Wrap up a vacation for the holidays
Gift that someone special in your life a vacation of their dreams. | By Joanna Tweedy | October 22, 2021
Whether it's some much-needed downtime for your whole family, a romantic getaway with your better half or a hobby-focused trip with a friend, the gift of a vacation is always guaranteed to raise a smile. You can tailor it to their favorite passion, from shopping to exploring the great outdoors. Even better, there's a good chance you might get to go along, too!
Create lasting memories this holiday with your:
Grandparents who golf: Tee off under the California sun
Significant other: Fall in love in Florence over a bowl of pasta
Snow-loving kids: Sled and ski your way down Vermont’s mountains
Vactation treats for young families
Florida Keys fun-shine
A stay on Florida's stunning southern archipelago — 800 tiny islands that include beautiful Key West and Key Largo — promises chilled-out days under cerulean blue skies for families with little ones. Hunt for pretty shells, paddle in crystal clear shallows or enjoy marine life tours; keep your eyes peeled for the famous manatee (affectionately known as a sea cow). Hungry? You can feast on Florida favorites like Key Lime Pie, conch fritters and just-caught seafood.
Tots first snow trip in Vermont
The gift of acres of powder-soft snow — perfect for snowman building — never gets old. Pack your down jackets and make for Vermont and its family-friendly ski resorts. Killington, the largest winter resort in the eastern US, is a snowy wonderland and the perfect place to introduce younger children to the fun of winter holidays. You’ll find activities include sledding, tubing and sleigh rides. Look out for great discounts on family ski packages.
Mingle with the Romans
The Eternal City is surprisingly easy to conquer with toddlers and younger kids. Rome’s largely pedestrianized streets are blissfully flat and stroller friendly. Soak up famous sights such as the Coliseum, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain at your own pace and dine alfresco on delicious food. Authentic pasta, pizza and gelato is always a hit with bambini of any age.
Give grandparents the gift of trips
Music lover's Nashville
Present a stay to Music City to a loved one and watch their eyes light up at the idea of soaking up Nashville’s musical heritage. Attractions such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry show the origins of the music. The neon-lit honky-tonks of Lower Broadway let you hear where it’s going. Nashville’s fine dining scene is buoyant, with some of America’s hottest chefs plying their trade here; however, the city’s fabled fried chicken is just as tempting.
Tee off in San Diego
Eighteen holes under the Californian sun — with an ocean view — is a dream gift for golf lovers. Torrey Pines, just north of La Jolla, is the cliff-top course used in the 2021 U.S. Open. Grandparents can book a golf package to play the North and South courses before exploring the rest of this sun-drenched coast at leisure. There are beautiful hikes at nearby Torrey Pines State Reserve, or cruise into downtown San Diego, including the rejuvenated Gaslamp Quarter, for numerous restaurants and bars.
Back in time in Athens
History buffs will be in seventh-heaven in this ancient European capital. Tick off some of Greece’s most famous sights, including the Acropolis and the Parthenon, and fascinating museums that tell the city’s story, including the National Archaeological Museum and the Acropolis Museum. Dine late and long, like the locals, in tavernas serving delicious meze (Greek tapas) and Alpha, the city’s locally brewed beer.
For your best friend
Spend, spend, spend in NYC
From haute couture (Upper East Side) to vintage shops (Williamsburg) to department store giants such as Macy’s and Bloomingdales (central Manhattan), the Big Apple is one of the world’s premier destinations. Punctuate days hunting for the perfect outfit with pit-stops for coffee and dining on New York’s global menu; from tacos to sushi to pizza to bagels and lox, you'll find it in New York.
This Indonesian island knows how to soothe souls with friendly locals and a verdant interior teeming with colorful wildlife and incredible beaches. Plus, it has a spiritual side that manifests in gentle meditation and will help you relax. A Balinese holiday with friends is about exploring temples, trying traditional island spa treatments, taking beautiful walks and unwinding by the pool. Mouth-watering local dishes, including spiced, grilled fish (ask for Jimbaran-style) and Babi Guling (spit-roasted suckling pig), are a fabulous way to end a day.
