Once in a lifetime trip...only one problem...where do we go?
July 13, 2016 7:09 AM   Subscribe

My husband and I got married 2 years ago but we did not go on a honeymoon. As of recently, I've been diagnosed with a terminal illness. We want to take a spectacular, once in a lifetime trip. Where should we go?

I've never been out of the country, but he was in the Navy, so he's been all over. Cruises are out, he doesn't want to be on a ship again. I'm an outdoorsy, hiking, backpacking, kayaking kind of person but he really isn't. He will do little hikes with me but nothing strenuous and absolutely no camping. Please tell me about your most perfect vacation place and help us find a vacation we will both love. Thanks in advance!
posted by Amalie-Suzette to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm so terribly sorry these are the circumstances of your trip planning.

Can you tell us more about what you guys both like, since it sounds like the outdoorsy stuff isn't going to work for your husband?

Knowing nothing about you, I would still say Italy: it's got it all - culture, food, history, archaeology, art, natural beauty, even some accessible but still absolutely spectacular outdoor experiences, like the evening hike up Stromboli to see the caldera erupt into the night.

More exotic choices might be something like Antarctica to see the penguins. But that involves a boat, and if you've never been out of the country, Italy's variety and accessibility might be a better choice.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:25 AM on July 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

The best vacation I had was a 7 week trip DRIVING from the east coast of America to the west coast of America. We drove 12000kilometers. We saw as many states as we could and I can tick 23 states off from my bucket list. I read up about every place we went but still kept it spontaneous, allowing serendepity to intervene, by not booking places ahead. It was a wonderful opportunity to explore, feel free in the land of the free, interact, rest and enjoy scenery where we least expected it and we have over 5000 photos to remind us of things like the sunsets in Arizona or the turmoiled sea at Cape Cod. I've travelled all over the world but I can in all honesty say a week lounging around a beach in paradise pales against experiencing many different things (even a short trail here and there) and feeding the soul knowledge, information and laughter...there's always things that go wrong or becomes spectacularly funny on a trip like that. Consider a 'World Trip'. That's what I would do. Get a theme, a goal like : I want to dip my toe into every ocean. I get the no-camping, so agree on a cabin or two and a brief escape (one night) perhaps to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Open Mapquest and type in a city and then another, see the distance, read some about the route....and go. Just go. Be free to live.
posted by ergoguru at 7:33 AM on July 13, 2016 [6 favorites]

Honestly, I agree with ergoguru. My best trip has been renting and RV and doing the three week, across the USA thing. Stay in the cheap, KOA campgrounds. They are really nice and you meet great folks. You never have to unpack, never have to carry a suitcase.... Get an RV AND HEAD OUT. You will have a ball!!
posted by pearlybob at 7:37 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

For my honeymoon we went to Rarotonga, in the Cook Islands. It is still my favourite place in the world, and I have travelled a lot. It has beautiful tropical bushland, a mountain, amazingly blue lagoons filled with tropical fish. The accommodation is comfortable and comes in a range of budgets. The food is incredible - lots of great little cafes and restaurants that wouldn't be out of place in a large Western city.

If you want more isolation and nature, you can take little plane to one of the other islands - Atiu is quite unique and great for easy walks in interesting scenery: high cliffs, caves, farms, and you are likely to be among only a handful of tourists. Aitutaki is more traditionally beautiful, but quite touristy. There are lots of other little islands in the Cooks that are interesting too, but harder to get to.
posted by lollusc at 7:46 AM on July 13, 2016 [5 favorites]

I really liked traveling through England and Scotland via road trip. Lots of history, epic scenery, easy to take a slow pace, easy to find great places to stop along the way. And though we're adventurous, it was just so much easier being somewhere they all speak English. The culture was just different enough to feel foreign, but still familiar. We went from the south end of England all the way up to the Isle of Skye, stopping in all sorts of places along the way like Nottingham (and Sherwood Forest just for good measure). The Isle of Skye itself was amazing, I'm not a real hiker myself but there were a few where a reasonably short hike paid off with amazing sights, like the fairy pools.
posted by lizbunny at 7:50 AM on July 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

This sounds like Iceland to me. It is beautiful, surreal, incredible safe, wonderful food and interesting history.
So any places you can drive to see incredible things and then decide on a hike there.
It's a tricky road trip to plan but so worth it. I think 3 weeks is a good amount of tie to do it right. We went at summer solstice - it seemed perfect time. We got up late, went to the sites in the afternoon and evening and missed any crowds.

