NPF: BEST TRIP

Audience participation time. In an effort to give myself some reasons to live, I'm trying to plan some vacations for the medium-term future. Tell me about the best vacation you've ever taken. The best place you've ever been.

It doesn't matter if it counts as a practical suggestion – I can't afford your $25,000 grand tour of Europe but I'm sure we would all enjoy reading about it anyway. Similarly, I'm the "sleep in hostels and eat on $2/day" type but your Fancy Pants hotel experiences are still fun to read about. If you had to do your life over again and could only keep one of the trips you've taken, which one would it be?

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115 Responses to “NPF: BEST TRIP”

  1. negative 1 Says:

    Mrs. Negative and I went to Nova Scotia for our honeymoon. We loved it, and since we were dirt poor I can vouch you can do it on the cheap. Tons of outdoorsy stuff to do, CBC hockey and we discovered the town of Grand Pre which is a cool little college town. Make sure you hit up Kejimkujik National Park if you go.

  2. graam Says:

    Machu Pichu.

  3. Anubis Bard Says:

    The Hurtigruten is a fleet of coastal mailships that run from Bergen to Kirkenes (up just shy of the Russian border) and then back again – taking 11 days. In 1986, which is when I did it, you could buy a 3 week pass – I have no idea if that's still the case. You could hop off at any town and then catch the next one through in 24 hours – or pick up the one going in the opposite direction. True, on ship at night it meant throwing down a sleeping bag in the lounge or on deck, but I was 21 years old and didn't care. Nowadays, I might rent the cabin, but I'd miss that freedom to jump off in Hammerfest for the day or hitchhike around the Lofoten Islands. It's a spectacular trip if you want to see great arctic mountain ranges drowned by the sea.

  4. Walter Biggins Says:

    Back in June 2003, I took a sleeper-car train from Jackson, MS, to Toronto, for a 2-week vacation. Train travel, I'm convinced, is the best way to see a country other than on foot, and the terrain gliding by gave me a lot of time & mental room for meditation. Now, Toronto in June is about the ideal time to go–not particularly hot during the day, cool at night, sun goes down around 9:30-10pm. A vivid, gorgeous, pedestrian-friendly city with loads of museums, odd culture, pretty parks, beautiful women, interestingly dressed men (and dogs), I found it a waking dream. Maybe I was just lonely & eager to be mesmerized. I stayed on campus for $25/night, basically across from the Royal Ontario Museum and near a number of train lines.

    Four years later, I went back, for the Toronto Film Festival, which was marvelous but involved seeing 20 films in 5 days–a trip that was paced differently but equally enjoyable.

  5. Chris Gerrib Says:

    Three driving vacations come to mind. The first was driving from Chicago to Niagara Falls. I recommend staying on the Canadian side, and in winter you can still see the falls but prices aren't as high and no kids. I also stopped on the way back in Detroit and spent a day at the Henry Ford Museum.

    The second was when I flew* out to Albuquerque New Mexico, rented a car and drove to Las Vegas. I hit the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Santa Fe and Los Alamos on the way.

    Lastly, another fly-and-drive trip. Flew* in to Sacramento, drove north to Crater Lake National Park and then south to Redwoods National. Really nice scenery.

    * Southwest has some pretty cheap flights out of Chicago or Indy.

  6. jon Says:

    I spent three weeks in Paris. Saw most of the museums and stayed at the Grand Hotel du Loiret on Bad Boy Row (Rue de Mauvais Garcons) next to some reasonable Italian restaurants and the loudest gay bar ever created (which played The Macarena every night many times.) Fantastic time. Cheap hotel, lots of things to see, not very expensive other than the hotel, and had a blast knowing hardly any French. (My ex was good at speaking the French to the point where people who knew we were tourists asked if we were German, which I guess isn't entirely bad even in France.) The Catacombes, Picasso's house, Rodin, Napoleon's insane gravesite, and three days in the Louvre (should have skipped the gilded furniture wing in its entirety) gave us a great time.

    Also recommend sleeping under those enormous Redwoods in Northern California at least once. If you ever want to feel small in this world, that's the way to do it. Highway One along that stretch might make any passenger in your car want to throw up, but for drivers it can't be beaten.

    Scotland is wonderful. I would go there instead of Ireland, which aside from Dublin is like the backwoods of nowhere. If you like prehistoric Druid sites, Ireland is awesome. But if you just want to see hills and green and get drunk, Scotland is better.

    Don't go to Phoenix.

  7. swkellogg Says:

    Forgive the disorganization of the following/rambling post.

    Spent about two weeks in New Mexico at one point, You can see the standard tursita fare like Santa Fe, which has it's nice points, but is kind of pricey. There's Silver City if you want the little boutique mixed with mining town experience . Pinos Altos, nearby has some cute little cabins with amenities you can stay in, and has a swinging door saloon with good food and decent beer (a rarity in those parts). Right up the road is the Gila National Forest, which has good camping and is a stone's throw from Geronimo's birthplace and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Mongollon is a semi-occupied (and somewhat difficult to access )ghost town (where Victoria killed a bunch of miners) you can sleep in the restored hotel on weekends and there's good hiking nearby. Lincoln county — which is huge — is a must see. The drive up from Las Cruces to Ruidoso (near Sierra Blanca) is truly beautiful at the right time of the year. There really is really a lot more (Carlsbad (yeah it's hokey but still cool — the bat flight is worth it)), City of Rocks, White Sands etc. You can skip Roswell, unless you find that ET crap amusing (the Goddard museum was a little dull) and Alomogordo is a hole, but the space museum was cool. You can walk the Trinity site if you plan ahead blah, blah, blah — Buffalo Soldiers, Billy the Kid/Pat Garrett, Lincoln county wars.

    My point is there's a lot to see if you're the outdoor or not so out door type, BUT you have to look carefully because a lot of it is not in plain view and is hidden amongst stuff that can be downright ugly.

  8. Captain Whitey Says:

    Yes, the wife and I are rich by any reasonable standard, and are both experienced sailors. And yes, I am fully aware that what I am about to write is beyond mockable. Nevertheless, the best vacation you can possibly take in terms of adventure, relaxation, interest and fun per dollar spent is chartering a sailboat. You can do it almost anywhere there is water, wind and a few decent places to tie up or drop anchor for the night. You can choose a populated area with lots of cultural interest (e.g. the Mediterranean), utter solitude and breathtaking scenery (Baja, the Great Lakes), tropical or temperate, etc. You have freedom of movement (within bounds set by the slow speed of a cruising sailboat), but carry your hotel room, bathroom and kitchen wherever you go. Can't sail? You can get a crewed boat, or a power boat. Costs vary greatly by location, but can be controlled by going in the low season, getting the smallest boat on offer, going as a group with friends, etc. Intimidating for obvious reasons, but not nearly as out of reach as some might assume.

  9. Andrew Says:

    I really enjoyed Newfoundland in July 2000. I flew Air Canada and/or its partner airlines from San Francisco to Toronto, then from Toronto to Halifax, Nova Scotia, then from Halifax to Sydney, Nova Scotia, where I rented a car, spent the night, and drove on to a high-speed ferry the next morning bound for Channel-Port Aux Basques in the southwest corner of Newfoundland. The ferry took about three hours and arrived in the early afternoon (counting the 30-minute time change).

    I headed up Trans Canada Highway 1 in a northerly direction, nothing but a ribbon of straight (but undulating) two-lane highway, with bagpipe music on the radio. After an ill-advised "Mexican" lunch in Stephenville, I pressed on to Deer Lake, where I made a spontaneous decision to hang a left and head for the Northern Peninsula via Gros Morne National Park. It is impossible to describe how beautiful the scenery in this area is, and there are very few people and cars to disturb your enjoyment of it. My plan was to find a hotel by nightfall, but that was not meant to be, and I found myself driving along a two-lane highway lit only by my headlights, while pounding surf crashed against the rocks about 10 feet to the left of my car door. At some point the solitude (awesome) turned into isolation (less awesome), but thankfully I found spartan lodgings in a coastside village known as Daniel's Harbor.

    The next morning I continued north up Highway 430, determined to visit L'Anse-aux-Meadows, the UNESCO World Heritage site at the tip of the NP where Vikings first landed in North America around 1097 AD. I got there that afternoon. It was pretty cool. This was pre-digital photography, but I'm sure I have snaps somewhere. During the entire six hour drive from Deer Lake to L'Anse-aux-Meadows, I did not see a single traffic signal. I did, however, see what appeared to be someone riding a horse in the middle of the road. As I slowed down and approached, I realized the horse had no rider. As I got even closer, I realized the horse was a moose. Newfoundland leads Canada in moose-vehicle collisions per capita, so I was glad to have avoided one. This remains the only time in my 49 years that I have ever seen a moose in the wild. It disappeared into the woods.

    On the way back down the NP, this time in daylight (it stays light until 11pm in summer), with the crashing Atlantic surf to the right of my car, I found a room at one of the hotels that had been full the night before. As I was still on Pacific time, I tended to stay up late, reading and watching TV (the local dish company's Fox feed was from LA, so new Sunday episodes of the Simpsons came on at 12:30am).

