Vacation for people who don't vacation...
February 2, 2023 7:04 PM   Subscribe

and therefore feel overwhelmed by the options! Could some people with more experience please advise?

I haven't been on a vacation since childhood and realistically probably won't be able to afford another any time soon, so I'm feeling the pressure to make it a good one with none of the experience to figure out how.

I'll be going with my husband and here are some relevant details:
We live in the US (in the Midwest).
We want to go somewhere with a beach, not picky about where.
Our absolute max budget is 5k.
We're not into drinking or partying.
We like trying different foods, but I'm a vegetarian.

We want to go somewhere relaxing. I don't want to have to worry about driving, especially if we're in a busy city. My husband won't want to do super active stuff due to his back issues. Maybe a cruise or resort would be good because of this? But a lot of these seem to heavily advertise alcohol or a bunch of activities that we probably won't do many of. So I hate to pay extra for that stuff/environment.

Anyway, anyone have any advice? Nothing is too obvious for us :P so please don't hesitate to offer even basic advice. I can answer more questions if needed too. Thanks in advance!
posted by Eyelash to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Depending on how far Midwest you are, the beaches of New Jersey are absolutely marvelous, if as you say you like beaches. Some of them have white sand that goes on forever. There is nothing like taking a week in, say, Cape May, playing dumb miniature golf, and playing the ancient games in the arcade, or Cape May Point, which is a tiny little hamlet not far away with more pebbly beaches. It's like going back in time.
posted by Peach at 7:09 PM on February 2, 2023 [5 favorites]

Do you want to go somewhere *now* or, like, in the next year or so?
posted by pullayup at 7:15 PM on February 2, 2023

Response by poster: We definitely want to go in the next year or two, not right this minute. We're still in the very early planning stages and just got overwhelmed by options.
posted by Eyelash at 7:52 PM on February 2, 2023

Clarifying question: by beach, do you mean tropical/warm weather beaches or is it just seeing the ocean you care about ?
posted by freethefeet at 7:57 PM on February 2, 2023

Response by poster: Tropical/warm weather beaches strongly preferred!
posted by Eyelash at 8:06 PM on February 2, 2023

If you can make Honolulu work, that was my favorite vacation destination so far. Supposedly Waikiki isn’t the best beach in Hawaii but it’s pretty nice. The food was great.

Alternatively I’d look into an all-inclusive in Cancun. I know you said you’re not into drinking but I like all-inclusives because you don’t have to think - you can just roll out of bed and have breakfast or go on adventures all day and eat wherever for dinner before you crash. If you want to go somewhere exciting like Chichen Itza or Tulum, the hotel staff can help you set it up. Good luck!
posted by kat518 at 8:38 PM on February 2, 2023 [4 favorites]

My favorite time to be in Florida is October, when all the kids are back in school and the air is cooler, but the water is still warm. You can probably get a cheap flight to Fort Lauderdale and nearby Hollywood, FL which feels like a smaller beach town with a boardwalk. I stayed at the Walkabout, but there's a Margaritaville Resort now with a water taxi.
posted by credulous at 9:12 PM on February 2, 2023 [5 favorites]

Mexico could be a great idea for you. Vegetarian options tend to be decent if not awesome. You can definitely find places where you can just park yourselves and go to the beach every day. I’d go to to sign up for their cheap flight alerts and see if something pops that suits you.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:26 PM on February 2, 2023 [1 favorite]

My first thought of a beach and Midwest was Lake Michigan, which to this East Coast gal was really impressive! But not warm/tropical.

Google Flights has an Explore feature that suggests different options, depending on where you are coming from and what your interests are. If you're willing to travel in the shoulder season (February to April or late September-early November) you can probably score a better deal on both flights and accommodation.
posted by basalganglia at 4:55 AM on February 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry, just realized including that I'm from the Midwest was a bit confusing. The main reason I included that info was as part of my budget information since I'm likely to have to travel by plane to get to a beach that would have a warm weather beach. Thanks for the answers so far!
posted by Eyelash at 5:05 AM on February 3, 2023

Fly to Thailand, you can spend time in beautiful beaches and eat a lot of good vegetarian food. The water is warm and crystal clear and the snorkeling is quite nice. There will be lots of people getting drunk and partying but there will also be lots of people not doing that. Plus there'll be a bigger mix of people than if you stick with something in North America or the Caribbean.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:58 AM on February 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

Google Flights has that Explore feature, but I like the one on better. Fill in your origin, leave the destination as Anywhere. Set the timing to whatever you like, then filter the choices based on number of stops, budget, duration and the type of trip. Enjoy your vacation!
posted by emelenjr at 7:57 AM on February 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

What about Puerto Rico? Easy to get to, beautiful beaches, should be super doable under 5k.

