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ktmoomau

Where Should I Travel? Vacation Ideas

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We have a lovely Intrepid Travel Forum that has great threads that are really fun to read, but I thought we were missing a general forum with ideas on good trips and resources and guides to plan them with.  I was thinking about this because my Mom sent me a link with a travel alert for great deals to Tokyo and Cambodia on ANA.  I was looking into Cambodia, and although I really want to see Angkor Wat, it looks like a bit more than I want to take on with my Mom (who is a little older and just not as physically active as my husband and I).  I thought it might be nice to have a thread where you could post thoughts on where you want to travel, or your favorite past destinations (not a trip report, which should go in the thread).  

Around the time my Dad passed away, I decided to travel somewhere with my Mom every other year for about 7-10 days.  This coming year would be the year, she has rented her home for commissioning week so we will go in May and has dedicated all the funds to the trip.  Past locations we have gone have been Croatia, Hilton Head, Belize, Barbados and Paris.  As you can see we kind of like to go to the beach, but we aren't opposed to other places.  My Mom is really easy to travel with and is up for about anything, she is a great traveler and has traveled all over the place, but she is an age she wouldn't like me to discuss, and long days of hiking and huge numbers of stairs aren't her thing, per se, at least not most days.  We have been thinking about Bali, as her neighbor knows a friend from Annapolis who moved there and might tag along.  The flights are ridiculously long, but there are some pretty good deals.  I was going to look into the Greek Isles too, but there are so many and it's a bit overwhelming.  It is really hard not to go back to Croatia to be honest.  I have been trying to think of other places that might be on our list of places to travel.  I try not to pick places that my husband would want to go to, so no Italy, Austria, Budapest, Germany, Singapore, Chile, but there are a number of places he has no interest in going.  I like to dive and Mom has her certification, but it isn't necessary, but is an added bonus.  We also try to find pretty good deals on this trip, which is why we want to narrow down where we want to go so we can save, plan and try to find deals.  Ireland was high up on the list, but it is likely where my other cousin wants to go for graduation in 4 years, so I am saving that one.   Anyway I thought this thread would be useful for pre-planning when you know kind of what you want to do, but not per se where to go.  Any thoughts?

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I've heard amazing things about both Bali and the Greek Islands, and you probably can't go wrong there, but let me throw out something completely different: Iceland.  Staggering natural beauty and a country readymade for a week-long jaunt around the Ring Road with leisurely stops at all the wonders it contains.  Downside: the beaches will have ice on them.  Upside: you'll see stuff like this.  Best time to go is in late April, May, or September -- outside of tourist season, so the prices aren't as high and there are way fewer people, but the days are still long and most/all roads will be open.  Seriously, Iceland is one of the most uniquely beautiful places on Earth; around every corner is something breathtakingly epic.

And you can actually dive into the continental fissure at Þingvellir, so your certification will come in handy.

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Very compelling and I am sure I could get my husband to go, but not my Mother.  Unfortunately, as she is retiring to Garrett County where it can snow between 110-262 inches of snow per year, beach covered in ice probably are not the words I could use to sell her on any vacation.  But great pictures!!! I think Matt and I would love to go there!

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6 minutes ago, ktmoomau said:

Very compelling and I am sure I could get my husband to go, but not my Mother.  Unfortunately, as she is retiring to Garrett County where it can snow between 110-262 inches of snow per year, beach covered in ice probably are not the words I could use to sell her on any vacation.  But great pictures!!! I think Matt and I would love to go there!

It's just a little ice! :D

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4 minutes ago, Gadarene said:

It's just a little ice! :D

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People just dumped really large coolers out on the beach, Mom!

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I thought Machu Picchu was amazing. I went there with my mom when she was in her mid-60s. She's healthy overall but not very active. We did NOT hike the Inca Trail. :-) We took the Hiram Bingham train, which was very nice. I think there are other train options as well. I'd seen important Mayan ruins in Guatemala (Tikal) and was relatively unmoved, but Machu Picchu really moved me, and I'm not a spiritual person. My mom was pretty affected by the altitude at Machu Picchu and couldn't really hike around with our tour group, so that's something to consider (she was OK the rest of the trip), although your mom sounds like she might be more active with her scuba diving. We spent 2 or 3 days in Lima, which was OK. We didn't really explore food very much (at least we didn't seek out exceptional places), but I understand there are some great places. We did have chifa food in Chinatown, though! Other than Machu Picchu, which I think was 2 or 3 hours by train from Cusco, we explored Cusco and the surrounding area, which was interesting and beautiful. We didn't go to Lake Titicaca, but it looks beautiful and I believe has cultural traditions unique to the rest of Peru. People were nice everywhere we went. My broken Spanish was handy but not essential.

