Conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to form a habit, but scientists who study habit formation say it’s not that easy.
In reality, it can take between 66 days and a full year.
So, all those good intentions you had at the beginning of the month — Floss daily! Eat kale! Clean up the gear room! — are probably not going to magically stick this week. But instead of telling you a bunch of good habits to pick up (hey, that takes work), we’re focusing on six really bad ones you should break before your next trip.
Habit 1: Overloading your scheduleIf you have every page of your travel guide dog-eared and highlighted, chances are you’re going to run yourself ragged by the end of your trip and miss out on the nuances of being in a new place.
You don’t want to spend your vacation running through a new city “Home Alone” style when you could be admiring the architecture instead.
Break it: Nail down one main hike, tour or attraction you want to experience on each day of your trip and let the rest happen naturally.
Habit 2: Being too damn cheap
Nickel-and-diming every aspect of your vacation? It’s a natural reaction to dropping hundreds of your hard-earned dollars on airfare.
But you aren’t going to recoup your losses by eating peanut butter and jelly for a week — and nothing ruins a trip faster than stressing out about money.
Break it: Book the trip you can actually afford. Spend less on airfare and reserve some budget for a handful of dinners, tours, campsites and souvenirs. Don’t forget to account for emergency costs, like late-night cab fares and surprise baggage fees.
Habit 3: Taking too many picturesHow many times have you jumped out of the car on a road trip with camera in hand, ready to shoot an epic sunset or mountain vista?
New research says you may want to take in the scene with your own two eyes before you start clicking. Taking too many pictures can actually alter the way your brain processes an experience: You’ll forget it faster because you rely on your camera to remember it for you.
Break it: Set up your camera to take a quick burst of photos, then put it back in your camera bag and take in the scene with nothing but your five senses for at least 10 minutes before pulling the camera back out again.
Habit 4: Sticking to the familiar
Yes, Applebee’s makes a killer wonton taco, and it would certainly be easier to order off a menu you recognize while in a foreign place, but when you opt for an experience you can have back at home, you miss out on one of the best parts of travel: being uncomfortable.
That feeling of unfamiliarity is what leads to new discoveries (and maybe even a new favorite appetizer).
Break it: Put yourself in pint-sized unfamiliar experiences daily, like testing out your Spanish skills at the restaurant where no one speaks English.
Habit 5: Having someone else’s tripWith myriad resources offering crowd-sourced information about a destination — TripAdvisor, Yelp and even Pinterest — it’s easy to form assumptions about a place before you’ve even stepped off the plane (and to plan accordingly).
Break it: Ask friends for advice on a place if they’ve been there before, but don’t mimic their experience minute by minute. Instead, write down a list of their must-do activities, restaurants, surf spots and hikes, and aim to experience the top three. Leave the rest up to your own judgment when you arrive.
Habit 6: Playing tour guideIf you’re making a return trip somewhere with companions who have never been there before, don’t attempt to make all the decisions for the group — at least not the entire time.
Of course you want to show your friends that great shop you visited on your last sojourn, but this is also an opportunity to have brand-new experiences together.
Break it: Let the newbies lead the trip, offering a few suggestions along the way. Never attempt to recreate your last vacation — no matter how much fun you had.