New Year’s Resolutions for travellers, tourists and trailblazers
Shake up your travel habits and get the most out of your next trip with these five New Year’s travel resolutions!
1. Stay somewhere quirky
Chains of hotels are good for one reason (you know exactly what you’ll get) – but also incredibly boring for that reason too. Sometimes, functional, safe and predictable are preferable, for instance on a business trip or perhaps a city break where you’ll spend little time in the room. But an amazing hotel that’s a little out of the ordinary can really make a trip into something special.
This also doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank; rather than searching for ‘hotels’ try guesthouses or B&Bs, some of which can be surprisingly large and plush but also with a more individual character. One of our most memorable stays was at the wonderful Loy La Long guesthouse on the banks of the Chaophraya river in Bangkok – this quirky, creaky, teak house perched on the river was the perfect start to our Thai trip and we would never stay anywhere else in Bangkok.
2. Chow down on the local grub
This year, make a resolution to be a bit bolder with the food you eat – even if this just means trying a bite of something new (and then perhaps discretely depositing it in your napkin). The only thing worse than seeing familiar fast food chains in far-off countries is seeing tourists traipsing into one, so avoid any recognisable names and go for the local spots.
If streetfood isn’t quite your thing or if you have an easily upset stomach it’s fine to be cautious, but you can still enjoy a taste of something new without going too crazy. If you are trying a less formal venue like a streetfood truck or marketplace stall, head to those with a nice long line of hungry locals queued up and avoid the quiet spots. If you can see the cooking in action even better – look out for stuff that’s being cooked fresh, rather than sitting waiting on a grill or in a wok. If you want to play it safer, just go for the more unusual items on the menu in a restaurant. Whenever we’ve tried to be a bit more adventurous or asked wait staff to recommend us a dish it always goes down well – more often than not they’ll be more than happy to bring you a range of items to try, and will love showing off their country’s cuisine.
3. Try an unusual destination
Perhaps your New Year’s travel resolution should be to try the location less obvious when you plan this year’s getaway. This needn’t be a majorly expensive excursion – venturing beyond the capital city in a country can often drastically bring the cost of accommodation and food right down. Swap Barcelona or the Costas for rugged northern Spain, or for a Europe city break with a difference head for one of the Baltic countries.
If you’re thinking of travelling further afield, combine an interesting region with a launchpad city: New Orleans and the brooding Louisiana bayous; Muscat and Oman instead of Dubai; or fly into Singapore and jet off to some of Indonesia’s less well-known islands.
4. Ask the locals’ advice
As above with food, generally local folk love to be asked about their top tips for their city or country. Not only is this a nice and easy way to strike up a conversation with a stranger (particularly if you’re travelling alone) it will also usually lead you to something far more interesting and quirky than you could have found by your guidebook alone.
Taxi drivers in particular are great to chat to about this, as they’ll often have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the area, but most folks will be happy to give you a recommendation for their favourite beach, coffee shop, bar or chillout spot. As with any kind of exploration, always exercise a bit of caution and make sure fellow travellers or contacts know if you’re heading off in searching of a mysterious dive bar. But throwing caution to the wind and getting rid of your itinerary and guidebook for an afternoon can be a great way to get to know a location and its people.
5. Don’t prioritise the hotspots
This is not to say avoid them altogether. After all, the highlights of a country or city are usually notable for a reason. But they’re also usually not the be-all-and-end-all, and often you’ll get a better feel for the place you are visiting by straying off the beaten path. So this year, make it your travel resolution to be a bit more adventurous. There are always hidden gems to be found, and sometimes it helps to follow your nose. We recently enjoyed the Salvador Dali museum in Paris far more than viewing the Water Lilies in the Musee de l’Orangerie, for instance.
Also remember to be creative with when you visit that location/viewpoint/museum/beach – would it be better (and quieter) at sunrise, or by moonlight? Is there an off-season you can take advantage of? Do you want to build up to the star attraction? Leaving Angkor Wat right to the end of our visit of the ancient temple complex in Cambodia helped us enjoy all the smaller temples in the area, whilst also wetting our appetite for the main event.
Finally, when you do visit a hotspot, don’t set your expectations too high. Often overcrowded and occasionally spoilt by the sheer volume of tourists, star attractions can leave visitors feeling deflated. Tick off the big sight-seeing names on your trip, but surround them with the more unusual, spontaneous or low-key locations, and you’ll come away with richer memories and more interesting tales to tell.