You’re either a New Year’s resolutions person or you’re not. I make resolutions every year, and a lot of them, unsurprisingly, involve travel — places to see, people to visit, mistakes I don’t want to make again.
If you’re also inclined to resolutions, here are a few to help you travel better in 2017:
Resolution 1: Try a solo trip for a change. If you’re used to relying on your spouse for conversation or your daughter to navigate in Spanish, you may not realize how many ways there actually are to communicate — or how much more you notice when your companions don’t compete for attention. And nothing compares to the thrill of escape when you set off entirely on your own. Even a single-day road trip qualifies.
Resolution 2: Plan a multigenerational family vacation. You probably see enough of your spouse and kids, but what about your parents, grown siblings, and nephews? On neutral turf, with plenty of novelty for distraction, it’s easier to make good memories together. Plus, you can trade off on babysitting.
Multigenerational travel is a growing trend for far-flung Jewish families, and the industry has responded accordingly. Cruises have long been the gold standard to accommodate varying activity levels, as well as divergent needs for privacy, accessibility, entertainment and food. But a number of package tour operators now offer family trips with the same things in mind — including numerous Israel travel specialists and Road Scholar, the erstwhile Elderhostel, which caters to seniors but now offers options to bring along the grandchild to Paris, Hawaii and elsewhere.
Resolution 3: Travel more responsibly. Everyone’s social conscience — and mode of travel — is different, obviously. But as tourism becomes an exponentially larger global phenomenon each year, it’s worth considering the impact, positive and negative, of our collective footprint.
The upside: At a time when many Jewish communities feel vulnerable, travel to places like Buenos Aires, Stockholm and Tunisia — not to mention Israel — can be an act of solidarity and goodwill. Along with heritage sites honoring the past, consider adding a personal visit with today’s locals: attend Shabbat, a concert, a meal or a mini-tour. Far-flung Jewish communities are often tiny and close-knit, and a pre-arranged visit can be rewarding on both sides.
On the negative side, I keep hearing about taxi drivers striking over Uber in austerity-wracked European cities, priced-out locals in San Francisco protesting Airbnb, and Cubans scouring bare shelves for the few staples that haven’t gone to feed the new crush of American tourists. I love Uber, I’ve made wonderful friends through Airbnb and I believe Cuba will ultimately profit in many ways from American tourism, but these examples remind us to be more thoughtful about how, and among whom, we travel. For me, this means carefully considering the circumstances of any given trip and destination.
Resolution 4: Try a variation on your usual theme (you knew this one would show up). Americans tend to be adventurous in their 20s, then settle into comfortable travel grooves, especially once kids show up. It makes sense — routine minimizes hassles — but it can get a little stale.
One way to shake things up: Make a lateral shift. My friend Anna is a hardcore Francophile, but once her son was born, Europe became less practical for spontaneous getaways. Now they spend weekends in Montréal and St. Martin, which offer French-speaking culture but a far shorter plane ride.
So if you always do a Caribbean island, try the West Coast of Mexico; the flight isn’t much longer, but the scenery and culture will be more memorable. Try Nova Scotia instead of the Hamptons, Lyon instead of Paris, the Oregon coast instead of Northern California.
Resolution 5: Get organized about travel finances. How many of us have read about some great credit card that would save money on a favorite hotel chain or airline, maximize miles, waive foreign transaction fees, or all of the above? How many of us are still putting everything on Amex and hoping for the best?
If you travel often, this resolution may mean finally switching to that Chase Sapphire card (the favorite of many a traveler for its points system). For someone else, it may mean making reservations farther in advance — last-minute travel today comes with a hefty premium — or organizing your smartphone technology to stay connected overseas without unnecessary fees.
Resolution 6: Pack lighter. Even if you already pack light, once a year, it’s worth re-evaluating the items that reflexively go into that carry-on. There’s usually something that can be eliminated (I’m always amazed when foreign houseguests show up with full-size shaving cream).
Investigate which resources, from toiletries to gadgets, may be available at your destination. The list keeps growing as our world becomes smaller (and chargers more universal).