It’s fairly safe to say that we all have a case of wanderlust right about now. After almost a year of canceled plans and (hopefully) refunded tickets, we are eager to plan our next escape. With the Covid-19 vaccine rollout being amped up, we can almost see a tiny light peeking out at the end of this long tunnel and we’re dreaming about a time when we can freely take vacations again. To get those wheels of optimism turning, here’s a collection of our favorite travel stories, tips, and destination guides.
Where to Find Inspiration
As the days pass and covid numbers continue to break records across the country, visions of our deferred vacations are becoming more and more obscured. Do white sand beaches really exist? Are sleeper trains real? How does a passport work? Strange times indeed. Of course most people have done what they can to keep things fresh and exciting, but there are only so many neighborhood walks to take and pretty plants to photograph for your Instagram Stories. Eventually, a wistful sense of wanderlust will surface — sorry. But if you’re looking to safely quell your craving for foreign places and far away foods, check out these sites. Read more.
When planning your next vacation, it’s easy to fall back on trustworthy locales — destinations that you’ve visited before or have read about ad nauseam in travel mags and on social media. Yes, these stunning standbys are accessible and travel-worthy, but the hitch is that their secret is out. Throw caution to the wind and check out a less-familiar destination this time around. Get ready to revamp your bucket list with these seven adventures. Read more.
Travel may be canceled for now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t transport yourself to faraway places through a good book. Whether you are looking for a captivating novel or memoir, these books on our list, chosen by local bookstores, are just what you need. Read more.
Feeling the need to practice some much-needed self care or take a mental health break? Finding time for rest and relaxation is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. According to Mental Health America, “Deep relaxation, like meditation, when practiced regularly not only relieves stress and anxiety, but also is shown to improve mood… it can decrease blood pressure, relieve pain, and improve your immune and cardiovascular systems.” Read more.
Travel has made the world a much smaller place. And while travel boasts scientifically proven benefits, from improved happiness and stress reduction to better educational performance, it also has a dark side, leading a recent New York Times article to ask, “If Seeing the World Helps Ruin It, Should We Stay Home?” Short of stopping traveling completely, there’s still plenty you can do to ensure your travels do more to help the world than to harm it. Here are five ways to be a better traveler. Read more.
There’s vacation, and then there are trips that transform your soul. As Hans Christian Andersen said, “To travel is to live.” To inspire your own wanderlust, we asked three writers — a foodie, an adventurer, and a Disney-obsessed mom — to share their bucket-list destinations. Read more.
In-room record players, a dedicated music concierge, and expertly curated playlists are among the hotel amenities sure to hit a note with music-loving travelers. Let one of these 10 hotels provide a memorable soundtrack for your next vacation. Read more.
Whatever kind of vacation you’re in the mood for, here are five alternative destinations you probably haven’t considered. Read more.
Here are five great baseball cities, all with Major League teams, just waiting to be visited by you and your family and friends. We will tell you where to stay, where to eat, and what else to do while you’re there, just in case baseball isn’t enough. And remember, the “Boys of Summer” play through much of October, so you’ve got plenty of time to make it “around the horn” — or in this case, from Boston to Detroit to Cleveland to Minneapolis to San Francisco. Read more.
Tips for Planning
Does the rigamarole of commercial flights — showing up a couple hours early, overbooking and overcrowding, disorganized boarding processes, and poor service — have you looking for a better solution? If you can afford it, these private jet charter companies are happy to show you a better way. Read more.
Friendship Force is part exchange program, part VRBO/Airbnb, part travel agency, part diplomacy program, and all learning and fun. The organization is not religious, political, or for-profit. The group exists solely, as their website says, to offer its members the opportunity to “Experience Different Views. Find Common Ground.” They accomplish this lofty goal through travel home stays to different cities and countries, to learn about new cultures and make new friends. Read more.
Just three hours from the city lies the charming town of Saugatuck, Michigan. And even better, social distancing measures are taken very seriously by residents—and tourists—alike, meaning you can safely enjoy all the destination has to offer. Read more.
For your next trip, consider the good old family road trip. Despite the gas station meals, sibling arguments, bathroom breaks, and wrong turns, we promise these road trips are worth the trek. These destinations are 10 hours or less from the Chicago area so the drive can be done in a day if you are adventurous, and we’ve even suggested great places to explore during a much-needed pit stop. Read more.
When you go to Door County, Wisconsin, there are a few things you simply must do. At this time of year, you must take a walk in the woods to enjoy the turning leaves; during warmer months, you take in a performance at the Northern Sky Theater; just about any time of year, however, you really must go to a fish boil. Read more.
Most of us are beyond tired of looking at the same four walls every day. We are craving a getaway but have no interest in getting on a plane. What’s a Midwesterner to do? We have the perfect answer for you: a road trip to Mackinac Island, in the upper reaches of Michigan’s mitten. It’s a quick 6 hours and 29 minutes (minus stops for gas and snacks, of course) until you reach Mackinac City, where you’ll board a ferry to the blissfully car-free island. Read more.
