Travel Inspiration Needed
June 19, 2023 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Hello fellow travelers. I’m trying to plan a big (for us) vacation for my family, Summer 2024. I am both completely ignorant of all the great options available and overwhelmed by the planning process. I thought that the best way to start would be to choose a destination. Fairly snowflakey “wishlist” below the fold.

Passengers- Me, (51) Two kids. (24 & 17)

-While we love cruising, we hate the beach, sun, and sand so no beach travel
-Definitely open to an island destination if there is a lot to do that doesn’t involve sun/beach exposure.
-We love museums, music, great food, history,
-We’ve done London, Chilé, most of Italy, and Alaskan cruise.
-Not into hiking.
-7-14 days total
-Would love to do something very different like count the new baby Puffins in Iceland, or another activity that might involve helping nature.
-We love animals.
-live in the US, open to foreign and domestic travel.
-I have Marriot points so also open to a cool, Marriot Bonvoy property in a fun location.

As you can see, I have no, real direction yet. This post is purely to spark some inspiration. I’m hoping that a fellow mefite will have taken a trip that might work for us or have an idea of something out there that I should investigate further. Appreciate any and all ideas, even if they don’t fit my wishlist exactly. TIA!!
posted by pearlybob to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I know several people who have gone to the Galapagos and loved it. It's got cruising and islands. The sun can be a problem, but proper clothing can protect you from it. There are lots of cool animals--no puffins, but penguins and boobies and finches (and tortoises and marine iguanas). My understanding is that you can really have a range of luxury, budget, and adventure depending on your needs.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:15 PM on June 19, 2023 [3 favorites]

Something I've been wanting to do is visit/stay at a farm animal sanctuary, (maybe help muck out stalls - but not necessarily required) and pet cows. Maybe sounds fun (and also support a good cause)? (I have not been to any of these, but found some options)

some options:
Farm Sanctuary Tiny Houses, NY.
Red Robin Song Animal Sanctuary and Guest House, NY
Atlanta Alpaca Treehouse
The Homestead at Catskill Animal Sanctuary
Jacob's Ridge Far Sanctuary, Spain
Boon Lott Elephant Sanctuary, Thailand
posted by Glinn at 1:30 PM on June 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

Seconding Galapagos. One way to control budget is to get your flights to Quito and then to the Islands with some leeway. And then keep an eye on the cruises until the very last moment and keep emailing both the agents in Ecuador and boats themselves. That will cut costs by a lot, but might not be for the most faint hearted that wants to know exactly what and where you are going.

We did a cruise last year (family of 5) and I was still negotiating with the companies one day before we set sail. This worked out really well as we were picked-up from the Santa Cruz airport and went directly to the boat, after the 4 night cruise we had another 3 or 4 nights on the island, so we had some leeway to if this particular sail had not worked out. This saved at least $5k if not more for our family. Flights to Quito and to the islands can be quite cheap if you keep your watching them.

Other options -- Amazon jungle lodge (flying to Manaus via Panama is likely to be fastest way), Sacred Valley/ Machu Picchu (flights can be cheap to Lima), Morocco (Marrakech + mountains and/ desert), Israel, river cruise from Luxor to Aswan + Cairo.

I love our Marriott points too, but often the hotels are not at the most exciting places, but in Ecuador and elsewhere at the beginning/ end of the trip points can be useful and nice after more exotic part.
posted by zeikka at 1:36 PM on June 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

It is not very different from your past trips, but I'll throw it out just in case: Ireland and Scotland (Edinburgh), which has:
-museums, especially in Dublin and Edinburgh
-history abound in both
-music cultures (see, for example, the Skye Live Music Festival via the Skye Live Spotify Playlist)
-lots of sheep!

Other notes:
-In Ireland, if going outside of Dublin, you would probably want to rent a car.
-There is a ferry that goes between Dublin and the UK (Holyhead). From there, you can take a train to Edinburgh. I expect it would be a scenic trip!
posted by bruinfan at 2:04 PM on June 19, 2023 [3 favorites]

cruise - beaches + history = trains!

The Man in Seat 61 has a list of Great Train Journeys. Might I suggest the Rocky Mountaineer as a gateway to boreal magic?
posted by dum spiro spero at 3:47 PM on June 19, 2023 [6 favorites]

Just came back from the Maritime Provinces and Quebec in Canada - trains - overnight Montreal to Halifax,
national parks, history from a whole range of perspectives, good concerts and performances (Cirque de Soleil, etc), food was very good in Quebec and on the trains, lobster season in the Maritimes.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 4:19 PM on June 19, 2023 [5 favorites]

This would be a bit heavier on the nature volunteering and less on museums, but I’ve wanted to do an Earthwatch trip for quite some time, where they match researchers with volunteers. It looks like they allow teens to join adult expeditions with a parent or guardian.
posted by sincerely yours at 4:22 PM on June 19, 2023 [2 favorites]

I just went to Australia, New Zealand and Japan (two weeks in each) and all three places fit your bill! But Australia probably the most. We loved the art & food in Sydney and Melbourne, and then driving along Great Ocean Road and stopping to see kangaroos and koalas. We didn’t help them, but we did observe in the wild from a safe & respectful distance. We also saw emus and wallabies!
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 6:03 PM on June 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

