Where should we go for 3-4 weeks?
December 11, 2023 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Unexpected vacation question: My spouse is changing jobs. His last day is tomorrow, and his first day at the next job isn't until the end of January (22nd or so). We need suggestions for where to spend a good chunk of that time. Where have we not considered going? Preferences and complications follow...

We've done lots of international travel, so language and currency differences are unimportant to us. We live in a place with a cold-ish winter (Portland, ME with easy access to Boston/Logan airport), so part of the trip should be someplace warm or even hot, but it doesn't have to be oppressive or summer weather, necessarily.

I get very bored and antsy at all-inclusive resorts, so I'd prefer to avoid those unless there's some really compelling reason to go. I need interesting culture, food, towns, etc. My spouse on the other hand, wants some down time where he can be outside reading and relaxing. But he is also very much a food/culture/town person.

I'm prone to sunburn, so I won't be parked in a lounge chair by the pool, but I would like to be someplace where I can do some tennis lessons or clinics, if I can. My spouse is not a tennis person.

I don't need a city, really. I just want something other than a beach or a pool and resort excursions, something I can explore on my own, without a guide.

We had originally been thinking of a split trip where we spend a few weeks one place and then fly to another.

Japan-->Madeira was one itinerary we were considering, as an example. But if we can go to one place and stay there, maybe rent a car, that would also be great.

Other places we've thought about:

Sardinia or Sicily (late-summer temps, but it looks like it's going to be rainy there)
Hawaii (good for access)
Brazil (too many first-hand crime experiences for this one to rank higher)
Bora Bora (looks more expensive than it's worth, with gross hierarchies of wealth for tourists)

So what are we missing? I am sure there are places we haven't even considered. Don't worry too much about budget, as it looks like unused vacation time might be paying for a good chunk of the trip.
posted by yellowcandy to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
We had a lovely month in Oaxaca, Mexico taking language lessons for 3-4 hours/day, sightseeing, enjoying the moderate (think SF Bay Area) weather, and eating delicious local food. I don’t know about tennis but we joined a local gym and I took some bilingual yoga classes while there. We stayed in a very cute Airbnb for most of the time (someone’s pied a terre they rented out when in another part of the country) and also did some shopping/cooking from local markets. I know you said price isn’t a big deal, but it is a pretty reasonable priced vacation destination.

There are also a fair number of day trip or overnight trip options in the area if you like to see handicraft making things or like to hike. It’s possible to rent a car, but we didn’t do a ton of travel outside of the city so we just got a driver (someone recommended by our host) when we needed it.

On edit: Feel free to MeMail me if you want more specific recommendations.
posted by A Blue Moon at 10:57 AM on December 11, 2023 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Hmmm, Chiang Mai? It's the high season in northern Thailand so accommodations might be booked but they do have a TON of boutique hotels so maybe not. Staying "inside the moat" or nearby gives you plenty of interesting walks and shops to poke around, markets, coffee shops (stalls) on every corner, a few slick malls with fantastic movie theaters, easy to get around, safe, great food of course. The weather is sunny and warm and crucially, not humid so while the temps get up there, I regularly think it's high 70s when it's actually nearing 90. Have no clue about tennis though. The long flight is the biggest drawback but if you're prepared to go to Japan...
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:05 AM on December 11, 2023 [2 favorites]

If I had a month off, I'd go to Australia - never been, always been on the list. Great Barrier Reef, animals, beach, good food, good coffee culture.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 11:18 AM on December 11, 2023 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Go to Tenerife and stay in Puerto de La Cruz. - the weather should be (fairly) warm and sunny in January. Tenerife gets quite a lot of visitors from Northern Europe escaping the cold - and that means there are many flights taking you there from European destinations. But very few other Americans seem to go. Puerto is both a tourist spot and a local's town with good food and lots to do (including a tennis club). Accommodation options range from large hotels to B&Bs and local apartments. The place is very walkable and public transport is good - so not necessarily a need to hire a car.
posted by rongorongo at 11:20 AM on December 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