Press pause on the 9-to-5 and sample the Italian high life. As a gateway to the southern Amalfi Coast, glitzy Sorrento is known the world over for its stunning coastal views, fragrant lemon trees and easy-on-the-eye architecture. Perfect for those seeking a little glamour, this surprisingly small town is packed with designer shopping, posh restaurants and sleek bars. For an extra dose of fun, sail over to the equally winsome island of Capri for an ice-cold shot of limoncello (Amalfi’s favorite liqueur) — it only takes 20 minutes to get there by boat.
Vactation gift ideas for the adventurer in your life
Winter fun in Iceland
This North Atlantic country may be chilly in the winter — December temperatures average around 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) — but the visual thrills more than make up for the chill. The Northern Lights show up almost nightly in midwinter and there’s adventures galore to be had like star-gazing, floating in the Blue Lagoon’s thermal waters and touring geological sights, like spurting geysers and active volcanoes. Quirky capital Reykjavik is very much Iceland’s cultural hub, with great art, interesting dining options (try Plokkfiskur, a fish stew) and striking Hallgrímskirkja Church.
Yosemite’s great outdoors
Keep the adrenaline junkie in your life happy by letting them loose in one of America’s most famous national parks. Yosemite, 150 miles east of San Francisco, stretches 1,169 miles and puts gargantuan slabs of granite — including majestic El Capitan — alongside thundering waterfalls, giant sequoias and the sheer vastness of Yosemite Valley. How to enjoy it? Hike on the Half Dome cable trail, bypassing Vernal and Nevada Falls, or follow a scenic bike trail. You can also go horseback riding or even pan for gold in the nearby Merced River.
Dive into Malta
Whether your loved one is a total beginner or experienced in deep-water exploration, Malta, and its tiny sibling isle of Gozo, welcomes anyone wishing to put on a mask and explore its stunning reefs, caves and long-lost wrecks (including the Blenheim Bomber). You’ll find plenty of PADI centers offering expert tours and excursions. And on land, Malta has a string of pretty beaches to relax on, including Għajn Tuffieħa and Armier Bay. Tiny Valletta, its 16th-century capital, has won a UNESCO World Heritage stamp thanks to its rich history.
For that someone special
A few days spent in Florence, on the banks of the River Arno, is a true gift for that love in your life. This ancient city claims to have gifted the world gelato (via 16th-century Florentine Bernardo Buontalenti) and you can buy scoops at almost every turn. You and your partner will browse like a gourmand at Mercato Centrale, a bustling food market where traders sell epicurean delights, including truffles, cured meats and olive oils. You’ll take home new skills through cookery courses with a real Florentine chef. They’re easy to book. Dining in this city can include everything from a simple bowl of risotto, or a banquet that goes on for hours. Don’t forget to pair your meal with a glass of local Tuscan wine.
Retreat to Barbados
Unwrapping Barbados as a travel gift is one way to put a little romance back into your relationship. Couples can escape into their own world on this tropical Caribbean island. Spend lazy days on pristine beaches, including Miami or Dover Beach, or hire a boat and explore the coastline’s hidden coves and secret beaches. Join a Friday night fish fry (a seafood barbecue) and sample the local Bajan rum as the tangerine sun sinks.
Reignite passion with a romantic mountain break in the Centennial State’s breathtaking mountain resorts. Vail is among the most dramatic, with cobblestone streets sitting pretty under Vail Mountain, Colorado’s tallest peak. This well-heeled resort has plenty of swanky eateries and designer shops. Spend your days exploring the mountain — there’s a trail for every skiing ability — before retreating to the hot tub for a long soak and a toasty fireside dinner for two.
No matter who is the recipient, they will love opening up the gift of a vacation this holiday season. And it’s the gift that truly keeps on giving — they will have both the trip to enjoy and the memories that’ll stay with them for years to come.
Joanna Tweedy is an award-winning travel writer and editor who lives in London.
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