Six travel-related New Year's resolutions worth making in 2024

Forget fitness routines and weight-loss promises, this year why not try improving your travel plans?

Make a resolution to travel better next year, by supporting sustainable brands, local businesses and overtourism measures. Getty Images
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We've all woken up on New Year's Day filled with plenty of self-promises – to eat better, work out more, quit smoking, stop shopping as much – many of which will simply not last.

Instead, why not make your New Year's resolutions about other people this year and vow to travel better?

Here we discover only a few ways you could make your holidays far richer and more meaningful.

Choose sustainable accommodation

We vote with our purses and wallets, so when you choose holiday accommodation, why not make sure it's somewhere that's trying to help save our planet?

Anywhere that puts sustainability at the forefront of its vision will have that listed on its website. The recently opened Six Senses Southern Dunes Red Sea in Saudi Arabia, for example, is run on solar energy, has an on-site water bottling plant and a plastic-free policy, and uses locally sourced produce and a thermal energy storage system. Electric buggies get you around the sprawling resort.

You could also try booking through Ecobnb, a short-term rental platform from Italy that only works with sustainable accommodation providers. In about a decade of operating, the service has accumulated 3,000 eco-friendly partners that range from small B&Bs to farmhouses equipped with features such as photovoltaic panels, water flow reducers and ecological cleaning products.

“Many of the accommodations on our website are small businesses that not only prioritise environmental conservation, but also support the local economy, providing a more authentic cultural experience,” co-founder Silvia Ombellini tells The National.

Leave a place richer

We mean this in monetary and metaphorical contexts. For example, opt for handmade and locally crafted items instead of tacky, mass-produced souvenirs. “This not only adds a personal touch to your mementoes, but also supports the local economy, fostering a stronger connection with the culture and traditions of your destination,” says Ombellini.

You could also choose family-run accommodation instead of international branded properties, or eat at traditional restaurants that serve locally sourced produce instead of recognisable chains.

In this same vein, leave a place the same way you found it by making sure you don't litter or damage the natural environment. “Dispose of your waste properly and avoid collecting sand or disturbing the local flora and fauna,” Ombellini advises. “When visiting natural parks, adhere to designated guidelines, and stay on marked paths to help protect biodiversity and preserve the environment.”

Slow down

Whereas tourists may previously have visited several cities or towns within one country on a single trip, now people are trying to slow down and immerse themselves more thoroughly in a destination.

This is called slow travel and it can mean many things to many people. Some view it as an opportunity to volunteer, while others see it as a journey without rigid schedules, allowing for deeper connections with local culture, disconnecting from technology and minimising impact on the environment.

Ultimately, it’s about slowing down to savour the journey, and ensuring that returning home doesn't leave you in need of a “holiday from your holiday”.

Use more public transportation

Planes emit 30 to 50 times more CO2 than trains, so whenever possible choose rail travel, which has seen a resurgence in recent years.

Ombellini says it's worth avoiding car rentals, unless you're opting for an electric vehicle. “This decision not only reduces your carbon footprint, but also relieves the stress associated with navigating unfamiliar roads and hunting for parking spaces.”

If possible, explore your destination on a bicycle or electric scooter, which are commonly available to rent across bigger cities. Better yet, by foot (which will likely help that resolution to get fitter, too). “It allows you to experience a place as a local would, access hidden gems and enjoy the beauty of both urban and rural areas,” adds Ombellini.

Avoid overcrowded destinations

This year, cities and countries across the world have been ramping up measures to tackle overtourism. In Venice, for example, a fee to access the city's historic centre will be trialled next summer, while Bali is introducing a $10 entry cost from February.

There's an easy way to avoid overcrowded destinations – go somewhere similar instead. This is set to be a trend in 2024, with experts referring to it as “dupe destinations” – cheaper and less-crowded equivalents to popular holiday spots, where you can swerve the unpleasant effects of overtourism while still enjoying the overall vibe of a place.

Why go to Santorini when you can explore Paros at half the cost, for example? According to Expedia Group’s Unpack ’24 travel trends guide, flight searches to Paros rocketed 193 per cent this year compared to last, while Liverpool was touted as an alternative to London and Memphis to Nashville.

In the UAE, 33 per cent of travellers are planning a dupe destination getaway in the next three years, according to recent research by Marriott Bonvoy.

Stay home during summer

For those of us who dream of visiting popular destinations such as Venice or Paris, but have not yet had the pleasure, there's another way to avoid overtourism – and that's by changing the time you travel, rather than the destination.

Don't go during the summer, for example, but the shoulder season instead. This is when tourists take their leave during the traditionally quieter spring and autumn months, usually between March and April, then September and October.

“We try to find pockets of time that are less busy,” Rebecca Alesia, founder of New York travel agency Wanderology, told The National. “That’s one of the reasons we’re doing a lot of winter European vacations this year. Yes, go and see Rome and Florence and Venice in December. Sure, you wear a jacket. In Paris, you’ll wear a turtleneck. But at least you’re not going to be fighting with everybody to get into everything.”

But it's not only overtourism putting people off travelling during summer, as we experience record temperatures year after year. So if June to August is the only time you can feasibly travel, pick a cooler climate instead.

Countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Bulgaria and the UK saw a surge in interest this summer, for example. In June, experiential group travel company EF Go Ahead Tours, from the US, said bookings for Scandinavia were up 50 per cent compared with summer 2019. Australian company Intrepid Travel, meanwhile, said sales to Iceland were up 136 per cent through May compared with the same pre-pandemic period, according to Travel Weekly.

Updated: December 28, 2023, 9:01 AM