Note: All travel is subject to frequently-changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.
After more than a year of most of us being stuck at home, our collective wanderlust is stronger than ever. And the more fortunate among us may even have saved some last year, between all the home cooked meals, skipped outings and various stimulus checks, courtesy of Uncle Sam. So now, as the world begins to slowly open back up, it’s getting time to act on all these dreams of extravagant travel we concocted while sitting on our couches. Whatever your personality type, here are some ways to go big on vacation this year and make up for lost time.
The Romantic: Relax in the lap of luxury in Paris
The City of Love is just the place to light a fresh spark with that significant other you’ve been cooped up with, or maybe ignite a brand new flame. Sweep them off their feet by booking a room at the dreamy, extravagant Hotel Plaza Atheneé, arguably the most quintessentially Parisian hotel of them all, with swoon-worthy views of the Eiffel Tower, three Michelin-starred dining options, a Dior Institut spa, and a glam past guest-list both real (Anna Wintour) and fictional (Carrie Bradshaw).
The Thrill Seeker: Swim with whale sharks in Isla Holbox, Mexico
This car-free, 26-mile-long island off the northeast coast of Mexico feels worlds away from the non-stop party scene of nearby Cancun. Pink flamingos and bioluminescent Gulf plankton are part of the draw at this stunning spot, but adventure lovers of all ages come here from June through September to swim with whale sharks: 15-ton, 40-foot-long gentle giants that are considered the world’s largest fish. Plan an ethical encounter approved by the World Wildlife Federation with naturalist guides who allow just two snorkelers in the water at a time with the stunning creatures.
The Road Tripper: Take on Utah’s Mighty Five
You could spend months exploring Utah’s plethora of natural wonders, but a family road trip averaging around 10 days that focuses on the state’s majestic National Parks should provide plenty of excitement for everyone in your brood. Covering Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Zion National Parks over a span of about 1,000 square miles, you’ll move from one jaw-dropping view to the next, with plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, raft, stargaze, and much more along the way. Check out the Utah Office of Tourism’s suggested itinerary for this bucket-list road trip.
The Foodie: Indulge at the International Alba White Truffle Fair in Piemonte, Italy
Italy is always a great choice for a gastronomic vacation, but for eight weeks every fall its northwest region’s coveted culinary export takes center stage for foodies from all over the world. Truffle hunters sell their goods, chefs prepare loads of tasty bites served from market stalls, and artists, designers, and writers express their shared affinity for the delicacy at cultural events. The next festival is planned for October 9–December 5, 2021.
The Animal Lover: Set off on a safari at Loisaba Conversancy in Laikipia, Kenya
Safaris have always been an obvious bucket-list trip because of the cost, distance and planning involved in what is often a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Now’s the time to kick it up another notch. Go where the crowds don’t—specifically to this 57,000-acre park with views of snow-capped Mount Kenya in the distance—for a more exclusive experience than the country’s more well-known and much more crowded Masai Mara.
Loisaba is home to four of Africa’s Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants and Cape buffalo) and the second-largest elephant population in all of Kenya (read: great chance for baby elephant sightings!). Instead of competing with other tourists for time on paved park roads to glimpse wildlife, here you’ll scarcely see another vehicle during your off-road, up-close outings.
For a truly one-of-a-kind stay, book one of Elewana Collection’s four Loisaba Star Beds, four-poster beds on raised platforms sticking out from thatched-roof rooms that are rolled out each night for guests to literally sleep under the star-filled African sky.
The Culture Vulture on a budget: Music, museums and more in Mexico City
Oh, how we’ve missed museums. And concerts. And festivals. And great meals prepared by someone else. But you don’t have to wait any longer for these cultural indulgences, even with tightened purse strings, if you take a trip to CDMX. Many of Mexico City’s most well-known museums, such as Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo and Museo de Arte Popular cost less than US$5 for admission or are free on Sundays. Popular festivals like Festival del Centro Histórico have ticket prices well under US$20, and you can feast on tacos and churros and all manner of amazing street food for less than you would in other cities of similar caliber. Bonus: great weather and proximity to some pretty fantastic beaches.
The Sports Nut: Spectate with style in Beijing or Qatar
Fingers are crossed that the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics takes place in Japan this July, but sports fans can plan now to visit two exotic locations for epic competitions in 2022: Beijing for the Winter Olympics February 4–20, and Qatar for the FIFA World Cup November 21–December 18.
In Beijing, intermingle visits to the Great Wall and Forbidden City with in-person spectating of new sports in the snowboard, ski jumping, freestyle skiing, bobsleigh, and short track categories. To see the most events, plan to be in Beijing on February 8, when 10 medal events and competitions in 10 different disciplines are scheduled.
In Qatar, temps average in the 70s in late fall, making this a perfect time for soccer. The country has been busy building a new rail line, new stadiums and even a new city, Lusail, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be hosted in a stadium with an 86,000-person capacity. All eight World Cup stadiums are said to be within 30 minutes travel time from each other, making match-hopping super easy.
The Eco Tourist: Embrace mighty Mother Nature in Patagonia
A visit to the vast—but fast-melting–glaciers in this South American region that traverses Chile and Argentina is a trip that climate change followers know is best to plan sooner rather than later. There are endless natural wonders in this magical part of the world — lush rainforests and jungles, soaring volcanoes and dramatic fjords, and wildlife spanning from pumas to penguins. And there are seemingly limitless opportunities for once-in-a-lifetime adventures to embrace them, from hardcore cycling to world-class fly-fishing, rafting, hiking, and much, much more. But to see the massive ice fields, make visits to both Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park and Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. These are popular tourist spots that will likely require a lot of planning to travel between, but an epic adventure to the end of the Earth is well worth it.
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