    The next morning, I drove back to Deer Lake and continued east on Highway 1. I stopped by the picturesque island of Twillingate, then wound up spending the night in Lewisporte. The next day I headed east with a brief stop in Gander, once a popular refueling stop for transatlantic flights. Little did I know that this tiny town would become famous about a year later for graciously hosting stranded US-bound passengers on 9/11. Next I headed out to Cape Bonavista, where Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto (known to Canadians as John Cabot), famed for being the first non-Viking to visit North America is thought to have landed, having set out from Bristol on the Matthew with 16 men in 1497. A replica of the ship is on display in Bonavista Harbor. As I was sitting on the edge of the world, thinking about how brave and foolish someone had to be to set out across a roiling ocean in a sailboat with absolutely no way of conveying a message home and no reasonable assurance that he would ever return, my cell phone rang. It was my fiancee, Amy, calling from California. The contrast between then and now was quite surreal.

    On the way out of Bonavista, I had CBC Radio on, and I listened to Miriam Toews reading from her latest novel, "A Boy of Good Breeding." I was completely hooked and have now read everything she has ever written, before and since. So that was a serendipitous find. After an obligatory detour to the town of Dildo, I drove into the provincial capital, St. John's, and spent my first night there in the easternmost hotel in North America. Having grown up in an old, shabby port city (Portland, Maine), I felt right at home. The next morning, I drove to the top of Signal Hill, where Guglielmo Marconi sent (or received, or both, I forget) the first transatlantic radio signal. From there, I had a commanding view of St. John's harbor, where Sir Humphrey Gilbert, in 1583, landed and took possession of everything 200 leagues to the north and south in the name of Queen Elizabeth I, thus birthing the British Empire.

    The next morning, I got up really, really early and drove out to Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America, where I sat near the lighthouse and saw the sun rise before anyone else on the continent saw it that day. No one else was around. Later that day, I drove south along Highway 13 for about an hour to the town of Bay Bulls, where I set out on a whale (and puffin!) watching tour with O'Brien's Whale and Boat Tours. The Avalon Peninsula, which was settled by Irish Catholics, who remain the largest ethnic group, is the most populous part of "the Rock" (Newfoundland got that nickname by having less arable land than any other Canadian province, including tiny Prince Edward Island). It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon as we pulled out of port, with the ship's sound system playing "Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary's" by The Irish Descendants. We saw tons of whales, even more puffins, and lots of gorgeous scenery, but when the captain cut the engines, I thought I was going to hurl. Thankfully, I didn't, and we returned safely to port.

    After a couple of days in St. John's, I drove to Argentia (about an hour west), where I had a reservation on the 15-hour car ferry back to Sydney, Nova Scotia. I spent the night at the same Day's Inn I had spent my first night in, then had a nice lobster dinner the next day and boarded a flight for Halifax, then Toronto, then home. My fiancee insisted on meeting me at the airport despite the inconvenience, because she's just that awesome. We married the following year and have been together ever since.

    Next year is my 50 birthday, and my wife and I are planning a special trip. We're thinking about Iceland, but I'm tempted to take her to Newfoundland because it was far and away the best trip I have ever taken. Unfortunately, unless you like fish and chips, you'll find the food underwhelming and overpriced, because just about everything comes from somewhere else. That's why I haven't mentioned much about food, which is atypical for my travel writing.

  10. LK Says:

    New Zealand, hands down.

    I had a great time in Nepal (Everest region, 28 days in the mountains out of 31 total travel time, 18 of those above 14,000ft.) and nice vacations in Italy, Prague, Paris, London and more, but NZ is the ultimate winner.

    I had ten weeks, traveling alone, and more money than your average backpacker but not enough to justify "luxury". I mostly stayed at hostels when I wasn't on a trek, and mostly bought food at the supermarket and prepared it in the common room (or on my gas stove in the huts), but every now and then I met people with whom I shared a "sortie" (restaurant, bar, movie, hangy, whatever). The major parks are all recommended, and if you're capable of walking more than a mile at a time most of the treks are great (you can find the lists everywhere on the web). I enjoyed Christchurch as a town much more than I expected (and Wellington much less), and had a great time sea-kayaking in the Fyordland sounds and elsewhere, scuba diving in the Bay of Islands up north (the trip to Cape Reinga is a day of concentrated enjoyment), watching whales and dolphins wherever I could find them, and climbing up and down volcanoes. I was also lucky to be there when the first LotR movie was released, but today they have much of those places organized almost as theme parks.
    Bottom line: best scenery in the world, everything is close to everything else (contrast that with Australia, US or even Europe), people are nice and friendly, everyone speaks English, and much of the "extreme" stuff is not at all extreme but actually great fun.

  11. tas121790 Says:

    Im currently backpacking, im coming up on 6 months so far and ive spent about 12000. I did 5 months in Europe, Iceland, the UK and Morocco. Now im in Thailand.

    Use skyscanner and see when you can get cheap lights to Europe. From New York, London and Oslo are some of the cheapest cities to fly into. (im not joking, as low as 250 bucks to Oslo and 300 to London) Once in Europe use RyanAir or one of the other budget airlines if you want to skip over large areas. Train or buses for shorter distances. Each country usually has their own bus companies (MeinFern Bus for Germany. Mega bus for the UK, also can toke it to Paris and Amsterdam from London. Ecolines for the Baltics, NettBuss for Sweden and Norway.)

    Surprisingly, The Baltics great. Tallinn is one of my favorite cities. They're cheap, the hostels are great and they're full of history. And yes, im including Latvia in that. The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is a great museum and Riga is FULL of Art Nouveau architecture as well as Soviet architecture.

    Depending on how much time you have and if you are interested in SouthEast Asia. Once you're in Europe, from Oslo you can get to Bangkok for around 300 US. Once your here you wont spend much at all. Hostels are around 10 bucks a night and decent hotels for 20-30.

    BTW youll never again bitch about how cramped the airplanes are in the US once you take RyanAir.

  12. Leslee Beldotti Says:

    My husband and I spent a week in Amsterdam. And no, I don't smoke or drink.

    We rented a nice, but inexpensive, apartment via AirBnB that was within walking distance of the tram. Transportation throughout the city was amazingly easy.

    Aside from visiting the van Gogh and Rijksmuseum, I also insisted upon dragging my husband through every nook and cranny of the red light district. Amusingly enough, more of them waved and winked at ME than at him. Go figure…

  13. Khaled Says:

    I loved Vancouver, it's a great scenic city with lots to do, and cheaper than flying to Europe (or Brazil).

  14. Everett Says:

    I'll second the mentions of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Beautiful, amazing places. If you're into camping, the provincial parks are just superb. My wife and I took a two week trip up there after I finished the bar exam in 2004. We split our time between camping and various inns we identified online. Go in June-August and the weather is almost certain to be excellent. The Glenora Distillery is fantastic, you can't beat the blue-berry picking in all the many public parks, the fish is delicious, etc. You can certainly do this sort of trip on your budget, and the Porsche would make the drive fun, too.

    I recommend watching "Trailer Park Boys" prior to departure.

  15. Arslan Says:

    I generally like Istanbul, but probably my best vacation was to Beijing and Shanghai.

    The thing is that I guess it depends on what you look for in a vacation destination. If you want night life and cheap beer, it's definitely Prague, for example. For history I recommend Istanbul, Vienna, or Beijing.

  16. hackenbush Says:

    Going to Guatemala, specifically Quetzaltenango (colloquially referred to by its Qui'che name as "Xela", pronounced "shay-la") was a great inexpensive "vacation". They have a number of immersive programs set up to help you learn Spanish, which help both the host families you'd stay with and the educational organizations who organize the trips. The people are very nice, and the food (assuming that you eat what the locals eat, and don't go for tourist trap places) is both inexpensive and delicious. The biggest pain about the whole thing, honestly, is the seven hour bus ride down CA-1 to get there from the airport in Guatemala City. It's stunningly beautiful, and was eye-opening for me to see how people outside of the United States live.

    A week there, including a round trip plane ticket, would cost you under a thousand dollars, IIRC.

  17. rob Says:

    tour.

  18. Richard Anderson Says:

    I did the European hostel/B&B/Eurailpass thing back in '83, when I was 28. My hostel experience was mixed — some were filled during my stay with hyperactive adolescents who wanted no sleep, but others offered conviviality and interesting people. Traveling on the cheap, I invariably met others my age doing the same, and invariably they would become companions for a day, a weekend, a week. And really, it was the people who made the trip — the Venetian who had been a POW in the states during the war, who struck up a conversation on a water taxi; the Irishman who gave several of us hitchhiking a lift, and who traveled far from his desired path as we kept treating him to pints at pubs on our way to Dublin; another "Irishman" on the ferry crossing the Channel from France, who, with oddly accented, poor English, said he had been fighting in North Africa with the Spanish Foreign Legion and was returning "home" (this during the time of IRA activity); the young Danish cousins, sharing a room with us in a pension in Venice, who had impeccable diction and pressed pajamas; the Belgians at the hostel in Namur who had never eaten popcorn with butter and salt (and I, in turn, had never had fries with mayonnaise); the extraordinary anomaly of a stuck-up Australian, and his many countrymen and women who, in contrast, were just terrific fun to hang out with; the cute girl from Ohio; another from Toronto; the editor from New York, on the train to Venice, who I was too clueless to realize was on the make. God, it was a wonderful trip….