How about spending, say, fourteen days slowly touring southern Spain before heading over to Morocco for a week or so? Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Tangier, Marrakech, Essaouira, the Atlas Mountains…. More interesting culture, delicious food, astounding architecture etc than you can shake a stick at. AND the weather should be warm, by day anyway.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 11:27 AM on December 11, 2023 [7 favorites]

The grand circle tour of national parks in the American SW is an option. Along the route is Las Vegas and St. George, Utah where you will find many a day spa and tennis lesson. Similarly if you wanted to see Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks without the crowds I have to think they are virtually empty in January. With the California parks you would be only several hours away from cities, resorts, wine country, etc.
posted by mmascolino at 11:54 AM on December 11, 2023 [2 favorites]

Chile and or Argentina.
Mexico (Merida? Oaxaca? Guanajuato? CDMX?)
posted by vunder at 12:04 PM on December 11, 2023 [1 favorite]

NB on the “Australia” idea in general: a lot of it will be extremely hot. I saw someone the other day post that the temp where they were was 43.5C.
posted by vunder at 12:08 PM on December 11, 2023

Best answer: JAPAN
Japan is cold right now, but it would be a great opportunity to go deep on japan.
You could go Tokyo>Osaka>Naoshima Art Island (Mildly cumbersome to get to get to but SO worth the trip)

It's not beachy but there's so many natural hot spring type places you could still do a lot of warm Bathing, and you could maybe finish in Okinawa if you did want beachy time... it's usually in the 60s/70s this time of year. Also something kind of neat about okinawa is there's tons of Old cars in because the US military people get cool vintage cars and sells them to more recent arrivers when they leave?

If Skiiing is at all of interest the Northern Island of Hokkaido is awesome for that. Anyway, Japan Rules- would love to have 3-4 weeks in Japan literally any time of the year.

Australia would also be great because it's so far and you could really take the time to enjoy it and bop around a bit.
Personally, I'd fly into brisbane and go to the northern rivers area (Byron Bay and surrounding environs) then go up the gold coast and a bit inland, then fly down to Tasmania for a few days (the Museum of Old and New Art is pretty incredible) then maybe back to sydney and go up into the blue mountains? Might be hot, but Australia is shockingly beautiful, and i didn't expect to love it as much as i did. It doesn't photograph as well as say, Iceland or New Zealand, but the soundscape is incredible, and the plants are amazing. We moved around, spending a week each in several different small towns and less time in big cities under the guidance of an Australian pal.

Memail me if you want some previous itineraries for either of those spots.

Other: New Zealand! You'd have time to do both islands and all the hobbit stuff
posted by wowenthusiast at 12:18 PM on December 11, 2023 [4 favorites]

I second A Blue Moon's Oaxaca rec. I went there for a few weeks last March and am currently planning on going again this Spring. It's the perfect sized city in my opinion, and there are multiple day trips in the surrounding area including the ruins of Monte Albán, indigenous artisan towns, mezcal production tours, etc.

It checks all the boxes you mentioned about culture, food, and because of the elevation, it isn't as hot (or perhaps humid) as the latitude would leave you to believe. Can't speak to the tennis options, but I'm sure there are some.

I split my time between an AirBNB and hotel, and they each have their merits. There are a lot of places with shaded terraces in the city, the hotel I stayed in had a beautiful rooftop terrace that we had all to ourselves for the most part.

Basically, the city is what you make of it: if one or both of you want to chill out, then you can, if you want to vibe on the culture, there's a lot of interesting history in that area.

