How do you plan a better trip? Being a contrarian, I think an even better question might be: How do you not plan a better trip?
Specifically, what should you leave behind if you want to have a perfect getaway in 2023?
I asked the experts, and as it turns out, there’s a lot — including bulky luggage, too-high expectations, and repeat visits to places you’ve already seen.
Why are people traveling in 2023? A recent survey by World Nomads found the top reason was to explore a new destination.
“It’s the year to find new favorite cities and experiences,” says Christina Tunnah, the company’s general manager of marketing and brands.
Many experts agree that 2023 is the year to change up some bad habits and start anew.
So here’s the inside scoop on expert travel planning in 2023 — and what to lose:
Your bucket list
“The thing I never loved about the concept of a bucket list is that it is inexorably linked to death,” says Jayme Simões, a publicist and frequent traveler. “Travel and exploration should be about living.”
But the bucket list concept is also deeply flawed. Simões says it’s an extraordinarily selfish act to travel just to check places off a list without thinking about the impact of that travel on an environmental or societal level.
“I think we should seek empathy in travel, learn from it, and gain insight into the lives of others — without destroying the very thing we set out to see,” he says.
All that checked luggage
If you’re traveling for a few days, you can easily fit everything into a carry-on bag. “If you pack smartly with clothes you can wear at least twice, you can travel for five to seven days in just a large duffel bag, weekender bag, or business traveler carry-on,” says Catherine Heald, CEO of Remote Lands, a tour operator.
Actually, I’ve traveled around the world nonstop for more than a year with just one carry-on bag. I think if I can do it, anyone can do it. But I understand it’s not always possible; some travelers have to carry medical equipment, which makes downsizing difficult. (By the way, if your airline loses your checked bags, here’s my free guide on your consumer rights.)
The pursuit of points
“There is so much stress involved in collecting points and even more redeeming them,” says Mitch Krayton, owner of Krayton Travel in Denver. “It’s best to first know where you want to go, when, and what you want to do once you are there. Folks deserve to travel the way they want instead of being subject to complex rules and the restrictions of points.”
Some airlines reportedly have frequent flier redemption rates of less than 10%, which means all the effort we put into collecting miles is wasted. Krayton says in 2023, you’re better off booking the trip you want instead of trying to make it work with points.
Krayton is right. Collecting points is not for everyone, as I explain in my guide to loyalty programs.
Several experts have also suggested timeshares are a thing to lose in 2023. “Buying a timeshare obligates you to pay for your share of the property,” says Pallavi Sadekar, head of operations at VisitorGuard.com. “This means you will have to make monthly payments until the timeshare is paid for, regardless of whether you visit the property or take a vacation. Even after it is paid for, there are still taxes and maintenance fees.”
Also, don’t feel pressured to buy a timeshare in 2023. “Don’t purchase a timeshare on a whim solely based on what a potentially commissioned salesperson says,” says timeshare expert Lisa Ann Schreier. “A good deal today will be available the following day, week or month. The vast majority of timeshare complaints arise because consumers fail to do even basic research or ask the pertinent questions.”
Here’s my guide on how to get rid of your timeshare now.
“Cruises are notoriously expensive, and the traveler doesn’t get to truly experience the culture of the place,” says Shane Mahoney, CEO of Lugo’s Travel.
He says when you’re on a cruise, you’re at the mercy of the ship’s captain. If for whatever reason, the captain decides not to dock at the port that day, you just lost out on lost out on visiting a destination you were probably looking forward to seeing.
“When you cruise you are primarily spending time on the ship with thousands of people you don’t know. You are not getting the most out of a vacation that should feel like a vacation — which means exploring new places and discovering new cultures,” he adds.
Cruising is not for everyone, but my free guide on cruising will help you figure out if it’s right for you.
Your need for a deal
If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that life’s too short. And sometimes, a travel “deal” is just not worth it.
“After two years of lockdown and no travel, I just don’t want to challenge myself as much when I travel,” says Sheila Stafford, CEO of a productivity technology company. “When I was younger, I would have strapped myself to a wing to save money.”
No more. She’s even ruling out red-eye flights and long connections in 2023.
