My 2016 prediction? This is the year to travel the United States.
When January rolls around, people in the travel business always like to look into the proverbial crystal ball, singling out which destinations will be white-hot. Cuba is HOT! No way, really? I say let’s leave trends up to Paris Fashion Week. Travel is a deeply personal experience, and who cares what’s “cool” this year if in your heart, you really want to go somewhere else? So today I’m bucking the trends and am just going to tell you what’s piquing my interest for 2016.
And what country am I REALLY excited about? The one that’s right under our nose. The US of A. I’m always struck by how stunning and diverse things our here, and now because of gas prices falling significantly, the Great American Road Trip has become more appealing than ever! And while I’d never tell anyone to stop saving for an African safari, Antarctic cruise or epic road trip through New Zealand—those trips take a lot of planning and money and I’m convinced that for every bucket list vacation you can imagine, we nearly have an equivalent in the states. Here are three examples.
Crave an African safari? Go to Yellowstone!
If you can’t stop thinking about elephants roaming through the Serengeti, why not whet your appetite by watching buffalo graze through Yellowstone? The park, established in 1872, is home to the largest concentration of free roaming wildlife in all of the lower 48 states. So you could see a lion in Tanzania, or a grizzly bear in Wyoming. Both sound pretty darn awesome/scary to me (and one costs a lot less money)!
And speaking of America, the National Parks Service is celebrating their 100th birthday this year. You could check off a few of the biggies (Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon), but there are 409 parks to choose from. This is the year to raise a glass to Teddy Roosevelt and “America’s Best Idea,” so pack up the family station wagon, channel your inner Clark Griswold and hit the road. I am sure there’s a great park within driving distance from your house.
Dream of an Antarctic cruise? Try Alaska!
A journey to Antarctica gives you serious travel bragging rights, and a trip there is something truly rare and special. But there’s a few other things you might now know about Antarctica. First of all, if you’re traveling by ship (and most people do), you must spend 36-to-48 hours crossing the Drake Passage, known as the most turbulent waters on earth, both ways! The Antarctic is on my Bucket List… as in due to my horrible motion sickness, I would definitely need a one. Not to mention aside from penguins, seals, whales and a few birds, the place is void of wildlife. And then there’s the price tag: cruises start at about $12,000 per person (not including flights), and if you’re on a larger ship, you may not be able to step foot onto land per regulations established through the Antarctic Treaty.
For a fraction of the price (and hopefully less time being violently ill on the high seas), you could explore majestic Alaska. You’ll still see the whales and seals (sorry, no penguins), but potentially moose, bears, cute little otters and more. Plus, you could spend a day salmon fishing, or aboard a helicopter circling Mt. McKinley. How cool is that?
Swap a New Zealand road trip for a West Coast adventure!
New Zealand is absolutely stunning. I should know– I’ve seen all of the Lord of the Rings. All kidding aside, the Kiwis certainly were blessed with some seriously beautiful geography, tons of hiking and really great coffee. Lots of tourists (especially college kids!) fly here on an open-ended ticket, woofing (aka exchanging manual labor for room and board) and hitchhiking their way across the country. If I were 20-some-years younger, that would be a blast. But these days, I know I’d want to rent a nice RV or stay in lovely hotels, eat well, enjoy the wine scene and try some extreme sports. When you add in airfare, poof! Thousands and thousands of dollars gone!
Why not rent a car (or RV!) in Seattle and spend a week or two making your way down to San Diego? You can stop for great coffee and food in Portland, explore the Redwood Forest, check out the Half-Dome in Yosemite, eat like a king in San Francisco, look for Clint Eastwood in Carmel, relax in Big Sur, drink wine in Santa Barbara (you can do that in Paso Robles, Sonoma and Napa, too!), people watch in Venice, and surf in San Diego. I think I just planned your next trip.
Swapping out any of those epic trips for a domestic vacation will save you thousands of dollars, tons of travel time, and are easy enough that you’ll actually book the dang thing in the first place! My hope for myself AND all of you is that we all make time to pack our bags and go somewhere lovely this year! Adventures, no matter how big or small, are what make life worth living.
Where do you hope to travel in 2016? Share in the comments!