Tag Archives: Brook Wilkinson

Brook in Machu Picchu, Peru with not a lot of people around.

We’re Just Back: Brook’s Tips for Peru, including Machu Picchu, Cusco, and Lima

The goal:
My main goal was to get the best experience of Machu Picchu. It’s a mythic site in most travelers’ imaginations, built centuries ago by exacting craftsmen in the unlikeliest of locations: set high atop a peak in the cloud forest, as the Andes descend toward the Amazon. I had visited 15 years earlier—and that experience surpassed even my exalted expectations of the legendary Incan redoubt—but this time I wanted to see how a new entry system, with prescribed paths through the ruins, affects travelers’ experience of this magical place.

The challenge:
Most of all, I wanted to avoid potential crowds. In the peak months of May, June, and July, up to 5,600 people can enter Machu Picchu per day. So I went in low season, when no more than 4,200 people can visit (and often far fewer do). There are now signposts and ropes that guide you along one of four routes based on your entry ticket; route #1 provides the longest and most complete experience of the site. The good news is that—in low season at least—I was able to walk freely along my route, stopping whenever I wanted to take photos or ask my local guide a question.

Low-profile ropes and signage guide visitors around the ruins of Machu Picchu.

Low-profile ropes and signage guide visitors around the ruins.

The highlight:
It’s awe-inspiring to wander through the ruins and imagine how the Incas managed to quarry, shape, and stack so much rock to build a city in such a vertiginous spot; their exquisite craftsmanship is evident in the carefully aligned stones, each laid on top of the others with no mortar.

Machu Picchu on a cloudy day with mountains in the background.

A quiet January day at Machu Picchu.

Smartest route:
There are two ways to get to Machu Picchu: on foot via the Inca Trail, or by train. (Technically, the train takes you to Aguas Calientes, the town at the base of the mountain on which the ancient citadel sits, and from there you take a bus up a switch-backing road that dead-ends just outside the ruins.) My favorite approach to Machu Picchu captures the best of both worlds: Start on the train—with a seat on the left side, which gives you a view of the Urubamba River—then get off a few miles short of Aguas Calientes and hike the last portion of the Inca Trail. That way you arrive on foot via the Sun Gate, as the Incas once did, with the ruins spread out before you.

Smartest timing:
Afternoons are usually the quietest time of day to visit Machu Picchu, since day-trippers need to leave by early afternoon to catch their train back to Cusco or the Sacred Valley. The busiest hours are from 10am to 1pm. Permits to hike Huayna Picchu—the iconic peak in the background of every Machu Picchu photo you’ve ever seen, which makes for an exhilarating climb—are only available between 7am and 11am.

Machu Picchu on a cloudy day with mountains in the background.

The vertiginous Huayna Picchu towers over the ruins.

Best surprise:
The splendid weather I experienced even in January’s “rainy season.” During my eight days in Peru, it rained overnight several times, but on only three occasions were there showers during the day—and each time those were brief. The nighttime precipitation, along with the buildup of clouds during the day, made for spectacular vistas in my photos, and the farmers’ fields were a striking patchwork of purple, yellow, and white flowers. January is also a beautiful time to be in Lima: Instead of the fog that the city is infamous for, think summertime warmth with an Atlantic breeze to cut the humidity.

Brook biking along a seaside path in Lima, Peru.

Brook spent a sunny afternoon in Lima biking along a seaside path.

Worst surprise:
The Sacred Valley is far more built-up than on my last visit; land that was once most valuable when cultivated is now covered by suburban sprawl. A new international airport is under construction in Chinchero, above the valley. Based on what I saw of the progress so far (a graded dirt rectangle) I don’t expect the airport to open in 2025 as publicized—but when it finally does, I do expect this beautiful corner of the world to get even busier. Get there soon if you can.

Peru's Sacred Valley surrounded by mountains.

Parts of the Sacred Valley are already even more built up than this.

Coolest example of living history:
I spent an afternoon exploring Cusco’s historic center with Teo Allain Chambi, whose grandfather Martín Chambi was a renowned indigenous photographer of the early 20th century. Charmingly modest and yet so proud of his grandfather’s legacy, Teo carried with him a scrapbook of Martín’s street-scene photographs from the 1920s, guiding us to the same spots where his grandfather had composed those shots a century ago. What was most impressive was how little had changed: The buildings have been carefully preserved, many streets are still rough cobblestone, and graceful wooden balconies overlook flower-strewn plazas to this day.

Teo Allain Chambi at Plaza de Armas in Cusco showing photos of from the Plaza.
Teo Allain Chambi in Cusco's Plaza de Armas.
The Coricancha temple in Cusco from the outside on a cloudy day.
Spanish conquistadors made a habit of usurping sacred Incan sites; here, the Convent of Santo Domingo sits atop a wall of the Incas' Coricancha temple in Cusco.
Brook with raised hands in front of the Inca wall.
Brook offers a bit of scale beside the enormous stones in an Inca wall in Cusco.

 

Best hidden hiking trail:
On my last day in Peru, I wanted to stretch my legs before my overnight flight home. So I met up with a private guide who showed me a seldom-used hiking trail outside Cusco that took us past potato and fava-bean fields, through stands of hardy polylepis trees that somehow thrive as high as 16,000 feet above sea level, to the archaeological site of Inkilltambo. Here were sturdy terraces built many centuries ago, and a shrine carved out of rock and reserved for Inca elites. Apart from a nearby farmer working his crops with hand tools, we had the place to ourselves. It was a Sunday, and on the shorter, gentler path we took home, we greeted several cusqueño families heading out for a picnic.

A field full of pink potato flowers.
A field of blooming potato plants near Cusco.
Inkilltambo inn Cusco in the mountains of Peru.
The archaeological site of Inkilltambo, near Cusco.
Inkilltambo inn Cusco in the mountains of Peru.
Incan walls were built around natural limestone outcroppings at Inkilltambo.

 

Best museum you’ve never heard of:
There’s much more to Peru’s rich history than the Incas, and the Larco Museum in Lima is a worthy spot for delving deeper into the country’s past. Spend an afternoon admiring vessels, jewelry, and textiles from the Moche, Nazca, Wari, and other pre-Columbian societies, then segue to the bougainvillea-draped patio for dinner at the museum’s excellent restaurant.

People dininng at the Larco museum restaurant in Peru

Dine under a canopy of greenery and stars at the Larco Museum in Lima.

Local flavors to try:
Peru has earned enormous respect lately for its cuisine, but you don’t have to wait months for a reservation at Lima’s Central (considered by some to be the world’s best restaurant) to appreciate the country’s flavors. I tried delicious fruits like aguaymanto, cherimoya, and lucuma at a market, watched chefs bury potatoes and fava beans and ears of corn and guinea pigs for a traditional pachamanca lunch, and tasted local dishes like causa, ceviche, and tamales at Cumpa, a “creole tavern” with a hipster vibe in Lima that is only open for lunch, and where office workers and laborers in t-shirts compete for table space.

A variety of fruits at the Surquillo Market in Lima, Peru.
Did you know that the cacao fruit—the starting point for chocolate—looks like this?
A vendor dressing in colorful clothes at the Lima market in Peru selling variety of vegetables.
A vendor sells packets of vegetables for soup at a local market in Lima.
A woman shopping at the Surquillo market, in Lima.
Shopping at the Surquillo market in Lima.
The ingredients spread out on mats before they're placed underground for the cooking process.
Burying food between hot stones for a pachamanca lunch.
The start of the cooking process with all the food below the stalks.
The chef blesses our pachamanca lunch.
Brook’s lunch in Peru with a buffet full of dishes cooked underground.
The resulting, delicious buffet.
Over the top image of Tamale Cumpa on a black plate.
A tamale at Cumpa in Lima.
Over the top image of cauza cumpa on a blue plate.
Cauza at Cumpa in Lima.
Preparing pisco sours behind the bar at Lima's Miraflores Park hotel in Peru.
Pisco sours are practically the national drink of Peru. Here's Brook learning how to make one from the bartender at Lima's Miraflores Park hotel.

 

What to look for after dark:
I was fascinated to learn that the Incas saw images in the negative space of the night sky. Yes, they connected the dots between stars to draw constellations—but they also found creatures (a snake, a llama) hidden in the dark spots of the Milky Way. It’s a reminder of how we are all so similar, yet at the same time can see things so differently.

Language lesson:
Quechua, the language shared by many of Peru’s indigenous groups and still spoken by some today, has no word for “friend.” Instead, one of my private guides explained, Quechuans simply address each other as brother or sister—everyone is considered family. This small detail went a long way toward explaining the warm welcome that I felt throughout my time in Peru.

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Transparency disclosure: Some experiences described here were provided to Brook for free, or at reduced rates, by local hotels and suppliers. In keeping with our standard practice, there was no promise of editorial coverage in exchange: Complimentary or discounted travel never influences our reportage. All of these experiences are accessible to every traveler who uses Wendy’s WOW questionnaire. Thanks to Wendy’s WOW system, you’ll get marked as a VIP traveler.

 

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Where to Go in November: The Best Places to Travel

While November can be a dreary time of year in the U.S., the weather in many other parts of the world is positively delightful. It’s also a smart time to travel—between the summer and holiday high seasons—given the current pent-up travel demand to many of these places during their peak seasons. If any of these destinations are on your must-travel-to list within the next year, you’d be wise to plan for November.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Northern Italy

view of Canelli, a town in the Piedmont region of Italy with greernery, old buildings and blue skies

November is truffle season in Piedmont.

In November head to Piedmont for truffle season (the White Truffle Fair in Alba runs the entire month). Try truffle hunting, taste the local Barolo wines, watch artisanal cheese makers, cycle among the vineyards (electric bikes are available!), hike the rolling hills beneath the crisp blue skies…or do it all with your family in a villa for Thanksgiving. This is also harvest time for olives and wine. Learn to cook al fresco in an olive grove, on a goat-cheese farm, or in a vineyard. November is when our editor Billie Cohen took her dream Italian cooking vacation.
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Provence, France

the hilltop village of Gordes, Provence, France

Provence and its pretty villages, like Gordes, are incredibly popular so try to visit in shoulder season. Photo: Pixabay

The light in Provence in winter is why so many famous artists moved there, and the sunshine makes al fresco lunches possible well into November. Provencal markets bustle in the fall, and truffle hunting starts in November. Hike amid the glorious autumn landscapes and hilltop villages of the Luberon, and cycle through the wine country around Gigondas and Vacqueyras, where there are few cars and great eateries.
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Andalusia, Spain

Skyline in the Old Quarter of Seville, Spain

Skyline in the Old Quarter of Seville, Spain. Photo: Shutterstock

One highlight of this magical part of Spain is the culture—an aspect that can be very hard to experience during the summer high season, when the numbers of tourists and residents are imbalanced. In November, by contrast, most of the visitors are gone, making it much easier to interact with locals (and to enjoy some breathing room in the region’s UNESCO World Heritage sites). The weather is still quite pleasant, with temperatures near 70 degrees during the day.
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Portugal

Beautiful nature view on Azores with small villages, tows, green nature fields. Amazing Azores. View of typical Azores village in Sao Miguel island, Azores, Portugal.