“For my last business trip, I did a red eye from Vegas to New York via Cleveland,” she says. “I have promised myself no more red-eyes.”
I have more on how to spot a deal in my free guide to travel planning.
Your loyalty to a travel company
“A lot of people are leaving behind their loyalty to a specific airline,” says Gilad Berenstein, a Seattle-based investor in travel startups. “They are not canceling their loyalty account — there is no reason to do that — but they are leaving behind their actual loyalty to an airline.”
Why? Most airlines still offer fewer routes and time options than before COVID, meaning air travelers still have fewer options. Ultimately, that reduces the incentive to focus on loyalty, and ultimately devalues the travel experience, says Berenstein.
You read it here first — loyalty is out in 2023. Here’s how to determine if you should exit your program now.
The same old vacation
“As a travel agent, I see a lot of people who do the same type of vacation every year,” says Shanna Schultz, a travel agent with Travel with Shanna. “Sometimes, they even go back to the same place, like an all-inclusive resort or cruise line.”
Why? People do this because it becomes easy and familiar, but Shanna wishes travelers would work to get out of this habit for 2023.
“There are just so many places in the world that are worth seeing,” she says. “Try something new for 2023.”
Quick and meaningless getaway
If there’s one thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that short vacations can be highly ineffective. “Instead of place-to-place, bucket-list-checking road trips that burn gas and often leave you in need of a vacation, 2023’s the year to embed yourself in one location for an extended stay,” says Kim Knox Beckius, the travel editor at Yankee magazine.
Instead, she advises that you take time to get acquainted with and support a community that isn’t necessarily a well-known vacation destination.
“With hybrid and remote work arrangements so common now, and vacation rentals available even in obscure little towns, it’s an ideal time to write a mini chapter of your life in a new setting that just may turn out to be a place you’ll want to live or revisit down the road,” she adds.
Your high standards
With inflation and the cost of living so high, travelers will be looking for their dream vacation on a budget next year, says Marcus Räder, CEO of the vacation rental management platform Hostaway.
“But prices are unlikely to drop much in 2023 even if demand levels out,” he tells me. “In fact, they may even go up, as we saw with the airfares in 2021.”
Räder says the solution is simple: Travelers must start thinking of making compromises to meet their budgets. That includes driving to a destination rather than flying, or working remotely before and after their trip to make the most of their vacation.
Going where everyone else goes
It’s not the thing to do in 2023, according to Charlie Neville, marketing director at JayWay Travel.
“One bad habit that travelers fell back into after years of restricted travel was heading straight to the most popular places on the planet, like Italy’s Amalfi Coast, or the Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini,” he says, “Then they’re disappointed that it was crowded.”
Of course it was. But there’s a better way. Neville says instead of zeroing in on the most famous destinations, travelers should consult a travel advisor for help in picking their destinations.
“Describe the kinds of experiences they want, and memories they want to create, so a knowledgeable expert can guide them to places where they’ll get that vacation they’re dreaming of, and enjoy a far more authentic trip — usually at a better price too,” he says.
Your dreams of being a travel influencer
It’s nonsense, says Avi Silverberg, a frequent traveler who runs a nutrition website. “Stop trying,” he says. “This means being mindful of local norms and traditions and avoiding activities or behaviors that may be offensive or inappropriate, which includes wacky and crazy TikTok videos in front of local landmarks and attractions.”
That’s solid advice: Travel influencers are so 2020, anyway.
What I’m losing in 2023
While all these things are worth losing this year, travel is a different experience for everyone. For example, if you’ve always dreamed of becoming a travel influencer, who am I to stop you from doing it this year? Likewise, if you enjoy vacationing in the same place, why would I try to talk you out of that? Go for it, but be prepared for the crowds.
As the latest Expedia Travel Trends Report suggests, travelers are making smaller adjustments to their itineraries — dining in instead of eating out or visiting a big city instead of camping.
So here’s my small adjustment: I’m trying to lose all the expectations I have for travel in 2023. What will it be like when I get there? How’s the weather? Will I like it?
I’ll try to keep an open mind and avoid reading too many reviews. Let’s see how long that lasts.