33 Memorable Travel Traditions You Need to Start Today

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There are many reasons why people take vacations. For some, it’s a chance to relax and get away from their everyday lives. For others, it’s an opportunity to explore new places and cultures.

No matter what your motivation may be, there are ways to make your vacation even more special. One way to do this is by creating travel traditions or simple rituals that you perform every time you travel to turn your trip into something truly memorable and unique.

woman in a hat and backpack walking down a busy foreign road

So, what are some travel traditions you can start? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Contents show

Travel Traditions Before You Go

set a calendar countdown

1. Set up a countdown calendar before you go.

To get started on your travel traditions, start by creating a countdown calendar before you go on vacation is a great way to get excited about your trip. It can also help you stay organized and make sure that you don’t forget anything important.

There are many ways to create a countdown calendar. If you’re tech-savvy, you can use a digital calendar or app. If you prefer a more analog approach, you can use a physical calendar or even make your own.

2. Learn how to say a few common phrases for each country.

When you’re traveling to a new country, it’s always helpful to know how to say a few common phrases. This can make it easier to communicate with locals and get information about where you’re going.

In most countries, there are online resources that can help you learn the basics. You can also find phrasebooks in many books or phone apps too.

To make it a fun travel tradition, you can find all the ways to say “hello” or “goodbye,” see if you can find tongue twisters to try, or see if there are slang phrases you might want to learn!

3. Pack all the same snacks for your airplane ride.

There are many practical benefits to packing the same snacks for your airplane ride. For one, it can help you avoid any surprises when you’re getting ready to board your flight. It also means that you won’t have to worry about not liking the airplane food options if you are given them.

Apart from the practical, you’ll have created a travel tradition to set your mind at ease when going on long-haul flights as you have something familiar to keep you grounded. (See what I did there?)

playing games on the plane

4. Download and play the same games for your ride.

Playing the same games on your trip can help you pass the time more quickly and easily when thinking about creating a travel tradition for your ride. It’s also nice to have a plethora of your favorite games to choose from if you need to rotate to a new game after getting bored.

Some of my favorites are Sudoku, Cube Block, Township, Candy Crush, and Best Fiends. I’ve also upgraded to a Nintendo Switch now, so I absolutely love designing my island on Animal Crossing, too!

5. Pick up a book about the city you are visiting.

Reading a book about the city you are visiting is a great way to learn more about its history and culture or even just a fun fictional story set in your destination. It can also help you get excited about your trip and make sure that you don’t miss any important landmarks or attractions.

Read next: Travel Reading Challenge

6. Watch a movie or documentary about the destination you are headed to.

Watching a documentary about the destination you are headed to is another amazing way to see the history and culture before you go. This might give you ideas to start planning your trip and get talking about some of the “can’t miss” sites.

If you choose to watch a movie set in your destination, do a Google search to see a list of some well-known movies. Examples of this would be Sleepless in Seattle if you’re headed to Seattle, An Affair to Remember for New York… you get my drift.

listen to music on the play with curated playlists

7. Create a playlist for each destination.

Creating a playlist for each destination can help you get into the vacation spirit while you’re still at home. It can also help you get excited about the different aspects of your trip.

For example, if you’re going to visit a new city, you might want to make a playlist of upbeat songs that reflect the city’s atmosphere. If you’re going on a relaxing beach vacation, include some slower songs that will help you unwind and soak in the views.

8. Kiss the plane every time you get on.

There are many different ways to show your excitement about a vacation. Some people might jump up and down, some might give a little squeal, and others might kiss the plane.

Yes, you read that right. Every time you get on an airplane to go on vacation, give it a kiss. Now you don’t need to place your lips against metal, but kiss your fingers and tap the plane. For luck. Or good vibes, whichever you prefer. Now you have a new travel tradition!

Travel Traditions When You’re Visiting

try the same food in every destination

9. Make a point to try a specific food in each city you visit.

Keeping with travel traditions, you might think of some of your favorite foods in your hometown and see how it’s done around the world. Wherever you choose to visit, see if you can find that food or dish and give it a try. Compare and see if you can find the “best of” dish.

For me, I make it a point to try ice cream in all the places I visit. It started off in Italy where I would try the same pistachio-flavored gelato at all the stands in all the different cities we visited, and boom!

Every time I go to a new place, I now try the pistachio flavor, if they have it, or just get some “hipster” flavor like blueberry cardamom wherever I go.

For you, this could be avocado toast, a donut shop, oysters, boba tea (that’s also another one of mine), or main meals like lasagna or steak.

10. Eat McDonald’s in every city you visit.

It’s no secret that McDonald’s is a global fast-food chain. And that means that it’s also no secret you can find one in pretty much every city you visit.

But that doesn’t mean you should just eat there because it’s easy. Eat there because it’s a fun travel tradition!

