2020 isn’t just a new year, it’s the start of a whole new decade. While the past ten years have brought me to places I couldn’t have imagined visiting way back in 2010, it’s always better to look forward. So, in that spirit, I’ve put together 20 travel goals for 2020 (and also a little bit because 20 for 2020 is incredibly satisfying from a numerical standpoint). I wanted to go beyond the usual “X Destinations You Have to Visit in 20XX” posts because truth be told not every destination is right for every traveler. Because of our individual budgets, travel styles, interests, and home locations not every destination has the same appeal or feasibility for everyone. I tried to keep these goals in line with my own personal desires but also give (most of) them a broader appeal that can translate to almost any destination or travel style.
1. Take a solo vacation just for me
I took my first solo trip (to Disney World) before it was cool and I felt awkward as all heck about it. These days, not only is the solo female traveler thing a daring, desirable label I do it pretty much every week at work. However, what I don’t get much of a chance to do anymore is vacation by myself. I want to do at least a weekend trip alone this year to get back to my solo roots.
2. Stop and appreciate how lucky I am to travel as often and as far as I do
I know deep down that I’m incredibly fortunate to have been able to travel to as many places as I have been, but it’s not always something I think about. Not only did I travel a ton as a kid, I stumbled my way into a full time job that keeps me criss-crossing the US on an almost weekly basis. I recently kicked off a second work project in the Lake Tahoe area, and as I drove my rental over the pass and caught sight of Tahoe sparkling in the summer sun it really hit me how fortunate I was. Anyone would be lucky to have one project out there, but to land two I have to be the luckiest consultant alive. In that moment, I was so grateful that it almost brought me to tears. I want to feel that more often and really take the time to appreciate the opportunities I get that so many others will never get.
3. Visit a place I loved as a kid but haven’t been back to as an adult
I’m usually all about visiting new places rather than backtracking to go somewhere I’ve always seen. When there are a million different places I want to visit in my life, it’s hard for me to revisit somewhere. However, lately as I’ve been looking at old family photos from my childhood travels, I’ve come to realize that some of those places I went to as a kid are totally worth revisiting. Places like the National Parks out west that we road tripped to or some of my favorite campgrounds in my home state of Michigan are not only wonderful, but have the potential to unlock a whole slew of happy memories. I’ll never be the kind of traveler who goes to an old standby every year like clockwork, but I also don’t want to scoff at the notion of going somewhere for a second time.
4. Leave a destination better than I found it
Even if you’re not going the full voluntourism route, there are plenty of little ways to leave somewhere better than you found it. Whether it’s picking up trash along a hiking trail or donating to improve facilities at a park or going on a shopping spree in a random town because your hotel was collecting Christmas presents for a needy family (true story), I want to make an effort to give back to or improve some of the places I visit.
5. Take a girls trip
This is a little bit of a cheat because I already have flights booked for one, but it’s something I haven’t done in a long time and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve done girls trips everywhere from Disney World to a crazy long weekend Up North with a bunch of girls watching the Red Wings training camp (keep your wineries and spas, we just wanted to see a bunch of hockey prospects battling for a job) to France with my mom and sister (does it still count if my brother joined us for a few days of it?) and other places in the past and loved every minute. In recent years I’ve traveled pretty much exclusively with my boyfriend and/or my family so a girls trip will be a nice change of pace for a different feel.
6. Reduce my waste as I travel
This is something I started a few years ago when I was visiting a client with several coworkers. We were holed up in an empty office in their building and were all taking cups of coffee and tea from the hotel in the morning. By the middle of the week, we had an entire trash can full of empty cups and it really hit home how much garbage we were creating. I started traveling with a reusable travel mug (which had the added benefit of being larger and keeping my tea hot way longer than the paper or styrofoam cups from the hotel), but I fell of the wagon when it broke and I didn’t like either of the two replacements I’ve tried. I’ll never be perfect, but I can do better to create less trash as I travel and because I’m traveling on an almost weekly basis changes I make will have a bigger impact than those made by someone who takes a couple short trips a year.