I also love, love, love Guatemala. I've been there twice but the last time was several years ago, and I'm not sure what the deal is with safety issues these days. When I was there we were told to be very careful in Guatemala City, but otherwise the country was safe as far as we knew. We always felt safe (even in Guatemala City, although we only spent a day or so there). It's a beautiful country, not very far away, cheap (I assume that's still the case), with a fascinating culture and history and very nice people. The only problem is that the food was rather meh. I got sick of chicken, (freshly made) tortillas, and beans. Not sure if that's improved over the last several years. Again, broken Spanish was handy but not essential.

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We leave on Sunday for SE Asia, including Bali (staying in both Ubud and Seminyak). So once I return I'll be able to report back on it. I know my friends, who are currently living in Jakarta, absolutely love it. 

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On August 19, 2016 at 4:58 PM, Mark Dedrick said:

We leave on Sunday for SE Asia, including Bali (staying in both Ubud and Seminyak). So once I return I'll be able to report back on it. I know my friends, who are currently living in Jakarta, absolutely love it. 

We loved Bali and can't wait to go back.  The U.S. dollar goes really far there.  I know you asked in another thread about places to eat in SE Asia -- I can speak only for Ubud.  There are plenty of reviews about Mozaic online and our dinner there certainly justified the hype.  Naughty Nuri's was less impressive.  A hidden gem on the same street is Minami, which offered high-quality Japanese dishes (using super-fresh seafood) at moderate prices.

P.S.  We stayed one night in Kuta upon arrival and had a great breakfast the next morning at Ajeg Warung on the beach, whose specialty is garang asem, a spicy soup made from free-range chickens and a base of ten herbs and spices.  With rice on the side, we had a filling meal for under 3 bucks.

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KT, what about Hawaii? We had a fabulous vacation on the Big Island of Hawaii a few years back in the month of May.  You've got everything there: beaches, rain forest, active volcanoes, and GREAT food!  We stayed on the Kohala Coast in the North at the Hapuna Beach Prince hotel.  We are not beach people, but we loved it!  Our room overlooked the ocean and we opened the doors to the balcony the moment we arrived and we did not close them until the day we left.  There were sea turtles right off the beach and the breakfast food at the hotel (I think I ate an entire pineapple every morning for breakfast) was served in a stunning outdoor covered area overlooking the ocean.  As we were driving to the airport to catch our flight home I was sobbing -- I did not want to leave!  It was that magical. 

As far as flying to Hawaii from DC: try to get a flight that connects through San Francisco, that breaks it up pretty evenly.  Our flight to Hawaii went through Chicago, so we had an 11-hour flight from Chicago to Honolulu.  I don't recommend that.  

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Thanks everyone for the suggestions.  I have never been to Hawaii and really wanted to go, but always thought it was somewhat expensive, will look into that.  Peru is HIGH on Hubby's list so we will probably do that together sometime.  Can't wait to hear back about Bali.  Has anyone ever been to Costa Rica?  People have been telling me it should be on my list too?

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Not to be contrarian, but I think Bali can be hit or miss. Because of it's breath taking beauty, great climate, wonderful people, perfect beaches, unique cuisine, it is heavily touristed and isn't the serene, peaceful, Hindu paradise that I dreamed about it. It's Australia's Cancun (at least that's how Seminyak and Kuta felt). And though inner Bali was pleasant, raw, beautiful, when you get to Ubud, you see busloads of people going on "Eat, Pray, Love" tours. I had dreamed my whole life to visit, and I was sort of bummed about the reality of it. Maybe if you can pick the right places, stay away from the wrong places, it would be much nicer. I just remember the ridiculous traffic from the airport to Seminyak and my heart sinking... 

Iceland is incredible. No need to add to that, but if she doesn't want cold and snow, heck no.

Costa Rica is pretty amazing. Great beaches, eco tourism, some heavily touristed areas and some natural beauty that blows your mind. I think that's a nice trip b/c it's about 6-7 hours with one connection, variety of things to do. Food kind of stunk. 

Hawaii is heavenly. Super expensive! 

Vietnam was one of my favorite places ever, I may have wrote that up. Heavenly. All kinds of stuff to do. Nature. Cities. Shooting automatic weapons. Coastal motorcycle tours. Beautiful beaches. Wonderful people (maybe they are so nice because they won???). Amazing food. Hard to get to, but no harder than Bali. I think your mom could handle it.  

