Our next great vacation is going to be in ...........
May 6, 2016 2:28 PM   Subscribe

I want to take my husband and 8 year old kid to some place interesting, historic, beautiful, and safe in either April 2017 or end of June 2017. Where should we go ?? details inside

Flying from Boston. This is us.
Our next years plans of Spain are dashed. Husband asked if we could just stay in the country this year. I know he'd be happy with some place a bit less foreign feeling (It's tough when you are trying to extend your car rental because you have no passport to leave or file a police report when you don't speak the language and no one speaks yours.)
I was thinking Scotland, England, Ireland, Newfoundland, etc. I've been to Ireland and loved it but think I would like to try a new country if it just as beautiful.
We just did Iceland and REALLY loved it.
I like to drive so a couple/few hours a day (if it's pretty or interesting) is welcome.
We love history, living history, castles, couple hour hikes, quaint towns, great food, and spectacular natural beauty .
I don't care about cities, night life, shopping, etc.
I'd LOVE New Zealand but the travel time from Boston is so daunting when you only have about 10 days to travel.

Interesting local festivals a huge bonus.
posted by beccaj to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A bit past your cutoff, but there will be a total solar eclipse across North America in August 2017
posted by nickggully at 2:33 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Germany? Most people speak English really well there and there's plenty of castles and history and countryside places.
posted by monologish at 2:43 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just got back from Venice and recommend it HIGHLY as a trip with a kid. There are no cars in the city!! - no bikes, no motorini, nothing to hinder a kid running around and exploring and being safe. And Venice has been a tourist destination, particularly for anglophones for 300 years - they are very well set up to accommodate us.

Memail me for a recommendation for a tour guide if you like.

(sorry I just noticed you said you wanted to stay in the country - but maybe you can convince him. Even the English tourism in Venice is part of its history. Crazy Lord Byron swimming in the Grand Canal etc!)
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:45 PM on May 6, 2016

Driving in Italy can be incredibly daunting, and you *will* find yourself in a situation that feels complicated and foreign and involves language barriers. I personally find Italy charming and easy to travel in, and Venice is delightful, but it pretty explicitly doesn't meet your criteria of "no language barrier or confusing local infrastructure that will stress us out". Maybe fully accompanied every day by a tour guide and driver, or confined to one major tourist city?
posted by Sara C. at 2:50 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, I missed the part about infrastructure. Yeah, if you are stressed out by foreign-ness rather than just language barrier, no need to go to Italy. Maybe you ought to think about USA travel? People come from all over the world to hike the Grand Canyon and raft the Colorado River. Otherwise, England is pretty obvious. Easy flight for you, ticks all other boxes.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:53 PM on May 6, 2016

How about Tivoli Gardens in Denmark and the fiords of Norway?
posted by Dansaman at 2:55 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best of both worlds: San Antonio! Fiesta, next year April 20 - April 30, just celebrated its 125th anniversary, and next year is right in your window. South Texas is beautiful at that time of year, and there's lots to do and drive to if you base yourself in San Antonio.
posted by China Grover at 2:56 PM on May 6, 2016

Sara- My link was about all of our phones and computers and passports being stolen a couple weeks ago from Mexico (a frequent travel spot for us). Since my husband has a job that it is very difficult to be away from (and a stressful job in general) it was pretty stressful when we thought we were going to be there for 4 or 5 days more than we planned... it feels "foreign" when you don't speak the language and the police and no one else speaks yours.
We don't have to drive anywhere but if seeing the country is best driving, I don't mind at all. We enjoyed driving though Iceland, Nova Scotia, Ireland, PEI, etc.
I mentioned places I've considered, but are open to just about any place that is "easy". While we love the Caribbean (and it's easy since everyone speaks English) we've done about 20 of the islands and are looking for a bit more historical attractions, etc.

(And in case I led the answers one way accidentally - I am doing the driving and I don't mind challenging driving. The part about New Zealand was just I hate to lose a couple days on each end of the vacation to travel there. I love exciting driving - cities, mountains, etc!)
posted by beccaj at 2:57 PM on May 6, 2016

posted by vunder at 3:10 PM on May 6, 2016

Spain and Mexico are pretty different...

There's somewhat of a language barrier at the smaller cities, but it's much more related (in terms of crime if that's why you were comparing the two) to the rest of Europe than Central America.
posted by monologish at 3:13 PM on May 6, 2016

Scotland is absolutely gorgeous and very easy to travel in. We rented a camper van and drove around the Outer Hebrides, taking the ferry across from Skye. I would 100% do that again. The down sides are the weather and the midges, but as people kept telling me, you don't go to Scotland for the weather.
posted by kadia_a at 3:13 PM on May 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

My husband recently spent some time in Quebec for a thing, and his reports and pictures seem like they would fill a lot of your requests. Montreal is almost fully dual-language at worst (I have a few friends who moved there with only english and it hasn't been a problem.) and quebec city you'll most likely not find anyone under 60 who is purely francophone. He had a great time. Great food, great walking around looking at the old town in quebec city, lots of young people and this is canada, so pretty friendly and helpful. (though I had my passport stolen here (I am from here) and the police were probably AS unhelpful as your mexican ones.)

Canada is great, come in early summer for maximum fun, or early fall.

Banff/Canmore in Alberta is also really lovely, though less historical. But you'll be hard pressed to beat the views and the hikes.

Also, the Going-to-the-Sun Road is awesome, and is in the states, if you want to stay in the country. My family spent summer trips in Coeur D'Alene/Sandpoint for most of my childhood when the loonie was strong, and it's a great area. Both towns are cute and walkable and have great food.
posted by euphoria066 at 3:13 PM on May 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Was just coming here to suggest Quebec or Nova Scotia. Quebec City is very historically saturated and easy to navigate. Anyone that works in a touristy place will speak some English. We spent a week there this fall and loved it.

