Much About Skipping School for Trips
Once my children entered school, we only very rarely pulled the kids from school for a trip. As a rule follower and also as someone who has benefited greatly from education in my own life, we prioritized education for our kids.
But this year has taught me that a lot of things come before perfect attendance, even as important as education is. Among the values my family needs to consider are health (both physical and mental), our family, and the fact that education is more than sitting in a desk in a classroom for 6-8 hours a day.
So if we have an amazing travel opportunity or just need to take the kids out to go see an family member in failing health, we are going to in 2021 and beyond.
Hey, if my kids are expected to survive more than a year of not attending in-person school and be just fine (thanks, California), then I’m not going to take those truancy notices quite so seriously anymore. #sorrynotsorry
4. Take the Trip!
When the world ground to a halt last March, my family had been on a serious travel spree in the previous few months. The holidays took us to North Carolina to see family. We followed soon after with a January trip to Park City Utah and a President’s Week trip to Arizona to both Tempe and Tucson. My husband and I both had independent trips to SoCal the last weekend in February while our kids traveled to Sacramento with their California grandma. Whew.
I second guessed all that travel at the time. But now, I’m so profoundly grateful for it.
So in 2021, no more waiting or second-guessing. None of us know whether the next day is guaranteed. None of us know if borders are going to be closed or our passport is going to be worth the paper it is printed on. I’m no longer going to worry about making sure to hit the perfect destination at the perfect age for my kids.
My new travel mantra? Take the trip.
5. Give Back
Of course, I recognize just how privileged we are to still be able to afford travel after all of this. I know many are not in that position. I’d like to think I’ve never taken that for granted, but the deep loss of this year and important needs are certainly in the forefront of my mind in new ways.
What gave me hope in 2020 was seeing all the good that people wanted to do to help one another in trying times. The Disney community rallied around food banks in Orlando and Anaheim to feed out-of-work cast members. I was grateful to be able to participate in a small way in a fundraiser for Give Kids the World Village with other Disney podcasters to support a business vitally important to Make-a-Wish kids who could no longer have their travel wishes fulfilled.
I sincerely hope to continue that spirit of helping and lifting one another up in 2021. It doesn’t have to be done in grand gestures or in massive giving campaigns. Sometimes it’s as simple as leaving an extra big tip for the tour guide or hotel housekeeper the next time you can travel again to help them bridge the gap they are experiencing now. It might be just helping a friend earn some miles and points or pointing them to a travel deal to make travel more possible for them (I hope this blog can help with that!).
Are you going to resolve to travel very differently in 2021 once travel returns to normal? Share your resolutions in the comments.