  19. James Hare Says:

    Vancouver, Canada — my wife (she was the girlfriend back then) got us free tickets through her work as a travel agent. British Columbia is absolutely the most gorgeous place I've ever been. Vancouver is an awesome city with loads to do and it's incredibly easy to get around. We rented a car and ended up only actually using it twice because mass transit was so much better. We didn't really make plans and ended up just doing whatever struck us while we were there. Grouse Mountain has some awesome hikes and there's just so much going on in Vancouver on a daily basis that it's impossible to be bored.

  20. Dave Dell Says:

    Pagosa Springs, CO

  21. verbal Says:

    You should go to a Costa Rican sloth sanctuary.

    YOU CAN PET SLOTHS.

  22. Matt Says:

    Bellmont Washington to Haines Alaska on the inland ferry you can camp with tent on the rear deck showers and on boat cafe. The rear deck is covered and heated beautiful trip
    Stop and get off at multiple towns and catch the next ferry

  23. fastEddie Says:

    Southern Utah – Moab. Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce & Zion national parks. River Rafting and hiking. As different from Central Illinois as Mars.

  24. Chicagojon Says:

    [thread hijack]
    Damnit Ed – apply for the Semester at Sea. By all accounts you have the professorial qualifications, are more worldly than most, would love the travel, wouldn't fraternize inappropriately with the students (not for wont (*boom* – that's a shot)), & other than the soul crushing of teaching rich kids while they're undergoing a "life changing experience" that won't change most of them in any way I know you'd love it.

    https://ise.simplehire.com/applicants/jsp/shared/frameset/Frameset.jsp?time=1417819148847
    https://ise.simplehire.com/applicants/jsp/shared/frameset/Frameset.jsp?time=1417819148847
    [\hijack]

  25. Talisker Says:

    Isle of Skye, Scotland. Stark rocky landscape, warm friendly people, and very fine whisky.

  26. kaba Says:

    I like warm/hot and one of my favorites is Key West – Off Season and in particular in the fall between Sept and early Nov. Don't like the place as much in high-season. But off-season the weather is still warm and you are at the tail-end of hurricane season, but generally there are just showers that come through quickly. We have rented bikes at the start of the visit and use them almost exclusively (which I would never do in high-season). It is great riding around the streets of Old Town, late at night, a bit buzzed with little to no traffic. Usually get a place with a kitchenette so you don't have to eat out all of the time. Yes, you can do high-end there, but there are also lots of cheaper options. Plus, you experience all walks of life. Locals are friendly, especially in off-season. Doesn't really feel like anywhere else in the US.

  27. Nunya Says:

    I'd recommend the Puerto Montt to Bariloche trip in Southern Chile:

    http://www.visitchile.cl/crucedelagos2.htm

    It's relatively cheap and you will never see more beautiful scenery.

    Also, if you're into Wine and Pisco, you can pretty much drink 24/7 without a sideways glance.

    The locals are friendly, it's safe and the Chilenas are into gringos. You may just feel exotic for the first time in your life.

  28. Nunya Says:

    I'll second Captain Whitey's recommendation. Chartering a sailboat is actually pretty cheap if you get enough people to join you. I've been doing it since I was a broke 20-something.

  29. Andrew Says:

    I've had a spectacular time in Portugal. Great food, good public infrastructure for getting around without a car conveniently, and the various parts of the country all offer something a little different, but it's small enough to travel the length and breadth of it in a week if you really wanted to. Sintra in particular is awesome.

  30. Andrew Says:

    Oh, and tons of history and cool stuff to look at.

  31. Dan E Says:

    In January of 1999, my cousin, his childhood friend and I took a two week trip to Hong Kong. This was the final year that Hong Kong was under British control. Given the protests there lately it probably has a very different feel to it. At the time, I was in my final year of college and had zero money. My cousin's wife gave me her Northwest Airlines frequent flier miles. We rented a room off Kowloon Rd on the mainland and ate plenty of meals from grocery stores. The place we rented was called "Thomas Tang's Rent-a-Room" and there was a shared bathroom at the end of the hall. The bathroom had a tiny water heater you could turn on about ten minutes before you wanted to take a shower. Thomas also allowed guests to check e-mail, which you did from his personal kitchen on an old PC running Windows NT Server. It was slow as shit, but at least gave us a chance to write mash notes to our girlfriends back in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

    The great part of the trip was that my cousin and his friend Paul were so low-key. We would typically part ways in the morning and meet up after lunch to do something together. I did a lot of walking around and just looking at architecture and shops. We did a boat tour to Macau and visited a Buddhist temple and saw all of the sights of Hong Kong. Being a college student, I could get by on very little and a splurge was stopping into a 7-11 to buy a Coke. Beyond going to Mexico for spring break, this was my first big international trip and I just remember my senses going crazy from all the different sights, sounds and smells. That trip instilled a love of seeing new places and of traveling. Makes me want to go dig up my photo album and browse through it again.

  32. Skipper Says:

    Montreal. Closest you can get to Europe without leaving North America. Can get some good bargains. And the exchange rate is in your favor right now.

  33. sluggo Says:

    I hear Peoria is nice.

  34. sluggo Says:

    Sorry. I am just a complete jerk.

  35. Joe Bauers Says:

    My wife and I went to Maui in November 2000. She worked for United Airlines in the days when the right to "fly standby" meant something, in that not every flight was hopelessly oversold and took off completely full. We didn't know for sure we'd get there, since she was a very junior employee and seniority determined who got the unsold seats. If we'd had to pay for the flight, we'd have never been able to afford it at the time.

    We flew to Los Angeles the night before since the first flights out of LA the next morning were the most promising to get to "anywhere in Hawaii", way better than any direct flight from Chicago. We got up at 4 AM on 3 hours sleep to go to the airport and actually got seated on a flight to Maui, and she struck up a conversation with the guy seated on the other side of her, a United pilot traveling to Maui with his family. But the flight was delayed, and a paying passenger who was running late got on board and was going to bump us. The pilot she was talking to saw what was about to happen and volunteered to sit in the uncomfortable cockpit jump seat (which only pilots are allowed to do) for the 5 hour flight so that paying passenger could get his seat and we wouldn't get bumped. So we made it to Maui.

    It was heaven. We scored an oceanfront condo in a new building, again with an airline employee discount. The weather was perfect. The beach was perfect. The rented convertible was perfect. My favorite picture of me that has ever been taken, she shot from the passenger seat of the car. I'm smiling, which is unusual. The sky is perfectly blue and a mountain is in the background. We spent five days there and I don’t expect that I'll ever top that experience. Fantastic natural beauty, facilitated by the kindness of a stranger.

  36. HelloRochester Says:

    In 1998 I ended up spending a whole week in Barcelona only because the Paris museum union was on strike. I stayed in a hostel called Hotel Kabul ( can you imagine now? ). I made friends with adorable Latina twins from Florida who were being courted by 6 Portugese guys who were business students at a college in town. They were really nice guys and took us all to a house party at a squat near Parc Guell where a bunch of communists gave away food, had live music and sold fat joints for 50 centavos. These guys also took us to an absinthe bar that had been open continuously for 600years. I got a sunburn on my dick. I ate fresh octopus. I smoked enough hash with an Israeli soldier that I lost my hearing for 4 hours. I ate figs and manchego cheese every day. It was unfucking real.

  37. Skepticalist Says:

    Time travel from western NY to San Francisco and the area in 1966 for two weeks. My friend thought I was there to see him in Oakland. Probably still does.

    What a different world then and free drinks on the plane when we lost an engine on the way. Being 20 I loved every minute of it.

  38. Fretless Says:

    Probably a thing of the past, but in the early 90s as a college student I went with my mom in her VW Golf hatchback with a tent and sleeping bags from Wisconsin to Portland, Oregon for a convention she was attending. Even though she drove me nuts by the end, it was the first time I'd seen the Badlands, the Devil's Tower, Yellowstone, Wall Drug, Mt. Rushmore, etc. and realized that you could see some beautiful stuff with just your car and five bucks to stick in the slot before claiming a camp site. Reading on the banks of the Shoshone river on a summer evening is one of my best memories.

  39. Mark Says:

    Go to San Antonio Texas. Visit the Alamo Shrine and learn about Texas' Independence from Mexico. (be sure to remove your hat when entering) Visit the River Walk and go to Dirty Nelly's pub and enjoy the sing-a-long. Have some great Tex-Mex at the Original Mexican Restaurant on the River Walk. Go to the top of the Tower of Americas for lunch. Your welcome.

  40. Major Kong Says:

    I've been very fortunate and had some great trips:

    France is great, especially Provence. Paris is also magical.

    I was surprised by Stockholm. I didn't expect to like it but fell in love with the place. I expected a bunch of grim, Soviet-style apartment blocks but it was nothing like that.

    Istanbul was also incredible. So much history there.

    Budapest was beautiful. Cold as all get out but beautiful.

    Iceland is pretty amazing and not many people go there.

    If you want to limit it to North America, any of the major Canadian cities are worth visiting.

  41. Heidi B. Says:

    Get away from it all: camping at Crater Lake, Oregon is gorgeous! Bring mosquito repellent and something juicy to read. Then you can go to Portland for its funky vibe.

  42. Huey Says:

    You didn't specify, so I'll give you two answers:

    A week on Cape Breton Island NS with the first wife was the best vacation I've taken with somebody else.

    A week sitting in sidewalk cafes, drinking gin and eating local food in the piazza in Vicenza Italy was the best vacation I've taken by myself.