7. Visit at least one new National Park or Monument
I’ve got passport fever and love nothing more than setting off to a new country, but I don’t want to ignore the spectacular natural wonders here at home in the US. This country truly has some incredible nature to explore and I’m very thankful to my boyfriend for pushing me to visit some of these places, many of which had been on my bucket list for years but sort of fell toward the bottom when I got to a point where I could afford to travel internationally. We visited so many National Parks when I was growing up, so it might not be easy to find one, but I’m confident that either a vacation or a work adventure will bring me somewhere near a new NPS site. After all, I have to fill up that National Parks passport I got my boyfriend addicted to.
8. Hike a trail that challenges me
The Pulpit Rock hike I did on my Norway cruise this past fall was the hardest I’ve ever done. It was also the most miserable hike ever because that was of course the only day of rain we had the whole trip and it poured for every last second I spent on the trail. If anything though, that gave me even more of a sense of accomplishment because I pushed through my crackling knees, burning thighs, backpack rain cover that wouldn’t stay on, and completely soaked clothes to make it. It turns out that even though I’m from the very flat Midwest and in mediocre shape at best I can do a lot more than I give myself credit for and I want to keep challenging myself. I may never hike Half Dome, but I’m no longer going to be afraid of an elevation gain along a trail.
9. Visit at least one new country
Despite what I wrote just a couple items above this, I still want to use my passport at least once this year to go somewhere new. What can I say? It’s a hard habit to break and I’m lucky enough to have enough vacation time at this point in my life that I can fit in an international trip and do some National Park hopping right here at home. I don’t know where it’ll be yet as there are too many countries on my list to spell out here, but I’ll find somewhere new.
10. Go somewhere with my mom
You could technically call this a girls trip, but I want to plan a weekend somewhere just the two of us (mayyyyybe I’ll let my sister come too). We definitely have different travel styles and we’ll never see eye-to-eye on whether our hotel room needs housekeeping service every day, but she’s where I got my love of travel from. We’ve traveled together plenty lately as part of larger family groups with my dad and/or siblings, but the closest we’ve come to a trip just the two of us in years was flying over a day early together to go see the Harry Potter studios before my dad joined us in London.
11. Have a good old-fashioned road trip
I’ve mentioned before that we did some awesome road trips growing up, but it’s been years since I feel like I had a proper one. You know the kind – where you grab snacks like a 5-year-old who was let loose in a candy store, find weird roadside attractions, and get off the beaten path a little.
12. Take my dog camping
The first summer I had my dog, we took him camping and he had such a blast playing outside and rolling in the dirt that he came home grey instead of white and left a 1/4 inch of mud in the bathtub when we got him home and washed him. We’ve talked about taking him again the last couple years but just haven’t gotten around to it thanks to our perpetually busy schedules. Especially since we’re planning on adding a second doggo in 2020.
13. Find a local restaurant that blows my mind
I’ve always made an effort to eat at local restaurants or small regional chains when I travel, but lately I’ve gotten away from that as blogging has taken up more and more of my evenings and fixing up my new house has taken up more and more of my budget. I need to get back to actively seeking out new places instead of rolling up to the Taco Bell drive thru. I’ve found some true gems in the past (and a few duds) and I want to start getting out there and sampling more food. Maybe I’ll even resurrect my old hashtag #KrisEatsHerWayAcrossAmerica.
14. Have a vacation day with no plans that just goes with the flow
I’m a planner. I love to sit and research – this is a large part of what led me to start blogging in the first place – so my vacations are typically well-planned and have at least a list of sights to see on each day. This is, however, exhausting. I’m even getting burned out with the planning for an upcoming trip to my beloved Disney World, which I would’ve said wasn’t possible a year or two ago. One of my vacations this year is going to have at least one day where we just show up somewhere and figure out what we’re going to do one thing at a time. Maybe it’ll be a National Park (hey, item #6!) and hit the ranger station for suggestions on a hiking trail (perhaps leading to checking off item #7?) or grabbing brochures in the hotel lobby to pick a place to go that day. Whatever we end up doing, I’m looking forward to discovering something new.
