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Made your New Year’s travel resolutions for 2013 yet?

One week after making your New Year’s resolutions, have you actually managed to keep any of them? We recommend making New Year’s travelutions instead. Guilt-free, zero-calorie, healthy treats you can indulge yourself in all year… 

Nazuna Japanese cafe, Berlin

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to get away. This is Nazuna, a gorgeous little home-cooking style Japanese café I love, near where I live in Berlin.

Early last year, I wrote a long list of all the things I wanted to do in 2012. A friend wrote a list too, then we swapped the pieces of paper and kept them in a sealed envelope, in a drawer, in a desk. Last week, we gave them back to each other and opened them. It was fascinating looking at all the things we had planned to do, and see whether or not we had succeeded in doing them. Surprisingly, some of them I could actually tick off (learn piano, run a 10k), whereas about half of them I failed to do in quite a spectacular fashion (record an album, learn tango). I suppose one problem is that I didn’t keep a copy of the list so managed to forget half of the things I intended to do. The other problem is the list was just too long and unachievable. So to make life easier, I thought that in 2013 I would try and be more realistic: I would give up making New Year’s resolutions.

The only thing I plan to do this year is do more of the things I enjoy. Travel, being one of them. This is the one constant that makes every year memorable and rewarding for me. And so, based on years of travelling, planning and getting lost on the way, here are my recommendations for New Year’s travel resolutions you can make (and keep), and that might make 2013 the best you ever had…

 

1. Get away at least once…

People watching in Istanbul

I went to Istanbul in February 2012 after not travelling much in 2011 and regretting it. It really helped to kick start my year and get a bit of perspective on things.

Even in a travel company like ours, there were people who didn’t manage to go on holiday somewhere new last year. It can happen when work and life take over. Aim to see at least one new place a year so you always have something exciting to mark each year of your life. My own personal philosophy is that you never flick through your holiday photos and say “I wish I didn’t spend that money going there”.

 

2. Try short sprints, rather than marathons…

US road trip

A few years ago, I travelled across the US for a month. It was amazing, but it meant I couldn’t go on holiday again in the year, that was a bit tough. Photo Michael Hess.

Some study somewhere, we heard*, said that people who take several week-long holidays per year are happier than people who take only one long holiday. So this year try booking several short breaks instead of that one epic journey. If you’re in Europe, there are so many places to see in just a short hop – why do you think our American cousins are so jealous of us? Here are some cities you can go with a lot of great 9flats in them: Paris, London, Berlin, Budapest, Prague, Lisbon, Rome. Or if you’re tired of the city, it’s not far to give yourself some vitamin D in the sun for a week in places like The Canaries, Sicily, Croatia, Greece or Morocco.

*Found it

 

3. Jump outside your comfort zone…

Esfahan, Iran

I must admit, I was a little scared about going to Iran but will never forget the experience… the mosques, landscape and, most of all, the people. Photo Michael Hess.

There’s nothing like waking up inside a dog in Idaho or a hamster cage in France to wake up your senses and make you feel like you’re really living your life. Or you can just try a yurt or cabin. If you really want to find the road less travelled, my recommendation is Iran. Check the latest travel advisory of course, but if you put down your preconceptions for a minute, you’ll find a country full of some of the nicest people you’ve ever met, at prices that you won’t fine many other countries. Or it’s an interesting time to go North Korea, as they’re beginning to open up to the world.

 

4. Stop getting ripped off…

Our lovely 9flats in Istanbul

This was our roof terrace in our lovely Istanbul flat. As well as giving us a glittering view of the Bosphorus, it meant we could have our breakfast up there and save even more money.

I may work here, but one thing I genuinely love about renting 9flats places is that, everywhere I’ve stayed has been different to the last and had a unique character. They’ve also been in great locations, near local cafes and bars and have had extra comforts like a balcony, the amazing roof terrace above or a fully-equipped kitchen. A far cry from bland hotel rooms (and I know, I’ve stayed in a few Holiday Inns). Here’s another idea to save money: if you can’t afford the train/plane fare to go anywhere, why not book yourself in a nice apartment in a posh area in your own town for a night or two?