  43. Matt Says:

    You're in IL. Go to Leelanau County, MI. Trust me – if you go to the right spots, it's dope. Let me know if you want more info.

  44. Schmitt trigger Says:

    Like RichardAnderson, I did Europe very inexpensively in '79, which meant spending about $14/day, like the famous Frommer's guide advised.
    Mind you, those fourteen buck included all meals, lodgings, local transportation, and visiting the sights.
    40 days thru 9 countries that way.
    The airfare itself was also very inexpensive. You would go to one major US east coast airport, register in Standby, and wait. They would page the standby passengers: Two seats available for Paris, 3 for Frankfurt, 2 for Amsterdam. If one had pre purchased an EurailPass, one could start the journey from anywhere.

  45. Kevin Says:

    you are near Minnesota.. .find someone to take a canoe trip with.. like a week or ten days .. you pack all your stuff in a canoe and cross over lakes.. and then carry it to the next one.

    I have never done it.. but you need bug spray! can't cost that much.

  46. Kevin Says:

    oh but fool around with this site…

    http://moments-travel.vacationport.net/default.asp?sid=27970&pid=43598

    search on Thursday for a trip on Friday.. to an all inclusive beach resort. or plan something more elaborate.

  47. PhoenixRising Says:

    Hawaii. The big island, kona side.

    We rented a smallish house, put 7 people in it, and had great snorkeling options both out the door & down the road. Bikes were key–there is nowhere to park in HI as far as I can tell.

    I can't send you to visit my high school friend in Hana–she married a surfboard-maker-so it's hard to recommend Maui. It's condo-heavy.

    If I were doing it alone, I would fly San Jose to Maui, transfer to one of the little rental rooms in Molokai, and lay in the black sand for as many days as my budget permitted. Taking breaks to get a cold beer and snorkel.

  48. Matt Says:

    Slightly surprised no one's mentioned Asia (I think?). Flights might be expensive, though. I'm in Bali now, and was here a few years ago. It's half hideous result of unbridled development and graft run amok, and half easy, peaceful, beautiful land of magic and wonder. Still the "island of the gods" with all of the traffic. But you could go elsewhere in the country, take boat rides, stay cheap, eat delicious food for $1/meal or less. The usual. Plus you can take a sub-$100 flight to many places in the area, including Malaysia, which might have the best food in the world. (I like food a lot). It's a bit rough, and a bit of a culture shock, but who wants to live in a bubble, right?

  49. ohioyoyo Says:

    My wife found a perfect spot in Jamaica, a two hour ride from Mo.Bay. Rented a room adjoining the home of a cool Rasta man. We were practically adopted by his extended family. Nice little town with a few shops and restaurants. a short walk down the shore to a perfect sand bay where open boats go out in the morning and come back with fish and crabs and lobsters. Found a guy who cooked us a gourmet meal on an open fire behind a little beach bar. Everyone we met was friendly and kind, just living with real people.
    That's for January. In July take a sailboat to Leelanau County!

  50. Champs mom Says:

    Most awesome, Thailand, from Pattayah to Bangkok to Chiangmai Mai to Mah Hong San ( forgive spelling ), an amazing place. We saw caverns with giant
    Koi supervised by a Bhuddist monk, a red light district where all the working girls were boys, children sleeping underneath their sewing machines in open shops, elephants, a retired opera singer and hostel owner singing for his guests at a breakfast of garlic soup in a high mountain pass, Aussies – love 'em.

    Most relaxing, Costa Rica, you can get by with little or no Spanish, saw a sloth and a bright green bug so big you could hear his footfalls as he walked.

    Most fun, New Orleans, be sure to go to Baton Rouge and environs for the real deal, food-wise.

    But it's all about the people. For lasting memories, visit friends and relatives, wherever they are.

  51. Terri Says:

    Mark, I used to live in San Antonio, TX. You just described my old weekends, especially Durty Nelly's. Just for the love of all that is holy, DO NOT feed those goddamned pigeons.

  52. Terri Says:

    Go to Ireland, rent a car with a GPS, pick a destination, and let the GPS tell you how to get there. Trust that it knows more than you do. We ended up going entirely off major highways, down tiny little one-lane roads, along cow paths. We saw some of the most amazingly fresh, beautiful countryside imaginable. We stopped in farmhouses that offered lunch and had sandwiches made with beautiful homemade cheese, while looking at the Connemara mountains in the distance. We trekked through pastures to look at standing stones (mind the cow patties), through tiny but strangely elaborate graveyards, and–oh, look! Here's a chunk of ruin just off the side of the road! Time to climb. If you really want to experience silence, book a B&B and go across the Galway Bay to the Aran Islands. During the day it's one thing, but at night? It's you and the stars, staring at each other from a tiny little fingertip of granite somewhere in the North Atlantic.

    Or, got to Italy and eat your way through the countryside. We had wine and pasta with just about every meal (breakfast excluded), and still came home a few pounds lighter because we walked EVERYWHERE. Get some of the best pizza you'll ever have, a few blocks away from the Vatican. When in Florence, eat pasta with wild boar ragu. Don't go to Venice for the food, though, just go for the visuals. Wander into a neighborhood party complete with a four-piece brass band. Find the bar on the cover of the Traffic album "Welcome to the Canteen". It looks exactly the same. Check out the architecture. Tell me if you don't feel buildings sway with the tide.

    I'm not sure which of these vacations I would want to live without. Glad I don't have to make that choice.

  53. Megan H. Says:

    Many folks have suggested Canadian destinations, but I'm surprised no one has mentioned our neighbor to the south. One of the best holidays I've ever taken was to Mexico City, nearly a decade ago. The city is dense, yet beautiful, and the museums, history (contemporary and ancient), and food kept us busy for the ten days we were there. I learned a tremendous amount on that trip, much of which I was embarrassed I hadn't learned before. Though I only know ~20 words of Spanish, I was able to get around with no hassle whatsoever (if my Spanish was better I'd have learned a great deal more). The subway system is the world's third largest and the cheapest. Hostels, grocery stores, and street food are plentiful and cheap. Flights are also really reasonable.

    If you ever want to give East Africa a try, let me know and I'll give you all kinds of suggestions. Better yet, plan a trip for when I'll be leading a study abroad program in Tanzania and I can show you around!

  54. Misterben Says:

    Portugal and Spain are fantastic, low-key, high-hospitality places to visit. Portugal has a network of old castles and things that they've converted into hotels and hostels. Amazing experience.

    If you're just looking for a weekend getaway: try Pittsburgh, where a bunch of your fans live, and pay for NOTHING.

  55. eau Says:

    I'm with LK. New Zealand. If you can afford it, it has all the best bits of east coast Australia and west coast US/ Canada (with far fewer people, which I get the impression you, ed, might appreciate). British Columbia is great, but you need toget out of Vancouver. The drive up to Banff is stunning (but nothing on what South Island NZ has to offer). The kiwis are a fucking champion people, too. Pretty much what Australians like to believe we are, but are not.

    Cheaper option: Cambodia. You can geek out over the temples and a-what-not in siem reap, get some sun on your choice of the islands (try googling 'lazy beach, Cambodia'), check out some future Asia eating away at euro-colonial past in Phnom Penh (with bonus astounding/horrifying modern history), and it is still quite cheap. Beautiful, sleepy Laos is right next door, too. And Thailand. Glorious, contradictory, crazy Thailand.

    Fuck. Now I want to go back to SE Asia.

  56. eau Says:

    The yucatan was a favourite too, now that I think of it. Just avoid the spring break region and it's all good! Tulum, Merida, izamal, chitchen itza…. Damn, want to go back to Mexico, too.

  57. Qalim Cromer Says:

    I spent some time getting to know the nooks and crannies of Honduras. I think it is a beautiful place, made more so by the realities for poverty, crime, and country turned to shit by the modern global economy.

    Benefits:
    Cheap
    As beautiful as Costa Rica
    Food is really good (surprise)
    Get the Gringo Arab Billionare Prince Treatment

    Risks
    AIDS/Milaria/Dengue
    Crime

  58. skwerlhugger Says:

    Mtn bike (mostly, not entirely paved roads) from Auckland to tip of south island, NZ. Hostels and some roadside camping (which I otherwise disliked as scary and stressful). Just looked at a map each morning and picked a road to start on. Long time ago, doubt it's the same any more after the movies. Basic rule of thumb: the best trips were always the least planned. YMMV.

  59. skwerlhugger Says:

    More important rule of thumb: it's the travel, not the destination. The best trips were spent mostly in places that never made it in the guidebooks, and had no bragging rights back home. You know, Peoria. Except someplace where there's a variety of jerk you aren't so familiar with, so they're fresh and novel.

  60. A. Says:

    St. John, U.S.V.I. & I didn't even snorkel or scuba dive! (Next time…)

  61. Nan Says:

    Isle Royale National Park. It's one of the least visited parks in the system. Go in late summer if possible — the bugs won't be as bad.

  62. Anonymouse Says:

    I agree with Terri; Ireland is absolutely beautiful and stunning. We rented a car without a GPS–just had a map. Most of the west coast is rural enough that you can't get lost; you get on THE road to go from place to place, and the roads are helpfully named with the name of the next town on it. Going to Sligo? Get on Sligo road. There are ferries to a number of islands, all of them beautiful and remote. The people there are very friendly. Most towns have a tourist office, and if you need a place to stay for the night, you drop in there and tell them, and they call around for you. You can eat very inexpensively by visiting the local village supermarket (often the size of a convenience store) and stocking up, or slightly-more-expensively at the local pub–many of them serve full meals, some serve sandwiches and fries that are great as a pick-me-up.