India is pretty awesome, but might be a little hard for her. Flight isn't so bad any more. Going on Etihad through Abu Dhabi is about 19 hours total, and on the way back you clear customs in Abu Dhabi, so when you land in DC you grab your bags and go.

Thailand is great, too, but you gotta work pretty hard to find the good stuff. They are relentless about pushing stuff on you (gems, custom suits, dresses, whores). Cooking classes are really fun, beaches are the best I've ever seen, and food is to die for. 

And you know how I feel about Croatia, too!  

 

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2 hours ago, ktmoomau said:

Has anyone ever been to Costa Rica?  People have been telling me it should be on my list too?

4 minutes ago, Simul Parikh said:

Costa Rica is pretty amazing. Great beaches, eco tourism, some heavily touristed areas and some natural beauty that blows your mind. I think that's a nice trip b/c it's about 6-7 hours with one connection, variety of things to do. Food kind of stunk.

I was there in 2006 so wouldn't be a great source for current information, but I'd give a plus one to what Simul said about Costa Rica. Unfortunately in my experience food is not a high point of travel to Central America.

Nicaragua (Granada, the Corn Islands) is supposed to be beautiful, too, but I haven't been.

I'm going to give another plug to Guatemala here, too. I thought it had all the natural beauty of Costa Rica but also a fascinating (Mayan) culture and (sad) history. Again, I'd look into the current conventional wisdom on safety. We didn't go to the beach in Guatemala, but I can't imagine that the beaches aren't beautiful.

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I also highly recommend Iceland!  I was there in July (peak tourist time) temperatures were in the high 50s/low 60s.  Reykjavik was fairly crowded in the main tourist areas, but it never felt overcrowded.  The Golden Circle was busy, but when we headed North to Snaefellsness Peninsula (about a two hour drive) the second day there was barely anyone around.

We also just got back from London, which is a very easy city to get around.  And of course it's London, so there's a ton to do/see. 

For future ideas, we went to Israel several years ago and had a really great trip.  We were visiting State Department friends so that helped.  It's a small country so you can cover a lot of territory.  Amazing food, great history, and you can hit beaches, mountains, and deserts all in one day.  Also consider a side trip to Jordan to visit Petra.

 

 

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On 8/23/2016 at 2:05 PM, Simul Parikh said:

Vietnam was one of my favorite places ever, I may have wrote that up. Heavenly. All kinds of stuff to do. Nature. Cities. Shooting automatic weapons. Coastal motorcycle tours. Beautiful beaches. Wonderful people (maybe they are so nice because they won???). Amazing food. Hard to get to, but no harder than Bali. I think your mom could handle it.  

Have not been there in ages, but I agree with Simul above.  Also I have not been there in ages but if you have any level of connection to religion and any affinity for seeing very old history anywhere visit the Holy Land.  Of course there are always security concerns. 

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I'll post at greater length soon, but we absolutely loved Bali. We stayed two nights in Ubud, and then three nights in Seminyak, and loved all of it. It's absolutely gorgeous, and quite inexpensive once you get there. 

Singapore was also awesome, and once you're in the region it's pretty inexpensive to fly around. 

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Ok, so we checked off Bali and Dubai!  It will be back to HHI this year (Can't pass up a free beach house and will go with Hubby, FIL, MIL.)  2019 will be Greece and then I think up next will likely be Vietnam!!!  So thank you all for the ideas, they have been serving me well.

What islands in Greece did you all like and why?

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7 minutes ago, ktmoomau said:

What islands in Greece did you all like and why?

I never made it out of Athens and felt like I didn't see everything.  I didn't even make it to Piraeus.  So if you're interested in art & art history, spend at least 4 days in Athens.  

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35 minutes ago, ktmoomau said:

What islands in Greece did you all like and why?

It's been a long, long time, but I love the Greek islands. Naxos, in the Cyclades, has a lovely main town and some beautiful beaches, but the thing that's most memorable to me is renting a moped and heading up into the hills inland. Not a tourist in sight. I got stuck in goat herding traffic at one point, but made it up to a village where I had lunch at a taverna. The owner was so surprised to see a tourist that he gave me a liter Seven-up bottle filled with his homemade Retsina. It was a blast just getting lost up there.

Also, while touristy as hell, Santorini is still worth the visit. Where else can you have dinner on a terrace overlooking a caldera?

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