Sense of adventure: try stepping out of your comfort zone into the Iranian desert
Sense of adventure: try stepping out of your comfort zone into the Iranian desert

New Year's travel resolutions: From checking your passport expiry date to packing less

You say you want a resolution? Have 10

Simon Calder
Monday 04 January 2016 13:27

Britain's travel industry has just moved more people to more places than ever. The UK has world-class travel businesses which deliver outstanding value: airlines, holiday companies and even train operators. In 2016, the options are broadening while prices are, in many cases, falling. This is a great year for travel. And, on the principle that it's much easier to prescribe resolutions for others than to adhere to them oneself, allow me to offer you 10 of mine.

1. Check your passport expiry date now. Early January is an excellent time to apply for a replacement, and if there is less than nine months remaining you will get full credit for unspent time. For example, if it runs out on 1 October this year, the replacement will be valid until 1 October 2026. If there is less than six months remaining you could have problems getting in to Egypt, Turkey and other countries.

2. See the world with eyes and ears open. Put down your camera or smart phone, take off your headphones and let your senses download the surroundings: the colours, the faces, the architecture, the sky and the natural soundtrack.

3. Don't feel obliged to pay for an allocated seat. Some airlines imply that if you don't pay, you'll end up seated apart from your family or friends. But in my experience, carriers such as British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair will do their best to keep you together. If you are travelling with children under 12, they must be seated with you. And if you end up awkwardly placed, just ask other passengers. It'll be fine (and if I happen to be on the plane I shall of course be obligated to switch seats to your advantage).

4. Never text when you are crossing a road in a foreign country. Or, indeed, your own country.

5. Ask the most outdoors-y person you know to name their favourite walk, and walk it (if they are fit and helpful, get them to carry your backpack).

6. Don't drink ambitiously and then think it's a smart idea to rent a scooter or go for a swim.

7. Calculate where you travelled for your main holiday when you were half your present age. Return there to see how it has changed, discover how you have changed and learn how time filters memory. (Don't try this, though, if it was somewhere like Homs in Syria.) In my case it was a hitch-hiking holiday in Poland: see you in Wroclaw, which happily is one of the two European Capitals of Culture this year (the other being San Sebastián, which I feel obliged to visit for completeness). Oh, and dig out your old photographs so you can visit those backdrops and take some comedy replacements.

8. Pack less. I contend that any able-bodied adult going on holiday to a non-extreme destination can easily get everything they need into the confines of a modest 10kg cabin baggage allowance. If this is not your usual practice, try it. You will feel liberated, more mobile and better off (given that most airlines charge for checked baggage these days). You also reduce to zero the risk that your luggage will be sent to LOS (Lagos) while you fly to LAX (Los Angeles).

9. Next time you are in a strange land, go to a sporting event: baseball in the US or Cuba; pelota in the Basque Country or Mexico; rugby in Wales. Your reward will be a new dimension on the destination, and probably lots of fun.

10. Step out of your comfort zone. You are getting older. The older you get, the more precious is your time and the greater the need to acquire new experiences. So, think of the place where you feel most comfortable, and do the opposite. If your "happy place" is, say, a waterside taverna on a Greek island, get yourself off to the Iranian desert (or rather, get a good adventure tour operator to get you there). Conversely, if you are most content kayaking off Vancouver Island or hiking New Zealand's South Island, try a package in Benidorm.

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