  63. Isaac Says:

    I just moved on from a job that involved every-month-or-so “oh shit, gotta go fly somewhere and handle some stupid crisis, taking three connections on regional jets because it's $200 cheaper than the 3 hour direct flight” so I'm trying to remember what it was like back when I actually looked forward to trips.

    Alaska has some really nice stuff, but it's best enjoyed with a friend. The Inside Passage ferry has been mentioned, it's kind of slow and the boat food is marginal and expensive. After the first day, you're just looking at yet more gorgeous mountains roll by. And look, whales! If you can somehow manage the flight, get out to Kodiak for a week during the summer. There's good day hiking, with breathtaking views from everywhere. Wildlife… it's pretty easy to see a bear. You can go out on a charter and catch salmon and halibut from a boat. The Coast Guard has a big presence, I'm not sure if you can tour the base… if you can, it goes back to WW2 and has some neat stuff, plus all the CG planes, helicopters, ships, and nice people. There's also at least one little local history museum in town. A big ship sitting on the beach being used as a cannery was put there by the tsunami in 1964. Every restaurant in town is great, especially the ones that aren't so easy to find. I lived there for almost two years, it generally rains 4 or 5 days out of 7.

  64. Karl Blette Says:

    The Basque country. Great food (especially seafood) and wine; friendly, interesting people; new and old culture; compact cities and towns, 19th-century industry and infrastructure (modern too), rolling farms, and nature (mountains, coasts).

    Nearby, you could visit vineyards in Rioja, or go hiking in the Pyrenees. Or just see more of Spain and France.

  65. Mo Says:

    I like to drive, and am past the age where I don't mind dysentary & bed-less sleeping conditions. So, anywhere along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and Coast Range from Bisbee, Arizona to Alaska. Rent something zippy to drive and just pick a place to start. Awesome shit to be seen the whole way. Mountains. Canyons. Deserts. Volcanoes. Obsidian. Old mines. Lakes. Rivers. Forests. Ghost towns. Hanford Reserve. Quaint museums. Vineyards. Vast oceans of wheat or sagebrush. Eat burgers, drink beer and fresh apple cider, stay in cheap motels (I refuse to drive a camper, and pickups are gas pigs). If you make it as far north as Whitehorse (their Beringia and Transportation Museums are just fucking amazing) take the White Pass to Skagway, Alaska (one of the most awesome passes to be seen on the planet.)

    Oh yeah, if it's winter in the Rockies, go anywhere in Hawaii. Just anywhere. You can feel every muscle in your body relax the second you step off the plane into the warm, moist ocean air. Ahhhhhhh……pack a coolah and bake on a beach. "Yesterday I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything I'd hoped it could be."

  66. quixote Says:

    Just bundle up this whole thread and publish it as a guidebook. Great ideas here. I'd never even heard of skyscanner.com or Sleeping Bear Dunes in whoodathunkit!-Michigan.

    The travelling it did years ago is hardly relevant now. (I mean, try going overland through Afghanistan and then drive down the road off the Eurasian continent to the Indian subcontinent some 4000 ft straight down to Quetta. Perfectly doable in the good old days for a 20-something travelling lone in a rickety car that the locals were always helping to push or fix.)

    Recently, I've spent my time in New Zealand and definitely second other commenters' recommendations. If you have a few thousand $ for airfare + travel there.

    My current ambitions are to visit an amazing-sounding national park I've heard about in Japan. Nikko National Park. All wetlands amid soaring mountains and trails through it all with little inns to stay at full of good Japanese food. (I'll let you know how it goes if I ever get there.) And the other one is Iceland, for whenever I have a spare ten thousand dollars or so I don't need for anything. Sounds like it would be worth every penny.

  67. Nick Says:

    Being from Utah, I'll second FastEddie's suggestion. Southern Utah is amazing, and it's part of what keeps me wanting to move back there despite the idiocy of the legislature. Fly into Salt Lake City and stay a night or two, SLC has some good restaurants (I highly recommend the Red Iguana) and decent bars, then rent a car and drive down south. If your time is limited, I'd base in Moab (you can camp some nights and stay others in hotels/motels if you want to camp but also be showered, or just book a hotel) and get a couple days each in Arches and Canyonlands. Arches has the quintessential rock formations and some great hiking trails; Canyonlands has spectacular views, second only to the Grand Canyon, and tons of hiking/mountain biking throughout. If you have enough time, you can make it over to the western side of Utah, and check out Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef. Zion is definitely the most developed–shuttle service, paved trails, a lodge in the park, etc.–but it's still worth seeing. If you do Angel's Landing, get up early and hike it for sunrise. I did that last summer and it was unbelievable, and when I got up there, it was me and one guy with a camera. Later in the day, it gets extremely crowded, which I would not want to deal with on that kind of crazy narrow trail.

    Aside from Utah, I'd suggest either central/northern Europe–Germany (especially Munich), Prague, Switzerland (I had tons of fun in Interlaken and Gimmelwald), and Amsterdam in particular.

    If you're just looking to relax and not do much, go to Puerto Rico. Spend a couple days in San Juan, you can check out the old city and the Spanish fortifications and stuff, which is all pretty cool, then go out to Vieques and stay there until you feel better about life. It's got postcard-perfect beaches, it's easy to get around if you rent a small car or scooter, some great snorkeling, a couple fun towns, and it all moves at a nice slow pace.

    If you want a mix of history and relaxing, I'd recommend Belize. Spend 3-5 days in San Ignacio, in the interior of the country near the Guatemalan border. It has some great Mayan ruins nearby, most of which are shockingly uncrowded. Caracol takes a couple hours to get to because the roads are pretty bad (make sure you rent a four wheel drive car, and you have to go during the day and leave when the military guys do because robberies used to be pretty common), but it's a huge complex with some impressive ruins–the main temple is still one of the largest buildings in Belize. The day I went, there were maybe 25 other people in this massive Mayan city. Definitely worth seeing. Xunantunich is smaller, but easier to get to and still pretty cool. Make sure you sign up for a tour of Actun Tunichil Muknal, the Mayan cave–you can only go with an approved guide, but it's incredible. Basically it's the Mayan underworld, complete with human and other sacrifices. You can't take pictures in there anymore because some dipshit tourist dropped a camera on a skeleton, but it's still one of the coolest places I've visited. Then, after you get done Maya-ing it up, head out to Caye Caulker. It's a tiny little island, not much in the way of beaches since it's a coral island (I've heard Ambergris Caye is better in that regard, but also bigger/more expensive/more touristy), but it's a great place to just hang out, have a few rum drinks, read a book, and not do anything. The only actual activity I had was snorkeling, which was unbelievably cool–the Belize Barrier Reef is second only to the Great Barrier reef, and there are tons of varieties of fish, nurse sharks, stingrays, and coral formations. Really cool stuff. If you're scuba-certified (or have the money to get scuba certified while there), the Great Blue Hole is supposed to be incredible as well.

  68. Xjmueller Says:

    I Agee with Skipper. We went to Montreal with my two brothers and their wives last year. We have had good food and good sightseeing. It wasn't stupid expensive and we got out into the neighborhoods some for a better taste of the city. The others went on to Quebec City and loved it too. I'm sorry now that we passed on it. Went in early October and weather was pretty good.

  69. Shane Says:

    You should get on one of those "petulant shit barges"

  70. Cincinnatus Says:

    No need to leave the lower 48: If I could, I'd live in the Grand Teton National Park. Even in winter. If not there, on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Unfucking believably sweet. Almost zero tourists and unworldly views.

  71. Anthony Fury Says:

    Went on an exhaustive U-boat tour in Germany by way of Zurich, Switzerland this summer. Had friends to stay with in Zurich and bought inexpensive airfare to Hamburg, split the hotel in Hamburg 3 ways. Drove to Munich (autobahn) in a hotrod diesel BMW 5 series. Saw the tallest Cathedral on earth and picked up a sweet repop U-boat coat in Ulm on the way, the U1 at the Deutches Museum (the equivalent of the Museum of Science & Industry except multiplied by Germany). Then from Hamburg: U-995 at the Laboe Naval Memorial (entire place is totally fucking awesome), the Reeperbahn on Saturday night, unexpectedly tripped over the U-434 (GDR boat I think) at the Hamburg Fisch Market on Sunday morning, and finally the Wilhelm Bauer (ex. U-2540) in Bremerhaven. Ate a ton of pretzels and sweet mustard and had the equivalent of "cracklin' pig" there which totally blew my mind. Germans are really friendly but many do not speak English (translator recommended).

    Everything is at least twice as expensive in Zurich as it is here, BUT there aren't any police on patrol there, every male at 17 is issued a firearm and its serenity and also civil obedience are amazing examples by which we should compare ourselves. Everyone speaks English; I only encountered one older supermarket clerk who couldn't. Super beautiful, clean, and a wild sense of punctuality overall.

    5 out of 5 stars.

  72. Emerson Dameron Says:

    You're always welcome in California. If I could only retain five memories, I would keep Muir Woods and Catalina/Two Harbors, bout quite affordable.

