Please help us take our first vacation since 2019
March 4, 2022 10:07 AM   Subscribe

We are desperate to take an actual vacation in April! Could you help us think of some options? Main priorities are: somewhere quiet and very relaxing, warm or at least not cold weather, good vegetarian food easily available, 6 hours max (door-to-door, so including flights, driving, etc.) from Chicago.

The last time we took a vacation was in November 2019. Between the pandemic, global crises, work, family issues, etc. we are totally fried, to the point where we are struggling to come up with even basic ideas.

In addition to the notes above:
- Two adults, 5-7 day trip
- We tend to default to Airbnb-style whole house rentals when we travel, but are open to quiet, low-key hotels and resorts.
- Budget is very flexible. We aren't fancy or stylish, though, so I don't think we'd find a high end or super luxurious place very relaxing.
- We are fully vaccinated and boosted, and would prefer to go somewhere were folks won't be hostile if we choose to wear masks inside.

(Also, I know you're not our travel agents--given how totally lost we are we'd be happy to hear recommendations for travel planning services, too.)
posted by cimton to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Upon re-reading, I realize this is super vague, possibly to the point of being unanswerable! More detail:

I think our ideal day would be: wake-up, eat a delicious breakfast wherever we're staying, enjoy a beautiful outdoor environment for a couple of hours (walk on a beach, in the woods, hang out at a park, go on a moderate hike, etc.), eat lunch on-site or off site, lay around for a few hours reading/decompressing, spend a little more time outside, eat dinner, continue being lazy.

I think we're looking for a smallish city, small town or rural-ish environment rather than a big city.
posted by cimton at 10:18 AM on March 4, 2022

I just got back from Palm Springs. Spent a week hiking the deserts and sleeping in a VRBO house with a pool and spa. I didn't want to come back. We literally experienced almost every season every day depending on the elevation we were at. 80 on the ground but a blizzard at the top of Mt. Jacinto on the tram.

You can walk the town and absorb the touristy-ness of it all or stay off the main drag and find the local hot spots. There's a fancy section if you are into that.

The Palm Springs airport is one of the loveliest and stress-free airports I have experienced. A chunk of it is open-air.
posted by archimago at 10:19 AM on March 4, 2022

I second Palm Springs because it sounds absolutely lovely and I have always wanted to visit and have a close friend who loves Palm Springs. If you want to go the Florida route you might try Sanibel and Captiva Islands. This area is casual, low-key, relaxing, and vegetarian friendly.
posted by loveandhappiness at 10:40 AM on March 4, 2022

I went to Puerto Rico at the end of January and haven't been able to shut up about it. It's a wonderfully warm and beautiful tropical destination and shockingly affordable. Here are the pros according to your ask and update:

1. They are extremely serious about masking and vaccinations. You have to be vaccinated with a negative Covid test to travel there. Just about every indoor restaurant we went to required proof of vaccination, and people were consistently masked even in outdoor spaces. I felt much safer in PR with regard to Covid than anywhere I've been in the continental US.

2. There are TONS of affordable AirBnBs around the island. We chose to stay in San Juan, in the Ocean Park area. Stayed in a really cute place (actually would have been perfect for 2 people) for around $150 a night, two blocks from a GORGEOUS beach with plenty of restaurants and bars less than a block away. It was a 10-minute Uber to Old San Juan (Uber is accessible throughout San Jan but not in the smaller cities).

3. Everyone we met was so extremely friendly and welcoming. Almost everyone spoke English fluently, especially in San Juan. I thought there might be some resentment towards tourists but it was quite the contrary.

4. Did I mention how freaking GORGEOUS it is there? We visited 3 different beaches, did a mild hike through El Yunque rainforest (there are more intensive hiking tours available definitely need a guide). We did a nighttime kayak trip in the bioluminescent bay. We wanted to do a catamaran tour to some of the smaller islands, where the beaches are somehow even MORE gorgeous (will definitely do this next time). It was one of the most beautiful vacations I've ever been on. I love that the beaches have lots of palm trees for shade if you don't want to haul around an umbrella.