Plus, when you travel, it’s always interesting to see how other cultures have adopted the franchise and made it their own. For example, in Japan, you can get Miyazaki Speciality with Chicken Tatsuta. And in China, they have a pineapple pie you can’t get anywhere else!

11. Collect items! This could be anything from keychains to postcards.

Become a collector as you start to create your travel traditions. Not only do you have a physical reminder of your trip, but it can also be fun to look back on all the different places you’ve visited.

I have friends who collect magnets, sand, rocks, and more!

For me, I chose to collect postcards because they’re small, thin, and fit easily inside my laptop or journal so I don’t have to worry about losing them. I then write the date of my trip and add it to my postcard book when I get home.

12. Take a picture of the same pose in each city you visit.

When you’re on vacation, it’s always fun to take pictures in front of iconic locations or in interesting poses. But an even better way to start a travel tradition is taking a picture of the same pose in each city you visit.

This could be as simple as a picture of your back looking at an iconic monument, crossing your legs a certain way, or holding your fingers in the peace sign.

One of my friends is a yoga enthusiast and teacher. Everywhere she goes, she makes a yoga pose and has her picture taken.

buy a piece of clothing

13. Buy a piece of clothing from each city you visit.

When you’re on vacation, it’s always fun to buy a souvenir but to create a travel tradition, buy a piece of clothing from each city you visit.

This could be as simple as a T-shirt, hat, or pair of socks. But it could also be something more unique like a dress, kimono, or even a wedding gown!

The point is, it’s a great way to remember your trip and you can wear those items as reminders of all the different places you’ve been. I personally have a very unique pair of underwear from Bali. (Should I have shared that on the internet?)

14. Write a postcard and send it to yourself.

An awesome way to remember your trip and create a travel tradition is by sending a postcard to yourself. Write a postcard from the airport before you take off or from your hotel room or even as you’re sitting on the beach thinking about all the awesome things you’re doing!

Plus, it’s a great way to reflect on your trip and connect with yourself. You can even write three things you learned about yourself during that time period. And when you get back home, open up that postcard and read through all the notes from each place you visited! It’s a unique way to capture those memories!

15. Book a cruise or water activity in each location.

A great way to explore the water and have a new travel tradition is by booking a cruise or water activity in each location. It’s also fun to say that you’ve taken a cruise on that river or dipped your toe in the sea.

Your water activity could be anything from a river cruise down the Thames River in Europe to snorkeling with schools of fish in Maui. I personally have done river cruises and water rafting activities on my trips!

Not only will this give you a great way to see the area, but you’ll also create memories and traditions to look back on for years to come.

plan a hike wherever you go

16. Plan at least 1 hike for every destination you visit.

Sometimes you might want to get out of the city and enjoy some nature. To do that, intentionally plan a hike or outdoor walk wherever you go. Not only does it provide a way for you to see the area, but it’s also a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors.

Afterward, you can talk about the hike you just summited or have a collection of hikes you’ve done in the past. I’ve hiked Tiger Leaping Gorge in China, Did the Yeongsil Hike on Jeju Island, summited a 14er in Colorado, and so much more! Now it’s just a travel tradition I keep!

17. Send an email to your family or co-workers.

When you’re on vacation, it’s always nice to take a break from work and relax. But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay connected to your friends and family. In fact, I recommend sending an email to your family or co-workers every day letting them know what you’re up to.

This could be as simple as a hand-in-the-air shot in front of the Eiffel Tower or a goofy face made next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Whatever your travel tradition, make sure you have some fun with it!

take a cooking class

18. Take a cooking class for each country you visit.

Cooking classes are a great way to learn about the local cuisine and culture. And what better way to do that than by taking a cooking class in every country you visit?

You’ll learn how to make some amazing dishes and get to know the locals and learn about their culture. I’ve taken cooking classes in Thailand, Vietnam, and more!

19. Buy a Starbucks mug from every city.

Starbucks is a global coffee company with stores in almost every city around the world. One travel tradition you can start is to buy a Starbucks mug from every city, country, or state.

Not only will you have a great collection of mugs to show off to your friends, but you’ll also have a physical reminder of all the amazing places you’ve been.

What’s even cooler is that the designs for each city have local icons, sayings, and cultural tidbits that you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else!

20. Try at least one of the “crazy” local delicacies.

To truly understand the culture and get a taste of the country, you’ll need to be brave and try some of the local or well-known delicacies and in turn, you might just start a new travel tradition.

Some delicacies just seem crazy and unreal to us, but the locals eat them and even love them! Personally, I’ve tried scorpion in China, egg yolk coffee in Vietnam, and balut in the Philippines!

go on a food tour

21. Go on a food tour of each city you go to.

When you go to a new place, it’s always a great idea to try the local food. And the best way to do that is by going on a food tour of each city you visit. There are guides who know the area well and may even take you to some hidden local gems that you may have never known about in your research.

My favorite food tour was in Hanoi when I visited with my friends – we had so much fun and laughter trying all the dishes with our guide!

