Traveling on your birthday might seem like a strange thing to do if you’re used to planning a local party or hosting at home for presents and cake, but it can be an ultra-rewarding experience. You ditch your expectations, take time to reflect on the past year, and visit a place you’ve always wanted to experience. Not convinced to swap that pricey birthday outfit for a plane ticket? Read on for a handful of great reasons why you should plan a trip instead — and make this year the happiest one yet.

Friends enjoy a birthday picnic

1. You can celebrate in a dream destination. Spotting progress can be tricky when you’re stuck in the same routine and setting — visiting a new location to break free from the daily grind might help you see how far you’ve really come. Take a few minutes of quiet time at your destination to ask yourself questions that will help you reflect on everything you’ve accomplished in the last 365 days. You can also use social media as a tool, scrolling through some of your top highlights. Upbeat tweets, celebratory Facebook posts, and Instagram photos can all serve as great reminders of how much truly fabulous living you did in the last 12 months.

2. It’s easiest to set new goals when you’re feeling refreshed. Once you’ve had a chance to reflect, you’ll be in shipshape to set some brand-new goals for yourself. Unlike a more general New Year’s resolution, where you might focus on forming hard but healthy habits, use your birthday as an opportunity to come up with something personally meaningful that will make you feel good — even if it’s finally saving up enough cash to buy the classic handbag you’ve been lusting after for years.

3. You’ll free yourself from stress and expectations. Though they almost always feel special, birthdays can be stressful too, especially for milestone years. You might feel like you have certain expectations for how the day should go or want to tear your hair out while coordinating logistics, invites, and communication while planning a party. When you step outside your normal schedule and surroundings, it will shift those assumptions and pull the weight off your shoulders.

Friends celebrate a birthday on a rooftop at dusk

4. You can score free stuff. Heaps of hospitality companies offer perks for birthday travelers, ranging from discounted hotel rooms to frequent flier miles and celebrations. JetBlue, for example, is rumored to offer TrueBlue members a birthday badge (and extra miles), while people flying with Singapore Airlines say they’ve received cake and champagne. You can also snap up discounted travel-sized beauty buys at Sephora (free gift for VIB insiders) and Ulta (double points during your entire birthday month), then stop into Starbucks for a free coffee or treat. Disney parks are an especially great place to travel to on your special day. Ask for a celebrations pin at the entrance (write “my birthday” under “I’m celebrating”) and you could get bumped ahead when waiting in line for rides. You’ll also be able to redeem a free dessert at participating locations and get your birthday card signed by all of your favorite characters.

5. It’s a great reason to bring your crew with you. It can be tough to convince your BFFs to take a trip when they are juggling busy schedules, have new babies, or are still paying off expensive student loans, but your crew may be more inclined to take a special trip if it’s all about celebrating you. To successfully leverage your birthday as the reason to bring your favorite people together for a getaway, be sure to include at least a handful of group activities that everyone can enjoy. Wine tours, dinners, boat cruises, and outdoor adventures are usually a hit, but more low-key things like making s’mores under the stars or staying up all late in one person’s room to nosh on room-service in plush robes can be a blast too.

6. You’ll create memories you’ll cherish forever. Your birthday trip — whether you head off alone or with your S.O., family, or friends — is sure to produce memories that will make you smile for years to come. Physical gifts can be fun or useful, but experiences are a gift to yourself that you’ll never misplace or get tired of.

How do you want to celebrate your next birthday? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo.

(Photos via Getty)