 

5. Nab all the cheap flights in January…

Book all your flights early and save a tonne of money

Go to skyscanner and pick up the cheapest deals before anyone else does. I booked a trip to Oslo this way, by searching for the cheapest flight I could find (€20). (The photo is the South of France though.)

I’ve lived away from home for many years and every year I promise myself that at the beginning of the year I’ll book five flights home while they’re still cheap. Yet every year I break my promise, and leave it until a couple of weeks before I want to go home, and pay far too much. I’m speaking from experience, book all your flights now. Even if other things come up and you have to cancel one or two, you’ll still save money overall. And if your family has now rented out your room to tidier, better behaved lodgers, you can always stay in a nearby 9flat.

 

6. Cover all corners of the world…

Make time for your friends

Remember to plan in a visit with your friends back home too. Too often, friends end up at the end of the list, but it’s important to keep the connection with them. This was an, em, quiet night I planned with my friends in Dublin that we won’t forget in a hurry.

Make sure you cover something for all your travel senses during the year. Something cultural like Istanbul), something exciting (like New York), something sporty (like skiing in the Alps), something relaxing (like Bali)… Don’t end up doing what I tend to do and book a lot of city breaks and then realise you haven’t seen any countryside all year.

 

7. Set calendar reminders…

The earlier you book it, the more time you have to look forward to it

Remind yourself of your amazing 2014 skiing holiday for the whole of 2013.

There’s a great German word called ‘Vorfreude’ which describes the delectable excitement simply of looking forward to something. Maximise your vorfreude by adding your dates and trips to your Google calendar now and set up reminders that will pop-up regularly in the middle of your work day, reminding you there’s a life out there, and you’re going to live it. Vorfreude is forearmed.

 

8. Take all your holiday days (that means all)…

I had a few days left over this year, so booked a cheeky flight to Nice in December for only €50 from Berlin. Clear blue sky, walks by the sea and crisp, tangy lemon tarts… or snow, woolly hats and work… hmmm…

It’s a sad but age-old story: employees think they’re doing their company a favour by choosing to stay in the office instead of going on holiday, accumulating unused holiday days like unopened chocolate bars, and watching with pride as they are unceremoniously deleted by HR the following year. Please don’t brandish these voided days like some kind of badge of honour, because here’s some news for you: your company wants you to take all your holidays. They would like a healthy, happy employee in place of a pale, overworked, half-blind one who has no outside perspective on the workplace. It’s good for you, it’s good for everyone and you’ll regret it if you don’t. Take your holidays, people!

 

9. Start planning now…

Cod dinner, Norway

One of the best meals I ate while travelling last year. Guilt-free Norwegian cod, cooked by my host, accompanied with fresh mussels we’d picked from the sea that morning. You can’t buy experiences like that. Not related to this point I know, but just saying.

Spend a delicious hour or so by the withering Christmas tree (you haven’t still got it, have you?) planting the seeds of ideas for your escapes this year. Create a structure that works around things you know you need to go to (weddings, birthdays, stag/hen parties) and your family/partner/self. Why not plan next year’s New Year’s now, so your friends can plan it too, and you don’t end up at home alone again, or trying to squeeze your way into an overpriced club at 11.30pm. This way you have things to look forward to, get cheaper deals, and snag the best places before others do.

 

PS A note from the newsletter team: if you’ve travelled with 9flats before, you’ll have received a New Year’s gift from us to spend before 31 January. Remember to use the voucher code we sent you when you book to get money off your first holiday of the year.

 

And by the way… do you have travel resolutions of your own for 2013? Wrongs you want to right? Rights you want to repeat? Ideas that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear them for my own selfish reasons.

 

Romantic train to Budapest

Another of my highlights last year. This is surely one of the greatest unknown train journeys. Berlin to Budapest, via Dresden, Prague and Slovakia. (My tip: sit in the restaurant car and enjoy the grumpy service and warming bowl of goulash.)

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Written by , January 9, 2013

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