Sao Miguel island, Azores, Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock

Temperatures remain in the 60s well into November, when it’s still warm enough for dinner outdoors at the many restaurants that now have significant sidewalk seating; heat lamps aren’t needed till late in the month. Private river boats—which are much better for sightseeing than your typical river cruises—sail the Douro through the end of the month too. And the weather is even more mild on the subtropical islands of Madeira—known for outstanding hiking opportunities—and the Azores, where you can also hike, bike, and off-road around the postcard-perfect lagoons.
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Greece: Crete, Corfu, or Rhodes

Corfu is one of a few Greek islands that stays open and lively through the winter months.

Many Greek islands shut down in late October or early November, but Crete, Corfu, and Rhodes operate year-round, offering traditional cultural and culinary experiences and festivities in the winter months. November is a great time for sheep farms, olive orchards, and the wine harvest.
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Sicily

Aquamarine blue waters of sea near Taormina resorts and Etna volcano mount. Giardini-Naxos bay, Ionian sea coast, Taormina, Sicily, Italy.

Hike Sicily’s Mt. Etna in the fall. Photo: Shutterstock

If your goal is to combine culture and outdoor beauty, fall is this island’s best season. Autumn brings the olive, almond, and wine harvests, and sunny, mild weather. Outdoor activities include exploring Sicily’s Greek and Roman ruins, hiking Mt. Etna, and cycling though nature reserves and wine country.
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St. Barts

Le Guanahani, St. Barts

Le Guanahani, St. Barts. Photo: Le Guanahani

Come November, many resorts, boutiques, and restaurants that closed during the height of hurricane season have reopened, and everything feels fresh and new. The Saint Barth Gourmet Festival also takes place this month, attracting star chefs from France and elsewhere. Plus, hotel and villa rates don’t jump up until mid-December.
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Morocco

Earlier this year Wendy and her family traveled through the #2 country on our list: Morocco. Here they are at the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou.

Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, Morocco.

The weather is perfect at this time of year: sunny days and crisp, clear evenings that make for great star-gazing in the desert. It’s also ideal for hiking in the Atlas Mountains, as it’s starting to cool down and the peaks are often photogenically snowcapped. Plus, it’s harvest time: You can see saffron being picked, and olives turned to oil, right in front of your eyes.
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Patagonia: Argentina and Chile

Torres del Paine National Park view of mountains and water

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile. Photo: Luis Felipa, Southwind Adventures

Most of Argentina and Chile are great at this time of year (think Buenos Aires, the Atacama Desert, even Easter Island), but Patagonia is an especially smart move in November because the lodges have a quieter, more relaxed ambiance and there is less traffic on the roads than during the busiest weeks of December and January. November is also the best time to spot Patagonia’s elusive wildlife, such as nandu, guanaco, puma, huemul, and condor, as all of the animals are more active during their breeding time. The region has a reputation for changeable windy weather, but November feels like spring, with snows melting off the high peaks and flowers beginning to bloom. Rates are sometimes also a bit lower this early in the season.
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The Brazilian Amazon

Aerial view of Anavilhanas National Park Islands, Rio Negro, Brazilian Amazon

Aerial view of Anavilhanas National Park Islands, Rio Negro, Brazilian Amazon. Photo: Shutterstock

River levels are lowest in November, so all of the beaches are out in their full splendor. (People are often shocked by the beauty of the white-sand beaches that form here, making a trip to Brazil’s region of the Amazon unique from the experiences one can have in Ecuador or Peru’s swaths of the same river system.) An ideal trip extends over five days, so it’s easy to fit into a Thanksgiving break. And the area around the Negro River, which is acidic, is not good for mosquito reproduction, so there is little chance of malaria or zika.
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Belize

aerial shot of Belize ocean with sailboat

Explore Belize on the water or in the jungle. Photo: Belize Sailing Vacations

Before Thanksgiving, hotel rates are at their lowest. The days are hot, but the humidity is dropping, and the evenings are cool and breezy. November 19 is Garifuna Settlement Day and is best spent in either Dangriga or Hopkins, where the Garifuna people celebrate—with drumming, dancing, and parades—the arrival of their Afro-indigenous ancestors more than 200 years ago.
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Mexico

Candles lighten up for Día de Muertos in Michoacan.

Día de Muertos in Michoacan. Credit: Journey Mexico

Day of the Dead (celebrated on November 1 and 2), is a significant cultural holiday deeply ingrained in tradition, and a time when Mexican families and communities unite to pay tribute to and commemorate their departed loved ones. Celebrations vary across the country, ranging from grand public festivities to more intimate private gatherings. Our WOW Listers can arrange culturally sensitive experiences in Mexico City, Chiapas, Oaxaca, and the Yucatan Peninsula.
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London (for Thanksgiving break)

christmas tree by London Tower Bridge

London’s Tower Bridge at Christmas. Photo: London Perfect

November is a great month for museum lovers, as many of the blockbuster exhibitions open in the fall; there’s also the London Jazz Festival, where world-class stars and hot emerging artists share the bill. And the Christmas spirit is already in the air starting in mid-November, with holiday lights on all the shopping streets, a plethora of Christmas markets, high tea at gorgeous hotels, and holiday cheer everywhere. If you can’t wait until then, Guy Fawkes Night is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks on November 5.
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The Galapagos Islands

underwater photo of a sea lion in the Galapagos islands

Galapagos sea lions.

The Galapagos is a magnet for families with kids during summer and other school vacations; if you’re looking for a quieter time, think November (except Thanksgiving week). Blue whales, humpback whales, and whale sharks—the largest fish in the sea, growing up to 40 feet in length and weighing as much as 40,000 pounds—are most likely to be spotted in the Galapagos from June through November.
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Guatemala

A handmade kite at Santiago Sacatepéquez's Festival de Barriletes Gigantes in Guatemala.

A handmade kite at Santiago Sacatepéquez’s Festival de Barriletes Gigantes. Photo: Shutterstock

Every November 1 in Sumpago (about 30 minutes north of Antigua), the Festival de Barriletes Gigantes—Festival of Giant Kites—merges a Catholic celebration with a 3,000-year-old Mayan tradition of communing with spirits of the deceased (one that is less morbid than most Mexican Day of the Dead customs). Today, the handmade kites address social themes and the festival features lots of special dishes sold in restaurants and around the square. There is a sister festival in Santiago Sacatepéquez on the same day, which is a bit harder to get to but draws smaller crowds. November is the finish of the wet season, so plan to visit the festival early in your trip and take advantage of drier weather in the following weeks.
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Nepal

Durbar Square in Patan village Nepal

Patan’s Durbar Square, Nepal. Photo: Shutterstock

November is the perfect time in Nepal, whether you’re a trekker or just want to explore a fascinating culture. And there’s more to tempt the latter crowd than ever before, with roads leading to villages once accessible only on foot. In November, the air is crisp and clear, without the pre-monsoon dust, so the mountain views are best. And festivals abound: Near Everest, Manu Rimdu is an exorcism festival designed to purge evil from the area, ensure a bountiful harvest, and confer blessings on the villagers and all sentient beings with dancing, prayers, and comic relief. Then there is the very important Festival of Lights, or Tihar, honoring the gods, humans, and animals, which falls each year in either November or late October.
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Thailand

The view from Anantara Golden Triangle Resort in Chiang Rai, Thailand

The view from Anantara Golden Triangle Resort in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Photo: Anantara

Much of Thailand is at its very best in November, when the mountains are lush and green from the recently receded monsoon, the mornings are diffused with a subtle mist suspended in the valleys, and the sun is gentler as the seasons ease into cooler weather. The rivers are deep and navigable, and the waterfalls are at optimum volume. All in all, it’s an ideal window to travel, before the crowds and costs rise in December.
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India

Drummers at the Kalapthy Festival in Kerala, India

Drummers at the Kalpathi Festival in Kerala, India. Photo: Sanjay Saxena

November is an ideal time to visit almost all of India—except the Himalayas—thanks to the temperate weather. The just-passed monsoon season has given way to relatively clear skies in Delhi and Mumbai, and there are festivals throughout the country, from the Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan to the grand Kalpathi Chariot Festival in Kerala.
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Norway

Northern Lights, Norway

Northern Lights, Grøtfjord, Kvaløya, Norway. Photo: Gaute Bruvik – visitnorway.com

If you’re prepared for some unsettled weather, the benefits of visiting Norway in November include seeing the aurora borealis; trying out glass-blowing, ceramics, or knitting with local artists; and discovering the Norwegian art of “kos,” roughly translated as the practice of gratitude and of consciously appreciating one’s surroundings. During this quieter period locals have more time to share with visitors, now that the busy summer months have passed. There’s also plenty of hiking, kayaking, and even arctic surfing when the weather allows, and whales to be spotted along the country’s coast at this time of year.
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Australia and/or New Zealand

aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef from an airplane

The Great Barrier Reef, seen from above. Photo: Tourism Whitsundays

Australia and New Zealand were off-limits for so long that now everybody is clamoring to go; airlines are bringing back nonstop flights, making the long journey that much easier. This coming November is one of the few times when there is still availability, and it’s one of the best months for a wide-ranging trip to several different parts of these countries: The water around the Great Barrier Reef is calm, making for good visibility; and the weather is spring-time pleasant in Auckland, Sydney, Kangaroo Island, and the outback; and the peaks on New Zealand’s South Island are still picturesquely snow-capped.
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Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why November is a good time to go.

North America and Caribbean

Arizona: Grand Canyon

Florida: Disney World, Orlando

Hawaii: Maui and Oahu (for whale-watching)

 

South America

Argentina: Mendoza

Colombia: Cartagena and Bogota

 

Europe

England: The Cotswolds

Greece: Athens

Iceland (for Northern Lights)

Sicily

Scotland

Malta

 

Asia

Cambodia: Angkor Wat

China: Beijing

Indonesia: Bali

Myanmar

Thailand: Bangkok

Vietnam (southern)

 

Africa

Madagascar: whale sharks

 

Australia and Pacific

Fiji (for November deals)

 

Cruises

Africa Cruises

Antarctica Cruises

 

 

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Atacama Desert Chile night stars

Where to Go in February: The Best Places to Travel

The depths of winter make for the heights of sightseeing in many destinations that are usually overcrowded; it’s also a prime time for extreme climates on either end of the spectrum, from the desert to Antarctica.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Belize

Tobacco Caye - Relaxing at Cabin or bungalow on small tropical island at Barrier Reef with paradise beach, Caribbean Sea, Belize, Central America

Picture yourself enjoying this overwater bungalow on Tobacco Caye, off the coast of Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

Nonstop flights to Belize take off from several U.S. cities that are only about three hours away. Once you’re there you can explore world-class coral reefs, visit uncrowded Mayan ruins, learn to scuba dive (as Wendy’s son did), fish for 100-pound tarpon (which kept her husband busy), and laze beside sparkling Caribbean waters—or you can charter your own private yacht, enjoying fabulous snorkeling, sunbathing, and kayaking.
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Chile and Argentina

Atacama Desert Chile night stars

Chile’s Atacama Desert is a stargazer’s paradise.

