The 3-2-1 Travel Rule

Let’s face it, millennials get a bad rap. But as far as I can see, my friends and colleagues who fall into the millennial category are hard workers, politically engaged and trying to figure out this whole adult thing. And it’s hard. The economic recession set back a whole generation who, for the first time in American history, might not be better off than their parents.

And some of us are fighting like hell to make sure that doesn’t happen. We are trying to innovate our way to success, but it’s more than just success. “Success” is generic. Is it based on how much you make, your title, where you live or if you own a house? It depends on who you ask, but what I do think we are working toward in droves is happiness.

Travel makes me happy.

For the longest time, I felt guilty asking for time off. Paid time off accumulated and I did nothing to use it. Even though it was earned and I desperately needed to get out of town, to feel refreshed. I’ve mostly gotten over this feeling of guilt, but sometimes it rears its ugly head.

But feeling guilty gets me absolutely nowhere. It doesn’t satisfy my travel bug or need to just escape the city I live (which I love by the way, but sometimes just need to get away). So, to help ensure that I am traveling, building it into my everyday life, I created a travel rule. The 3-2-1 travel rule to be exact.

It’s simple – you simply map out:

  • 3 weekend getaway destinations
  • 2 out-of-state trips
  • 1 international adventure

While I developed my 3-2-1 plan for the 2017 calendar year, there is no rule that says you have to do the same. You can start your “year” whenever you like. Today, for instance. Writing down your plans is a solid first step to making them a reality.

Why Weekend Getaways

Weekend trips are the easiest box to check off one the 3-2-1 travel plan, but if you aren’t actively thinking about taking one, they are easy to forget. That’s because they are often too easy to fulfill to be true. And we are busy making plans with friends and family, taking time to spend the night in a town an hour away seems gluttonous or unnecessary. But that is absolutely NOT the case. Sometimes the coolest attractions are in our backyard, we just need to be willing to explore them.

Tips for taking those weekend getaways:

  • Groupon. I love scouring Groupon for both good deals and good ideas. Chances are there are a few easy weekend getaway ideas in your inbox right now. You might discover a new town within easy driving distance that you can go to over the weekend. My advice is to look at the fine print. Many times, the good deals you see are for weeknight accommodations, you might need to pay a little more to upgrade your getaway to a weekend evening. Fortunately, Groupon has finally made it easier to book the night at the hotel, inn or B&B right from their website (versus the old way of buying the Groupon, then following up with the hotel on your own). This cuts down on time and allows for easy booking.
  • Become a tourist in your own city. Often times, we only see our own city when we have people come into town to visit. I feel like this shouldn’t be the case. Last year I decided to play tourist in my current home town of Sacramento by staying on the Delta King, a historic riverboat in the Old Sacramento district. It’s something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Rather than continuing to have it be a wish, I turned my desire into a reality. Despite only being a few miles from home, it felt like a faraway retreat.

Why Out-of-State Trips

Depending on where you are from and where you are going, an out of state trip can feel as dramatic as a trip to another country. As an American, I have a lot to explore in my own country. By leaving California, I get to experience multiple cultures within one society. I can technically do that within California, but you get what I am saying. New England, the Midwest, the South and the Southwest are all completely different from one another in food, geography, accents and history. Just to name a few.

Tips for taking those out-of-state trips:

  • Take advantage of three-day weekends. You already have the time off from work, so make it work for you. Book flights in advance and watch out for travel deals to get those flights or map out the route to drive or train to your destination. One three-day weekend my partner and I drove from Sacramento to Portland and back. Sure, we spent a lot of time in the car, but that was half the fun.
  • Book flights early. Traveling on a three-day weekend is standard for enough people, that it’s a good idea to book those Southwest Wanna Get Away flights before they sell out.
  • Visit a friend. Have a friend you haven’t seen in a while that lives in another state? Perfect! Visit them, catch up and sleep on their couch. This lowers your costs, while giving you a built-in tour guide. It’s a win-win.

Why an International Adventure

Visiting foreign countries, feeling out of your comfort zone and meeting new people helps build character and sense of self. It empowers. It educates. The list goes on and on. I think that by getting away from everything you know, you figure out who you are. AND it can be incredibly fun too.

From trekking on a glacier in Patagonia to going on safari in Kenya, there is a lot this world has to offer. And you should see it.

Here is how to make international trips a reality:

  • Budget. Budget. Money can be a roadblock to travel. But if you want to travel, you gotta put your money where your mouth is. Maybe you eat out less – or decide you don’t actually need new clothes every month – whatever it takes to curb that excess spending that adds up quickly, taking away from travel funds.
  • Do your research. If you are trying to fly to Paris in the middle of July, it is going to be a heck of lot more expensive than if you go in early November. Time of year matters greatly when booking travel, so figure out the low season and if it works for your professional schedule to take time off when flight prices are lower. You can set price alert emails through most major travel sites, alerting you of price drops.
  • Cash in your points/cash rewards. I only use my rewards points on travel. That means most of the year I am racking up points – or cash rewards – on my regular purchases and all that money get recycled into my travel costs. For my recent trip to Argentina, I was able to cash in hundreds of dollars’ worth of accumulated points. This significantly shaved off costs from the expensive getaway.

Travel is a luxury. I know that not everyone has the ability to travel or to completely run with this 3-2-1 travel rule; however, you can tailor it to your needs and work up to it as you make more money, excel in your career and pay down those student loans.

Happy travels.

Erica Root is a public affairs professional by day, travel blogger by night. When she isn’t planning her next trip, she can be found with a glass of wine (red, of course), her puppy Theodore and a good book. You can follow her adventures, and those of her traveling companion Panda, on Instagram and her blog, A Square Root in a Round World.

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  1. Awesome idea! I’m going to make my list now! Any suggestions as far as where to take a first trip outside of the United States? I’ve been wanting to take a trip next summer with some girlfriends.

  2. I LOVE this idea! It totally does feel gluttonous sometimes to take a weekend away for you – but it’s so beneficial. You’ve inspired me to book a weekend getaway out of state 🙂

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