15. Ride every Disney World thrill ride
I originally wrote this as riding every Disney World ride, but after looking at refurbishment schedules I realized it wasn’t going to be possible as at least a couple rides will be closed during my trips. Hitting all the mountains is still a lofty goal though, and something I haven’t done in a while. This will include Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (kind of a kiddie coaster, but one I love) at the Magic Kingdom, Test Track (the closest thing Epcot has to a thrill ride at this point as Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t slated to open until 2021) at Epcot, Slinky Dog Dash, Rock’n’Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios, and Expedition: Everest at Animal Kingdom. These are typically some of the hardest FastPasses to get, so it’ll take some planning and I might have to suck it up and actually wait in a line (something I’ve managed to not do since my Cast Member days), but it’ll be worth it.
16. Try a local food I wouldn’t normally eat
I love trying new things, but I’m also a somewhat picky eater. I was looking forward to trying guinea pig in Peru last year, but only took about one bite. If something is loaded up with mayo or pickles or other ingredients on my gross list, I won’t even bother ordering if it doesn’t seem like modifications are going to be easy because of the setting or a language barrier. I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed out on things along the way, so when given the chance I want to make an effort to try something even if I think there’s no chance I’ll like it. You never know – maybe it’ll turn out to be the perfect blend of flavors.
17. Fall in love with somewhere off the beaten path
I tend to like to hit the biggest, most famous attractions wherever I visit. When I finally made it to Paris, I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, not wander looking to discover an unknown café. Whether it’s a low-traffic hiking trail Instagram hasn’t made famous yet or a small town attraction I’ve never heard of, I want to find somewhere that isn’t on every Top 10 list for a destination to fall in love with.
18. Wake up to watch a sunrise
I am not a morning person and pretty much the only time I see sunrise is from my desk in the winter when it gets light so late that I’m already in my office by the time it happens. I want to find somewhere with a phenomenal sunrise and make a point to drag myself out of bed to enjoy it.
19. Sit somewhere quiet and enjoy the natural beauty
I’m a go-go-go person, particularly when I travel. I like to try to pack in as much as possible into my limited vacation time so I like to stay constantly moving. A lot of times that means hopping out of the car to snap a few photos and then getting straight back on the road instead of lingering to enjoy the sound of the rushing water in a waterfall or the way the sun’s rays stretch across a valley. I want to take some time on one of my trips to just sit for a moment and take it all in instead of rushing off to the next place I’m dying to visit.
20. Use my frequent flyer miles and hotel points
I fly out of a Delta hub so even with their second tier status I usually find myself #30 of 50 on the upgrade list, but after bumping myself up to Platinum status with my second-to-last flight of the year, I expect to also leapfrog a few other upgrade-seekers. Sure, the drinks and legroom are nice, but I’m really after the snack basket they pass around the first class cabin. Just kidding (only a little though – I like my snacks) – I’m really all about the increased mileage multiplier I’ll get that will help my grow my Skymiles balance faster so I can cash in some free flights. I used my miles for the first time flying to London this fall and it was glorious. Over the last few years, I’ve had enough to use for a flight, but each time I planned a vacation I ended up with reasons not to cash in miles for it – our California trip was only $300 round trip so it seemed dumb to use miles, JetBlue, an airline I’d never flown before and thus had no miles with was far and away the best option for our trip to Peru, and I used a voucher I’d gotten for voluntarily giving up my seat on a flight to offset some of my flight for my crazy Christmas in Europe trip with my family. But flying to London for just $150ish in cash? Amazing. Likewise, I’ve been accumulating hotel points and not using them for various reasons and they’re only going to be devalued over time. Car rental days are really the only thing I’ve used consistently, but that’s also partially due to the fact that my rental credits have a relatively short lifespan. I want to make an effort to use a chunk of my miles and hotel points before their value decreases and also because flying/staying for free is pretty awesome.
Check back throughout the year to see my progress. I’ll be keeping this post updated as I check things off my list! I’d love to know what your travel goals for the year and/or decade are in the comments!
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