It’s summertime in the Southern Hemisphere: That means ideal weather just about everywhere in Chile and Argentina, from Chile’s Lakes District to Mendoza’s wine region to Patagonia. (But be warned: Temperatures in Buenos Aires can reach the high 90s.) If you’re headed to the Atacama Desert, time your trip for early in the month, when the lack of moonlight makes the night skies even more impressive than usual.
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Mexico

Monarch butterflies, Michoacán, Mexico

Monarch butterflies are in full display in Michoacán in February. Photo: Scott Clark/Flickr

February is the best time to see the monarch butterfly migration in the Oyamel forests of Michoacan. After a 3,000-mile journey from the U.S. and Canada, millions of butterflies start to arrive at their wintering grounds in mid-November. They stay until late March, but February is ideal because the butterflies flutter more in the sun as temperatures rise.
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Nicaragua

floating dock in Lake Nicaragua of Jicaro Island eco lodge

Enjoy the tranquility of Jicaro Island, a private-island resort on Lake Nicaragua. Photo: Jicaro Island

February is the height of Nicaragua’s dry season, and the last month before temperatures get uncomfortably hot. The best-quality properties are small and intimate: comfy colonial restorations in cities like León and Granada, and ecolodges along the San Juan River, on an island in Lake Nicaragua, and on the Caribbean and southern Pacific coasts. Despite its reputation from decades past, Nicaragua is one of the safest countries in the Americas, with a very low crime rate. It’s not a democracy, but the only danger is for those in active political opposition to the government.
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Skiing in the Alps

Ski resort in the Alps in a sunny day during winter.

February is the ideal timing for a ski trip to Europe. Photo: Shutterstock

February is the sweet spot for European skiing: It’s late enough in the season that you can count on fabulous, well-manicured snow, and the longer days give you more time on the slopes (or strolling a charming Alpine village nearby). Whether your desired homebase is a ski-in/ski-out hotel or a staffed chalet with room for the whole family, we can connect you to the right expert.
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Costa Rica

Quetzal, Costa Rica. Photo: William Grandados R. Photography

February is the start of the quetzal’s mating season—and a great time to spot them—in Costa Rica’s cloud forests. Photo: William Grandados R. Photography

February falls in the middle of Costa Rica’s dry season. Fill your days with hikes through the jungle, birdwatching in the cloud forest, visits to small sugar-cane and coffee plantations—and of course, plenty of time relaxing along the country’s storied coastlines.
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Panama

The popular Red frog beach on Basimentos Island, Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Bastimentos Island is a 10-minute boat ride from the busier Bocas del Toro, off Panama’s coastline. Photo: Shutterstock

January and February see the best weather of the year in Panama, with less humidity and a cool breeze in the mornings and afternoons. The sun goes down a bit earlier, but the sunsets are amazing.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Panama. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Lake Titicaca, Peru

dancer in traditional Andean dress at the Fiesta de la Candelaria Lake Titicaca Peru

The Fiesta de la Candelaria is one of Peru’s largest festivals.

Every February, a mix of Catholicism and Andean traditions are brought together in the Fiesta de la Candelaria, which takes place in Puno, on the shores of Lake Titicaca. This is one of the largest festivals in the country, celebrated by dancers who come from all over Peru and Bolivia for several days of performances, processions, and competitions.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Peru. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below.

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Iceland

northern lights over snowy flat plateau and lake in iceland

Northern Lights. Photo: kamilgrygo/Pixabay

February is one of the darkest months of the year in Iceland, bettering your chances of seeing the spectacular display of the northern lights. It’s also when the Winter Lights Festival takes place, with beautiful art installations and cultural events happening all around Reykjavik. Winters can be harsh and unpredictable, and some activities will be unavailable, but the dramatic snowy scenery—not to mention the extra time that locals have available for visitors—can make this a particularly satisfying month to visit and enjoy glacier hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling, and heli-skiing, topped off with a dip in a natural hot spring (which you may well have to yourself at this time of year) to rest your weary muscles.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Iceland. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Antarctica Cruises

Zodiac cruise through the ice, Antarctica. Photo: Abby Suplizio

Zodiac cruise through the ice, Antarctica. Photo: Abby Suplizio

By February the sea ice has melted, allowing for longer voyages and prime whale-watching when the humpbacks surface and feed. These shorter autumn days also allow glimpses of the Aurora Australis, or southern lights. What’s more, the icebergs have been beautifully sculpted by summer winds—reflecting the sun’s rays like giant crystal chandeliers—and special offers often come available for these late-season departures.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Antarctica. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Southern Thailand

boats on turquoise water of Ko Phi Phi Le with limestone cliffs coming out of the water in Thailand

Longtail boats off Ko Phi Phi Le, Thailand. Photo: Juan_Luis Pixabay

Southern Thailand is ideal in February, when the oceans are still relatively calm after the crowded peak season, and sunny skies and cooler temperatures prevail before the heat returns in April.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Thailand. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Cambodia

Angkor Wat at sunrise

These monks have Angkor Wat to themselves at sunrise. Photo: Timothy Baker

In early February, the worst of the hot and steamy weather has not yet arrived—but the huge crowds that descend on Angkor Wat in January have already departed (just make sure to arrive after February 10 in 2024, to avoid the crowds that Chinese New Year brings).
Read reviews of WOW trips to Cambodia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Botswana

Elephants tussle in Botswana. Photo: Wilderness Safaris/Caroline Culbert

Elephants tussle in Botswana. Photo: Wilderness Safaris/Caroline Culbert

Prices are as much as 40 percent cheaper in February than during peak season, and the vegetation is lush and green from the rains. The periodic thunderstorms that roll through often provide beautiful rainbows, which form a great backdrop for your photos. Plus, many of the wildlife have babies—zebra, wildebeest, antelope—and the predators tend to be more prolific with the greater availability of prey. This is also a time when migratory birds in full, exquisitely colored breeding plumage are in residence.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Botswana. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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United Arab Emirates and Oman

Abu Dhabi Qasr al Sarab camel caravan

Qasr al Sarab camel caravan, Abu Dhabi. Photo: Timothy Baker

February is one of the cooler months of the year for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Oman, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. This makes it a great time to camp out in Oman’s Empty Quarter, where the sand dunes seem endless; visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi (a good portion of which is outside); or stroll among Dubai’s towering skyscrapers.
Read reviews of WOW trips to the United Arab Emirates and Oman. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why February is a good time to go.

North America

British Columbia: snow sports & northern lights

Jackson Hole & the Grand Tetons: skiing

Oahu: whale-watching

The Rocky Mountains: skiing (first half of the month)

 

South America

Brazil: Rio de Janeiro and Trancoso

Colombia: Cartagena and Bogota

Galapagos Islands: swimming and snorkeling

 

Europe

Athens

Norway: winter activities

Paris: winter sales

Switzerland: skiing and winter fun

Venice: Carnevale

 

Asia

Asia Cruises

China: Yunnan Province

India: Delhi, Agra & the Taj Mahal and Mumbai

Myanmar

Nepal’s lower elevations

Seychelles

Sri Lanka

Vietnam: central coast

 

Africa and Middle East

Africa Cruises

Cape Town and Winelands, South Africa

 

Australia and Pacific

New Zealand: Bay of Islands and Queenstown

Sydney

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

beach and rocks at Anse Source d'Argent beach Seychelles

Where to Go in August: The Best Places to Travel

A lot of people ask us where to go in August: It’s one of the few times of year when they can take a week or two off from work, yet it’s also when so many places are hot, crowded, filled with tourists, devoid of locals, and priced at their most expensive. If all you need is an easy beach escape with the family, consider the southeastern United States: Southeast kids are back in school by mid-August, which means lower rates at lovely, breezy, kid-friendly coastal resorts in places like Virginia’s Northern Neck and St. Simon’s and Sea Island, Georgia. If you’re itching for something more adventurous, though, consider the following options.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Newfoundland and the Maritimes, Atlantic Canada

Newfoundland scenery

This is typical Newfoundland scenery. Photo credit: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Ever since Wendy went there one August several years ago, she’s been urging other East Coasters to flee to Newfoundland in late summer, as an antidote to the crowds, heat, and beach traffic that choke the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. You get a foreign island with dramatic sweeping landscapes, lighthouses and fishing villages galore, roads to yourself (well, you plus a few moose), a distinct local culture, and incredibly friendly people, all without having to schlep too far from home. (You can fly there via Toronto or Halifax from many U.S. hubs.) A must on any Newfoundland itinerary is the Fogo Island Inn, a fascinating five-star philanthropic experiment that Wendy says has the most soul of any hotel she’s ever seen. Read why Wendy loved it there.  
Read reviews of WOW trips to Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Atlantic Canada

British Columbia, Western Canada

Heli-hiking at Kinuseo Falls in Monkman Provincial Park

Heli-hiking at Kinuseo Falls in Monkman Provincial Park, British Columbia. Photo: Hello BC

August days are usually clear and sunny (ideal for seaplane and helicopter flights). It’s prime time for kayaking, hiking, fishing, and river rafting, not to mention bear- and whale-watching. August is when Wendy chose to take her family to Whistler (see We Had the Best Family Trip in Whistler and We Never Put on Skis and I Can’t Believe We Did This: Mountain Climbing in Whistler), as well as to the Discovery Islands (see My Extreme Week in Canada and 6 Otherworldly Escapes That Feel More Remote Than They Are).
Read reviews of WOW trips to British Columbia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Western Canada

Iceland

Brook and family hike the path from Hellnar to Arnarstapi on Iceland’s Snæfellsness Peninsula.

Hiking on Iceland’s Snæfellsness Peninsula. Credit: Ryan Damm

Iceland’s high season starts to taper off in the second half of the month, meaning that you’ll find fewer crowds, more hotel availability, and somewhat better prices—but the weather is still pleasant for exploring the country’s awesome landscapes.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Iceland. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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London

A rib ride on the Thames River is a fun way to see waterfront sights such as the London Eye.

A rib ride on the Thames River is a fun way to see waterfront sights such as the London Eye.