Anna Maria Island in Florida is also very cool.
posted by catoclock at 8:53 AM on February 3, 2023 [3 favorites]

I have had a lovely time at the Florida panhandle and Alabama beaches in the Fall. The crowds have gone, the heat is reduced, the beach sand is soft and white, and the water is mostly not too cool. There are historical sites to look at. Sea food is plentiful and varied.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:08 AM on February 3, 2023 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Just got back from a very amazing relaxing vacation at a Riviera Maya resort. My husband and I are both vegetarian and he doesn't drink at all, so my recommendation is taking those things into account. Does it make it more worth your money if you drink all day and eat steak? Sure. But I thought the whole experience of an all-inclusive was a level of relaxation I'd yet to experience.

We had delicious breakfasts and lunches, and all the restaurants were able to accommodate vegetarian dinners if they didn't have something already on the menu. There was a coffee shop that had a coconut ginger drink my husband got every day, and there was gelato, a churro cart, lots of snacks. Live music on the plaza every night, a piano bar.

This particular resort is big, and the price point keeps the atmosphere pretty adult (ie no groups of spring break college kids). We did some days by the pool, some by the beach, and a lot of just strolling around. I thought we wouldn't do a lot of the activities, but they had a pico de gallo demo, Spanish lessons, yoga, a little bike tour around the property. They felt like fun things to do at the time, but also that you could skip them no issue. Anyway, at this particular resort anyway I really felt like you could customize your experience and it felt super relaxing and enjoyable. We booked during a summer sale, and if you looked for something similar you could come in at budget no problem.
posted by LKWorking at 1:48 PM on February 3, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The outer banks in North Carolina might work for you. I've heard it has beautiful beaches and the prices are lower than most vacation spots. Depending on where in the Midwest you are, it might be driving distance (1 or 2 days).

A friend went recent and is in love with the area. So much that she is talking about buying a vacation/rental house in the area and maybe living there full time when she retires.
posted by CleverClover at 4:32 PM on February 4, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Resorts in Cancun and south down the Rivera Maya are a no-brainer from the Midwest. The flight from O'Hare (or other big Midwestern airports) is about 3 1/2 hours, there is no time change, and there are dozen of different resorts with different levels of cost/luxury. The beaches are gorgeous. You can be on a plane at 8am and on the beach in 80 degree weather at 2pm. It's really hard to beat in terms of bang for your travel buck. You can eat black beans and guacamole and plantains, which sounds good to me!
posted by Mid at 6:28 PM on February 5, 2023 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Since you said you very rarely take vacations, I want to share some advice that is more broadly about leisure.

If you are not used to taking significant chunks of time to just try to enjoy yourself, you might get a little stressed and overwhelmed thinking that you need to Optimize and Make The Most Of This. So try to remember that it is normal to not be thrilled, or utterly bonelessly relaxed, every single moment of a vacation. There will be some boring and even a few stressful bits.

Via MeFi Projects, some things you are looking for in your vacation, to help restore you.

Consider finding a couple structured activities during your vacation where (seated -- or in a wheelchair, if appropriate for your spouse) you can enjoy some local culture, like a jazz concert or a play. Or an offbeat movie in your hotel room, something you wouldn't ordinarily watch. Something culture-y to give you a change of pace, engaging your brain a little and giving your body a little bit of a break from sensory overload from the beach.

Take some time apart as well as together. It'll give you something to talk about at mealtimes. And it'll give you more flexibility to do activities you'll really enjoy, or to skip activities he'll really enjoy but you won't. It's absolutely fine for one person to leave for the beach two hours before the other does so the other person can sleep in, call a friend, get a spa treatment, go to a crafting class, or just sit on the room's balcony looking out and doing nothing at all. Two people travelling together often discover they have slightly different levels of energy, desire for activity, etc. The more you can both acknowledge that this is okay, that it's normal to realize halfway through the day that someone unexpectedly needs a nap, and that it's genuinely fine for each of you to split up and then rejoin later, the more you can truly enjoy your time together, because you've chosen it.

It is absolutely okay for you to eat separately once in a while, and will probably make it easier for you to both try fun restaurants that suit your different dietary needs; bring a book for company.

I'm assuming you're going to stay in a hotel or something similar. Generally speaking, the front desk of your hotel wants to make your stay pleasant -- if there's a concierge, that is the concierge's #1 job. If rain ruins your plans for the day and you want ideas for what to do instead, talk to them!
posted by brainwane at 3:55 AM on February 14, 2023 [2 favorites]

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