Every New Year’s Eve, a lot of us vow to spend more time with friends, fall in love, learn something new and travel — all while keeping our budgets. This year, rather than giving up your resolve by the end of the first week, join the eight percent of Americans who actually make it happen. Believe it or not, you can see the world and accomplish all of your goals too! Scroll on to figure out which vacations should be in your planner.
1. Resolution: Spend More Time With Friends
Take This Trip: If you want to bond with a friend over something more memorable than a Friday night dinner, a road trip might be in order. Whether you can manage a weekend getaway or an epic cross-country, plan your itinerary with Roadtrippers. The site lets you build a route by selecting historic hotels, campgrounds, wacky landmarks or scenic drives you’re both excited about. The site will also calculate fuel costs and book your stays for you, so there are no unwelcome surprises along the way.
For a less spontaneous and more luxurious bonding experience for a whole group of friends, go on an adventure with WHOA. This tour company was created by female travelers in order to connect fun-seeking, inspired women to each other. Their 2016 trips include Costa Rica, a Kilimanjaro summit and Oktoberfest, but you can also create a custom trip to match your shared passions.
2. Resolution: Fall in Love
Take This Trip: Condé Nast and Travel and Leisure readers ranked Edinburgh as one of the friendliest cities in the world. The city’s pub culture makes it easy to step into the local scene, and a pint of Scottish ale will provide all the liquid courage you need to chat someone up. Being in an English-speaking country will also make the conversation flow a little better. Once you’ve found your person, stroll through the city’s winding streets to seal your transatlantic romance. After all, who can resist a kiss with a castle as a backdrop? To find the most atmospheric pubs and cultural events to meet like-minded people, visit The List, Edinburgh’s answer to Time Out magazine.
3. Resolution: Try Something New
Take This Trip: Laos is the best place to try your hand at both adventurous activities and crafty ones, all at a leisurely pace and prices that you can only find in Southeast Asia. Luang Prabang is a town of art shops in wooden villas, gilded temple complexes and cafes along the Mekong River. The city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also a hub for crafts and silver jewelry. You can watch silk worms in (very slow) action and try your hand at weaving and dyeing scarves with natural pigments at Ock Pop Tok. At the Garden of Eden, you can learn to make any of the jewelry you see in the shop. If you’re a paper fanatic, stop by the Yensabai Book and Art store, where you can learn to make and work with intricate paper stencils. Down the road, Ma Te Sai sells hand-woven clothing and home textiles and offers classes in Hmong Reverse Embroidery with a teacher who has been at it since she was four.
The village of Vang Vieng is shedding its raucous backpacker identity and reclaiming its natural heritage. Start your day by watching the first light creep across the fields from a hot air balloon ride at sunrise. After that, you can go caving, learn to climb those aforementioned cliffs, kayak or zip line. Tend to sore muscles in one of the many backpacker guesthouses or splurge for a $50 room at the Elephant Crossing Hotel, which comes with a private balcony overlooking the river and mountains. (Photo via Khánh Hmoong/Flickr)
4. Resolution: Give More
Take This Trip: If you want to be hands-on with support when you travel, make sure to research local projects before you book your trips. Send them an email or just stop by once you arrive and ask how you can help. Chances are the work won’t be glamorous (writing copy for their website, running to the print shop or packing sandwiches) but if you’re looking to be of service rather than to give yourself a pat on the back, your efforts will be appreciated.
If you’re looking for a less active, but still impactful way to give back, seek out locally run businesses on your travels that support their employees and the environment. You probably don’t equate the South Pacific with frugal living, but you can enjoy those fiery sunsets and pristine waters at about a third of the cost of Fiji. The Kagata Surfing Frens in the Solomon Islands is a community-run, locally owned piece of paradise along the edge of a lagoon. Kagata Village is free of touristic crowds and big on local culture. For around $85 per night, you’ll sleep under mosquito netting at a waterside bungalow, or stay with a local family, enjoying all the fresh-caught fish and fruits you want. Also included in the price are surfing guides who will take you to the best spots, as well as guides for jungle trekking, snorkeling and crocodile tours. With only six guests staying at a time, you’ll have a truly private and immersive experience that you can feel good about. (Photo via Visit Solomon Islands)
5. Resoution: Get healthy
Take This Trip: Clean living in exotic locales may make you physically better, but it often takes a toll on your financial health. If you’re willing to work for your keep, Yoga Travel Jobs will help you get your Om on. The site lists paid positions as well as volunteer opportunities at yoga centers around the world. Even if you’re a newbie, you can apply for an administrative job and reap the benefits. A recent posting for a part-time receptionist at an island retreat in Thailand included accommodation, meals and as much onsite yoga classes as you want.
Check out the budget listings at Book Yoga Retreats for deals on seven-day retreats for as little as $200, including lodging. If spiritual health is what you’re after, consider trying Vipassana, a 10-day meditation course offered by donation in centers around the world. (Photo via Getty)
Planning a trip somewhere? Tweet us your 2016 resolutions @BritandCo!