England’s capital is a smart choice in August: It’s a short flight (relatively speaking), it’s not too hot or crowded, and London hotels that typically cater to business travelers have reduced rates (and many of the city’s museums are free). London in August is such a smart move that that’s when Wendy took her own family there—and you can read what each of her young sons had to say about it in Do’s and Don’ts For Your Trip To London.
Read reviews of WOW trips to England. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Austria

Wachau Austria view of village and green field

Summer in Austria is all about beautiful weather, long days, and festivals. Photo: Austria Tourism Board

The days are relatively long, the weather is great, and there are music festivals—especially opera—all over the country. Salzburg’s six-week classical music festival is one of the biggest in Europe.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Austria. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Great Barrier Reef Islands, Australia

aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef from an airplane

The Great Barrier Reef, seen from above. Photo: Tourism Whitsundays

August brings clear blue skies, good visibility for divers and snorkelers, and calm seas (the wind usually dies down at the end of July). It’s also a great time to view wildlife: dwarf minke whales visiting the northern reefs, manta rays off Lady Elliott Island in the region’s southern zone, and humpback whales—including Migaloo, the world’s only known all-white humpback—on their annual migration to Antarctica.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Australia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Alaska Small-Ship Expedition Cruises

Panoramic view of Glacier Bay national Park. John Hopkins Glacier with Mount Orville and Mount Wilbur in the background. Alaska

John Hopkins Glacier (with Mount Orville and Mount Wilbur in the background) in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska. Photo: Shutterstock

August is especially inviting for a small-ship expedition cruise to Alaska, as daylight remains long, wildlife is plentiful, and the glaciers are uniquely illuminated by the late summer sun. Stay up late at this time of year and you may even be treated to the gorgeous green glow of the northern lights.
Read reviews of WOW expedition cruises to Alaska. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring view at Yellowstone National Park

Grand Prismatic Spring view at Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Shutterstock

In August you’ll find warm days and cool nights, wildflowers in bloom, and hiking trails mostly free of snow. Do keep in mind that this is the busiest time in Yellowstone, with prices to match, and skies may be hazy from wildfires. Things are noticeably quieter during the last week of the month, since families have headed home and retirees wait until after Labor Day to visit.
To get a WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Washington State: The San Juan Islands

Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse, Haro Straight, San Juan Islands, Washington

Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse, Haro Straight, San Juan Islands, Washington. Photo: Shutterstock

August brings the clearest skies to the San Juans, making it one of the most popular months to visit the region.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Washington. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons

kayaking in jackson lake grand teton national park

Grand Teton National Park is full of outdoor activities in the summer, including kayaking on Jackson Lake. Photo: Billie Cohen

July and August bring the best weather of the summer, with warm days and cool nights; wildflowers are blooming, hiking trails are usually free of snow, and rivers should be clear of spring runoff, making for perfect fly-fishing conditions. All other summer activities, such as biking, rock climbing, rafting, and horseback riding, are easily available. (Skies may be hazy from area wildfires in August.)
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Kenya Safari: The Great Migration

zebras drinking from a stream in the great migration of animals in Kenya

August and September are the best times to see the annual migration, in which more than a million animals pass through Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve. Photo: Shutterstock

The best time to see the Great Migration—one of the grandest wildlife spectacles on Earth, with more than two million wildebeest and zebra on the move and predators lurking nearby—is July through September, and the best place to be is in the Masai Mara National Reserve. There are more than 15 different river crossings in the Masai Mara (bottlenecks along the migration route where the animals must avoid hungry crocodiles and lions), with great names like Smelly Crossing, Rekero Crossing, Football Crossing, Helicopter Crossing, and Double Crossing. You need to be patient, and in the right location at the right time of day. To increase your odds, consider staying at two camps in different locations.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Kenya here, here, and here. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Costa Rica

Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

Mid-June through midAugust is the middle of the rainy season, but prices are relatively low, everything is lush and green, and weather patterns are predictable: You get beautiful sunny mornings for adventure activities, and the strong showers in the afternoon give you time to rest while listening to the tropical rain that cools things off for the evening.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Costa Rica. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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The Seychelles

beach and rocks at Anse Source d'Argent beach Seychelles

Chez Batista Villas, Seychelles. Image courtesy of Torsten Dickmann – STB

August is one of the sunniest months in the Seychelles. Rain can occur at any time of the year, but storms are typically short and isolated. Bear in mind that seas can be a little rougher from May to September.
Read reviews of WOW trips to the Seychelles. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Rwanda and Uganda: Gorilla Trekking

gorilla group in the jungle, Uganda

The rewards of gorilla trekking in Uganda. Photo: EXPLORE Inc.

The best time for tracking the gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda is June through September, when it’s cool and there is less precipitation (but remember, this is still the rainforest, and storms can hit any day).
Read reviews of WOW trips to Rwanda and Uganda here and here. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a gorilla-trekking safari

New Zealand

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand. Photo: Rob-Suisted/New Zealand Tourism

Summer skiing, anyone? August is the top month for skiing in New Zealand: You’ll get the most reliable heli-skiing conditions in August—and combining that with a tropical island like Fiji can be fun.
Read reviews of WOW trips to New Zealand. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Cambodia and Angkor Wat

silhouette Sunrise Fisherman fishing on the boat at Tonle Sap lake Cambodia

Tonle Sap during sunrise, Cambodia. Photo: Shutterstock

Late May through early September is Cambodia’s green season. It rains two days out of three, but the mornings are almost always sunny and bright, with rain clouds gathering toward the late afternoon; get out of bed early to explore when Cambodians are most active ahead of the midday heat, and you’ll enjoy far fewer crowds and vibrantly green rice paddies. Plus, the money you save on shoulder-season hotel rates you can spend on massages, world-class golf, and fine food.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Cambodia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why August is a good time to go.

North America and Caribbean

Washington: Seattle

Central and South America

Bolivia

Brazil: Rio de Janeiro, Trancoso, and the Amazon

Colombia: Bogota

Ecuador: Quito and the Andes

Peru

Europe

European Canal Barges

Norway

Scotland

Switzerland: hiking in the Alps

Asia and Pacific

Fiji

French Polynesia: Tahiti

India: Agra and Ladakh

Mongolia: camel trekking

Nepal: Upper Mustang

Papua New Guinea: trekking

Africa

Botswana

Madagascar

Zambia

Zimbabwe (second half of the month)

 


 

 

 

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Beautiful Trancoso beach near Porto Seguro in state of Bahia, Brazil

Where to Go in July: The Best Places to Travel

Even in the peak summer travel month of July, there are still plenty of places in the world where you can escape the heat, crowds, and beach-bound traffic jams. Here are ideas for you, gathered from our Insider’s Guides to destinations worldwide.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Newfoundland and the Maritimes, Atlantic Canada

Breaching humpback whale, Newfoundland

July is a prime month for spotting humpback whales in Newfoundland. Photo: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Ever since Wendy visited one summer several years ago, she’s been urging other East Coasters to flee to Newfoundland in summer, as an antidote to the crowds, heat, and beach traffic that choke the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. You get a foreign island with dramatic sweeping landscapes, lighthouses and fishing villages galore, roads to yourself (well, you plus a few moose), a distinct local culture, and incredibly friendly people, all without having to schlep too far from home. (You can fly there via Toronto or Halifax from many U.S. hubs.) A must on any Newfoundland itinerary is the Fogo Island Inn, a fascinating five-star philanthropic experiment that Wendy says has the most soul of any hotel she’s ever seen. Read why Wendy loved it there.  
Read reviews of WOW trips to Newfoundland. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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British Columbia, Western Canada

bear looking at camera on Nakina River in British Columbia canada

Summer is a good time for bear-viewing—just hopefully not this close. Photo: Entree Canada

The days are usually clear and sunny (ideal for seaplane and helicopter flights) and the seasonal wilderness lodges, which typically open in mid-May, have been operating long enough to work out any kinks. The summer months are also prime time for kayaking, hiking, fishing, and river rafting, not to mention bear- and whale-watching.
Read reviews of WOW trips to British Columbia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Norway

Reine, Lofoten, Norway. The village of Reine under a sunny, blue sky, with the typical rorbu houses. View from the top

The village of Reine in Lofoten, Norway. Photo: Shutterstock

July brings Norway’s best weather. The days are endless, with almost no night, the nature is at its peak, the waterfalls are still large, and you still have some snowcapped mountains in the fjord area.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Norway. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Bora Bora, Tahiti, and French Polynesia

Fakarava island in french polynesia with canoe on turquoise blue water

Fakarava atoll, French Polynesia. Photo: Julius Silver/Pixabay

The “Heiva” festival falls during July, with local contests on outer islands early in the month and a culmination of ceremonies in Papeete, Tahiti around the 20th. July also falls during the “Trade Wind” season, when the breezes keep temperatures in the low 80s and the humidity is down as well. It still rains, but in 30- to 40-minute bursts, and then the sun comes out again (a cycle that can repeat a few times through each afternoon and evening). The lagoons can be a bit choppy, but are still great for kite surfing, catamarans, or outrigger canoes with a sail and, of course, sailing.
Read reviews of WOW trips to French Polynesia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Iceland

green hills and waterfalls by Kirkjufell mountain,Iceland

Kirkjufell mountain, Iceland. Photo: Shutterstock

In July Iceland sees about 20 hours of daylight, so you can pack your trip full of the outdoor pursuits that the country is famous for. It’s also when the weather is mildest—which here means average temperatures in the mid-50s—and the roads, hiking trails, and lava caves aren’t blocked by snow.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Iceland. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Belize

A row of thatched palapas on golden sand on the tiny island of Rendezvous Caye in the Belize Barrier Reef, off the coast of Belize, Central America

Rendezvous Caye on Belize’s barrier reef. Photo: Shutterstock

While July technically falls during the country’s rainy season, the showers are sporadic and typically not a daily occurrence. Hotel rates are lower at this time of year, and it’s also the beginning of lobster season—so you can fish by day and enjoy the freshest possible crustaceans for dinner that very evening. Wendy and her family have enjoyed two idyllic trips to Belize in July/early August, including one when her son got SCUBA-certified right on the dock of their boutique resort.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Belize. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Riviera Maya, Mexico

View from the beach in a quiet day at the Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico.

A quiet day at the Mayan ruins in Tulum, Mexico. Credit: Journey Mexico

July is technically the rainy season in the Riviera Maya—but it often brings a pause from the spikes in precipitation that come in June and from August through November. Between the sporadic showers, you can enjoy fewer crowds at the archaeological sites, lush tropical foliage that has been revived by the summer rains, and lower rates at the region’s hotels. Plus, July presents the opportunity to swim with the whale sharks that congregate off the cost of Cancun at this time of year.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Mexico. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Great Barrier Reef aerial view

Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Photo: Shutterstock

July is the perfect time for whale-watching on the Great Barrier Reef: You can go swimming or snorkeling with dwarf minke whales, and cruise alongside humpbacks on their annual migration. This being the southern-hemisphere winter, both the air and water temperatures are in the 70s, with plenty of sun and almost no rain.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Australia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Trancoso, Brazil

Beautiful Trancoso beach near Porto Seguro in state of Bahia, Brazil

A Trancoso beach near Porto Seguro in the state of Bahia, Brazil. Photo: Shutterstock

If you are after a taste of the international party scene that put Trancoso on the map, you need to go from January through March. But if you are after peace and quiet, July is pure bliss: Temperatures are still in the high 70s to 80s, and you will often have mile upon mile of palm-tree-backed beaches all to yourself.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Brazil. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Switzerland

Couple at hiking in the area of Zermatt with the Matterhorn in the background.

Hiking in Zermatt with the Matterhorn in the distance. Photo: Switzerland Tourism/Ivo Scholz

July brings the best conditions for hiking in the Alps. In the Appenzell, you can chat with farmers in their fields; near Interlaken, ride the gondola to the summit of the Jungfrau. After a few days on the trails, rest your legs and soak up the Italian-influenced culture on the shores of Lake Maggiore.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Switzerland. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Alaska

Guests explore on Zodiac in Southeast Alaska, Tracy Arm, calving ice

Guests spot calving ice while exploring in Southeast Alaska. Photo: Lindblad Expeditions/Michael S. Nolan

Until mid-July the mountains are still covered in snow, the flowers are emerging, and the animals have just given birth, so you might see moose out with their calves, as well as just-born fur-seal pups. Plus, the locals are happy that winter is over and that visitors have returned. Temperatures are typically in the mid-60s during the days (which are the longest days of the year) and you’re likely to see active, calving glaciers. All in all, it’s a great time to see the 49th state via a land-based stay, a cruise ship, or a smaller expedition-style vessel.
Read reviews of WOW land trips to Alaska here, and WOW cruises of Alaska here and here. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Wildflowers blooming in Grand Teton National Park

Wildflowers blooming in Grand Teton National Park.

