next summer vacation location
September 18, 2014 2:25 PM   Subscribe

We are planning a long-awaited big summer vacation for July/August 2015. For many years, I've kept Croatia as a possibility for a trip like this, as it seems like it has a bit of everything we like - interesting cities, access to the outdoors and it seems to be a fairly 'easy' trip to enjoy without a huge amount of planning. For various reasons, I'm wondering if you could suggest other options. I've included a list of our desired trip components and would love specific suggestions!

Things I liked about the concept of going to Croatia:
- coastal towns, seaside walks, laid-back beaches, ferries - I love being near the ocean in some capacity
- seems 'easy' for a North American couple to navigate - not a lot of hassling and negotiating and difficulty figuring out how to get from place to place once we're there. I loved Vietnam but it wasn't really 'easy' in quite the way we want this trip to be - lots of time being told certain trains weren't available for tourists, or my hotel would give away my pre-paid hotel room, etc.
- decent-ish food for vegetarians
- good mix between cultural/historical components with being in the outdoors/nature
- we'd perhaps rent a car and explore the countryside and smaller towns, as well as the bigger cities

Things that are making me reconsider:
- exactly how touristy/busy will it seem in July/August? I know some towns will be more touristy than others, but would we need to pre-book all of our itinerary and hotels well in advance?
- heat - I'm not a huge fan of crushing summer heat. It looks to be in the high 70s and 80s in the summer which is manageable, but how does it feel in terms of humidity?
- I saw a documentary which focused on Croatia and it looked a little less exciting than I was anticipating. This isn't really a huge thing, but it didn't capture my heart in the same way I thought it would. It could have just been this particular show.

Other factors:
- this will probably be our last major trip before having kids, so it's ok if it's a bit adventurous. We plan on traveling with kids, but we'd probably have a different pace and tolerance for moving around. For example, we've traveled with friends with kids - we rented an apartment in a city and were all able to take laid-back day excursions.
- Trips we've already enjoyed: Peru, South Africa, Zambia, many parts of Mexico, and I've been to the South Coast of Spain, much of France, England, Scotland, Switzerland, Vietnam, South Thailand and Cambodia. I've also been to Japan, many Scandinavian cities (on a cruise - so not really exploring in the same way), Bolivia, Rio, Sao Paolo and Canada.
- For various reasons, we're not that enthused about New Zealand on this trip (probably will go there in a few years), India or China. Though I'm willing to be convinced if you think it's a good option for us.
- We are a queer couple. As you can see above we've travelled to a bunch of different countries and it's been fine, but I am reluctant to go somewhere it would be a major issue. Most hotels seem to assume we're sisters or friends which is...fine.
- this is going to be an insanely stressful year for us, so we need something a bit relaxing and fun

Other possibilities:
- Turkey - I *really* want to go to Turkey, but it just looks too hot in July/August - anyone want to weigh in on possible itineraries that wouldn't be as bad?
- Czech Republic and/or Poland
- Brazil - maybe fly into Rio and go up to the North/Western parts
- Chile or Argentina
- Northern Thailand? Myanmar?
- somewhere else in Central America?

Things we love to do:
- day hikes or overnight hikes to a hut/cabin (we aren't going to bring our camping gear)
- wander around interesting cities and towns but not massive metropolises like Tokyo or HK
- eat good vegetarian food - we aren't picky and love finding the few little places that feature veggie dishes, but it's good if there are a few options
- see local festivals, or plays, or other fun events even if some of the specifics are lost on us
- have an hour or two at a beach - we're not really "sit all day at the beach for weeks" people
- opportunity for a kayak trip, or scuba diving would be awesome
- learn about the political and cultural history of the place - we are both big nerds
- I'd love the opportunity to improve my Spanish, so bonus points if you think one of the Spanish-speaking countries would work well given the above

I'd be grateful for any feedback on the initial idea of Croatia, or any of the other suggestions for our parameters. We probably have 3-5 weeks for this trip.

Obviously this is fairly broad, so specific suggestions or mini-itineraries would be really helpful.

Thanks for any advice you can offer. Happy to answer any follow-up questions!
posted by barnone to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Further possibility: Costa Rica?
posted by barnone at 3:27 PM on September 18, 2014

Best answer: I'd highly recommend Slovenia, either in combination with Croatia or on its own. I went in July and it was amazing. Temperatures were perfect, everyone was very friendly, tourism people were excellent without being tacky and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.

I went on a couple adventure tours (for example) while I was there and had a really awesome time. Lots of places offer kayaking as well as hiking tours and many other activities. No beaches, but you can go next door to Croatia for that.
posted by randomnity at 6:32 PM on September 18, 2014

Best answer: Slovenia! Bled is a great town. It's in the alps, so not too hot. Nice things to do in town (castle, scenic church in the middle of an alpine lake, nice cafes, etc.). Piran, on the coast, is a charming medieval town and a nice place to spend the day. We stayed in Koper (also on the like 4 miles of coast), which is more industrial (although there's a university there). I haven't actually spent more than a day in Ljubljana, but the time I was there made it look like there's lots of city-type-stuff to do. There's some amazing karst caves not too far from Bled.

When I was there, I could get around in English with no difficulties (including at the ER! Everyone was super nice.)

and Slovenia's on the Euro, which is convenient.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:05 PM on September 18, 2014

Best answer: You could always come to Australia. July/August is winter/sprinter so you don't have to worry about the heat, even in the usually quite-warm places. Although there are some significant exceptions (Uluru for example) most of Australia's attractions are on the coast. There are plenty of places to explore, lots of culture, wilderness, beautiful scenery, laid-back beaches, surfing, etc. It's easy to rent a car and drive around (though if you are planning to go through the desert you want to plan a bit more). People mostly speak English, or a variation thereof. The cities (Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart) are largely accessible and not overwhelming and include a wide mix of ethnicities. It is totally easy to be a vegetarian. Same-sex partnerships are legal (though marriage is not, yet) and plenty of places are very queer-friendly. There's even a fairly sizable Croatian population!

And if you want a doco that will inspire you, have a look at Coast Australia.
posted by Athanassiel at 9:59 PM on September 18, 2014

Best answer: Croatia (actually, the whole Mediterranean) in the summer: tourists. LOTS of tourists. It seems like half of Northern Europe migrates to the coast so there are regular traffic jams on highways leading to the tourist-y destinations. But traffic disperses when you're near the coast. Just don't try any international travel by road during the peak hours (from Friday evening till Sunday afternoon).

Pre-booking might be smart, but OTOH, the hotels usually jack up prices before the season starts and then panic because there aren't enough bookings and start offering discounts later in the season. Even if everything's full, you can usually always find a room in a private accommodation, the only question is how much you'd have to pay (the rules of supply and demand).

Heat: who knows! Due to global climate change, the seasons aren't as predictable anymore. This summer had a record rainfall and quite low temperatures. (I've only broken a sweat 2 times.) The previous year we had several weeks of 100F weather. Dress in layers, I guess?

Slovenia is a bit mellower on the three fronts mentioned above, as are the non-coastal regions of Croatia.

Source: I've spent half my life in Croatia, the other half in Slovenia, still spend summers in Croatia. MeMail me if you have any questions!
posted by gakiko at 1:01 AM on September 19, 2014

Response by poster: Ah...Slovenia, interesting. Could be a good combination with Croatia. Thanks for the food for thought everyone.
posted by barnone at 1:51 PM on September 22, 2014

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