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21 road trip related New Year’s resolutions for 2021

As we’re leaving 2020 in the rearview mirror, let’s agree to try something new in the coming year

I think we can all agree that 2020 didn’t quite turn out as we may have planned—and it would be impossible to write an honest end-of-year review without acknowledging that. For so many of us, this was the year of things that didn’t happen: canceled plans, limited travel, and less time spent with loved ones.    

One of the greatest lessons I learned in 2020 was to adjust my expectations. I’m used to always being on the go, and being stuck at home for a significant portion of the year made me really appreciate the things I was still able to do. Maybe I didn’t get to go on an epic cross-country road trip—but I did visit some amazing places much closer to home. I didn’t travel internationally, but I did pick up some new hobbies—including hiking and dirt biking—that allowed me to get outside and maintain a safe distance from other people. 

The key to having amazing adventures in the new year might be just that, to adjust your expectations and recreate responsibly. And remember, there is a light at the end of every tunnel. 

A motorhome driving on a scenic road with mountains in the background
Try RVing this year. | Photo: Sanna Boman

In 2021, let’s try something new—even if it’s on a small scale and close to home. Here are 10 New Year’s resolution ideas to get you started (plus 11 more bonus ideas). 

1. Try a new mode of transportation

Are you an avid motorcyclist? A die-hard RVer? A minivan fan? Why not branch out this year and try roadtripping in a new type of vehicle? Peer-to-peer rental platforms are typically a great way to test out something new without the commitment of buying. Try Turo or Getaround for cars, RVshare or Outdoorsy for RVs, or Twisted Road or Riders Share for motorcycles.

2. Try dispersed camping

I can’t remember ever feeling a stronger urge to get away from it all than I did in 2020. With campgrounds already starting to book up for next year, chances are you won’t find much solitude at a traditional campsite. To truly escape reality, if only just for a weekend, consider trying dispersed camping, or camping on public lands with no services. Just remember to pack out what you pack in and Leave No Trace

3. Visit a new national park

National parks are some of our greatest national treasures, and for 2019, my New Year’s resolution was to visit 10 of them. I did it, but all that travel would’ve been a lot more difficult—and potentially less safe—during a pandemic. So in 2021, I vow to visit just one new park, and preferably one close to home. I encourage you to do the same. 

A bend in the Colorado river surrounded by red cliffs
Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah. | Photo: Sanna Boman

4. Visit a state park instead of a national park

National parks are popular for a reason—they protect some of the most stunning natural resources in the country. But many state parks, especially those located near their national counterparts, can be just as spectacular with plenty of local history, outdoor recreation, and well maintained campgrounds. 

5. Visit a new state

Visiting all 50 U.S. states is a real bucket-list item, but in the interest of safety, let’s start small. Is there another state within easy driving distance that you, for some reason, haven’t made it to yet? Check it off your list this year, and tackle the rest when it’s safe to do so. Just be mindful of any local travel restrictions.

6. Try a new activity

In 2020, we watched Tiger King, baked banana bread, and went on long hikes. For 2021, let’s find even more activities to keep us busy and get us out of the house. If you’ve always wanted to get into climbing, paddling, or mountain biking, now is a perfect time. Looking for even more of an adrenaline rush? Find out if there’s skydiving, bungee jumping, or paragliding nearby.   

7. Take a solo road trip 

Sometimes there’s no better way to find peace of mind and mental clarity than to go on a solo road trip. If being alone with nothing but your thoughts and the open road sounds scary, you can always fill the silence with podcasts, audiobooks, and music. But if you want a challenge, try sitting with your own thoughts without distractions. You may find out something new about yourself. 

8. Explore close to home 

You don’t need to go far to find an adventure. One of my favorite Roadtrippers adages is that you’re never more than five minutes from something amazing. Pull up a map and start looking for something new to check out in your own backyard—try looking for outdoor art installations, hiking trails, historic markers, and National Park Service sites.  

big duck
The Big Duck in Flanders, New York. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

9. See a classic roadside attraction

No road trip is complete without a stop at a kitschy roadside attraction. Even if you’re not traveling far, there’s likely a piece of forgotten Americana around that could use a visit. Look for things like “World’s Largest” items, Muffler Men and other fiberglass giants, novelty architecture, or good ol’-fashioned dinosaur parks.

10. Go off road

One of my favorite things to do this year has been to get off the pavement. Whether you’re in a four-wheel drive truck, a tricked-out overlanding vehicle, or on a dual sport motorcycle, there are so many amazing places to see once you get off the highway and head into more rugged terrain. Get a trail map and start exploring. 

Bonus ideas: 

11. Research and honor the Indigenous history of the places you visit

This should be a given and can be combined with almost any other activity on this list.

12. Take a self-guided tour

Stargazing, history, art—the options are endless. Find an existing itinerary or make your own. 

13. Go glamping

Get close to nature without forgoing modern luxuries.

14. Practice your photography skills

Learn how to look at—and capture—your surroundings in a new way. 

15. Support your community by getting your road trip and camping supplies from small local businesses

It’s a real win-win situation.

16. Take an analog vacation—no phones allowed

Turn off your phone, use paper maps, and bring an instant-film camera. 

17. Try geocaching

A great way to join a virtual community of adventurers all across the globe.  

18. Join a hiking group

Looking to meet new people? Hiking (or running or biking) together at a distance can be a great way to safely enjoy the company of others.  

19. Share more photos on social media

If you didn’t post it on Instagram, did it even happen? 

20. Share less photos on social media

Prove that you can have great adventures without posting about them. 

21. Visit an outdoor museum 

Indoor museums across the country are still closed or limiting access, so find art outside instead.