You’ll find warm days and cool nights, wildflowers in bloom, and hiking trails mostly free of snow. In the Tetons, rivers should be clear of spring runoff, making for perfect fly-fishing conditions. And it’s prime time for a huge variety of activities—biking, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, horseback riding. Summer can be busy, but there are creative ways to beat the crowds in national parks.

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Glacier National Park, Montana

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana

Going-to-the-Sun Road, Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo: NPS/Tim Rains

High up on the Canadian border, Glacier has a very short season: The entire Going-to-the-Sun Road (the park’s star attraction, cut into an immense, craggy cliff with amazing vistas) is only open for a few months, typically from late June to October. In July, there will still be snow, but the weather is pleasant. These days, sadly, you’ll find only a few dozen glaciers left from the 150 that were here back in 1850. There are more than 700 miles of hiking trails to choose from, some of which skirt waterfalls and glacial lakes.

To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Kenya and Tanzania Safaris

great migration, wildebeest, mara river, masai mara Kenya

Wildebeest crossing the Mara River during the Great Migration, Masai Mara, Kenya. Photo: Hippo Creek Safaris

The best time to see the Great Migration—one of the grandest wildlife spectacles on Earth, with more than two million wildebeest and zebra on the move and predators lurking nearby—is the dry season, since the animals come out looking for water sources. The best place to be is in the Masai Mara National Reserve: There are more than 15 different river crossings—bottlenecks along the migration route where the animals must avoid hungry crocodiles and lions.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Kenya and Tanzania here, here, and here. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Queenstown, New Zealand

Fiordland Lake, helicopter

See Fiordland Lake by helicopter. Photo: Jean-Michel Jefferson

In the southern-hemisphere winter, Queenstown is a snow-capped beauty, and there are not many people around; it is cold but heavenly, and a great time for snowshoeing and touring Fiordland by helicopter.
Read reviews of WOW trips to New Zealand. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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The Arctic

Polar Bear, cubs, Arctic

Summer in the Arctic means great photo opportunities. Photo: Ashton Palmer

The early summer months not only bring reasonably warm weather but also have the advantage of the midnight sun, when the near 24-hour daylight conditions make for superb photo opportunities.
Read reviews of WOW trips to the Arctic. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why July is a good time to go.

 

North America and Caribbean

Caribbean Islands: off-peak rates

Seattle

St. Barts: off-peak rates

 

Central and South America

Bolivia

Brazil: Rio, Pantanal Wetlands, and the southern Amazon region

Colombia: Bogota

Costa Rica: green-season deals

Ecuador: Galapagos Islands and Quito

Peru

 

Europe

Austria

England: London

European Canal Barge Cruises

Malta

Scotland

Sicily: first half of the month

Turkey: Istanbul and Aegean Coast

 

Asia and Pacific

Cambodia: green season

China: Yunnan Province

Fiji

India: Agra and Ladakh

Nepal: Upper Mustang region

Papua New Guinea

Seychelles

 

Africa

Botswana

Madagascar

Rwanda

South Africa: Cape Town

 

 

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orange life preserver on hook at lake

How to Buy Travel Insurance: What It Covers, When You Need It

UPDATE—November 7, 2023: It’s important for travelers to be aware that most travel-insurance policies do not cover loss due to war. Many insurance providers did cover claims due to the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas because they deemed it a “terrorist incident”—but the ongoing fighting is not a covered reason for loss under policies purchased on or after that date, when it became a foreseeable event. For more details, see “Can I call off my trip for any reason and be reimbursed?” below. 

Travel insurance can be confusing—which is why we’ve received countless questions about it from readers. So we’ve created this primer that lays out the basics of travel insurance, including when you need it—and when you don’t.

What is travel insurance anyway?

Essentially, travel insurance serves two purposes, both financial. The first is to protect the investment you’ve already made—the cost of your trip—in the event that you need to cancel. The second is to cover future potential costs because of unforeseen events—for example, the cost of medical evacuation, should you get injured during your trip.

What does travel insurance cover?

Travel insurance policies cover some or all of the following (“comprehensive” policies cover most or all of these situations):

  • Trip cancellation or interruption (if the reason for doing so is one allowed by that policy)
  • Medical expenses, and sometimes evacuation (transportation to an appropriate medical facility)
  • Expenses related to a trip delay and lost, stolen, damaged, or delayed baggage
  • A lump-sum payment if you’re injured or killed while traveling
  • Emergency assistance
  • Financial default of the travel supplier

A policy kicks in only if your situation fits within its specific conditions (those are the pages of fine print at the back of every policy). You can’t, for instance, get your money back if you decide to cancel because your cousin dies; that’s because most policies cover cancellation due to the death of only certain close family members.

Here are three examples of how travel insurance can help. These are scenarios that a traveler might run into—and ways in which the right travel insurance policy could protect the traveler in each scenario. Remember that every policy’s benefits are different:

Beth is headed to the Caribbean during hurricane season, since she knows that prices are lower at that time of year and that the chance of a storm hitting any particular island is low. But a week before she leaves, Hurricane Peter wreaks havoc at her beachfront resort.
Since Beth purchased an insurance policy with trip-cancellation coverage before the storm was named and her hotel is now uninhabitable, she can cancel the trip and get all of her money back.

Halfway through a hiking trip in the Alps, Joe slips and falls, breaking his ankle.
Joe’s travel insurance policy has a medical expense limit of $10,000, so it covers some—but not all—of his medical bills. Because he can’t continue with his trip, his trip-interruption benefit reimburses him for the unused portion of his prepaid expenses.

While Amy is walking from the train station to her hotel, a thief steals her luggage.
Amy’s insurance covers the value of the items in her luggage, up to her benefit limit of $750. Too bad she didn’t leave that diamond necklace at home, though; her policy will only reimburse up to $500 total for jewelry and electronics.

Do I really need travel insurance?

It depends on whether you’re making large nonrefundable advance payments, and whether you’re concerned about potential medical bills.

Are you reserving rooms at hotels that let you cancel up to 24 hours before check-in, and renting a car that you don’t have to pay for until you show up at the counter? In that case, don’t bother with a comprehensive policy that covers cancellation, since you’re not out-of-pocket for many expenses. (Even so, you may still want medical insurance, which is very affordable; you can get quotes for this coverage by entering $0 as your trip cost when researching policies online—see “Which policy should I buy?” below.)

Or are you prepaying for most of the pricey elements of your trip—hotels, private guides, transportation, a cruise—which often means that your deposit and subsequent payments are nonrefundable? In that case, you probably want travel insurance. When you choose a policy, consider the specific reasons you may end up filing a claim. For instance, most policies will cover Covid-related medical bills, but not all of them will cover the costs of isolating at your destination because you’re sick but not hospitalized.

Don’t I already have insurance?

You might. Some—but not all—medical plans, homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies, and credit cards offer benefits to travelers. But Medicare, for instance, doesn’t cover members when they are overseas (though some Medigap plans do), and most health plans won’t cover evacuation (meaning, transportation to an adequate medical facility), which can be expensive if you’re somewhere remote. Check with your insurers to see what’s included.

Some premium credit cards include a level of protection. This coverage probably isn’t itself worth the card’s annual fee—but if you already have such a card, you should know what benefits it offers so that you don’t pay for redundant coverage. For example, Chase Sapphire Reserve (one of Wendy’s favorite credit cards for travelers) has some good insurance benefits, but with set limits (so, for instance, you can get back only up to $10,000 per traveler and $20,000 per trip if you cancel a trip you paid for with the card—even if your African safari cost your family of four $15,000 per person).

Some travel firms and tour operators also include certain insurance coverage in all of their trips. Don’t waste your money buying coverage that’s already built into the cost of your trip. However, don’t assume that this coverage is comprehensive; depending on your circumstances, you might want to buy an additional policy.

How much does travel insurance cost?

Premiums for a comprehensive policy range from about four to 15 percent of your total trip cost. So if you and your spouse are spending $20,000 total on a week in France, expect to pay $400 to $1,500 per person for travel insurance.

Each premium is calculated based on the length and cost of the trip, where you’re going, and how old you are. For travelers above age 50, policies get significantly more expensive, while children can often be added to a parent’s plan for free: Travelex’s Travel Select Plan allows you to add any children under 18 to a parent’s or grandparent’s plan at no additional cost, while most Travel Guard plans include one child under 18 for every paying adult.

At what point during my trip planning should I buy travel insurance?

Purchase your policy as soon as you put down a deposit toward your trip. That’s because certain desirable benefits (e.g., coverage for cancellation because of pre-existing medical conditions, coverage for financial default of the travel supplier, a cancel-for-any-reason upgrade) may kick in only if you buy your policy within 14 days or so of your initial trip payment. This is usually defined as the first payment that will go toward your trip cost and could be included in an insurance claim, not the separate planning fee that some travel designers charge.

Your premium will be lower if you cover only your nonrefundable costs; however, not covering the full amount of your payment(s) may invalidate coverage for pre-existing conditions. Requirements vary from one insurance provider to the next, so read a policy carefully when calculating the amount of coverage you need.

What is third-party travel insurance?

Some travel companies—cruise lines, tour operators, and the like—sell their own insurance or “protection” policies, whereas third-party insurance is sold by someone other than the travel company that is operating your trip. Third-party policies are usually a better choice: They pay you back in cash rather than trip credits, they can protect you in case the travel company goes out of business, and you can choose the plan with the coverage that best fits your specific circumstances.

My travel planner recommends that I purchase a policy through a specific insurer; should I follow their advice?

Some travel planners, tour companies, and outfitters have relationships with a particular insurance provider. They might push you to buy a certain type of insurance because they’ll earn a commission; on the other hand, their relationship with that insurer could benefit you if you have to file a claim. Wendy has seen many cases where Trusted Travel Experts on The WOW List, thanks to their relationship with a particular insurer, have been able to act as advocates for their travelers and get their claims paid.

Should I cover the cost of my flights too?

That depends. If you have to cancel your trip, you can usually put the cost of any unused airline tickets toward a future flight, sometimes minus a change fee. Calculate how much your premium will increase if you insure your flights; if the difference is less than the airline’s change fee, it’s worth insuring the flights. (You might also want to insure flights on any local carrier that you aren’t likely to fly with again—in which case a credit toward future travel would be worthless.)

What does it mean if a travel medical insurance plan is primary or secondary?

“Primary” means that the plan pays any bills first, without having to go through your home health insurance provider; “secondary” means the plan will only cover whatever you owe after you’ve filed a claim with your health insurance provider. You’ll typically get a bit more coverage per dollar with a secondary plan—but you’ll have to deal with more paperwork if you file a claim.

I have a medical condition. Will expenses related to it be covered?

Pre-existing conditions are generally excluded from coverage—but some plans will waive that exclusion if you purchase them soon after making the first payment on your trip (generally within 7 to 21 days of that initial deposit). You also usually have to insure the entire nonrefundable cost of your trip, including flights. Without coverage for pre-existing conditions, you’re on the hook for any expenses related to a condition that wasn’t medically stable at the time you booked.

How does travel insurance handle Covid?