    @Nick:
    I'm defensive of Utah because of my psychedelic-beautiful drive through the Canyonlands. Bonus: practically no humans for, like, 100 miles.

  73. Lekkers Says:

    I had an amazing time in Puerto Rico. Old San Juan featured beautiful architecture, tasty food, historical sites, and 100s of well-cared-for, friendly outdoor cats. There is a waterfront park called the paseo that runs underneath the old Spanish fort where cats live on the rocks right by the sea, being guarded by US park rangers. There is also a park with a wall composed of little niches meant to be pigeon apartments. Basically, the people of San Juan are animal lovers. If you visit the fort, you can watch a hilarious video put together by the US park service describing how for 500 years the brave Spanish fought off would-be invaders and then … AMERICACAMETOBRINGFREEDOMFROMSOEMTHINGTHEEND. That last part of the history of Puerto Rico is told in about fifteen seconds. If you visit the Bacardi factory just outside of town, you will not only get treated to free rum, you will get to see another hilarious video blaming THE DICTATOR FIDEL CASTRO for … the need to move the rum factory? Apparently? Something about how Fidel killed a magical palm tree in the courtyard of the rum factory and this ushered in the scourge of communism. I'm not particularly exaggerating this story. I also visited the rain forest, which is scenic and can be extensively hiked if one is into those sorts of things and is not afraid of signs in Spanish warning you to beware of rabid mongooses (!). The southeastern corner of the island is mostly empty and gorgeous. Feel free to skip Ponce — it seemed to be under some sort of drug-related martial law because of problems at the city's port (although, this was several years ago, so maybe the problem's been solved, but it remains the only time in my life I've been spontaneously protectively shadowed by a government agent in a bullet-proof vest with an automatic weapon) — but the beach town of Rincon is amazing and you can drink rum right in the ocean for basically free. Also, between Rincon and San Juan is the Arecibo Radio Observatory, which has a small, kind of hilarisad museum wherein I almost blinded myself with an exhibit and learned a valuable lesson about how seriously liability is taken in other parts of the world; also the dish is pretty freaking cool. The hike up the hill to the telescope is pretty steep, but luckily there is a rum shack halfway up. There's a lot of rum in Puerto Rico.

    One tip if you go is that it is impossible to judge the interior of a building by its exterior, almost always in the positive sense — I stayed in and ate in a variety of places that on the outside looked … sketchy, at best, but on the inside were gleaming and modern and lovely. I can't explain this phenomenon, I can only report on it.

    Anyway, the whole trip — airfare, a week spent driving around the island in a rental car, eating and drinking things — for two people who planned in advance and are very thorough in their online combing for good deals on nice hotels and B&Bs was about $2000.

    Lastly: skip Panama. I went there for a wedding once. Just … skip Panama. But, the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland is surprisingly beautiful and friendly; I'd recommend Northern Ireland for a vacation, too, although I went there as part of a study abroad thing, so everything was sort of planned in advance and featured classes and service work a traveler wouldn't have to contend with.

  74. mayya Says:

    I'm upvoting Captain Whitey's suggestion. That's brilliant, and it's an unusual experience.

    I've enjoyed every bit of travel I've experienced, even the parts that weren't wonderful. I don't think I have a "favorite" vacation, they're all good in their ways. Three that stand out to me:

    I once drove from Colorado to California on motorcycles with my boyfriend, sleeping on the side of the road, essentially, when I was a teenager. "Fun"? Yes and no. A fabulous adventure that I'm glad I had. Although Nevada isn't as cool when you're underage.

    On our 20th anniversary, the husband and I visited Tahiti. I've always been fascinated by that part of the world, particularly the WWII era and the earlier European exploration. We landed on Tahiti the island, spent a day, then visited Huahine (one of the less famous islands) and Bora Bora. Wouldn't go to B-B again, although it's not like it's a terrible place. Huahine was charming and beautiful. My favorite part, perversely, was the time we spent in the capital city, Papeetee, which is not known for beauty or charm. I found it to have both. I always say that WHEN (not IF) I win the lottery, I'm going to rent an apartment there for a year. One of the interesting parts of visiting French Polynesia was that it's tropical, not wealthy, and filled with brown people, but it's not a Third World country. It's not depressing, like visiting Jamaica, and I wasn't wracked with first world white person guilt. Which I find desirable on a vacation.

    On our 30th anniversary, we rented a beach house in an unassuming little town in the southeast. We walked the beach, swam, ate, slept. That's all. It was an absolutely fucking perfect week.

  75. Desargues Says:

    Big Sur and thereabouts.

  76. margolian Says:

    Start watching kayak.com or equivalent website for reasonable direct flights from Chicago to Istanbul (got one for <$700 RT when I went). Winter is a great time. Weather is very mild, and you can walk all day without breaking a sweat.

    Book a room on airbnb.com in the center of Kadikoy on the Asian side of the city for a week or two. In the mornings, wake up, have some fresh Turkish breakfast at a sidewalk shop, and amble over to the ferry pier. From there, 15 minute ferry ride $1 USD) across the Bosphorus to Europe, and a basically unlimited number of things to see (and eat). Buy a blue guide, or the novelist Orhan Pamuk's "Istanbul" for some guidance.

    The exchange rate is very reasonable. Delicious home-cooked style meals in the lokantas for $5-6 USD. A few museum admissions maybe, but mostly you'll keep busy walking through atmospheric neighborhoods (from radically liberal to very conservative — but all are equally friendly to foreigners) and accidentally wandering up to mosques and churches that are literally thousands of years old. Spend a day or two seeing the big name sights, but no more. Get at least one full hot towel shave for $4 or so and visit a Turkish bath at least once.

    Fly anywhere in the country for loose change on pegasus airlines. SW Aegean coast to hike a few days on the Lycian trail, staying in rustic homestays along the trail at night, in one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Gaziantep/Urfa, or Diyarbakir (Kurdish capital) for a more truly Middle-Eastern experience. Or spend just a little bit more $ and take the two-hour plane ride to Tbilisi in Georgia. Lovely place and hands down preferred it to anywhere I've been in western Europe.

    No car required for any of it, and no more than an thirty minute's worth of Turkish language study. Aside from the ticket, you'll spend significantly less here than you would on a trip in the U.S., and I think it will absolutely blow your mind.

  77. Anonymouse Says:

    I second (third?) Montreal. One of the highlights of the trip for me; going into Chinatown and eating lunch while listening to the waitstaff who were equally fluent in English, French, and some variant of Chinese. I was the only member of my group who had any French whatsoever, but we all managed just fine. We particularly enjoyed visiting the planetarium, eating ice cream from a street vendor in one of the numerous parks, and visiting the bookstore at the university. We also walked around randomly and saw a number of gorgeous homes and cathedrals; if you're at all a fan of interesting architecture, you'll find it there.

  78. Anonymouse Says:

    P.S. If you do visit Montreal and you drive, don't stop in any of the little towns on the American side of the border–that's rwnj country.

  79. Tom Says:

    I see some people recommending Newfoundland – do not come in the Winter or Spring. July to October is lovely, but the weather is pretty awful the rest of the year.

    I recommend Istanbul if it is in your price range. Culture, history, architecture, great food, warm weather – it really has it all.

  80. The Jack of Hearts Says:

    There are a couple favorite places I’ve traveled which may fit your needs – one a fairly close destination and the other farther away and a little pricier until you get there.

    1) Niagara Falls (the Canadian side)
    About a ten hour drive from Peoria, through Michigan and Canada. It’s been several years since I’ve been, but I remember the city having lots of quirky and even gaudy/interesting places to visit, in addition to elegant skyscrapers and the natural beauty of the falls. The views are so dramatic that it feels as if you’re at the edge of the world. Even though it seems rather touristy, the Maid of The Mist boat ride is a really incredible part of the experience and completely worth it.

    2) Peru
    I went twice in the early and mid 2000s, but never to Machu Picchu. I took a few side trips from Lima, the capital, with my then-boyfriend, a native Peruvian home from the States for a visit to his family in Miraflores, a suburb. Lima itself was kind of a rough city but rather exciting– a perfect example of wealth side by side with poverty. The hillsides were filled with shanty towns and aggressive street vendors at stoplights. Traffic was congested, especially at rush hours. Imagine three traffic lanes filled with 5 actual lanes of traffic, from 3-wheel moto-cabs to mini buses and large trucks, everyone honking and trying to go at the same time. The weather was never below 50 degrees.

    On one visit we took a bus trip to Ica and Paracas in the southern desert of Peru, and saw the Nazca lines from a small 6-seat overflight plane. Highly recommend seeing. Another time took a bus trip to the north, and stayed in the coastal towns of Mancora and Cabo Blanco (a small fishing village which was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway). It helped to know some Spanish, and be with a native speaker, especially in the smaller towns. Mancora is a beautiful resort town. We met a couple of surfers from Canada who were staying at a $7/day hostel. The resorts were about $35-40/day U.S. in the slight off-season. Also visited the mountain town of Cajamarca, which had a strong European feel, with cobblestone streets and Spanish architecture from when the conquistadors came and “civilized” the place. At the top of one hill there was a nightclub which was a converted monastery, with the doormen in monks’ robes.

  81. BuceFromOhio Says:

    Toronto in late August, when the nights start to cool while the water is still warm.

    Anna Maria Island in March, when its the opposite.

