How to Set Long-Term Travel Goals

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I have a big birthday coming up next year, I will turn 50 years old in September 2025. That actually doesn’t even sound real to me when I say it out loud, like how am I almost 50? Time is a wild thing. So as this milestone birthday has started getting closer and closer, I’ve been thinking about life and what my goals are for various parts of my life. I love to travel, and I love creating content and interacting with the community for Me and the Magic, so of course travel features prominently in my long-term goals. So that got me thinking, how do most people plan their long-term travel goals? 

I’m going to share my major travel goals for 2025, but first let’s dig into how exactly to set those long-term travel goals.

Why Set Long-Term Travel Goals?

Setting long-term travel goals isn’t just about dreaming big. And you know I love to dream, and I think it’s really important to dream, which is why I end each episode by saying to keep dreaming. Setting goals help us to make those dreams a reality. And setting travel goals is about creating a roadmap for your life’s adventures. For those of us who live in North America, we live in a vast land with diverse cultures, breathtaking landscapes, and all kinds of urban and rural escapes. By setting goals, we focus our desires and start turning our dreams into reality. So you can start with grand visions of where you want to go, and then break them down into specific destinations and experiences. For example, instead of just saying you want to travel more, get a little more specific, like you want to visit all Canadian provinces or you want to explore every national park in the U.S.

Plus, having these travel goals encourages you to save, plan, learn new languages, and even understand different cultures. It’s enriching in all kinds of ways. 

I love planning trips. I love researching them, dreaming about where I’ll go and who I’ll meet. I love the anticipation and the excitement of what’s to come.

How to Set Achievable Long-Term Travel Goals

Let’s talk about how to actually set these goals. First, you want to make sure your goals are SMART (you’ve probably heard what SMART stands for): Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. I’ll share my SMART travel goal for 2025 in just a bit. 

Set a Travel Budget

Definitely consider your budget. I talked about budgets in Episode 098, How to Plan Your Travel Budget for a Solo Trip, and in Episode 112, How to Plan and Travel on a Budget. Decide what’s important to you, where do you want to go a little cheaper and where do you want to pay more for a higher level of service or experience. An example of this is that my friend, Julie Voris, shared on Episode 126 that it was important to her to be as comfortable as possible on the long flight to Hong Kong, so she would feel her best when she arrived, so she budgeted for the first class airfare but then saved money with her family’s cast member discounts on the hotel and with free park tickets since her daughter is working at Hong Kong Disneyland. 

Let’s take a step back from a trip budget and talk about saving for those long-term travel goals overall. If you’re like me, you have a lot of long-term travel goals, and they are not gonna be cheap. Come up with a high-level estimate of how much money you’ll need, and when you’ll need it, then create a savings plan. Consider opening a dedicated travel savings account or setting up automatic transfers.

If you know you’ll stay primarily in hotels under a certain brand, or if you prefer to fly on a certain airline, it’s worth it to take advantage of rewards programs. That may mean that you apply for that brand’s credit card, or sign up for airline and hotel loyalty programs. The loyalty programs are free, so why not sign up for them and start earning points with your flights, your hotel stays, and other ways. Accumulating points can significantly reduce the cost of flights and accommodations. My cousin recently told me that he got the Alaska Airlines credit card, and the miles he earned are covering his and his wife’s airfare to Hawaii and back to San Diego. Now I’m looking into that for our group cruise to Alaska next July, to see if it makes sense for us to fly out of Orlando on Alaska Airlines to Seattle. 

Tools and Resources for Planning Long-Term Travel

Planning is crucial for long-term travel goals. I love using travel apps and websites that help you track your destinations. If you’re fortunate enough to be able to fully work remotely, there’s a website called Nomad List that is a global community of over 33,000 remote workers who have been living and traveling around the world the past decade. You can search for destinations that rank highly for digital nomads. Another resource is the Roadtrippers website. With my upcoming road trip to Hilton Head Island, I’m going to give Roadtrippers a try with the 7-day trial membership. It uses AI-powered autopilot that creates an itinerary for you. I also read travel blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch YouTube videos for destination information and so much more. I seek out the more recent info because places can change in many ways in just a few years. Of course, another valuable resource is travel advisors. For example, my travel advisor, Grace Korba with MEI-Travel and Mouse Fan Travel, offered to put together a list of recommended sites for me in Hollywood since I’ll be arriving early before our Adventures by Disney tour starts this September.

I’ve also started to use Google Flights a lot more – shout-out to Jaime Williams, also with MEI-Travel and Mouse Fan Travel, for turning me on to Google Flights. I set price alerts that are very helpful for flights as far as 8 months away.

If you are planning to travel outside the country, it’s good to plan as far ahead as possible for any travel documents you may need. Most travelers have heard about the long turnaround times in the U.S. for passport renewals or new passports. Also, check your passport’s expiration date, because some countries require that your passport have at least six months of validity beyond the date of your trip. Definitely plan ahead on that. Also, know the visa requirements well in advance if you plan to travel internationally. The U.S. government has a tool on usa.gov for U.S. citizens to look up visa requirements for other countries.

As you’re planning for any trip, but especially international travel, it’s also helpful to make sure you prioritize your health and safety. Research health advisories and vaccination requirements for your destination. And always prioritize destinations where you feel safe and secure. I recommend at the very least reading reviews of the area of a city where you will be staying. If you want to do more research, look up crime statistics for that city.

