Are you stuck in the post-holiday, cold weather blues? Beyond the highs of the Christmas and New Year’s spirit come the lows of paying off holiday credit card statements and the despair of not being able to afford a winter getaway to warm weather and sun. But what if you still could? Instead of saying “no” to a vacation, Globe and Mail travel columnist and National Geographic travel contributing editor, Heather Greenwood Davis, says take that trip! Make a 2019 travel resolutions to travel further and better than ever before.
Be planet friendly
Does that mean skip the fancy hotels and stay in a tent?’ Not at all! There’s a way to experience both.
For instance, check out this new luxury camp in Akagera National Park with only six tented guest rooms. Of course there’s also a luxurious lounge, a beautiful bar, a wine cellar, a pool,… you get the idea. There are supports in place for the conservation of wildlife in the area but what’s truly great about Magashi is their vision is to build sustainable conservation economies in Africa. Their Children in The Wilderness program offers children who live in the villages around the conservation areas, education in the care of their natural heritage. Guest payments also help pay the local staff of the non-profit operation.
Another option is this gorgeous five-star eco lodge in Colombia. The goal of Cannua—an 18-room retreat that is set on 27-acres of protected forest—is to help protect the natural resources. The resort, scheduled to open in April 2019, is dedicated to a permaculture approach. That means they’re attempting synergy between both the agricultural needs of the land and the culture of the people.
Even if you aren’t at a certified eco-friendly resort you can make choices that help. Opting to avoid single use plastics (think straws and plastic water bottles), looking for resorts that use the big bottles instead of all the mini-samples we all steal away home and even opting for locally sourced restaurants can make a difference.
It’s getting harder and harder to be comfortable in economy class and first class seats aren’t plentiful or inexpensive. That said, there are ways to make life at least a little better. Business-class seats are a slightly more accessible option, with offerings that are often pretty comparable to first class. Amenities often include vegan burgers, wine delivery, freshly baked cookies and ice cream. (Let’s not forget about those full lie-flat seats and decent meals.)
So, how do you get there? Earn your points. Let your desire to score points drive your every decision: Which credit card you use, where you shop, where you eat, what flights you purchase… Airline Loyalty is your cheapest way to the front.
On the other end of the spectrum, Canada is getting more low cost carriers, such as Flair Airlines, Swoop (owned by West Jet) and Norwegian Air (coming later this year). Yes, your knees will likely be in your chest and sometimes it’ll cost you to take more than a purse but what you lose in comfort you can make up for in fare savings that will make your destination experience that much better.
Avoid being overwhelmed at the airport
Get that Nexus card or Global Entry card. The lines are longer than they were when the cards were first introduced, but it is still far faster than the normal lines.
You can also download apps like Airhelp, which lets you scan your boarding pass on flights to/in Europe once a flight is delayed to see if you’re owed money as a result. Loungebuddy helps you find lounges that may let you pay for access on long delays.
Finally, stop checking a bag. You can do it. Pack light, use packing cubes. And if you’re a shopper, just include a foldable extra bag in your luggage and at least you’ll only pay those hefty fees one way.
Stay away from tourist traps
We’ve all become accustomed to yearning for the spots that are iconic. While the Eiffel Tower and Pyramids of Giza are great, they’re often very underwhelming in comparison to less crowded, equally impressive sites. Find new, off the beaten path destinations to explore this year. Greenland, Belize, and Edmonton are all great options,
Have smarter wildlife encounters
Those pictures you see of people posing with tigers in Thailand or holding a chained monkey? Cute, but often those animals have been subjected to really cruel treatment including being beaten or drugged to make them that docile. If an animal wouldn’t naturally come up to you in the wild, your radar should go off at places that offer those kinds of encounter.
The better way to experience these animals is through a pair of binoculars or on wilderness safaris that are respectful.
Be better global neighbours
Imagine this. Your kids are playing in the front yard and a foreigner shows up and starts snapping photos of them. It probably wouldn’t go over well, right? We need to be better at making sure that we’re not forgetting to continue to be good people when we hit the road. One way to figure out if what you’re doing is right, is to ask yourself “Would I do this at home?”
And it’s not always as easy as not taking a photo.
Should you give to kids who are begging in a poor country? How much is too much? Is it better to give food than cash? It’s a lot for any one person to figure out, and really tough decisions to make on the ground when your face to face with poverty and need.
Luckily, more and more companies are trying to help.
GAdventures’ G is for Good initiative aims to better educate travellers on how to interact with children around the world in a way that keeps dignity and safety at the forefront. Together with their non-profit partner Planeterra and Child Safe Movement International, they’ve created a “Global Good Practices Guidelines.” That ask travellers to take a pledge that would put an end to taking selfies with children without parental consent, geo-tagging their location on social media, visiting school classrooms, giving money and gifts to directly to minors and more. Even if you aren’t travelling with GAdventures it offers some great things to think about as we try to be better global citizens.