  82. Poultine Says:

    Not enough votes for Iceland on here. I lived in N. New Mexico for years and always wondered what that landscape would look like if it rained. The answer? Iceland. Rent a car, which will cost about a billion dollars, but then you can camp in basically every town in the country, usually in a park in the center of town, for like $4 per night, some with excellent showers and such included. Stunningly gorgeous, austere, and largely empty of humans, it was the most visually sumptuous place I've been (and that includes S Utah).

    Aside from that… The Dalmatian coast is nice, and outside Split and Dubrovnik, is lightly tread by tourists. And Barcelona is awesome, but I did not smoke any hash or get sunburn on my dick like that other dude.

  83. BigHank53 Says:

    New Zealand really looks as good as the tourist brochures make it out to be. I rented a motorcycle and tooled around on the South Island for a week and half. The roads were great and the scenery amazing. I went down Skipper's Canyon on a perilous dirt road and found a classic car rally coming the other way–watched someone take an Alfa-Romeo from the twenties through a ford at speed. The driver was in period costume (goggles, duster, leather cap) and grinning like a loon. Fantastic to see a car like that actually being used.

    Canada: Toronto is huge and has everything you might want from a big city. Montreal and Quebec City will let you imagine you're in Europe. (You could tell the Americans on the Montreal subway; they were the ones wearing sneakers. Make sure you try a Montreal-style bagel if you get there.) Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia become very rural once you get out of the cities; I spent a week motorcycling up there and did not see a single police car that wasn't parked next to a police station.

    I don't know you well enough to know what your favorite sort of trip is. You mentioned having a fun-to-drive car at one point, so let me describe my favorite kind of trip: throw your camping gear in the back of your car. Pick a destination. Get there without using interstates–hell, without using any divided highways at all, if you can. (Exceptions granted for urban centers.) Don't have a real serious schedule. Don't plan more than ONE activity/tour/museum per day. Stay in funky motels or camp if you feel like it. (All KOA campgrounds have hot showers, though they're designed for the RV crowd. Many state parks have showers. Truck stops will sell you a shower for $5 or so.) The spouse and I did our honeymoon this way. (Utah, which I absolutely recommend if you like big scenery.) I did San Diego-Seattle-San Diego this way on another motorcycle trip (mountains northbound, coast southbound) and pretty much all of that is lovely too. Fabulous roads in gold rush country; the PCH can be kind of wretched due to tourist traffic.

  84. Pete Gaughan Says:

    I much prefer to stay somewhere rather than whiz through it. I've had a few days in most big American cities and driving trips through most regions of the West, Southwest, and Midwest. Yosemite is great, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the San Juan Islands, California's "Lost Coast"–these are wonderful if you have two days to a week. But time to settle into a place and experience what life is like — where do the locals sit and listen to music in the evening, where do they just go for a walk or a hike — that's what I'm always on the lookout for.

    I've stayed in each of these places for at least two weeks, some of them in houses rather than hotels: Nagasaki, Stuttgart, Salzburg, Bern, and Budapest. I recommend them all, but I fell in love with Nagasaki. It was much more open to Westerners than the rest of Japan, and it's a great compromise between big-city amenities and attractions and small-town casualness and approachability. One time I was there, they still had camps of Vietnamese refugees in the nearby countryside (out toward Isahaya), and even those folks were welcome kindly.

    While I was in Bern, I took the chance to ride trains to Interlaken and from there up the Jungfrau. Do this off-season, the views are stunning but when it's crowded it's with arrogant jerks.

    I love the Maine coast. My cousins run the ferry from Port Clyde to Monhegan Island, and I loved it when we had the chance to rent a house in Camden and just explore from Acadia to Bar Harbor for weeks.

  85. DocAmazing Says:

    1. Springtime: Flanders by train. Go to Brugge and drink beer, to Gent and eat ribs at Amadeus, and to Leuven and drink more beer.
    2. Summer: Southern British Columbia by ferry around the Gulf Islands. Have a currywurst from Max & Moritz at the dock on Galiano Island, have some tea on Pender Island, and walk around the town on Salt Spring Island.
    3. Fall: Eastern Caribbean. Fly to St. Lucia and have some nostril-burning ginger beer in Castries. Take the ferry to Martinique and have a beer in Fort de France. Take the ferry to Dominica and eat mountain chicken in Roseau.

  86. Hazy Davy Says:

    I have several great vacations, all likely within your budget (though you may not believe me on some):
    1) Fly to Indonesia with a few friends. Hire a local guide/translator/river boat owner, cook, and guide's assistant. Spend a week traveling up the Mahakkem river, visiting the Dayyaks, seeing wildlife, etc. [<–This is the one you won't believe was inexpensive. But if you can afford the flight, it is.]

    2) Maybe out of your price range: choose a company like Backroads, which enables you to (in my case) get a mapped bike tour from Munich to Vienna, staying in your tent until the last night in a hotel.

    3) Germany, by hostel and train and free time. Seriously affordable, but you do have to get a feel for which people will help you vs. accost you.

    4) An island destination. Any island. (Jamaica and Hawai'i are both nice.) With some advanced planning, you can find package deals that put you up in cheap, no-frills hotels, but you can spend your time on foot walking around the island.

    5) Not recommended, because of price: tour companies (like Trafalgar, which was actually deeply discounted) will take you through Europe (London, Amsterdam, Paris, in our case) by bus, staying in decent hotels.

    6) Fly into Nairobi. Visit the Masai Mara game preserve, Ngorongoro Crater (in Tanzania), fly into a tented campground in the middle and maybe hike up Kilimanjaro (that's actually very inexpensive to do). It was a "last hurrah" with my father, and I'm glad I spent everything I had to do it. We went through the Africa Adventure Company.

    Future plans: Connemara Coast of Ireland, food tour of India…

  87. Hazy Davy Says:

    Or, Hell, as I've told you before—I've been to Yosemite more than 100 times. And if, other than in the Winter, you find yourself out here and fit enough to walk 20 miles without death, I will be your guide for a hike you'll remember for ever, and you'll see things from angles most people never do. (We'll likely start up at Lake Tenaya, hike over to Cloud's rest, and then down to the valley. Or, alternatively, we might start in the valley, hike up the mist trail, and then around the Panorama trail to Glacier point.) Disadvantage: there's no such thing as inexpensive lodging in the valley or at Tuolumne meadows, but it's only one night at $120 or whatever….

  88. Terri Says:

    Boston is also a great, lower-48 trip, and it's strangely awesome to visit in the winter, unless you need extended hours of sunlight. The number of tourists is low. The cost of a good hotel room? Is low. All the fun, cool stuff to do and see is still open, and the locals are way more friendly to the hardened visitors who aren't afraid of a little winter and come off season. I'll probably be up there for a visit in February. FEBRUARY. Islands, shmislands. Head north for a winter vacation!

  89. Nick Z Says:

    Do any of your comedy associates have connections in Edinburgh? It is a majestic city rich in history and scenery and life, and in August the population doubles to nearly 800 000 because of all of the overlapping festivals (including a large comedy festival). I lived and worked there for a year and I think about it too often. Look at these: http://www.buzzfeed.com/hilarywardle/edinburgh-is-the-best

  90. Nick Says:

    @Emerson: Yeah, I always get a little sad when the only thing people know about Utah is "LOL MORMONS," because it's friggin' beautiful. On the other hand, it keeps some of the development away, so I can live with that.

    @Lekkers: I'm curious about the "skip Panama" comment. My friend who went there (a couple days in Panama City, then to the Canal, then up to Bocas del Toro) absolutely loved it, said it was one of her favorite places in Central America. What made it so bad for you?

  91. Mayya Says:

    I'm so glad you asked this question because I'm really enjoying the answers and have many new entries for the bucket list.

  92. Rich Says:

    Cheap once you get there–Nepal. Treking the Everest region was life changing.

    Amazon–travel hammock class from Manaus, Brazil

  93. svnski Says:

    My favourite trip was taking a train from Beijing via Mongolia, across Russia to St Petersburg. My girlfriend and I were moving from Australia to the UK. She wanted Thai beaches but I insisted on going overland. Best decision ever.

    The vastly different cultures, deeply rooted history and the immense distance really changed my world view. I can't recommend going to any of these places highly enough.

    Some highlights:
    – Beijing: Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, the food, old shanty town bits (I think they've mostly been demolished though for the Olympics)
    – Mongolia: riding a pony over the steppes, riding a camel, meeting nomads, seeing a local hip-hop show
    – Irkutsk: Lake Baikal. It's amazing, especially as it was frozen. The ice is so clear it looks like onyx.
    – Moscow: The Kremlin, the subway, the imperial feel of the place. Some amazing bars/clubs too.
    – St Petersburg: The Hermitage. There's a room FULL of god damned Picassos! People are also really friendly, unlike Moscow.

    The journey on the train was long and tough, but so worth it. Met some amazing locals and other travelers. Still keep in contact with a few over 10 years later.

    I also highly recommend Montreal and New Zealand. And SE Asia. And Ireland. Well, anywhere really, as long as it's someplace new for you. The world is so big and we'll never see it all so I always feel lucky to go anywhere…

  94. Haggis Says:

    1. A 2 week canoe trip through Algonquin Park in Ontario.
    2. Staying in a National Trust cottage in the UK & hiking (Lake District, Cornwall, Devon)
    3. Sailboat trips almost anywhere – the caveat being "know your crew-mates".