Lastly, although this is changing as the city becomes more popular, you can really get your bang for the buck when it comes to dining out. If you like to cook at home, there are multiple markets in the city for fresh fruits & veggies and spices, and if you splurge at a restaurant you could have an epic gourmet meal for two for $100 US that would cost you 2-3x that in Europe. Note I said "epic", 1 dollar = 17.5 pesos right now, so a typical dinner with a glass of wine/beer/cocktail/juice averages around $14 US.
posted by jeremias at 12:38 PM on December 11, 2023

The Australian open runs Jan 14-Jan 28. Round of 16 is the most interesting to watch in person. Even if your husband isn’t a tennis guy, a world class sporting event is always a good way to spend a vacation day.
posted by shock muppet at 1:10 PM on December 11, 2023 [3 favorites]

The Canary Islands will be a bit warmer than Madeira in December & January. Also easy to get to from a lot of European cities. I'd consider doing 1 or 2 cities in Europe first as they get into the Xmas spirit, then head south(west) for some warmth and sunshine.once Xmas is done. Or go full tilt on heading north in Europe, northern lights, dog sledding etc before making for warmer climes.
posted by biffa at 3:59 PM on December 11, 2023

Thirding Oaxaca. It's beautiful, fun, warm, and you will not be bored unless you want to be.

Just returned from a one-week food-based tour there via Mexican Culinary Traditions. (Highly recommend!!)

If you stay at Hotel Azul, they (and probably other places, but this is where we stayed and it was lovely) have many added activities you can book.
posted by haplesschild at 4:18 PM on December 11, 2023 [3 favorites]

I haven't been, but I've heard that Kuala Lumpur is worth a look. Sixth most visited destination in the world.
posted by ovvl at 5:44 PM on December 11, 2023

Seconding Australia. You have enough time to see a bit of it, I’d spend a few weeks going to Sydney or Melbourne, then after the big city/s maybe hit the Whitsundays, go over to the west coast and do Broome and down to Margaret River. The scenery is unlike anything else, it’s pretty mind blowing.
posted by Jubey at 12:53 AM on December 12, 2023

Best answer: I'd bet Chile would meet a lot of your asks. Santiago/Valparaíso in the center would be just fine, both for activities and for lounging in interesting urban envrionments. You could extend explorations to other areas in Chile as well.

If you're comfortable being in a primarily French-language environment, the island of Réunion is a spot you could consider. It's a French overseas department, way over in the Indian Ocean. Culture in the towns varies from Very French to Creole/rustic, scenery is occasionally jaw-droppingly beautiful. It's an "I had no idea this place was here" destination if you're an American. Downside: cyclone season is starting up in January, so timing might be something to consider.
posted by gimonca at 4:35 AM on December 12, 2023 [1 favorite]

Just a heads up, Chile is a fantastic place to visit, but if you are worried about sunburn, be very careful! It's near the summer solstice there, and the UV index in Santiago is topping out around 13. If you have fair skin, the projected burn time is just 13 minutes.
posted by Mournful Bagel Song at 9:22 AM on December 12, 2023

If you do decide to spend your holiday in Chile, please reach out and I can share the potential itineraries we put together for when my in-laws came to visit last year for 3 weeks. I'm not from Chile, but I've been living there for about two years and I agree that it would be a great place to visit.
posted by mkdirusername at 1:27 PM on December 12, 2023

Echoing the idea of Australia. It's not often you get enough time to not have to worry about spending pretty much a whole day travelling each way.

There's so much to see here and, whatever floats your boat, you can find it. Definitely include North Queensland (Cairns and up to Cape Tribulation) for some back-to-nature experiences, Sydney for the big city experience and Tasmania for some more rustic (and cooler) adventures. It's summer and some places are hot to very hot and humid, but I find that's less of an issue when on holiday rather than trying to deal with everyday life.

New Zealand is quite close and you have time to spend a few days there as well. You wouldn't need to make that a 'side trip', as there are plenty of flights between NZ and the US.

So, fly into Sydney, spend a week there, a few days in Tasmania, fly up to North Queensland for a week, then on to NZ for a week, then direct from there back to the US. Simple?
posted by dg at 2:15 PM on December 12, 2023

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