Wishing you the best.
posted by beccaj at 7:51 AM on July 13, 2016 [9 favorites]

Take a train trip through Switzerland. You'll be in the mountains without having to actually hike or camp. There are a bunch of trains (e.g. the Brienz Rothorn Bahn, the Harder Bahn in Interlaken) that will take you to and from the tops of mountains, which are breathtaking. In between, you can take intercity trains, which offer an unbeatable view of the countryside - little villages, mountain pastures, streams and lakes, etc. The Zentralbahn from Luzern to Interlaken is the best of the ones I've taken for this. Zurich-Luzern and Interlaken-Bern are OK, but Bern-Zurich is very boring and more urban. There are plenty of other routes; those are just the ones I have personal experience with. Further south and east will be even more scenic. And the Swiss train system is one of the world's great marvels of efficiency. Even if you do nothing else in Switzerland besides riding trains, it will be an unbelievable experience.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:04 AM on July 13, 2016 [8 favorites]

Cruse ships are out, but how about chartering a sailboat? Something like Key West to the Grenadines and ending in Trinidad.
posted by bdc34 at 8:08 AM on July 13, 2016

I'd go somewhere with great food, great cities, and beautiful countryside. France or Italy would both be great. Delicious food and wine in either country, plenty of history, culture, and art if those are your things, and you could combine visits to a city (or cities) with time spent in beautiful areas out in the country where you could do day hikes. Maybe hike between some of the towns in the Cinque Terre and combine that with visits to Florence, Venice, and Rome?
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 8:09 AM on July 13, 2016

I read this article in the New York Times last year about a beautiful extended Italian road trip vacation. It definitely seems like it would be a once in a lifetime kind of trip and very romantic.
posted by armadillo1224 at 8:18 AM on July 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Think about the things you really love, and then start thinking of places that have that. I love ancient history - I don't actually read about it or anything, never went beyond one Archaeology 101 class in college - but I love thinking about how societies used to be entirely different, yet somehow the same, and how major civilization centers can actually come and go. My husband loves art, but whenever we go to a museum, he spends forever in the Impressionist wing, and I spend forever in the ancients wing. For me, dream vacations are Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Chichen Itza, Machu Picchu, Rome... I guess to match up with his taste, we should go to Rome.

But that's ME. Think about what you like. What are some of your favorite things to do in your home state? What's your favorite museum? favorite food/cuisine? favorite photo? favorite music? favorite class from way back when? favorite book? Where could you go that would be a bigger and better version of that love?
posted by aimedwander at 8:30 AM on July 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Goldleaf train trips through the Canadian Rockies are one of my luxurious bucket list trips. The main package is just a three day sightseeing trip, but they also have other packages that let you linger in different areas.

The Banff/Jasper area is lovely, and you can get in short hikes while still sleeping in nice hotels or private cabins at night. There's some easy but very pretty kayaking and canoeing there, you can go up on glaciers, and so on and so forth.

Alternatively, someplace with a really long history of permanent settlement with archeological sites open to the public is really interesting to go to if you've spent your life in the United States. I'd recommend Turkey, if the level of political unrest there is within your risk tolerance. Greece might also be a good option.
posted by Candleman at 9:21 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's hard to recommend without knowing what he *does* like. A friend and I did an Ireland trip that was basically a couple of days in key cities with train travel in-between. There are a ton of easy and beautiful urban & rural walking, as well as interesting cities (and countryside) to explore, museums, and music.

I'm so sorry about your illness.
posted by smirkette at 10:07 AM on July 13, 2016

I recently visited tropical North Queensland in Australia. I stayed in Cairns, and drove through Kurunda to stay in Jabiru (at this wetlands reserve place*) for one night. I loved that it gave me the tropical beach/reef, rainforest and near desert all in under 2 hours of driving. That might be a good way to get some of the outdoorsy stuff without overloading him with it? You can hike at that lodge and at various places in the Daintree rainforest, and I took a sea kayaking/snorkeling tour from Cairns.

*The website doesn't do this place justice. I really wish I'd stayed more than one night.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 10:46 AM on July 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

Pick up Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island and Road to Little Dribbling. While you don't have to walk the length of England and Scotland, you certainly can drive the length and stop to get out for little hikes in choice areas (the walk between Upper and Lower Slaughter was a particular favorite of my wife and I on our honeymood).

You can stay in small hotels, B&Bs, and even above a pub or two. Consider hiring out a canal boat for part of the way (they have ones where someone else drives). Because you are not limited to hiking, you can make this as short or long as you like, plus you'll get a sense of accomplishment when you pour our some sea water from the English Channel into the North Sea.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2016

+1 Italy. Especially if (heresy!) you avoid the biggest cities (Rome, Florence, etc.). My wife and I recently went on a road trip through Tuscany, staying at some beautiful little places in the countryside (lots of nature, views, non-strenuous walks), visiting small (Pienza, Montepulciano) and medium-large towns (Bologna, Siena), and it was absolutely divine. Food needs no comments.
posted by LingeringMoon at 11:39 AM on July 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm going to say New Zealand. Why? Because it has so many different types of scenery, so close together. Gletschers and rain forest, within an hour's drive from each other; seeing snow-capped mountains from a beach with palm trees. Plains, mountains, but also gently rolling hills dotted with apple trees. It's a gorgeous country and it's compact enough to see a whole lot with relatively little driving. Plenty of opportunities for outdoorsy activities, so short hikes should be easily available. Good food is easy to find, too.

Wherever you go, I hope you will have a wonderful time together.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:48 AM on July 13, 2016 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear about your illness. I hope, whatever you choose, that it's a fantastic experience for you both.