    One thing I've learned is that enjoyment of travel often has little to do with how much money you throw at it. I'd take a canoe over an cruise ship anyday. Likewise, a rented historic cottage in Europe over a 5-star hotel. I gravitate to places I can walk, swim and eat well.

    I currently live in Hong Kong and go hiking every day – people think this is one large conurbation but I live on the water surrounded by mountainous country parks. Food is cheap (if you're willing to go local), and both the city and countryside are fascinating.

    And I'd second others suggestions of Montreal, SE Asia, and the US National Parks.

    Cheers, Haggis

  95. RosiesDad Says:

    Ireland. Beautiful, green, lots of old stuff (castles, forts, churches, etc.) to look at, hostels galore, and the Guinness just tastes better there. Lots of live music everywhere, friendly people and livestock (sheep and cattle) wander freely. Just spent a week there with my daughter who's on a semester abroad in London, spent another week there 18 months ago for a family vacation. Would like to spend at least part of the year there when I retire in a decade or so.

  96. geoff Says:

    Ironically given where you're from, my best vacation was the first time we went to Chicago!! Ate great, went to the Shedd aquarium and the Art Center and y'know, had a great time. Throw in some live comedy and it's ALL WIN.

  97. geoff Says:

    Shane's right– what was I thinking? You need to go on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise, departing from Miami April 18. Tesla!! Queensryche!! Europe!! Krokus!! LOL!!

  98. A Says:

    Took my son to Utah last May & Loved it (Did a circuit of all 5 national parks + Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, & Death Valley – flew into & out of Las Vegas)

    If I had to choose one spot on that very big trip – Moab, Canyonlands was hands down the best part of that trip.

    FWIW, his pediatrician went in October & loved it too.

  99. doug Says:

    Late, but: Key West on New year's eve.

  100. Morley Bolero Says:

    Definitely Newfoundland. You might want to wait until spring though.

  101. sluggo Says:

    @ The Jack of Hearts

    Niagara Falls!!!!! …………..Slowly I turned……

  102. Bitter Scribe Says:

    Ireland. I was lucky enough to go after one of the rainiest fortnights ever had just concluded, leaving the country all fresh and green. I know now why people get so sentimental about the place; I've never in my life seen such lovely countryside, before or since.

  103. chris Says:

    Sorry if it's been mentioned a few times by now… I would have to say Austin or NYC. You can go without a plan and be guaranteed world-class rocknroll (or just about any other genre in NYC) every night of the week, and the crowds will be LIVELY. Seattle is something of a close followup in this area. The rest of America is awesome, but when you want to "find a reason to live" you want to be drenched in sweat, moshing your ass off, to a band you never heard of, but is shockingly talented. Purification!

  104. J. Says:

    Wow, lots of great tips on here – I heartily agree on Spain & Portugal, the Baltic countries, Amsterdam, Montreal, northern Thailand, Edinburgh. I'm kind of surprised nobody has mentioned Sarajevo yet. I lived in Europe for a decade, saw a lot of places, and Sarajevo was hands-down the most memorable travel experience. I took the train down from Berlin via an overnight stop in Budapest – the train journey from Budapest to Sarajevo is itself quite interesting, but there are also daily flights from Munich and a few other European cities.

    Sarajevo is totally unlike any other city I've visited. The Old Town is architecturally Turkish in style, completely pedestrianized, has an amazing woodsmoke smell, and you can walk around everywhere. It's incredibly atmospheric. There are great cafes serving Turkish coffee, many of them sort of open-air, that turn into bars later in the evening. People are really nice, but not in an overbearing way. The history is very present – some of the buildings still have damage from shelling in the 90s, and you can visit the tunnels in and out of the city that were used during the siege – but it's also a lively, vibrant city. Lots of old mosques, Orthodox churches, and synagogues. It's interesting to see the ways that what was for a long time a very secular, European Muslim-majority multi-religious culture has since the war become the site of a battle of cultural influence between the US and the Saudis – e.g. there's a huge ugly mall downtown that's a gift to Bosnia from Saudi Arabia.

    I stayed at the family-owned Hotel Konak in the Old Town, which I'd highly recommend – the brothers who run it seem kind of like Americanized business dudes (they spent the war years in Chicago IIRC) but are also active in the local Sufism scene (which is a thing), and their family have been Sarajevo Sufis for many generations. A very nice room there cost about €50 a night a few years ago. Food in Sarajevo is inexpensive, and good if you don't need too much variety and aren't a vegetarian – lots of sausage and bread.

    The few times I ventured out into the Bosnian countryside it seemed way more depressing and obviously fucked-up/ traumatized from the war than the city did. Mostar is nice, though.

  105. catbirdman Says:

    I really loved Edinburgh and the Mediterranean coast of France — Perpignan to Arles.

  106. mothra Says:

    How the hell did I miss this thread? I have some suggestions, too!

    As some people have said, New Mexico is beautiful. Yes, I am prejudiced because I am a native and live here. But it is lovely–nearly every corner. I can recommend visiting the Salinas Monuments in the Manzano mountains–not often visited, but lovely settings and makes you hate colonizers just a bit more. The Salinas Monuments are ruins of pueblos and churches at those pueblos–churches built by Spanish Jesuits who came to convert the natives, but oddly let them practice their own religions on site. I would say you could give Santa Fe a total pass–it's adobe Disneyland. Go to Taos instead. The high road from Santa Fe to Taos is breathtakingly gorgeous. Go in the fall for the best effect of all.
    Added bonus: New Mexico is a third world country right here in the U.S., so it is pretty cheap.

    Overseas, I have only been to Western Europe, but I can highly recommend Scotland. Wester Ross. GO THERE. I was befriended nearly everywhere I went. You can also be completely alone there–lots and lots of wild, empty spaces. I was adopted by a man and his girlfriend in Dornie one evening and taken to a bagpipe jam in a neighboring village. Bagpipers from Chicago came in every year to jam in this village. Drank, stayed up until 4 am talking to this lovely man, his girlfriend and friends in Dornie. Man. Good times.

    In France, I would recommend staying at a place called Domaine de la Rhue in La Rhue (durrr) on the outskirts of Rocamadour. Rocamadour is tourist hell, but this hotel is out in the middle of nothing (as much as anything is in the middle of nothing in France) and the surrounding area is beautiful. Good food and good wine, too.

    And then there is my friend's backyard in Beacon, NY. I had one of the most restorative vacations I have had in a while there this past May.

  107. NC Says:

    I lived in Peoria, Bloomington, Decatur, and some other small towns for a stretch that I am happy is past. My sleeper sofa would be happy to host you if you ever want to take a break in DC, assuming you have no weird hidden tendencies.

  108. bruce Says:

    Head Smashed In buffalo jump, somewhere in western Canada. Actually anywhere in Canada is good. Wanna go east? Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Go ride some ferry's and see where Anne of Green Gables came from. Don't miss where Alexander Graham Bell invented the hydroplane.
    September is good, the kids are in school, the bugs are gone and everyone knows the exchange rate for that day….a bargain all around. Clean camp grounds, marvelous state parks, swell people.

  109. Andrew Says:

    There are places in Canada which are not all that exciting to visit. :-)

  110. Jonathan Arnold Says:

    I know you're just going to love this, but my favorite vacations over the past few years have most definitely been to … Disney World! Of course, I would never go there alone, but I certainly never thought I would even like it with my wife and kids, but I surely do. So rent a few kids and bring them to Disney World – they'll never forget it!

    Besides that, the best vacation ever was to Australia. I spent months planning out our almost month long time there – Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Alice Springs, Uluru and Cairns. It was amazing.

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  112. pjcamp Says:

    Camping at Big Creek, in the Smoky Mountains, with my dogs, Sugar and Sam. Every day with them was the best day of my life.

  113. J R in WV Says:

    Last fall we took an organized tour with both a touring manager and an archaeological guide to visit the prehistoric cave paintings in northern Spain and SW France. The paintings are much different that they look in even the best photos, very sophisticated. Some of them, the local guide would have us all turn our lights off, turn off the installed lights (if any, most didn't have any) and then move a lamp designed to replicate light from the oil lamps used 30,000 years ago. The animals in the paintings seemed to move, to look at you with interest. Amazing!

    We also visited a castle (Richard the Lion Hearted, Richard the First of France and Richard the III of England, all the same guy) in France, museums, stayed after the tour to visit Paris, ate in a Michelin starred restaurant, seafood specialty, wonderful.

    The Air France flight back was nicer than the Delta flight over, we got rescheduled from flying into Paris and then to Bilbao to flying into Madrid and then to Bilbao. It was sad how huge and empty the Madrid Airport was, deserted, shops closed, vacant restaurants, etc. Far worse than the impact of the financial disaster here.

    Bilbao was good. We stayed in a medieval town at first, then in 5 star hotels, then in small town hotel in French tourist country filled with ancient landmarks; Hotel le Cro-Magnon, built right next to the historical land mark where they first excavated Cro-Magnon culture. Homes occupied today right on top of ancient cave shelters.

    Great food, lots to learn, friendly people, even if you have no language in common you can communicate with paper documents and charades. We cheated, though, and had a tablet with translator loaded for Spanish and French.

    Expensive, but worth it. Just have the access/tickets to the caves arranged ahead of time would have been worth it, as they limit the number of people entering the caves daily. Even snacks in bars is better food than many nice places in the US.

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