Pretty much like any other illness. Most comprehensive policies will cover you if you test positive right before your trip and have to cancel, or if you come down with Covid during your trip and incur medical expenses. If you are sick enough to be hospitalized, a Medjet membership will get you home. If your symptoms are mild, some insurance policies will cover self-isolation costs under your “Trip Delay” benefit. There are often both daily and total limits to this benefit, so you may not be reimbursed for all of your additional hotel, meal, and airfare costs.

What if I’m hurt doing an adventure activity (say, bungee jumping)?

Most policies won’t cover injuries you receive while taking part in certain “hazardous activities”—a category that can include everything from skydiving and rock climbing to scuba diving and heli-skiing. Some plans will allow you to pay a higher premium to cover these activities. (Dive Accident Insurance from the Divers Alert Network, for instance, covers most bills related to scuba-diving accidents.)

Will insurance pay for me to come home if I get sick or injured on the road?

Not usually. Most policies will pay for transportation to what they consider to be the nearest adequate medical facility (such transport is known as medical evacuation)—but that could be thousands of miles from your loved ones and the doctors you trust. If you want to know that you can get home, you’ll need to purchase additional coverage from a company such as Medjet, which arranges and pays for transportation from a hospital in your destination to one back home. For more details, read What Medical Evacuation Coverage Do You Need?

Can I call off my trip for any reason and be reimbursed?

No. Each policy defines the allowable reasons for which you can cancel and get your money back. To cancel your trip because of a terrorist attack, for instance, the attack typically has to happen in a city listed on your itinerary—not just anywhere in the country you’re visiting.

You can purchase additional “Cancel For Any Reason” (CFAR) coverage, but it’s pricey, and even then, you’ll generally only be reimbursed 50% to 75% of your trip cost. As with pre-existing condition benefits, you usually have to purchase CFAR coverage soon after your initial trip deposit; you also have to insure the total cost of the trip, and you must cancel more than 48 hours prior to your departure. Read more about CFAR coverage in our article “Cancel For Any Reason” Travel Insurance: What It Is and How It Works.

What if the State Department issues a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory for my destination, and I want to cancel my trip?

Standard travel-insurance policies rarely cover cancellation due to war, border closures, lockdowns, or government travel warnings/advisories. (But also note that the 21 countries currently with a Level 4 advisory are not common travel destinations right now, but rather places like Russia and Afghanistan.) Some insurance providers offer “Cancel For Any Reason” (CFAR) coverage; for the pros and cons of that, read “Cancel For Any Reason” Travel Insurance: What It Is and How It Works. If security is a concern, consider a MedjetHorizon membership, which includes access to a Crisis Response Center if at any point during a trip you feel that your safety may be threatened—because of a political incident, terror attack, or other crisis.

How do I protect myself against the travel company I’m working with going out of business?

If you paid by credit card—which we always recommend—your first step should be to file a billing dispute with the credit-card company. The Fair Credit Billing Act stipulates that you are protected against charges for goods or services you do not receive. If you can prove that’s the case, those charges will be credited back to your account.

Some third-party travel insurance policies also cover trip cancellation due to financial default—meaning that an airline, tour operator, cruise line, or other supplier ceases operations, leaving you without a trip. (Travel insurance usually will not cover you if the company declares bankruptcy or if you booked via a travel agency or other intermediary that goes out of business.)  Click here to read more about insurance coverage for financial default. As with pre-existing medical conditions, financial default clauses often require that you purchase the insurance soon after making your first payment, and the coverage typically doesn’t start until 10 to 14 days after you’ve purchased the policy.

Here are a couple of examples: Let’s say you’ve booked a Mediterranean cruise and flights to Venice, where you’ll board the ship. The day after paying your initial deposit, you insured the entire purchase with a carrier that protects against financial default. Two days before you’re due to leave, your airline goes belly-up, and all other flights to Venice from your hometown are booked, so you’re unable to make it to the ship. Your insurance provider reimburses you for the costs of your flights and the cruise you missed.

In another scenario, let’s say you’ve booked a trip to see the Pyramids in Egypt. A month after putting down a deposit on the trip, it occurs to you to insure your considerable investment. A few weeks before your departure, your Egypt tour operator ceases operations, and it turns out that none of your in-country arrangements have been confirmed or paid for. Even though your insurance policy covers financial default, it won’t pay out in this case because you didn’t purchase the policy within 15 days of your initial trip payment.

Should I pay for the car-rental upgrade to my comprehensive insurance policy?

Pay attention to when that benefit kicks in; coverage through your rental agency may be better tuned to the likeliest risks in your destination. For instance, when I rented a car in Iceland, my Travelex policy upgrade would cover me only for damage due to collision, vandalism, windstorm, fire, hail, or flood. Hertz’s options, on the other hand, included coverage for damage from gravel or ash—both far more common than vandals in Iceland.

I travel frequently. Is an annual travel-insurance plan a better choice than individual policies for each trip?

Many annual plans do not cover trip cancellation and thus are missing the coverage you want when you have significant nonrefundable expenses. Also keep in mind that annual plans limit you to the same coverage for all of your trips. For example, say you take a few shorter trips a year that cost $5,000, and one large trip that costs $25,000. An annual plan with a trip-cancellation benefit limit of $15,000 means that you’ll be overinsured for your shorter trips, and underinsured for your larger one.

Which policy should I buy?

It would be so easy if one size fit all—but it doesn’t. To know which policy is right for you, think about what keeps you up at night. Are you most concerned about testing positive for Covid a day before your trip? Or about having to fly home early because a loved one there falls ill? Or deciding to cancel your trip because of a terrorist attack at your destination—or even one in an entirely different country?

Several websites allow you to input your details and compare multiple policies at once, narrowing in on which one is right for you: Check out TravelInsurance.com, InsureMyTrip, SquareMouth.com, and, if you just want medical coverage and don’t need cancellation protection, Medical.TravelInsurance.com. Before you purchase any policy, though, it’s important to get on the phone with that insurer and ask how their policies would work, if the hypothetical reasons why you’re considering travel insurance (e.g., you end up hospitalized with Covid in your destination) were to actually occur.

The insurance that we’ve received the best traveler feedback about is Travelex’s Travel Select policy. It operates as primary coverage, allows a wide range of reasons to cancel, and, based on the feedback we’ve heard, is relatively likely to reimburse you quickly.  This policy must be purchased at least 14 days before your trip starts (this is waived for last-minute trips if you are still within 15 days of your first trip payment). Travelex also offers an optional “Cancel for Any Reason” upgrade that must be bought within two weeks after making your first trip payment.

Transparency disclosure:  Medjet is a sponsor of WendyPerrin.com. That’s because Wendy has had a membership herself since her kids were little and believes in it. Travelex Insurance Services pays WendyPerrin.com a referral fee when a policy is purchased through this link. Wendy chooses Travelex because it has generous policies (see above) and good customer service. (Travelex Insurance Services is not related in any way to the defunct currency-exchange business Travelex.) When you use the links in this article for your insurance/assistance purchases, it allows us to continue the rigorous and honest work we do on behalf of consumers, as well as to continue our Get a Personalized Trip Recommendation service. Thank you for your support.

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Positano on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

Where to Go in October: The Best Places to Travel

Pleasant temperatures, fewer tourists, and shoulder-season deals make October a great time to travel to a large swath of the globe. Since you can’t go everywhere, we’ve pinpointed a few of the optimal spots. From vineyard-hopping in France to whale-shark-spotting in the Seychelles, the following destinations and experiences belong on your October travel list.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Italy: From the Cinque Terre to Puglia

Castello di Grinzane and village in Piedmont - one of the most famous wine regions of Italy

Castello di Grinzane and village in Piedmont – one of the most famous wine regions of Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

From the northern coastline to the boot of the heel—and just about everywhere in between—Italy is gorgeous in October. The weather is pleasant, hotels aren’t charging their peak-season rates, and you’ll enjoy a more authentic experience when the people dining beside you at the trattorias are locals, not tourists. On the Amalfi Coast, October is when the throngs of cruise-ship passengers have thinned, prices have dropped (a little), there’s plenty of sun, and the sea is still warm enough for swimming. In Tuscany, festivals for the olive and grape harvests abound, and the fall foliage is stunning. In Rome, you don’t need to wait in line for an outside table in the city’s iconic piazze.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Italy. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Burgundy, France

Burgundy's rolling hillsides

Burgundy’s rolling hillsides. Photo: Trufflepig

The chaos of harvest is over and the grapes are in—which means there’s still lots of activity in the wineries, since the wines are fermenting and the vinification is in full throe, but the winemakers themselves have a little more time to spend with visitors. It’s also the prettiest time: The leaves on the vines turn yellow and gold, and you realize why they call it the Côte d’Or (the golden slopes). And beyond the wines, it’s the most interesting time for seasonal produce: Mushrooms and squashes complement wild game on the menus of the local restaurants.
Read reviews of WOW trips to France. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Madrid, Spain

Old cozy street in Madrid, Spain. Architecture and landmark of Madrid, postcard of Madrid

Cultural events pick up in fall in Madrid. Photo: Shutterstock

In September and October, the blistering summer heat abates and cultural events pick up, with festivals, theater shows, and concerts. It’s also much easier to get a room at one of the new luxury hotels that has opened in the city in recent years, from the Four Seasons to the Rosewood to the Edition.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Madrid. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Austria’s Danube Valley

The Wachau Valley, Austria

The Wachau Valley, Austria. Photo: Austrian Tourist Board

October is at the end of peak season, there’s gorgeous fall scenery, and it’s harvest time in the vineyards, which means that the Heuriger (wine taverns) are especially fun and lively and you’ll probably get to try new wines. More important, especially for wine buffs, many of the smaller (and better) Heurigers aren’t open year-round, but they’re all open in October.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Austria. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Sicily and Malta

Mt. Etna, Sicily.

Mt. Etna, Sicily. Photo: Pixabay

October is one of the most colorful and flavorful months in Sicily and Malta. It is the season of the harvest in Sicily, which means fresh olives, almonds, and chestnuts—not to mention wild mushrooms, prickly pears, and carob—complement the island’s always-bountiful variety of culinary offerings. In nearby Malta, it is still warm enough for swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, or a romantic overnight sail to the island of Gozo with nobody else around. Throughout the region, the air and sea temperatures are still warm and inviting, flights and accommodations are less expensive than during the summer, and the fewer tourists mean you get a more intimate experience with the local people.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Sicily and Malta. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Croatia

aerial view of Hvar island and surrounding sea Croatia

On Hvar, it’s still swimsuit season but the party crowds have gone. Photo: Exeter International

Visit Croatia in the first half of October and you’ll find good weather, fewer tourists, and lower hotel prices than during peak season.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Croatia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Greece

sunset over sailboats Naxos Town Greece

Boats off the island of Naxos. Photo: Billie Cohen

Smart travelers will let the summer crowds die down, then go to Greece in the fall. As with Croatia, at that time of year you’ll find pleasant temperatures, quieter streets, and lower prices.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Greece. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Turkey

rainbow umbrellas hover over a street of shops and restaurants in Istanbul turkey

Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Tim Baker

The fall shoulder season is a sweet spot for Turkey: Istanbul and Cappadocia are sunny and mild, while on the Aegean Coast, it’s warm but not sweltering, and the sea is calm.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Turkey. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Utah’s National Parks

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah. Photo: Mark Campbell

October is one of the best months to explore Utah’s stunning national parks: The temperatures are generally moderate and the crowds thin. An insider can show you the parks on foot, by vehicle, and even from a helicopter.
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Big Island, Hawaii

Wai'pio Valley Lookout, Hawaii

Wai’pio Valley Lookout, Big Island, Hawaii.