Just north of Chicago is a gem of a tourism destination: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. That’s Lake Geneva, as in the city, with Geneva Lake, the recreation centerpiece, right in the city center. Now, why a gem? Because it looks and feels like one of those storied resort communities on the east coast, with comparisons regularly drawn to Newport, Rhode Island, for its prime shoreline and magnificent mansions, yet it’s only a two-hour drive from Chicago. Honestly, no air fare required to feel like you’ve just landed in a city by the sea. Read more.
Given the 14-day quarantine required for most visitors, a trip to Hawaii is no longer as simple as it once was. Airlines and hotels have enacted pandemic-inspired procedures to tempt travelers, but many in the islands are wary of tourism returning too soon. The economic toll has been steep: The head of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, for example, predicts as many as one in four currently closed restaurants will never reopen. Still, other island businesses are adapting or making their debut, so for those dreaming of a Hawaii trip “some day,” we wanted to share the latest news. Read more.
Overlooking Ko Olina’s picturesque beachfront cove on the coast of Oahu, Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa offers the ultimate family getaway that’s equal parts kid-friendly and luxurious. Employing Disney’s signature attention to detail to create an immersive and distinctly Hawaiian experience, this resort blends Hawaiian history and culture, top-notch dining and recreation, and a healthy helping of Disney magic to keep every member of the family endlessly engaged. Read more.
Despite the pandemic, many families are opting to keep their trips to Walt Disney World, but are making the effort to eat outdoors. To help you plan a trip around meals enjoyed outside, here’s where to find the best outdoor dining at Disney World. Read more.
After an unprecedented nearly four-month closure, Walt Disney World’s theme parks have now reopened. Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom reopened on July 11, and EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios reopened on July 15 with extensive new health and safety measures in place. Brooke Geiger McDonald visited all four theme parks to see what the “most magical place on earth” looks like now. Here’s what it’s like. Read more.
Keeping several generations of travelers happy on vacation may seem like no small feat, but Disney Cruise Line has found a way to make multigenerational travel seamless for everyone. There are plenty of itineraries to choose from, like Bermuda, the Panama Canal, the British Isles, and the French Riviera, but our top pick for the most memorable is without a doubt Alaska. Sail on the Disney Wonder out of cosmopolitan Vancouver, Canada, and marvel at jaw-dropping fjords, waterfalls, and glaciers right from the ship’s balconies (this is definitely the time to spring for your own private verandah). Tear yourself away from the sights and you’ll be treated to Broadway-caliber entertainment, elegant food crafted by award-winning chefs, and fun for kids around every corner. Read more.
Aside from requests for help with resort, dining, and FASTPASSES at Disney Resorts, the question our resident Disney Expert Brooke Geiger McDonald gets most often isn’t “What do I pack?” It’s “What am I forgetting?” Here’s her list of must-pack items that might not have made your shortlist, but can truly be game-changers when it comes to making your Disney vacation (or really any trip with littles) go smoothly, and keep you going back again, and again, and…Read more.
For the most magical Walt Disney World experience, staying “on property” (Disney speak for official WDW accommodations) at a “deluxe” resort is the way to go. Immersive theming, luxurious amenities, signature dining, and—the big one—proximity to the parks: checks all around. Want to take it up another notch? Disney’s deluxe resorts include some sprawling and truly spectacular accommodations perfect for a multi-family or multigenerational trip or a grown-up getaway (think: couples escape or bachelorette party). The best part? Sharing the cost across families or becoming a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) member (more on that later) and booking with points can make the price seem downright reasonable. Seriously—a stay in one of these eight show-stopping spaces can set you back as little as $99-200 per person, per night, depending on the resort and dates of your stay. Do the math and you’ll find that to be comparable to the rates for standard rooms at many of these resorts. Read more.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the newest attraction within Walt Disney World’s Star Wars-themed land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, isn’t just the most immersive and ambitious attraction Disney has ever created—it’s also the hardest to actually get the chance to ride. With demand for the attraction far surpassing daily ride capacity, even during the pandemic when park attendance has been limited since Walt Disney World’s July reopening, access to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is managed using a Virtual Queue system that enables quick-reflexed guests to secure a Boarding Group to ride the attraction. Read more.
The West Coast
When we think of Lake Tahoe in the summertime, the two recreational activities that arguably best capture the natural splendor of this Sierra Nevada treasure are hiking and water sports. Indeed, choosing whether to enjoy some of the region’s countless trails (and eye-popping views) or the pristine water beckoning you for a swim can prove quite challenging. However, thanks to a new and most unusual trail at Tahoe’s Emerald Bay State Park, visitors can now do both at once. Read more.
With the CDC recommending outdoor activities over indoor ones in terms of Covid-19 risk, Tahoe has never been a more attractive destination. Sure, there may be other places to pursue outdoor activities, but where else can you do it all with the majestic backdrop of that scintillating lake ringed with peaks? Read more.
