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Trip Planning in 2021: The Essentials

Release your pent-up desire to explore by planning your next getaway now

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Posted a month agoby Ann Marie Brown

If you're planning a trip in 2021, you're not alone. After a year of vacation plans gone awry, the vaccine rollout has renewed our travel optimism—and not surprisingly, hotel and flight bookings are on the rise. In the latest California Now Podcast, three travel pros offer tips on this year's vacation trends and discuss why you should be planning a trip right now, even if your planned getaway isn’t until later in the year.

Trip Planning Is Good for You

Studies show the mere act of planning a vacation increases your happiness, according to Nathan Lump, Expedia's vice president, customer marketing.

"When you sit down to plan a trip, you begin with a world of possibilities," Lump says. "It allows you to look forward with optimism."

If you think you can't take time off from work, check your pay stub to see how much PTO you're hoarding. "There's a really significant delta between the amount of vacation time given to Americans and the amount of time that they actually take," he says.

Even if you don't have the luxury of paid time off, going on vacation can make you a better worker. "It's been shown that people are more productive when they actually take a break from what they do," Lump says. "When they come back, they get more accomplished."

And don’t discount the emotional benefits of simply looking at stunning scenery and imagining yourself in that environment. Surfing the web for hotel deals or daydreaming about places to go will give you an instant mood boost even while you're stuck at your desk. "Just going through the process, like making that list of the places that you want to go and doing some of the research, is fun."

Trending: Slow Travel

Also on the podcast, Rebecca Misner, West Coast editor at Condé Nast Traveler, shares her insights on the trend toward immersive or "slow" vacations.

"Slow travel is a slowed-down approach to travel, sort of like the slow food movement," Misner says. "It's not about parachuting in for the Instagram checklist, hitting the five hot things in a town, and then hitting the road. It's about being in a place and seeping yourself in the community there."

To plan a slow-travel getaway, Misner suggests you choose a town as your base, then branch out with short jaunts to nearby spots. For example, with San Diego as your hub, "you can hit Barrio Logan to really immerse yourself in the local Mexican-American culture. You can poke around La Jolla and Laguna. You can go to Coronado for a day."

The goal of slow travel is to "walk away feeling like you really got something out of a place," Misner says. "There's an emphasis on connecting with the local people, with the local culture, with the local food. It's those kinds of real connections that you wind up remembering or telling your friends about."

Misner says another 2021 trend is families or groups renting out an entire hotel for a big family reunion or celebration. "Many travelers want to do something big. They've had to wait a year or year and a half since their last vacation, and they want to just go for it."

Road Trip Joys

Illustrator and author Chandler O’Leary favors an old-fashioned road trip because it gives her the chance to "develop a mental map of the country I live in."

O'Leary says road trips appeal to every kind of vacationer, but right now they're especially popular with millennial and Gen Z travelers. "People are really rediscovering the beauty of a road trip," she says. "There's a nostalgia with it. There's some fun kitsch along the way."

Her newest book, The Best Coast: A Road Trip Atlas, is filled with 400 vivid illustrations culled from her road trip sketchbook, including the epic views near Jenner, Sausalito's houseboats, and the ornate buildings of San Diego's Balboa Park.

"I want to see absolutely everything from beginning to end on a journey," she says. "Drawing forces me to slow down and really look at what I'm seeing."

O'Leary also recommends road trips for their easy access to just-picked produce. "I definitely brake for farm stands. I love to seek out the areas where the foodstuffs we take for granted are grown."

No matter what kind of trip you're planning, O'Leary offers this advice: "Let yourself be open to surprises. You can plan all day long, but it's the things that you don't plan that are the things you're going to remember the best."

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