October is the choicest month for the Big Island, as the weather is driest—with daytime temperatures hovering around 85 degrees—and families aren’t traveling, so prices are lower. (The only thing it’s not an ideal time for is surfing.)
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Olympic National Park, Washington

A beautiful sunset on the ocean among the rocks, Cape flattery trail , Olympic Peninsula, Washington state

Sun on the ocean among the rocks, Cape flattery trail, Olympic Peninsula, Washington state. Photo: Shutterstock

In October, the weather is usually pleasant across all three of the park’s environments: the Olympic Mountains, the temperate Hoh Rain Forest, and the rugged Pacific coastline. There may be snow at the high elevations and some rain lower down, but the waterfalls will be flowing, and the area is very lush. Sunsets also tend to be spectacular at this time of year.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Washington. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Japan

Kyoto, Japan gardens at Heian Shrine in the spring season. - Image

Cherry blossoms bloom around Heian Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. Photo: Shutterstock

Autumn in Kyoto brings cooler air and bright red maples (which last into November), magnificent to behold alongside Zen gardens and royal villas.
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Bali

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Hindu temple on Bratan lake landscape, one of famous tourist attraction in Bali, Indonesia - Image

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan, Hindu temple on Bratan Lake, Bali. Photo: Shutterstock

While October falls during the rainy season, showers are usually limited to a few hours in the afternoon or overnight. It’s also less busy than the high season, making hotel rates more attractive.
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Northern Thailand

The view from Anantara Golden Triangle Resort in Chiang Rai, Thailand

The view from Anantara Golden Triangle Resort in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Photo: Anantara

Northern Thailand is at its best at the end of the green season: From mid-October to mid-December, the rains have diminished but the waterfalls and rivers are full, and the crowds and higher prices of the late-December to mid-January peak season have yet to arrive. The mountains are lush and green, and morning mists hanging in the valleys send shivers up your spine. (Bangkok is a year-round destination, and short bursts of rain can easily be dodged in the city.)
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Northern Chile and Argentina

the red sand of Chile's Atacama desert with tall mountains in the distance

The Atacama Desert of Chile has an otherwordly and beautiful landscape. Photo: Awasi

While both the Atacama Desert in Chile and the region around Salta, Argentina, are year-round destinations, October and November see fewer visitors than other times of year—leaving your vistas of these wide-open landscapes largely free of other travelers. (These are also excellent months to hop a flight to Easter Island, when the place is nearly empty and the weather ideal.)
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China

Aman Summer Palace, Beijing.

China is huge, of course, and has a wide array of weather patterns, depending on location and elevation. But for a classic China itinerary, October is hard to beat: Skies are blue in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an, and temperatures are so agreeable you won’t need heat or air-conditioning.
Read reviews of WOW trips to China. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Oman

Dhow boat Cruise in Arabian Peninsula, boat on blue water with desert mountains in background

A dhow cruise on the Arabian Peninsula in Oman. Photo: Shutterstock

From mid-September through October, Oman’s weather is perfect: It’s not too hot in the desert and not too chilly in the mountains.
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Mongolia

An eagle hunter on horseback in Mongolia holding an eagle

An eagle hunter in Mongolia. Photo: Chris Rainier/Nomadic Expeditions

October is when you can attend the one-of-a-kind Golden Eagle Festival—a colorful celebration of a centuries-old Kazakh hunting tradition in the Altai Mountains. When the festival was founded in 1999, only 40 families still hunted with eagles; today more than 400 do so, and many locals rely on the income they earn during the event. Our Trusted Travel Expert can even arrange for you to have dinner with the competitors.
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Vietnam

Wonderful view of the East Gate (Hien Nhon Gate) to the Citadel and a moat surrounding the Imperial City with the Purple Forbidden City in Hue, Vietnam. Hue is a popular tourist destination of Asia.

View of the East Gate (Hien Nhon Gate) to the Citadel and a moat surrounding the Imperial City with the Purple Forbidden City in Hue, Vietnam. Photo: Shutterstock

Since the monsoons hit northern, central, and southern Vietnam at different times, weather across Vietnam varies widely. If your goal is to travel throughout the country, the driest months to visit are October and March. Fall is when you’ll find the best weather conditions in Ho Chi Minh City and the south.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Vietnam. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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The Seychelles

Maia Luxury Resort, Anse Louis Beach, Seychelles

October brings a mix of good weather and value. Photo: Maia Luxury Resort/Lindsey Wallace

October represents a nice balance of great weather (not too hot and little to no rain) and great value (since many of the resorts still have low-season rates). It’s also the best month for snorkeling and diving with whale sharks.
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Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why October is a good time to go.

North America

California Coast

Hawaii: Maui

Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons National Park (first half of the month)

Mexico City (second half of the month)

Puerto Vallarta (second half of the month)

Riviera Maya (second half of the month)

Yellowstone National Park (first half of the month)

 

Central and South America

Bolivia

Brazilian Amazon

Buenos Aires

Colombia: Bogotá

Costa Rica: fishing, wildlife and turtle hatching

Patagonia (second half of the month)

Peru

 

Europe

Algarve

Andalusia

Athens

Canal Barge Cruises

Cotswolds

Czech Republic

Hungary

Killarney and County Kerry

London

Paris

Portugal

Romania (first half of the month)

Scotland

 

Asia

Agra

Bhutan

China: Yunnan Province

Delhi

Laos

Mumbai

Nepal

Trekking in the Himalayas

 

Africa and Middle East

Botswana

Cape Town and the Winelands

Madagascar

Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains

 

Australia and Pacific

Fiji

French Polynesia (first half of the month)

Great Barrier Reef

Papua New Guinea: trekking

Queenstown hiking and cycling

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Wild caribbean beach of Manzanillo at Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Where to Go in January: The Best Places to Travel

Ring in the New Year at home, then get on a plane: Though prices are high through New Year’s, there are deals to be found starting later that first week in January. Tropical and Southern Hemisphere destinations work especially well for those needing a dose of sunshine.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

British Columbia

two people watching the northern lights in british columbia canada

You’re likely to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights if you visit British Columbia in January. Photo: Cyndie Martinez

January and February have the most reliable snowfall, making it ideal for not just skiing, but also ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling in Western Canada. You also have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Those looking for an extra dose of adventure can even mush their own dogsled team from lodge to lodge—led by an expert guide, of course.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Canada. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to British Columbia

Costa Rica

Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

January is one of the nicest times of the year weatherwise for a winter escape, right in the middle of the Costa Rican dry season. It is often the only time in the high season that you can plan a last-minute trip and still have your first choice of the top properties.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Costa Rica. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Costa Rica

Belize

Goff’s Caye Island, Belize.

Nonstop flights to Belize take off from several U.S. cities that are only about three hours away. Once you’re there you can explore world-class coral reefs, visit uncrowded Mayan ruins, learn to scuba dive (as Wendy’s son did), fish for 100-pound tarpon (which kept her husband busy), and laze beside sparkling Caribbean waters—or you can charter your own private yacht, enjoying fabulous snorkeling, sunbathing, kayaking, and plenty of distance from everyone except your captain and first mate.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Belize. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Belize

Mexico’s Interior

Guanajuato's historic center is full of colonial-era mansions and plazas.

Guanajuato’s historic center is full of colonial-era mansions and plazas. Credit: Journey Mexico

Mexico is much more than a one-dimensional beach destination. Sure, fabulous oceanfront resorts and sumptuous private villas abound on its long coastlines. But the country is also home to charming colonial towns such as Guanajuato, Morelia, and Oaxaca, captivating pre-Columbian ruins (especially in Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas), and a vibrant scene in Mexico City—and in January, these destinations have ideal temperatures and little rain.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Mexico. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Mexico

U.S. National Parks

snowy scene of hot spring steaming in winter in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park in winter. Photo: tpsdave/Pixabay

From snowshoeing in Yellowstone to hiking in Joshua Tree, adventures abound in our national parks—even in the middle of winter. If you’re lucky, you might even get to see the Grand Canyon with a magical dusting of snow, or have a view of Yosemite Falls all to yourself.
Read reviews of WOW trips to U.S. national parks. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to U.S. national parks

Argentina

vineyards with snow-capped mountains in background Mendoza Argentina

Mendoza, Argentina. Photo: Shutterstock

January is prime season for hiking in Patagonia, which gets just a bit quieter after the holiday rush. Meanwhile, at the foothills of the Andes, the grapevines in Mendoza sit heavy with ripening fruit. Temperatures hit the 90s in Buenos Aires, so the locals hit the beach—leaving the city easy to navigate, with so little traffic.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Argentina. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Argentina

Italy’s Cities

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

There are plenty of reasons to fall in love with Rome, Florence, and Milan in January. Temperatures will typically be in the high 40s and 50s during the day, but plan on bundling up to fit in with the locals. Perhaps a new pair of leather gloves to complete your Italian look? They’ll be on sale. Italy generally has only two times during the year when they extend sconti (discounts) in retail shops: January and July. You can find deals at both boutique shops and international-brand stores after the holiday craziness, and you won’t have to fight the crowds so common at other times of the year. Enjoy Rome’s decadently rich hot chocolate as an afternoon treat, or post up next to a funghi (the mushroom-shaped outdoor heaters) and dine al fresco in one of Florence’s beautifully lit piazzas.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Italy. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Italy

Thailand

small boat on beach of Koh Phangan island Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand. Photo: Journeys Within

Southern Thailand is ideal from mid-January through March, when the oceans are still relatively calm, and sunny skies and cooler temperatures prevail before the heat returns in April. Bangkok, meanwhile, is a year-round destination: There’s always great food and off-the-beaten-path adventures to uncover, and short bursts of rain can easily be dodged while in the city.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Thailand. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Thailand

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sugarloaf Mountain and Botafogo Neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro by Sunset with Full Moon in the Sky

Sugarloaf Mountain and Botafogo neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Shutterstock

January is the best time to visit Rio—assuming you don’t mind temperatures that regularly hit 105 degrees: It’s the height of summer, Cariocas (Rio residents) are at their most relaxed, and the nightlife is at its peak.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Brazil. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Brazil

Nicaragua

Nicaragua mountains

Nicaragua. Photo: TPS Dave/Pixabay

In January, the country is lush and green, there is no rain, and the breezes keep temperatures in the high 80s during the day on the coast—perfect for chilling out by the ocean—and in the 70s in the mountains—ideal for hikes in the cloud forest.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Nicaragua. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Nicaragua

Sri Lanka

Adams peak also known as Sri pada in Sri Lanka over the Maskeliya reservoir and tea plantations

Adams peak, also known as Sri pada, in Sri Lanka over the Maskeliya reservoir and tea plantations. Photo: Shutterstock

The weather in mid to late January is delightful—spring-like temperatures and blue skies—and it’s a quieter period sandwiched between two busy times: Christmas/New Year’s and Chinese New Year.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Sri Lanka. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Sri Lanka

Dubai

Burj Al Arab hotel and beach in Dubai

In January, Dubai is still warm enough for beaches, but also has a shopping festival. Photo: Pixabay

January is the cooler season—which in this part of the world means temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s. Designers descend upon the city for the Shopping Festival, when shops and boutiques offer discounts all month long. Read how Brook spent a multi-day layover in Dubai’s desert.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Dubai. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Dubai

Sydney, Australia

boat sailing in water on Sydney Harbour Australia with famous bridge in background

Sailing on Sydney Harbour. Photo: Tourism Australia

Sydney’s summer months (December to February) bring beach weather, as well as festivals and harborside celebrations: After the world-renowned New Year’s Eve celebrations comes the Sydney Festival, a three-week celebration of the arts culminating with Australia Day on January 26. It’s also the right time to take a surfing lesson at Bondi Beach, go sailing in Sydney Harbour, hike waterside trails, picnic on city parklands, catch an outdoor movie screening or concert, or attend one of the city’s many professional surfing, tennis, cricket, and rugby competitions. (Remember that prices are also at their peak in summer, so book accommodations and tickets early, before they sell out.)
Read reviews of WOW trips to Australia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Australia

Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why January is a good time to go.