5. If you want a smaller city feel, there are plenty of options around the island that aren't San Juan, but you'll need to rent a car to be able to get around. Not a big deal if it's in your budget. There are some real treasures, and I can't wait to go back and stay in some of the smaller cities to get a different experience.

Feel free to DM me for tips! If you can't tell, I've become a die-hard PR travel ambassador. 😂
posted by a.steele at 10:51 AM on March 4, 2022 [7 favorites]

It looks like there's a 4-ish-hour nonstop flight from Chicago to Belize, which would be nice. Where I am in the Bay Area it has been pretty warm lately, though there's no exact guarantee of temperature and it's not hot. You could get to Pacifica or Half Moon Bay quickly from SFO.
posted by pinochiette at 10:54 AM on March 4, 2022

You could go to a Southern California beach town. Laguna Beach, Coronado, San Clemente, Santa Barbara, Montecito. Or you could aim for the Central Coast: Carmel, Cambria, Pismo, Avila Beach. You're more likely to get good (ie, not foggy) weather in SoCal, but the Central Coast is wild and pretty.
posted by vunder at 1:11 PM on March 4, 2022

A few thoughts:

- Central Coast of California in six hours from Chicago is a bit tight - four-plus hours to SFO or LAX and then a multi-hour drive, or a change of planes somewhere like Denver or Phoenix if you want to fly into Santa Barbara.

- Asheville, NC feels like a good option - there are nonstop flights, it won't be cold, they have food - although I don't personally know much about it - mostly mentioning it hoping that someone who knows more will chime in. Not sure about local views on masking, though.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:24 PM on March 4, 2022

Asheville, NC is a beautiful place. I've been there a handful of times. I was there last year and we stayed at Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds. It's a little community of cabins that is super easy to drive into. There are no steep mountains to climb or navigate in order to get to these cabins. They are close to stores, downtown Asheville, the Biltmore Estate, and numerous hiking trails. This cabin community has access to the the Mountains to Sea trail on the grounds and there is a duck pond, Adirondack chairs, daffodils are blooming in the Spring, gardens, etc.
posted by loveandhappiness at 2:37 PM on March 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

Central Virginia in April is sublime. Charlottesville makes a good base; there are nonstop flights from O'Hare. In the foothills of the Blue Ridge, so plenty of easy hikes in/near town, and not too far to drive if you want to challenge yourself a bit in Shenandoah National Park, and then stop at one of the breweries or vineyards on Rt 151 in Nelson County on your way back. Great restaurants including good vegetarian options -- it's a college town, so punches above its weight on that front. The downtown mall I haven't been back since the pandemic, so can't comment on mask etiquette. You will need to rent a car.
posted by basalganglia at 2:42 PM on March 4, 2022

Fwiw California Central Coast is NOT warm at present, highs around 60°F and even low 50s for the next week.
(Well, depending where one lives that might seem warmish, but not a lot warmer than Chicago)
posted by anadem at 3:31 PM on March 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

If you want a drive, Holland Michigan or Petoskey Michigan could do this for you. Might be a bit chilly in April but not cold. If you are open to this and want specific recommendations for where to stay etc send me a message and I’ll elaborate for you!
posted by dpx.mfx at 3:33 PM on March 4, 2022

Have you considered Europe? Portugal or Spain? Plenty of options for outdoors or city life vacation that still allows you to have the best of both worlds. Great weather, amazing beaches, great outdoor adventure/hiking options sometimes you can combine both the hiking and beach options without too much hustle - depending on the location you choose. Also in terms of covid restriction, there would be no issue with you wearing your mask. There are also plenty of flights from Chicago to Spain/Portugal.
posted by MissMissy at 7:32 AM on March 9, 2022

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