Nova Scotia (esp Halifax) also have a ton of history. Driving around to Lunenburg and Peggy's Cove is gorgeous! Good beer too.
posted by csmithrim at 3:19 PM on May 6, 2016

Someone above said Hawaii, and if the flight's not too long, I'd second that heartily. Hawaii has some quite interesting historic spots (City of Refuge on the Big Island, Pearl Harbor on Oahu) and of course the outdoor opportunities there are among the best in the world.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:45 PM on May 6, 2016

I've never done it so I don't really know what there is to do in between, but I've always wanted to visit Banff and Vancouver (it's a nine hour drive in between). You could roll in Glacier National Park or Seattle as well if you need to round out the trip.
posted by telegraph at 3:48 PM on May 6, 2016

I also came in to recommend Montréal & Québec City. Gorgeous, lots to do and look at, extremely safe, no problems with not speaking French, at least in the cities. And the Canadian $ is so far down compared to USD that it'll make for some nice shopping and great cheap eats.
posted by kmennie at 4:23 PM on May 6, 2016

Yeah, definitely drive around Quebec and wherever else out East is convenient. Quebec City is very old and different from everything else in North America.

Has your kid read Anne of Green Gables and watched the movies? I would have given away all my toys forever to be able to go to PEI when I was a kid.
posted by betsybetsy at 4:44 PM on May 6, 2016

Oh, sorry, just saw your update. You already did PEI.
posted by betsybetsy at 4:46 PM on May 6, 2016

FYI -"no language barrier or confusing local infrastructure that will stress us out" is NOT in my question.

Thanks for the answers so far!
posted by beccaj at 5:47 PM on May 6, 2016

Puerto Rico is a US territory so you don't need a passport and the local currency is the US Dollar. Everybody speaks English in the touristy areas. There are probably non stop flights from Boston and late April on you are getting outside the high season there so prices will be lower too. You've got beaches, rain forests, history, and if you stick around San Juan an interesting large city to explore. I did a couple of blog posts about our trip last December
posted by COD at 5:57 PM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Switzerland: Luzern and the Berner Oberland. History, castles, couple hour hikes (the world's best), quaint towns, great food, and spectacular natural beauty: all there. Everyone speaks English.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2016

You have a lot of Quebec already, and it's the easy choice. It is a quick drive up and depending on what you want you can find historical villages (the biggest, closest one I know of is Upper Canada Village, in Ontario, 1.5 hrs from Montreal), old churches, waterparks, museums, scenic hikes, good food. The Montreal Jazz fest usually starts at the end of June so if you time it right you could hit it on the way back. The fete nationale (for the province of Quebec) is June 23 and comes with fireworks, parades and shows. 2017 is the 175th year celebration of confederation in Canada and there are bound to be special events, though likely more in Ottawa than Montreal or Quebec City and the big ones will be around Canada Day (July 1). If you do come to Quebec come in June, not April. April can be depressing as hell, no leaves on trees, grey, sometimes still snow, though usually not toward the end of the month.

It's an easy drive from Montreal to Quebec City, and the scenic old road on the north of the river is lovely. Quebec City is famous for the walled city. You can keep going up to Tadoussac, visit the marine park, do some whale watching. If you still want to go further you can drive into the Saguenay Fjord, maybe do some kayaking or hiking.

I'd also suggest maritime Canada. Cape Breton is stunning, and the Fortress of Louisbourg is on my list of must-dos. Nova Scotia is beautiful, New Brunswick, sometimes overlooked, has captivating scenery as well. I've done driving tours out there a couple of times and would happily go back for more.
posted by Cuke at 8:13 PM on May 6, 2016

I'd put Austria and Slovenia on your list to consider--plenty of beautiful alpine scenery, castles, old historic towns, quaint villages, but a bit less expensive than Switzerland.
posted by drlith at 8:35 PM on May 6, 2016

Williamsburg and all the nearby historical sites -- Yorktown, Jamestown, all the Civil War battlefields and plantations in the area, plus Richmond, plus DC and Alexandria within reach, plus fabulous Tidewater cuisine, would be pretty wonderful. The area is mostly beautiful too. We made two trips to check it all out recently -- there is a lot to see. And you'd be in the USA as your husband asked too.
posted by bearwife at 11:27 PM on May 6, 2016

I'm planning to go to Scotland this year, and I'm all excited about it: castles, mountains, cuisine, modern culture, everything seems so great. Still in a planning phase, so I can't say too much about specifics right now.

I went there with my family when I was 8, and it was a very good place to be on holiday at that age.
posted by mumimor at 2:02 AM on May 7, 2016

What about Asheville, NC? It's quaint, beautiful, full of history (Biltmore, America's Castle!), and a great place for families. It's in the Blue Ridge Mountains, so there's the BR Parkway and plenty of hiking and nature trails. They also have a lot of local music, art and festivals all year long. Definitely worth a look!
posted by jenny76 at 6:54 AM on May 9, 2016

Scandanavian countries are quite accessible-feeling, mostly because virtually everyone under 60 is fluent in English (both in cities and rural areas) and you can't beat Norwegian Fjords for natural beauty. Lots of hikes and many different spectacular areas.

Alternatively, this may be a little loaded depending on your politics, but consider Israel. For an American, it's similarly accessible (you can do just fine everywhere with English) and the country has a spectacular amount of diverse natural beauty and history crammed into such a small area.
posted by R a c h e l at 7:22 AM on May 9, 2016

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