Adventure travel to see animals in Thailand & Laos:
- Fly to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Enjoy the food, forest temple, and visit a nearby Elephant Sanctuary where you get to learn about elephant rehabilitation and feed/bathe elephants.
- Stop in Chiang Rai for a night or two, see the White Temple and the Black House (art project?).
- Take the bus over the border to Huay Xai, Laos and spend 2-3 days living in a treehouse in a nature preserve with Gibbons (note this is a very unsafe zip lining experience but it's also extremely cool, do not do this unless you are a person who is comfortable inspecting your own harness etc.)
- Spend 2 days on a Mekong river boat cruise to Luang Prabang
- Spend a few days eating/sightseeing in Luang Prabang

Cycle the Netherlands with a helpful tour agency to give you a route:
It doesn't sound like an animal-centric option but we saw so many animals on ours - sheep and cows and goats on farms, birds everywhere in the marshes, and the occasional friendly dog or cat. There are some other tour operators that lodge you on a barge/river boat so every day your "hotel" moves to catch up with you on the bicycle. Lots of great museum visits and some interesting history depending on the routes you choose. Riding through farm country you can get farm fresh food from roadside stands and see how Gouda is made; if you happen to be an engineering project nerd, you can see the giant water management projects that keep the Netherlands dry enough to inhabit. Depending on your cycling skills you can opt for anything from 10 miles to 70 miles/day for 3-10 days on very, very flat ground.

In general, you might want to take a look at European river boat cruises for history + cruising - beaches.
posted by A Blue Moon at 6:30 PM on June 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

Georgia is small, delicious, beautiful, cheap and friendly. Two weeks is just about perfect to get there and back from the US and still have a good, say, 10 days to dig in and see just about everything. I’ve been to a lot of far-from-the-US places and Georgia is truly one of those places with something for everyone.
posted by mdonley at 8:04 PM on June 19, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh my goodness!! These are all AMAZING ideas and EXACTLY the kind of inspiration that I’m looking for! Keep them coming!
posted by pearlybob at 2:47 AM on June 20, 2023

Drive the ring road in Iceland, and combine it with a stay in Reykjavik and/or some adventure tours. Here are some of the sights you'll see.
Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon
black sand + icebergs = Diamond Beach, across the road from Jokulsarlon
hot springs everywhere
snorkeling in 33F water at Silfra, between the N. American & European tectonic plates
Westman Islands, with a ton of puffins
waterfalls everywhere you look
ice cave tours
Northern lights
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:48 AM on June 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

You love cruising? Hate the sun? Like Alaska? Want to see fun animals? I have a suggestion for you.

I am — at this very moment — nearing the end of a 23-day solo cruise (two back-to-back cruises, actually) from Southampton through the Scottish Isles to coastal Norway to Svalbard and, tomorrow, to Iceland. It's been amazing. Norway is beautiful. I chose to hike, but plenty of people did not. Can't speak to the food because I chose to eat primarily at the ship buffet (and live in an inside cabin) so that I could instead use my money for (a) the spa and (b) all of the cool excursions. The animals were plentiful: reindeer, walruses, polar bears, and birds birds birds.

I'm on the Norwegian Star and really like it. YMMV depending on the types of ships you like. But it sounds as if a Norwegian/arctic cruise would be great for you. If I were to do this again (and I might), I'd give serious consideration to Hurtigruten, Norway's coastal ferry that also serves as a sort of expedition/cruise company. I know zero about Hurtigruten, but we saw their ships constantly as we cruised.
posted by jdroth at 5:20 AM on June 20, 2023 [4 favorites]

I recommend a road trip through Croatia. The country is small enough that you can drive from one end to the other in about 8 hours. The scenery is amazing (especially around the coastal areas), the highway system is very well designed, and the cities have a lot of cool old architecture.

Places I like include:

* Istrian peninsula
* Pelješac peninsula
* Korčula
* Dubrovnik
* Trogir

All the well-known cities will have museums (I haven't visited many, but I did enjoy looking at Croatian naïve art in Zagreb).

The seafood is pretty good around the coastal areas. They do scampi, sea bass, and grilled calamari pretty well.

You can start your trip in Zagreb (which you probably won't be too impressed with), then rent a car and plot a route down to Split/Trogir. The view of the ocean when you emerge from the Dalmatian mountains is magical, particularly if you catch it around sunset.
posted by ambulatorybird at 7:49 AM on June 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

There are river cruises in Europe that my parents have done. With these river cruises, you end up at ports of call that are right in the middle of the city so it's different from ocean cruising. It's a very different way of traveling, with a small group you are with over an extended period of time. There are YouTube videos about these cruises if you're interested in seeing what one might be like and whether it would be a travel mode you enjoy.
posted by hippybear at 8:37 AM on June 20, 2023 [3 favorites]

Another idea is to rent a canal boat that you drive yourself in France -- they go quite slowly and then give you the basics and off you go. You then work the locks yourself as you make your way through. This is something that I've looked at doing, but haven't done yet. Doesn't require much boating experience from what I understand and it looks fun, lot of them come with bicycles so you and also ride along the canals/ take side trips while others sail the boat or while it is moored.
posted by zeikka at 9:12 AM on June 20, 2023 [2 favorites]

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