This past year was one when most travelers had to put away their suitcases and stayed home or close to home. They satisfied their wanderlust with daydreams about the next big trip, movies and books about far-flung places, or armchair travel where they virtually explored the world.
But with the news of a COVID vaccine, there is hope that in 2021, travel will again top our to-do list. Better still though, if travelers commit to being a better traveler going forward. While you’re making your New Year’s resolutions, include travel related promises. Here’s what experts say will make a difference.
Think of the needs of local communities
Focus on travel that is sustainable for the surrounding communities in areas that have travel as a large part of their economy. “Many people when traveling internationally try to nickel and dime their way to rock bottom tour prices,” says Kevin Groh, co-founder at Cachi Life, a travel company specializing in Peru, Machu Picchu tours, and trekking tours.
With the local Quechua people at the forefront, Cachi set out to change how travelers experience Peru and give back to the local communities. “When you travel with Cachi, you are paying fair wages, empowering locals, and helping communities grow. In the wake of COVID, it’s important to remember that small villages similar to those around Cusco are struggling much more than people in much wealthier countries. Remember that when paying for tours or souvenirs that income will go toward feeding families and children,” says Groh. A thoughtful resolution, he says, would be to limit how much you barter when abroad and think of the struggle those people are currently going through.
Corritta Lewis, content creator of the blog, It’s a Family Thing, and her family travel regularly. “We have decided to give more than we take when traveling. We decided to do what we could to help locals in the community where we travel. This can be as small as using local tour guides, shopping at local stores, or helping a family in need. If the recent events have taught us anything, it’s how to have compassion for those less fortunate and to lend a helping hand when possible.”
Stay in smaller hotels
“Too often, we’re sucked into larger chain hotels for the convenience and familiarity, but there are many smaller hotels that exceed the standards of the big guys, and can be supported as a smaller business,” says Alex Miller, founder and CEO of travel website UpgradedPoints.com. After COVID-19, they especially could use your support as could BIPOC owned hospitality businesses.
Visit off-the-radar cities
“As travelers, we love familiar places: London, Paris, Tokyo, Sydney. In 2021, we should endeavor to visit the smaller cities on the map. Maybe a small town in northern England, or a village in the Australian Outback. We need to get out of our comfort zones and visit the places that really make these countries a spectacular place to visit,” says Miller. They are also likely to be less crowded, ideal as social distancing is likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future, vaccine or not.
Research and understand ecotourism practices and initiatives prior to traveling to a destination. “Make sustainable choices whenever possible. Leave the place better than it was found,” says Larissa Vassos of WhereMySolesRoam.com.
Consider more train travel
No doubt some travelers experienced the wonders of train travel this year in an attempt to stay safer during the pandemic, but in 2021, Miller encourages people to enjoy this bygone era of transportation. “There are many luxurious trains around the world that will allow folks to sit back and relax and take in the scenery, and it allows people to slow down and truly appreciate travel for what it’s worth—something you can’t experience 35,000 feet up in the air,” says Miller.
Roger Wellington runs the travel website, WetNoseEscapades.com. His New Year’s resolution is to travel slower, which means staying at a destination longer than the typical 2-3 weeks visit. “Not only does slow travel help save the environment, but it also saves money and allows me to experience a city or town like a local. While many avid travelers are obsessed with ‘collecting countries,’ I prefer to invest the time in establishing real connections with the place and its people. As many real nomads can attest, it’s a much more meaningful experience to ‘live’ than to pass through for a few days or weeks.”
Help the travel industry
Travel will help boost local, national and international economies. Travel blogger Alyssa Frayling of Famously Frayling says 2021 should be a year for helping the travel industry. “After many years of traveling and the industry providing the best service for us, we owe them this! We owe it to the industry to go out and travel as much as possible.”
Go for it!
You spent 2020 dreaming about that bucket list trip. Make it a reality. Says Mark Whitman, founder of tour operator Mountain IQ, “Think climbing Kilimanjaro, hiking to Machu Picchu on the Inca Trail or trekking to Everest Base Camp. Not only do these types of adventures seriously benefit the local communities in these destinations that heavily rely on tourists, but they provide an amazing opportunity for travelers to step outside their comfort zone and achieve something extraordinary.”