New Year's Resolution Trips
Of all the storied holiday-season traditions, the New Year’s resolution has long been a laughingstock, ranking somewhere between the office Secret Santa and the barking-dogs version of “Jingle Bells.”
Related: Best Places to Spend New Year's
If you’ve been down that resolution path (and who hasn’t?), you know the drill. You begin with an earnest proclamation of intent while standing by the chip bowl at a New Year’s Eve party—“I’ll lose 20 pounds! I’ll run a marathon! I’ll never order fried cheese again!” But once you get back to your usual life’s routine, those ambitions fizzle like day-old champagne. No surprise: a University of Washington study found that almost half of us have ditched our resolutions before March.
To keep a resolution from becoming more than a joke, some say you need to start with a plan of action—and what better plan of action than to plan a trip? When you take your resolution on a vacation, you can immerse yourself in your new mind-set, whether your goal is to eat better, quit smoking, or overcome a fear.
One place to go: Tucson’s miracle-making spa, Miraval. Travelers come looking to lose weight, of course, but perhaps also to deal with an emotional issue or just to slow down life’s pace. If nothing else, the memories of a great trip will periodically remind you that there’s more to life than fried cheese. —Katrina Brown Hunt
Resolution: Eat Better
Where to Go: Cantabria, Spain
What to Do: Fall in love with fish and veggies again. The Greeks and Italians have long taken credit for having the most heart-healthy diets, but a recent study found that tapas-loving Spaniards—especially in coastal Cantabria—are doing the best job of embracing the produce-heavy Mediterranean diet. Locals reportedly consume 40 percent more veggies, five times the olive oil, and twice as much fish as their European neighbors. Two renowned restaurants in the province’s capital, Santander, showcase the cuisine’s blend of seafood and fresh countryside ingredients: El Serbal and Zacarias, helmed by a local celebrity cookbook author.
Where to Stay: The palatial Hotel Real was built in 1917 to house the then-king’s entourage, and it still has a royal vibe—plus, it’s close to the beaches of El Sardinero. —Katrina Brown Hunt
Resolution: Exercise More
Where to Go: Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
What to Do: Why jog around a track when you could be among invitingly lush surroundings with temperatures in the seventies? The peninsula has countless hikes through its nature preserves, up to waterfalls, or along beaches, all to help you get in the habit of at least walking every day. Outfitters like Backroads offer trips that swing through this area with hiking, biking, kayaking, or horseback riding, all at your fitness level.
Where to Stay: Get inspired at the Lapa Rios Ecolodge, where you can sleep in a plushly appointed bungalow and hike through the neighboring, trail-rich nature preserve. —Katrina Brown Hunt
Resolution: Help Green the Earth
Where to Go: Maui
What to Do: Okay, so you took a giant, fuel-eating plane to get here (at least you shared it with other people), but you’re in a place where you can become a hands-on environmental steward. The Hawaii Nature Center offers “Volun-tourism” projects where you can, say, help restore wetlands (808/244-6500; hawaiinaturecenter.org), while the Sierra Club offers one “volunteer vacation,” among others, where you can help stabilize an archaeological site while also taking time to snorkel and watch whales (415/977-5500; sierraclub.org).
Where to Stay: The Fairmont Kea Lani is pretty green for a big brand hotel: it recycles most of its laundry wastewater and also participates in local programs to clean beaches, protect local turtles, and restore the island’s taro plant population. —Katrina Brown Hunt
Resolution: Work Less, Play More
Where to Go: Turks and Caicos
What to Do: East of Cuba in the Caribbean, this group of islands solidly removes you from the office—and there’s plenty to remind you of life beyond the BlackBerry. Kite surfing—where you ride on a board, pulled by a kite—is a local favorite here, thanks to the accommodating winds. If you still crave the thrill of closing a deal, do a conch-diving cruise, where you can free-dive to score your conch, then have it barbecued ashore.
Where to Stay: The Grace Bay Club gives you a serene setting for kicking back post-playtime: there are spa-treatment tents and daybeds along the beach and, to further distance you from the grind, a 90-foot bar. —Katrina Brown Hunt
Resolution: Spend More Time with Your Family
Where to Go: Stowe, Vermont
What to Do: This is an all-season playground for families. On the town’s five-mile recreation path, you can rent either bicycles or snowshoes, depending on the time of year. And there’s always the kid-friendly (and adult-friendly) Ben & Jerry’s Factory tour.
Where to Stay: What says “family” better than the Trapp Family Lodge? There are horse-drawn sleighs, snow sports for all skill levels, and a kids’ club for tots three and up. And yes, by Trapp you can deduce von Trapps, of The Sound of Music fame. Hey, a family that escapes together stays together. —Katrina Brown Hunt
Resolution: Explore Your Spirituality
Where to Go: Big Sur, California
What to Do: This rugged coastal community is considered a meditation hotspot, and it’s no wonder. With a multitude of solitary perches and dramatic waves-against-the-rocks scenery, Big Sur is an idyllic spot to contemplate, pray, or just relax. The famed Esalen Institute (831/667-3005; esalen.org), which claims to be an “Olympics of the body, mind, and spirit.”
