In addition to basic travel happy decisions, like WHO (to travel with), WHAT (to do), WHERE (domestic or abroad), WHEN (peak or off season), and HOW (long), happy travelers have a multitude of decisions to consider for every trip.
Please note that travelers typically make different decisions for every trip. Perhaps even during the same trip. Maybe even on the same day. Happy Travel and Travel Happy are processes not merely a milestone.
8 Great Decisions to Help You Travel Happy
Decide to Travel
The first decision happy travelers make is simply deciding to take a trip, to make travel a priority. I like the advice Erin Bender gave in this article, “Just book it!” So booking a trip might be the first step to Travel Happy. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, happy travelers “only regret the trips we do not take.”
What to Pack
Deciding to pack light and travel with only a carryon bag bag (plus the ambiguous personal bag) has been my most powerful and enlightening (yes, pun) travel decision. Traveling with less stuff saves money, time, and stress—and that should be the ultimate goal of all happy travelers. There is a reason I made Pack Light my first Habit of Happy Travelers.
How to Get There
Since 2001, I have expanded the distance I will drive instead of fly for vacations. Some of the factors why I reduce my air travel frequency include TSA/security measures meaning check in 90 minutes early, route changes eliminating favorite nonstop flights, centralized car rental centers, and frequent delays.
Where I used to take a flight for a short distance, like 200 miles away, I now will drive up to 550 miles rather than fly. One advantage to driving your own car is that you can skip the rental car at the destination and bring more stuff (including pillows and snacks).
Use Public Transportation
Many happy travelers arrange trips requiring no car at all. For city vacations, there is no need for a rental car and you can use local public transportation. Visit Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City, and many other US cities by riding with Amtrak.
When exploring the countryside, though, recognize whether you prefer to independently explore or be part of an organized tour group. Renting a car might be a better option when you want to explore away from cities, places like Ireland and Iceland.
Where to Stay
Many happy travelers find vacation rental properties (like Airbnb) offer more space and amenities at a lower price than hotels. Other alternatives to standard chain hotels include independent hotels or motels, inns, B&Bs, camping or glamping, hostels, Couchsurfing, or even Irish castles.
By Travel Local, I do not mean stay home and not travel. I mean to have local experiences at your destinations. Happy Travelers believe this leads to the most authentic travel experiences.
Eat local—fresher and healthier for you than fast food and packaged items.
Stay local—save money and have more fun.
Drink local—local craft beer, wine, cider, and spirits are exploding industries.
Explore local—hire a local small group tour guide for access to places that are better for the environment. Minimize your footprint at the destination to make up for the environmental impact of getting there.
Travel Off the Beaten Path
Happy travelers know that taking the road less traveled leads to more fulfilling travel experiences. While everyone else is standing in line at popular tourist attractions, walk into an adjacent neighborhood and explore shops, restaurants, and parks that most visitors do not see.
Drive small roads instead of highways. Book a small cruise ship rather than a big mega ship. Take a small group walking tour of a city rather than a big bus group. Travel during the offseason when the crowds are much smaller but the weather might even be better. Have dinner at a farm-to-table cafe with a local chef instead of fast food. See more, Do more. Travel happy.
Practice Travel Serendipity
The strongest travel memories result from unplanned moments, I believe. While it makes sense to have some structure and plan on your trips, allow some time for unstructured exploring and free roaming. Happy travelers are flexible and adventurous. Practice Serendipity is not exactly accurate.
Maybe Create Serendipitous Moments would be more accurate.
By no means are these the only travel happy decisions that happy travelers make. For instance, most of my travel friends earn and use points to partially pay for their trips so I would say that using loyalty programs is definitely another travel happy decision.
What other decisions to travel happy can you think of?