The world is your oyster—where should you travel next? Here are key ways to approach travel planning for your next Grownup trip.
I’m not a night owl. When I travel, I like to have early starts and active days, where I’m out exploring a destination’s cultural landmarks or outdoor trails, capped off with a low-key evening centered around a fantastic meal.
So a few years ago, I begrudgingly found myself in Las Vegas on a business trip, a destination I never would have sought on my own. My days were spent in business meetings, my nights in mixer events at nightclubs or casinos. I was ready to write it off as a one-and-done trip, when a few colleagues invited me to go hiking on our one day off.
And suddenly, I was enchanted with Nevada. Here, about a 35-minute ride from downtown Vegas, were landscapes utterly unfamiliar to my East Coast sensibilities: red rocks, ochre sands, sweeping cliffs, a few scrubby trees. After the buzz of the Strip, I relished the fresh air and quiet, as well as the chance to connect with my colleagues in a setting that appealed to me. It placed everything in a new light, and made me realize my first impression had been limited (and that I was too hasty to judge).
The next year, when I went back to Vegas for another conference, I was more prepared. I didn’t have time for a hike, but I prepped for what my schedule would accommodate: In my downtime, I sought out a cooking class, took long walks down the Strip to get “outdoor” time, and had several delicious meals. And I realized: Few destinations will disappoint if approached with the spirit of adventure and discovery.
When planning your next Grownup trip, don’t just go for the one-size-fits-all approach. Take a hard look at what you like to do. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What type of setting really appeals to you? Are you in a city? On a beach? Alone in the countryside?
- What are you doing each day? Are you sitting poolside with a good book? Rock climbing? Seeing the Mona Lisa in person?
- Which activities are must-dos, versus nice-to-dos?
Once you’ve determined the focus of your vacation, start looking for those types of activities within the destinations that interest you. Keep an open mind when considering destinations—you may be surprised! Check the area’s convention and visitors’ bureau websites, online traveler forums, and your own social media networks for recommendations.
Here are three destinations, for example, with activities that may surprise you:
Sure, Canncun’s Hotel Zone and its many clubs may get most of the publicity—but take a ferry just 20 minutes across the water to Isla Mujeres, and you’ll find a sleepy island village where bicycling is the preferred mode of transportation. Check into a gorgeous boutique hotel, then spend your days dining at mom-and-pop restaurants, exploring the region’s world-class diving and snorkeling, or just relaxing on the beach. If you’re looking for nightlife, just take the ferry back and hit the Cancun clubs.
Most tourists make a beeline for Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and a Mariners or Seahawks game, but carve out some time to explore Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood for a more eclectic, quirky feel. Confront the troll under the Aurora Bridge, hunt for antiques at the Fremont Vintage Mall, or eat at locavore cafes and restaurants whipping up cuisine from the Caribbean to Korea (and everywhere in between).
The United Kingdom
Many carve out time to see Stonehenge during a UK vacation, only to be dismayed that they can’t get up close to the infamous stones. Do a bit of pre-trip digging (pun fully intended), though, and you’ll see that the country is positively rife with prehistoric sites travelers can walk right up to. The bonus? Many are set in charming towns tucked into the English countryside.
By starting your trip with a clear picture in mind of what you hope to do, you can then seek out your ideal vacation within most any destination. And in seeking out these personal preference experiences, you’ll often come up with an itinerary that’s anything but touristy.
A lifelong traveler and bookworm, Sarah spends her days thinking of new ways to explore and tell stories.
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