Where to Stay: The Post Ranch Inn elegantly walks the line between rustic and chic, with contemporary rooms and a few private houses set in the bluffs. —Katrina Brown Hunt
Resolution: Overcome Your Fears
Where to Go: Tucson, Arizona
What to Do/Where to Stay: Take your inhibitions to the Miraval Resort & Spa, where you can go beyond the usual spa treatments and yoga classes. Some guests engage in “Challenges”—feats of daring involving various tall poles, cables, and logs—that promise to help you safely confront your demons. When you feel sufficiently fearless, you can retreat to the resort’s tennis courts, painting classes, or the plasma TV in your room. —Katrina Brown Hunt
Resolution: Stay Fit
Resolution: Plan Ahead
Where to Go: Hua Hin, Thailand
What to Do: Get a thorough working over, from your aching neck to, well, your colon. Wellness spas are big in this resort town, three hours south of Bangkok.
Where to Stay: You’ll need to reserve at least three months in advance to stay at the undisputed queen of wellness spas here (and frankly, almost anywhere): Chiva-Som. Here, your assigned personal adviser may recommend anything from cellulite treatments to colonic hydrotherapy. —Katrina Brown Hunt
The Resolution: Become a Better Person
Where to Go: Lobitos, Peru
What to Do/Where to Stay: Combine surfing and philanthropy with Waves for Development, a surf travel company with a focus on volunteerism and community service. Participants help instruct and educate local kids in areas such as language, life skills, swimming, and surfing, along with environmental initiatives such as beach cleanups and recycling programs. —Emma Sloley
The Resolution: Broaden Your Horizons
Where to Go: The High Seas
What to Do/Where to Stay: Book a cruise to a far-flung destination like Papua New Guinea, Borneo, the far east of Russia, or Antarctica with boutique expedition cruise line Orion. This award-winning, purpose-built luxury cruise ship is renowned for both its five-star perks and unique access to remote, rarely visited locations. —Emma Sloley
The Resolution: Unplug
Where to Go: Thule, Alaska
What to Do/Where to Stay: Go off the grid in style at Ultima Thule Lodge, a remote haven accessible only by small plane and located 100 miles from the nearest road. (In other words, leave your BlackBerry at home.) The family-run lodge heaps on the creature comforts—cozy log cabins decked out with Craftsman furniture and meals featuring home-baked bread, vegetables from the garden, and wild game—alongside wilderness experiences like flying over the glacier fields or salmon fishing in the Chitina River. —Emma Sloley
The Resolution: Be More Cultured
Where to Go/What to Do: Feel smarter when you book that trip-of-a-lifetime with Smithsonian Journeys, whose highbrow trips combine sightseeing with education and culture. Choose from options like exploring Mayan ruins in Guatemala or unearthing antiquities in Jordan. The company's uber-knowledegable guides include art historians, archaeologists, and naturalists. —Emma Sloley
The Resolution: Spruce Up Your Wardrobe
Where to Go: Vienna, Austria
What to Do/Where to Stay: Lost your sartorial mojo? Head to the Austrian capital, whose burgeoning avant-garde fashion scene produces the kind of one-off investment pieces friends will be asking you about for years to come. Fashion collective 7tm, a loose-knit group of independent retailers, can arrange shopping tours of the hip 7th district, with its plethora of cool concept stores and cutting-edge designer temples. —Emma Sloley
The Resolution: Slow Down
Where to Go/Where to Stay: Visit one of the places designated a Slow City by Italy-based group Cittaslow, an offshoot of the Slow Food movement that aims to encourage people to lead slower, more contemplative lives. To qualify, cities must demonstrate commitments to environmental sustainability, quality of urban life, local products, hospitality, and "slow city awareness" among residents. Head to places like Uberlingen, Germany; Positano, Italy; or California's own Sonoma Valley. —Emma Sloley
The Resolution: Shake Up the Gym Routine
What to Do/Where to Stay: If you're in an exercise rut—and who isn't?—pledge to take up a class or fitness routine that's out of the ordinary. Get in touch with the gladiator within at the Rome Cavalieri, whose Gladiator Training program schools guests in the intricacies of hand-to-hand combat, Coliseum-style. If getting down is more your thing, try your hand at Zumba, the high-octane exercise craze that fuses Latin beats, hip-hop, and MTV-style dance moves: Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas offers a popular class. —Emma Sloley
The Resolution: Learn a New Language
Where to Go: Paris, France
What to Do/Where to Stay: Most of us don't need an excuse to visit Paris, but the chance to hone your French might just provide that extra justification. The famous Sorbonne offers short-term immersion courses, as does Alliance Française, the organization dedicated to spreading Francophone culture around the world. While in the City of Light, stay at the sexy, contemporary art-filled Hotel Particulier in Montmartre, where you'll feel like you're one of the locals. —Emma Sloley
Resolution: Rest Up
The Resolution: Rekindle the Spark
Where to Go: Santa Catarina, Brazil
What to Do/Where to Stay: Whisk your beloved away to the Emerald Coast of Brazil south of Sao Paulo, where the sun always shines and the living is easy. Ponta dos Ganchos Resort is an idyllic spot for a romantic getaway par excellence: the huge villas with sweeping ocean views, in-room saunas, wine cellars, and private infinity pools ensure you'll never want to check out. —Emma Sloley