My standard recommendation for best place ever is always Bali. It's the best place I've ever been, and Mrs. Ghidorah and I loved it so much that we spent our honeymoon there, in Ubud, which is up in the mountains.

Honestly, closer to the coast, and you'll run into the fact that Bali is to Australia as Tijuana/Cancun is to America (Kuta being Tijuana, and the Legian and Seminyak areas being the slightly more upmarket Cancun). That said, the island is beautiful, and has access to hiking, rafting, surfing, snorkeling, scuba, all sorts of active stuff, combined with amazing food, beautiful art, amazing music, and, at least for myself, some really, truly generous, warm, friendly people. All sorts of things have come up to prevent us from getting back there, though we'd desperately love to get back there. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:44 PM on July 13, 2016

Switzerland has the most civilised great outdoors I've ever experienced. Hike for an hour, stop for a coffee, hike for another hour, stop for lunch. Another hour and it's time for afternoon beers. Wander back to the hotel for dinner. Everything is incredibly well signposted and mapped.

It's beautiful and very easy to travel in, as most people speak English (and french and german!), and everything is organised and easy to understand. The food is probably best in the french part, though I have a soft spot for beer, cheese and sausage.

And it's landlocked, so the Navy may not have sent your husband there.
posted by kjs4 at 2:37 AM on July 14, 2016

Switzerland has the most civilised great outdoors I've ever experienced. Hike for an hour, stop for a coffee, hike for another hour, stop for lunch.

My dad came back from an inn-to-inn hiking trip in Switzerland having gained weight from eating all the good food and drinking so much.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 6:15 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A little more about us: We aren't really "beach" people, but wouldn't mind a few days at a nice beach somewhere along the way. I majored in nursing and minored in French in college while he has his degree in history with a minor in philosophy. (I failed history...) I've always wanted to go to France, but he's already been there. (Although he says he would be happy to go back.) He's been to Italy too and says he loved it so much he'd go back again. He's never seen the US though. I did travel nursing for 5 years and traveled coast to coast, including Hawaii, which he desperately wants to go to. I stayed on the big island and there is a rain forrest, volcanoes, mountains and beaches...but I'm not really sure staying in the states is going to satisfy me.
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 9:09 AM on July 14, 2016

If you studied the language and have always wanted to go there, go to France! It isn't like going on vacation in France will be some hardship for him.

If you've already travelled coast-to-coast and been to Hawaii, don't stay in the U.S.
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 9:30 AM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

So sorry to hear about the reasons for the trip. I do hope it's just absolutely amazing for you.

I've always wanted to go to France, but he's already been there. (Although he says he would be happy to go back.) He's been to Italy too and says he loved it so much he'd go back again.

France, the Swiss Alps and Italy. You can get your France trip in, get your hiking and outdoors fix in Switzerland (and your husband can suck it up this one time) and you both get to see Italy. I LOVE the Lauterbrunnen Valley, but it's also the only place I've stayed in Switzerland. Taking the train the whole way is really pretty easy. Go for three full weeks, if you possibly can. I would do a week in France, four days in the Swiss Alps and the remaining time in Italy (Some combination of Lake Como, Venice, Cinque Terre, Florence and Rome.)
posted by cnc at 1:02 PM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

France & northern Italy make an easy and wonderful combo trip. In north Italy you have Como; Venice; some of the most lauded gastronomy in the world; Alps/Dolomites... the only caveat here is that it can be quite cold, so season matters. I'd suggest early fall (fall is truffle season anyway.) Fly into Paris, make your way south, fly home out of Milan... If you have plenty of time, by all means stick Switzerland in there as suggested above, but you can also get lovely outdoor experiences in France and Italy.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:13 PM on July 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

This isn't exactly a luxury trip, but it will afford you adventure beyond your wildest dreams. You can also make stops along the way and begin and end in amazing cities. The Trans-Siberian Railway! This train, coupled with either the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian routes, could allow you to plan a trip through Russia and China with some beautiful scenery and once-in-a-lifetime experiences at various stops along the way.

My description isn't really doing the railway justice, and this will not be your cup of tea if what you're looking for is a comfy, Europe-type holiday. I traveled for four months in Europe as a grad student, and while the continent certainly has tons to offer, there's a point at which many European cities just all look alike. I consider myself well-traveled, and if I were to make a trip the likes of which I've never done before, my choice would not be Europe.

You could always country-hop through Asia (Japan is an absolutely wondrous country, as are China, Indonesia, India and Nepal).

I'd really recommend that wherever you decide to go, don't stay in one country. Whether it's Europe, or Asia, or Oceania... take the time to visit adjacent cities. A friend of mine just traveled almost the entire coast of Africa (avoiding the dangerous areas) and ended with a few days in Zanzibar.

So sorry you're planning the trip under these circumstances. The world is your oyster.
posted by Everydayville at 2:54 PM on July 14, 2016

« Older What should I do for a week in Amsterdam?   |   Reducing my dog's divorce-related stress Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.