I’m in a weird spot right now, with a brand new chunk of vacation days for the year burning a hole in my pocket and only one trip currently booked. I’ve spent way too many evenings over the past few weeks looking into options, and now I’ve found myself in a situation where I have more places I want to go than I have time, money, and miles for. Since I can’t go everywhere, I’ll share my thoughts with you as inspiration while I make up my mind. At this point, your guess is as good as mine for where I end up this year.
February – Turkey
To be honest, February wouldn’t be my first choice for a trip to Turkey, but with airfares from Washington Dulles hovering in the $400-550 range depending on exact dates, I’d be willing to make the weather trade-offs. I’ve never been, but Istanbul looks to be a vibrant city with a ton to keep you occupied easily for days, even in winter. With more time, I’d be tempted to take advantage of cheap domestic airfare to also tour other parts of the country, though I’d be content with just Istanbul if it was all I had time for. Part of me really wants to go, even if it means a 10+ hour flight in coach only to turn around 48 hours later and fly home. Hmm…
March – Iceland
We’re at a solar maximum right now, which means the experts are claiming this is a great year to see the Northern Lights. I’ve always wanted to see the Aurora Borealis and I’m also really intrigued by the geothermic activity of this small country. Throw in the fact that the exchange rate makes prices more palatable (even if not exactly cheap) and it seems silly to not go to Iceland, especially given how short and easy the flight is from the east coast. Icelandair has some nicely priced packages this winter, though I’d probably piece it together myself in order to stay outside the city and increase my chances of seeing the Northern Lights. My plan would be to head south along the coast for the Golden Circle and tons of outdoor activities like ice climbing, snowmobiling, and even snorkeling.
April – Nicaragua
Spring is “green season” in Central America, but this is still early enough that you’re more likely to experience brief afternoon showers rather than all-day downpours. With this move into shoulder season, already-reasonable prices fall even lower and already-moderate amounts of tourists thin out even more. That sounds perfect to me! Since the country is fairly compact, it’s easy enough to see a decent portion of the country even in a week. I love Latin America and the combination of volcanoes, beaches, lakes, howler monkeys, colonial villages, and the friendly Nica culture is appealing to me.
May – Oregon
I can’t believe I haven’t yet been to Oregon. I know people who live in Portland, I loved everywhere else I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest, and I love to eat, drink, and be outside. I’ve made excuses against every opportunity to get out of there, but 2013 is the year of no excuses. Portland looks like a beautiful base station for wineries and the Columbia River Gorge, but it’s tempting to venture much further afield. Pacific Coast, Crater Lake, more of the Cascades? Watch out…this trip could easily turn into a two-week adventure even if it starts as a long weekend in my head.
June – Greek Isles
Poor Greece (no pun intended) isn’t getting as much attention as a tourist hotspot lately, which is unfortunate because the travel advisories are simply to exercise normal caution. The idea of an easy-going vacation sounds great to me, and the Greek Isles are a good way to blend seaside relaxation with a dose of culture and history. Since I like to cruise, it only seems logical to use that as a mode of transportation between islands, giving me the opportunity to check out several islands in a week. You’d be amazed at how many mediocre itineraries there are for cruises in the Greek isles, but Azamara has a few with long days in port – like 8am to midnight – and no days at sea, both of which are huge selling points to me.
July – Peru
I almost went to Peru in 2010, and then I got married instead. Ever since, I’ve regretted not doing both! I want to do the typical gringa trail, from Lima to Paracas & Islas Ballestas, Nazca, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca, and Cusco and the Sacred Valley. I also want to see the Amazon from Iquitos and the Cordilleras Blancas. It’s not going to happen, not on my timeframe, so I’ve got prioritizing to do for a trip down there. If I get there, compared to the other wonderful destinations on my list for this year. *sigh*
August – Kenya
Even though I have now stepped foot onto the African continent, my desire to see Africa still remains because, unfairly, when I think of an African vacation I think of safari. While the Big 5 is cool, I have my sights more set on the migration. Given the amount of ground that herds of animals cover, it’s safe to say that Kenya isn’t the only place where you could see this happen, but I love the thought of a bit of variety between the Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru, Samburu, Amboseli, and Tsavo areas. That’s too much for a week, so I’d still have to focus down a little, but having options is great and camping-based safaris are more affordable than I expected. All I need now is free airfare into Nairobi.
September – Slovenia
Rumor has it that this year’s family reunion will be held at Oktoberfest, which is a perfect landing point for where I really want to go this fall. I’d love to take the train from there into Slovenia for time at Lake Bled, the Julian Alps, and the Karst region. Everywhere looks downright beautiful and as a hiker, I just want to wander! From there I’d probably dip into neighboring Croatia to check out Plitvice National Park before flying home from charming Ljubljana. Unfortunately, I think my chances of this trip going to plan are slim…the other rumor floating around is that my husband would rather visit Prague and Budapest in conjunction with Munich, and it’s hard to say no to a worthy alternative!
October – China
Forget leaf-peeping in New England. Been there, done that (and admittedly it’s beautiful) – but now I want a totally different set of fall colors. If you’ve ever seen photos of Jiuzhaigou in the fall, you’ll understand why I want to go there. It’s downright gorgeous and I wouldn’t mind seeing Huanglong National Park while I’m in the neighborhood. No, it’s not exactly the typical location first-time visitors to China choose, but I’m a sucker for scenery! From there, I’d love to see Emei Shan the old-fashioned way: by climbing up the mountain’s many stairs and sleeping at monasteries along the way. I’d stop at Leshan before returning to Chengdu for hot pot, tea, opera, and a much-needed foot massage after climbing something like a trillion steps (I’ll pass on the pandas). Just remind me to skip the first week of October when the country’s on national holiday.
November – India
Admittedly, I started looking into India because I saw cheap airfare and I knew it would be affordable once I got on the ground. I had no idea just how many places sounded interesting to me until I really started reading. However, for a first trip, I feel the need to see the cliche Golden Triangle with visits to New Delhi, Jaipur, and Agra. Since I think the crowds and touts would start to wear on me, I’d sneak a few days in the middle for Ranthambore and Bharatpur. The change of pace from hectic tourist centers to wildlife watching would be a great way to re-energize and get ready for the second half of the trip. Besides, once you fly to the other side of the world, why wouldn’t you take a few side trips by road?
December – Patagonia
For the most part, my husband and I are on the same page for which types of travel sound fun. In this case, we agree on the big picture but disagree on the little picture. He says Argentina, for El Calafate, El Chalten, Perito Moreno and finishing with a few wineries in Mendoza. I say just across the border in Chile, for Torres del Paine National Park and my bucket list item of the W Circuit before a few wineries outside of Santiago. What we both agree on is that there isn’t time for both and choosing just one now is a good excuse to return to this region in the future. Either way, some mountain air, long days outside, and a few glaciers and lakes sounds just right.
Despite all these great places to go, I’ll have to do some prioritizing on which destinations win and which do not make this year’s cut. Anyone have votes for someplace in particular?