While oceanfront oases may have their appeal, newlyweds looking for a stylish idyll as well as striking scenery should consider a walk on the dry side. In Palm Springs, the rugged mountain ranges of Southern California provide inspiring backdrops in every direction, while a bevy of new and newly restored hotels offer chic cocoons. The vast trove of well-preserved mid-century modern architecture means it’s also easy to walk in the steps of celebrity couples, like Elvis and Priscilla Presley, who honeymooned in a Palm Spring developer’s house in 1967. Exactly nine months later, daughter Lisa Marie was born — just one proof that the desert is fertile ground for honeymoons. Read more.
The East Coast
New York, New York — so good they named it twice. It’s the place that’s inspired more quotes than perhaps any other in the world, and rightfully so. New York City is the cultural hub of the country — whatever your flavor, it can be found here. And, for a metropolis that’s so well established, it continues to reinvent itself and defy stereotypes — after all, how do you sum up a population of 8.6 million? More than just Manhattan, each of New York City’s five boroughs delivers a heaping helping of flavor to this vibrant melting pot. Here are some highlights. Read more.
An October visit to Salem, with the Halloween festivities and the beautiful autumn scenery, is what we “Hocus Pocus” fans live for: the New England town and its history will truly put a spell on you. However, you have to do some expert planning to fully enjoy your peak-season trip. Here are tips and tricks you need to know if you want to visit Salem from late September through October. Read more.
People assume they know New Orleans. But the city is much more than beads, beer and Bourbon Street — which locals seek out about as much as they would the city’s pitiless traffic cameras. There’s a percolating energy here, with a brand-new $1.3 billion airport terminal, expanding bikeways and newly ascendant neighborhoods. The food, as always, is insanely delicious. Read more.
Whether it’s a family trip, getaway with friends, or intentional time with your partner, dare to dream big with these seven international destinations. Read more.
There are plenty of reasons to visit Canada both for vacation and to explore our amicable neighbor to the north as a potential emigration option. Everyday life is similar enough that you won’t experience jarring culture shock (except maybe in predominantly French-speaking Québec City), yet people seem nicer, and dare we say, happier? Read more.
The 54-room Fauchon L’Hôtel is the most fashionable new luxury hotel for gourmands. It’s an ambitious first venture into hospitality for one of France’s premier gourmet food brands and as one might expect, housemade sweets and treats tempt you, from fresh-baked macarons upon check-in to nougat and salted caramels by the elevator. Read more.
It’s one of those eerie moments when a small story seems to embody and encapsulate the history, culture, and very essence of a place. In this case, that’s the Bay of Kotor in Montenegro, which has been defined by the sea and a history of conquest since it was a Roman seaport founded sometime before 200 B.C. Read more.
Africa, no doubt, is a known safari destination, and REI Adventures also offers safari-centric trips to Tanzania and Botswana. But don’t sleep on Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean that’s bidding for some attention, too — proving that it’s an adventurer’s playground and host to some remarkable safaris. Read more.
It’s September, which means all eyes are on Oktoberfest when it comes to international beer travel, but here are five other destinations that should be on every beer lover’s bucket list. Read more.
For an unforgettable romantic retreat, you’d be hard pressed to find a more idyllic spot than Bali. Locals greet you with melodic rindik — an Indonesian bamboo xylophone — upon arrival at The Mulia, easing you into vacation mode. The all-suite, all-inclusive Mulia is a resort within a resort, with access to the amenities at the larger Mulia Resort, but the setting is more intimate here, with only 111 suites as opposed to 526 rooms. Read more.
From your first glimpse of the Grand Canal as you exit the Santa Lucia train station, Venice thrills, moves, and overwhelms. Every bridge, every boat, every glimpse up a side canal feels like a photograph come to life, one you’ve looked at all your life and now must find a way to make your own. Tiresomely overused as it is, magical is the word that comes to mind, and stays with you through every day that you lose yourself wandering from piazza to piazza and down alleyways that always seem to dead end at a canal. Read more.
Charming cobblestone streets. Dreamy river vistas. A metropolis with a happening arts, culture, and festival scene. Zip line-friendly waterfalls. Idyllic farmlands for miles. Turns out, all the elements from this summer vacation fantasy list exist in one location: Quebec City, the 400-year-old birthplace of French North America. Plan a summer getaway to Quebec’s bilingual-speaking (French/English) capital city and what awaits? Amour d’été: summer love. Read more.
Skiing & Snowboarding
A ski slope in your own backyard? Total pipe dream. A mountain within driving distance? Start packing up the car — each of these five wintry wonderlands is within three short hours of Chicago. Read more.
Ready to plan your next ski vacation? For perfect powder and amazing après, hang your helmet at one of these truly exceptional ski resorts. Read more.
From cross-country skiing to snowboarding, there are myriad ways to enjoy fresh powder, and sliding centers are popular for icier pursuits like bobsled, skeleton and luge. Settings of past Winter Olympic Games often offer the best of both worlds. These four destinations will appeal to winter athletes of all stripes. Read more.