22. Go on a free walking tour.

When you’re in a new city, a travel tradition to create and one of the best ways to see all the sights is by going on a walking tour. And the great thing about walking tours is that they’re free!

There are tons of companies that offer walking tours, but my favorite is Free Tours by Foot. They have guides in almost every city and all you have to do is tip them at the end of the tour.

23. Keep a travel journal.

One of my favorite travel traditions is to keep a travel journal. It’s a great way to document all your adventures, thoughts, and memories from your trip. When you start talking about the trip, you can look back to remember and reminisce.

There are so many different ways to keep a travel journal, but my preferred method is to take a notebook, bullet journal style, and write and draw about my trip. I also like to include things like ticket stubs, maps, receipts, and other mementos from my trip.

Play a fun game across the city

24. Play a fun game over the course of your trip.

Playing a game over the course of a trip is a fun travel tradition and an easy way to make sure you have some fun while you’re away from home. If it’s a good game, you might even see some of the more off-the-beaten-path places in the city.

Some of my favorite travel games include scavenger hunts, a tame game of the Amazing Race, and even a city-wide game of hide-and-seek!

Travel Traditions After You Return

create a photo album

25. Create a photo album.

Creating a photo album helps you relive your trip and share your experiences with friends and family. And it’s a great way to show off all your amazing photos from your trip.

There are so many different ways to create a photo album, but I’ve gotten in the habit of creating a digital album. I personally use Facebook albums so I can create collaborations with my friends. We then like to create a witty title like “The Great Llama Hunt” and add our own pictures!

If you prefer a physical scrapbook, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s has amazing options for books, fancy stickers, and so much more too!

26. Keep a small bill or coin from your trip.

When returning home, a travel tradition I’ve started is to keep a small bill or coin from every country I visit. I currently keep them all in a bag, but I do enjoy going through them from time to time and seeing how each country has different coins and bills.

My favorite, of course, is from China where every bill is a different color and size so you never have to confuse bills if you’re just pulling them straight from your wallet!

27. Make your own souvenirs.

If you’re looking for something a little more personal, a travel tradition of mine is to make my own souvenirs. There are so many different ways to do this, but my favorite is to create shadow boxes.

If I collect things like sand dollars, acorns, or some other nature-related item, I’ll put them together in a phot box and hang it up. I also like taking my photos and creating a photo gallery of all the places I’ve been to.

28. Recreate a recipe from your destination.

One of the best ways to remember your trip is by recreating a recipe from the destination you visited. This is especially helpful if you’ve taken a cooking class because they’ll usually send you home with the recipes.

When you get home and remake a dish you learned, you’ll have taken the flavors home with you and created a new travel tradition.

Travel Traditions to Keep the Inspiration

plan a destination to a beloved destination

29. Plan a trip to a beloved destination.

When you return home, you might be feeling a bit of the travel blues, where you miss all the fun and new things you’ve just done. But you have to get back to normal life.

To combat this, you can start planning your next trip to a destination you love! My in-laws, for example, head to Maui every summer, and they love sitting by the beach, enjoying the flavors of the island, and getting some amazing sun in, too!

30. Plan a birthday trip every year.

There’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than by doing it abroad. And what could be more special than celebrating your birthday every year in a new and amazing destination?

This can be an annual travel tradition you can start with your family, partner, or friends! If you’re a solo traveler, you can go even bigger and not have to worry about other people’s opinions!

31. Keep a map of all of the places you’ve visited.

One of the best ways to keep track of your adventures is by keeping a map that marks all of the places you’ve visited. This is a great way to have a physical representation of all the places you’ve been and also serves as a great conversation starter with other travelers.

You can get creative with your map and use different colors or symbols to mark the places you’ve been. Personally, I use the Been App to keep track of all my adventures. It tells me what percent of the world I’ve seen as well as keeps count for me.

have a travel vision board

32. Have a travel vision board.

For inspiration, a travel vision board is a perfect way to keep all of your travel dreams in one place. This can be a physical board where you collect pictures, magazine clippings, or just ideas of where you want to go.

You can also create a digital vision board on Pinterest or another social media platform. This is a great way to keep your travel traditions alive once you return home and are waiting for the next adventure!

33. Keep an adventure fund.

One way to make sure you’re always able to go on vacation is by having an adventure fund. This is a savings account you dedicate specifically to your travels.

You can gamify your adventure fund as a fun way to build up your savings for travel so you can afford to go on your dream vacation to start all the wonderful travel traditions again in a new place!

Final Thoughts on Travel Traditions

Make your vacations even more special and memorable by creating travel traditions. My favorites are finding ice cream and creating photo albums together and I enjoy introducing them to whoever I’m traveling with.

What are some of your favorite travel traditions?

Let me know in the comments below!

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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources

Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.

  • Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
  • Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through Booking.com or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
  • Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
  • Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
  • Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
  • Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love LastMinute.com for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
  • What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.