I reckon it's a resolution on many people's lists: to travel more in the new year. It's easy enough to promise yourself this, but to actually do it - to just pack your bags, book a flight and leave - is a different story.
Now, I'm no travel expert, but here are 5 tips I've found helpful in my few years of backpacking/flashpacking/spending my employer's money on business trips across Asia. They're simple and might even be considered no-brainers, but I'm still putting them out there in case they might help you get your butt off your chair or your eyes off your smartphone while you read this, and out into the world.
So how about it - how do you fancy reading Filipina in Flip Flops on your smartphone/laptop/tablet in an empty beach, or on a sleeping bus en route to a strange new destination this year?
1. Know your national holidays.
If you have a regular 9-5 job like a lot of people, getting time off work is one of the main complexities that make going on trips difficult. This is where the value of your country's holidays comes in - schedule your trips according to these holidays. Those that fall on Friday and Monday are particularly useful because they give you long weekends.
To maximize your trip, you can even file for a VL or two a few days before and/or after the national holiday of your choice so you can extend your vacation. This also ensures that you avoid the long lines and packed crowds in airports and bus stations on the actual date of the holidays.
Here's an infographic that lists down the Philippine holidays for 2013. Based on these dates, you can schedule a fairly long trip on August 21-26, 2013, that would give you six days off from work, but will only require you to file for two vacation leaves!
An additional tip: file your leaves and let your immediate superior know about your travel plans early. This gives your team more time to plan out how to manage the work you will be leaving behind temporarily while you go away on your trip. Usually, the sooner your employer / boss / teammates know, the better.
2. Monitor seat sales religiously.
Constant vigilance! Mad-Eye Moody might have roared this mantra to his Hogwarts students to always keep them on their toes against dementors and what-not, but the adage is also true for scoring cheap flights. Good thing us Muggles have social media to keep us updated on seat sale and promo fare announcements anytime, anywhere.
Follow Cebu Pacific, Air Asia, Tiger Airways, and Jetstar Airways on Twitter or subscribe to their e-newsletters for promo announcements. Cebu Pacific has also partnered with Citibank Philippines for the Cebu Pacific Citibank Credit Card, whose cardholders receive advanced alerts on Cebu Pacific seat sale promotions.
3. Just book it.
So you've scheduled your vacation leaves strategically, and you're ready to pounce on those great airline deals. The only thing left to do is to actually book those flights. Usually, you will have to book flights way in advance to avail of discounts and promotional offers, and this can scare people - there's no way to know what you'll be doing six, seven months from now, how do you know nothing important will come up on the days of your flights? I guess that's the risk you'll have to take.
The thing is, you can't predict the future, but if you book now for a trip you'll be taking in six months, you're already one step closer to knowing for sure that in half a year's time you'll be marveling at ancient temples, leaping into a 764-feet bungee jump, or enjoying a quiet stroll through an old, riverside town.
4. Get a travel buddy, but don't hesitate to travel alone either.
For someone trying to lose weight, a common piece of advice given (besides, you know, don't eat too much and go to the gym more often) is to get a workout partner or a gym buddy. Having someone to lose weight with keeps you motivated and eager to reach your goals, and the same thing applies to traveling - wanderlust is contagious, and if you hang around with people who are also eager to get away, chances are, it'll be easier to make that happen.
You can even use your desire to travel as a chance to meet new friends. Local companies like Offbeat Pursuits, Surfista Travels Philippines, and FLOW SurfYogaSamba offer custom, non-touristy trips for small groups of travelers that are a great way to meet fellow nomads and wanderers. So if you really can't find a travel buddy among your circle of friends, book a slot with one of these companies and make new friends on your trip!
5. Get your travel fund started.
Reduce the Starbucks runs. Ease up on the cocktails. Have your bank automatically set aside money from your account every month as savings. Earn money from your hobbies, or take on some freelance projects on the side. Keep a jar to put your loose change in and label it your "[chosen destination] Fund" so you don't lose sight of your goal. This year, even if I already have two trips planned, I've promised myself that I will finally get started on my Europe Fund by investing on some mutual funds and trying my hand at some freelance writing jobs. Here's a success story to keep you motivated, of how 22-year-old Lauren saved USD18k for her round-the-world adventure.
Need more advice? For further reading, check out CNNTravel's 12 Months, 12 Trips, 12 Ways To Make Your Friends Jealous for destination ideas and 8 Travel Resolutions for 2013.
See you at the airport!