Once you start making hotel reservations and booking flights, I recommend having one central location to keep all your information. Sometimes you make plans very far out, like booking a cruise more than a year away. So when the final payment is due, it’s helpful to have a folder on your computer or on your Google Drive with your booking confirmation, your invoice, and other information. I also create a Google sheet for each of my trips, with tabs for my itinerary, budget, transportation, accommodations, restaurant options, sightseeing ideas, and more. There are also apps that will take all your confirmation emails and create an itinerary for you with alerts and other tools, like the TripIt app. I prefer my spreadsheets, but I think the main point is to have all the communication and planning for one trip to be easily located in one place, whether that’s on an app, saved to a folder, or info put in a file.

Staying Inspired and Committed

If you are setting really long-term travel goals, it may sometimes feel like they are impossible or will never become a reality.  It’s easy to get sidetracked or discouraged, especially when life throws us curve balls. I find that connecting with a community of like-minded travelers, like the Me and the Magic community, helps a lot. Not only will they cheer you on, but you can learn so much from their shared experiences and insights. Also, I share my long-term travel goals, so that creates more accountability for me to make them happen! 

If you’re looking for more travel inspiration, check out travel expos and seminars. In the US, the Travel & Adventure Show travels around the country each year with guest speakers like Rick Steves and Pauline Frommer, and all kinds of exhibitors that run the gamut in global travel. 

Another way to stay inspired is more on the creative side. Visualize your travel goals by creating a vision board filled with photos of where you want to go, quotes about travel and achieving your goals, and maps. This can be a digital board on Pinterest or another online site or a physical one in your home. I also love scrapbooking, though I am woefully behind. I think it’s so important to document our travels, especially solo travel because you’ll treasure going back and looking through your scrapbook or travel journal. And it will remind you of how much you loved that trip, or if you didn’t love it, what lessons you learned to improve your next trips.

Revisit and Refine Your Goals Regularly

As you travel more, your interests and circumstances may change. It’s good to revisit your travel goals, to stop and ask yourself if those goals still align with your passions and what you want to experience in life. It’s very natural to refine our goals in all areas of life, including travel goals.

Also, the world may change. Who saw COVID coming? Hardly anyone, and that derailed many people’s long-term travel plans. It also changed people’s travel plans because when people could no longer travel freely during the initial pandemic breakout, guess what they dreamt of doing… traveling freely! Many people made big long-term travel plans during 2020 through 2022, and now the travel industry is seeing that boom in travel and tourism.

Amanda’s SMART Travel Goal for 2025

On September 27, 2025, I will turn 50 years old. This idea came to me a couple years ago, and it’s been percolating and growing ever since. 

My major travel goal for 2025 is to visit all 50 states in the U.S., plus Washington, D.C. 

That’s not to complete my visits to all 50 states, but to actually visit each state. I’ve been to 32 states so far, and I’m only counting states where I’ve spent a night, not states that I’ve just had a layover, like Salt Lake City in Utah. The biggest areas of the country where I have not been are the Plains states and the Pacific Northwest.

Quite honestly, I think I’ve been a little scared to put this huge goal out there and share it with the world because I’m still figuring out all the moving parts… like how exactly is this going to work, when am I going to go to each state, how will I have enough time off my job to do this, and how am I going to pay for it all. Well, I’m tired of waiting to share, because I am moving ahead with this plan. I’ll be sharing a lot more about it with you as the plan comes together. I’m also going to soon have an opportunity for you to become more involved with Me and the Magic by receiving exclusive content and much more, so stay tuned for that.

Here’s what I’ve been developing so far for my 50 States in my 50th year plan. In order to count a state, I must spend at least one night in that state and eat at least one meal in a restaurant there, of course. I have a Google sheet with a running list that I frequently update with ideas of where to go in each state and the best times of year to visit each state. I obviously won’t be able to do every single thing that I want to do in each state, I would need an entire year of traveling at least to do that. My hope is that I get a feel for what each state has to offer, and I know that different areas in a state can vary greatly. Like New York, for instance – New York City is much different than upstate New York. Look at California – northern California has entirely different annual weather patterns than southern California, for starters. I’d like to visit whenever I can places I’ve never been in a state, and I’m sure I’ll be returning to some favorite places as well. I will need to constantly remind myself that I can always go back, I won’t be able to fit in everything that I want to see and do.

I’ll be traveling by myself sometimes, and with friends or family other times. All that is still being worked out. I also would love to have some regional meet-ups with the Me and the Magic community. I’ll soon be asking the community for ideas on where I should go within each state and where some preferred meet-up locations would be. 

I won’t be doing this all at once. I’ll be doing multiple trips over the course of the year. That’s partly due to my job, partly for budgeting reasons, and partly because I want to see different states at different times of the year. I know next July, I’ll be crossing Washington state and Alaska off my list when we sail on our group Alaska cruise! I’d love for you to be there with us as we celebrate 5 years of the Me and the Magic podcast and enjoy being together. 

As you can imagine, I have a lot of planning to do to prepare for next year. I’m so excited to go on this adventure and to take you with me!

Resources

Check out Nomad List to find the best places in the world to work remotely.

Explore Roadtrippers for route and itinerary ideas for your next road trip.

Visit one of the many Travel & Adventure Shows in the US for more travel inspiration!

If you’re a U.S. citizen planning international travel, use this tool from USA.gov to look up visa requirements for your destination.

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