Everyone knows New Year's Resolutions are hard to keep. But here's a fun one that may not fall by the wayside—trying a new type of travel in 2009. Leave your comfort zone behind and consider these possible travel resolutions over the coming months.
Stay at a Vacation Rental
If you've never stayed at a vacation rental before, 2009 is the year to try one. From beachfront getaways to downtown city lofts, vacation rentals offer a homey atmosphere wherever you're planning to travel. I like rentals for the extra space, the affordable per-night prices (especially when split between a group), and the opportunity to stay in neighborhoods among the locals.
Nowadays, there are many different possibilities for finding your ideal rental. Contact renters directly by browsing the offerings on VRBO, or work with a third-party supplier by choosing a site such as VacationRoost. A word of warning, however: Once you stay at a vacation rental, you may find it difficult to go back to a hotel room ever again.
Take Advantage of Off-Season Deals
Never thought of visiting Paris in January? What about heading to the Caribbean at the beginning of hurricane season? Checking out a ski resort in summertime? You're missing a great opportunity! With tough economic times, choosing an off-season vacation can save you a bundle. So you may have to contend with a bit of snow and cold, and you may not have sunny skies every day of your trip. However, you will find off-the-beaten path alternatives to fill your day, much fewer tourists to contend with (compared to the high season), and an appreciation from the locals because you've made the trip.
Not sure when the off season falls for your destination of choice? Check out the local convention and visitors bureau seasonality information, read the "When to Go" sections of SmarterTravel.com's travel guides, and get up-to-date recommendations from our quarterly series, Top Five Off-Peak Destinations for every season.
Take a Cruise
Yes, there's the bad rap of cruise ships as "floating malls," and David Foster Wallace skewered them to great effect. But cruising can be an ideal vacation option for families with diverse tastes, those wanting to see a region (e.g. Europe) on a budget, or travelers intimidated by the often-monumental task of planning a vacation on one's own. Cruises offer the flexibility of avoiding bad weather (changing ports mid-trip to stay away from hurricanes and the like), a host of dining and entertainment options, and the reassuring feature of paying for everything in U.S. currency. They're also a great option if you have a disabled family member or traveling companion, as most ships can accommodate special-needs travelers. And with last-minute deals and year-round bargains, a cruise can be customized for any budget. Get acquainted with cruise vacations by visiting SmarterTravel's sister site Cruise Critic.
My friends wouldn't exactly describe me as the spontaneous type, but the few times I've thrown my day planner aside and taken a last-minute trip, I've had a blast. If you've never done this, I encourage you to do so in 2009. Whether it's to visit a faraway friend or check out someplace new, the thrill from a last-minute impromptu getaway can be rejuvenating (and even a little addictive). The best part, as regular readers of SmarterTravel know, is last-minute travel's super affordability. We publish last-minute airfares each Wednesday; sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you all available last-minute airfares from your home city for the coming and following weekends. There are plenty of deals for last-minute hotels, rental cars, vacation packages, and even cruises, too.
Let the Deal Decide Your Trip
Undecided about where to go this year? Or think you can't afford a vacation? Let the deals guide you! At press time, for example, Hawaii and Bermuda vacations are coming in under $500 (including airfare!), and Vancouver, Kansas City, and Mexico's Riviera Nayarit are showing great rates for 2009. Sign up for email alerts from your favorite travel provider to see the latest offerings. Who knows? A new favorite vacation destination—previously not on your radar—may be just a deal away.
Do you have a travel resolution for the new year? Share your plans by submitting a comment below!