North America and Caribbean

Florida: Disney World, Orlando

Hawaii: Oahu (whale watching)

 

Central and South America

Brazil: Salvador and Trancoso

Ecuador: Galapagos

Panama

 

Europe

France: Paris apartment rentals

Iceland: northern lights

Norway: winter activities

 

Asia

Cambodia

China: Yunnan Province

India: Mumbai and Rajasthan

Myanmar’s tropical areas

Nepal’s lower elevations

 

Africa and Middle East

Abu Dhabi

 

Australia and Pacific

New Zealand: Bay of Islands and Queenstown

Papua New Guinea: diving in Milne Bay

 

Cruises

Africa Cruises

Antarctica Cruises

 

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Woman holding passport and boarding pass waiting in transit area in the airport, standing by for the next schedule traveling, late delay of the arrival departure, missing checking in

“Cancel For Any Reason” CFAR Travel Insurance: What It Is and How It Works

As a result of Covid, travelers have become more interested in travel insurance than ever. Trip cancellation is a common benefit—but only pays out if you cancel for a covered reason. Additional “Cancel For Any Reason” (CFAR) coverage allows you to cancel your trip without requiring that you justify your reasoning. It may give you the peace of mind you need to book a trip—but there are caveats. Here are the main points travelers need to know about buying and using CFAR insurance.

Cancel For Any Reason coverage is expensive.

Pre-pandemic, CFAR coverage typically added 40% to your insurance premium—but as both interest in and claims against CFAR policies have increased, in many cases their price has too. We looked at six insurance quotes in August 2023 and found that a CFAR clause increased the premiums on five of those products by 50% to 113%. To put this in dollar figures: Standard travel insurance for trip cancellation/interruption and medical expenses on a $20,000 trip may cost $1,000; adding CFAR could bump that up to $1,500 or more.

Don’t expect to get all your money back.

Specifics vary by policy and based on your state of residence, but most plans reimburse 50% to 75% of your nonrefundable, prepaid trip costs. Some have a maximum amount that you can insure (e.g., $10,000 per person).

You can’t add CFAR at the last minute.

To be eligible for CFAR coverage, you must purchase it soon after you make your first trip payment, usually within 14 to 21 days (and in some cases, within just 24 hours of your deposit).

You can’t cancel at the last minute, either.

You’re out of luck if you find out a day before your trip that you must cancel. In order to be reimbursed via a CFAR clause, you must call off your trip at least 48 hours prior to departure.

Covid has impacted the availability of CFAR coverage.

Before Covid, CFAR policies were unavailable to residents of New York State due to state insurance regulations; back in March 2020, in light of Covid, New York’s governor announced that travel insurance companies could sell CFAR policies in the state. While several providers saw Covid as a reason to discontinue offering CFAR coverage entirely, others—including Travelex Insurance Services—have added optional CFAR upgrades.

Is it right for you?

CFAR is an option that can provide some peace of mind, at a price. Whether it’s enough peace to be worth the cost is a personal choice.

Which insurance company should I choose? 

There are many providers, and in our article How to Buy Travel Insurance: What It Covers, When You Need It, you can learn more about what to look for, what to avoid, and how to choose the right one for your specific needs.

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

globe with airplane flying around it and a first aid kit on the plane - concept for travel insurance

What Medical Evacuation Coverage Do You Need?

They are the nightmare scenarios you’d rather not consider, but still want to prepare for: maybe it’s breaking a leg while biking through Tuscany, or having a heart attack on a remote island with no decent hospital. The good news is that with the right evacuation coverage, you can avoid the $200,000 bill for emergency medical transport to the best regional medical facility, or even home to a hospital you trust. Here’s what you need to know about how to get home if disaster strikes—and how to protect yourself from the financial repercussions.

What kind of medical transportation does conventional travel insurance offer?

Some travel insurance policies will pay for transportation to a medical facility, should you become sick or injured—but they will usually only take you to the nearest facility that they deem appropriate. If you’re traveling internationally, that probably means a clinic or hospital in the country you’re visiting, where you’ll be treated until you’re well enough to take a commercial flight home. At a bare minimum, you should make sure that your insurance provides at least $100,000 in coverage for medical evacuation to the nearest adequate medical center.

What if I want to be flown to a hospital near my home for treatment?

If you’ve been hospitalized away from home but you want to be treated near family and friends, you need a second layer of protection. Specialized medical-evacuation programs such as Medjet, Global Rescue, AirMed International, and Global Guardian will transport members to the hospital of their choice once they are medically stable. You can purchase a short-term membership from one of these programs to cover a single trip, or an annual membership for an entire year’s worth of travel. The cost of medical evacuation to a hospital back home can easily reach $150,000 or more, so this benefit is important on both international and domestic trips. A few travel insurance providers, including Travel Guard and Ripcord, include transport to your “hospital of choice” in some of their plans.

What if I get Covid during my trip?

Only a few medical evacuation programs will transport Covid-positive patients. Medjet will transport members who are hospitalized with Covid while traveling globally (subject to the local safety situation—State Department Level 3/4 advisories prompted by extreme violence may preclude evacuations); their individual memberships start at $99 for eight days of coverage. Covac Global will evacuate Covid-positive members who are not hospitalized, but only if it is deemed “medically prudent to avoid hospitalization”; those not evacuated receive a $500 stipend for each day they spend in quarantine. Individual Covac Global memberships that cover medical evacuations, including for Covid, start at $765 for 15 days.

Which medical evacuation program do you recommend?

Wendy personally has a MedjetHorizon membership covering her and her family, partly because it offers crisis protection too: If during a trip you feel that your safety and security may be threatened—because of a political incident, terror attack, or other crisis—Medjet will come to the rescue. As for travel insurance to get you as far as the nearest medical facility that the insurance company deems appropriate, the policy that Wendy purchases for her and her family members always depends on the circumstances of the trip, but she often chooses and recommends Travelex Insurance Services. That’s because its Travel Select policy is the policy she’s received the best feedback about from travelers, when it comes to reliability, generosity, and customer care. Transparency disclosure: Medjet and Travelex are both sponsors of WendyPerrin.com. But that’s because Wendy believes in them and uses them herself. (Travelex Insurance Services is not related in any way to the defunct currency-exchange business Travelex.)

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

World globe ball on the white background

The Countries That Are Open to U.S. Travelers and How to Get In

Which countries are open and relatively safe?
The Menu below lists the smartest places where U.S. residents can go now and what the entry requirements are. Note that requirements may be different for children; follow each country’s links for more details.

Are you curious what travel looks like now?
Read these reviews from travelers just back from international trips. They got safe, easy trips because they used the right local fixers to design their itineraries and book their arrangements.

Use the black buttons below to contact the best local expert for arranging a safe, smart, WOW trip. Using Wendy’s questionnaire is the only way to get the priority treatment and WOW perks that the travelers in these trip reviews got.

 


Menu

Europe
Mediterranean:  Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Portugal, Spain, Turkey
Northern and Scandinavia: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom
Central:  Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland
Eastern: Bosnia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Serbia

Atlantic Islands
Bahamas, Bermuda

Caribbean Islands

The Americas (North, Central, South)
Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay

Asia
Cambodia, China, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam

Pacific Region
Australia, Bora Bora and Tahiti (French Polynesia), Cook Islands, Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea

Africa: Safaris and Islands
Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, the Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Cradle of Civilization, Ancient Lands, Arabian Peninsula
Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Republic of Georgia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (Dubai, Abu Dhabi), Uzbekistan (Silk Road)

 


Countries Open to U.S. Travelers With No Quarantine

Argentina

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ARGENTINA


 

Australia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT AUSTRALIA


 

Austria

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT AUSTRIA


Bahamas

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE BAHAMAS


 

Belgium

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BELGIUM

 


 

Belize

boy jumping in to ocean from a high dock in Belize

Tourism businesses need to earn a Gold Standard Certificate to operate in Belize. Photo: Wendy Perrin

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BELIZE

 


 

Bermuda

The Reefs, Southampton, Bermuda

The Reefs, Southampton, Bermuda.

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BERMUDA

 


 

Bhutan

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BHUTAN

 


Bolivia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BOLIVIA

 


 

Bora Bora, Tahiti (French Polynesia)

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT TAHITI + FRENCH POLYNESIA

 


 

Bosnia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BOSNIA

 


 

Botswana

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BOTSWANA

 


 

Brazil

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BRAZIL

 


 

Bulgaria

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT BULGARIA

 


 

Cambodia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT CAMBODIA

 


 

Canada

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT CANADA

 


 

Caribbean islands

Idyllic tropical beach with white sand, turquoise ocean water and blue sky at Antigua island in Caribbean

Caribbean islands are opening with various rules and restrictions. Photo: Shutterstock

Entry requirements:

  • Vary by island. See Caribbean Tourism Organization for details

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE CARIBBEAN

 


 

Chile

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT CHILE

 


 

China

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT CHINA

 


 

colorfully painted walls on a block of Cartagena Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia, is colorful, almost like New Orleans. Photo: Shutterstock

Colombia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT COLOMBIA

 


 

Cook Islands

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT THE COOK ISLANDS

 


 

Costa Rica

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT COSTA RICA

 


 

Croatia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT CROATIA

 


 

Czech Republic

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT THE CZECH REPUBLIC

 


 

Denmark

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT DENMARK

 


 

Dubai and Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates)

Dubai Burj Khalifa view from hotel balcony

Photo: Timothy Baker

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT DUBAI

 


 

Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

 


 

Egypt

 

 

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT EGYPT

 


 

Estonia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ESTONIA

 


 

Fiji

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT FIJI

 


 

Finland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT FINLAND

 


 

France

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT FRANCE

 


 

Georgia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT GEORGIA

 


Germany

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT GERMANY

 


Greece

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT GREECE

 


 

Hungary

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT HUNGARY

 


 

Iceland waterfall Skogafoss in Icelandic nature landscape. Famous tourist attractions and landmarks destination in Icelandic nature landscape on South Iceland. Aerial drone view of top waterfall. -

Skogafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in Iceland. Photo: Shutterstock

Iceland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT ICELAND

 


 

India

Entry requirements: 

  • Random testing on arrival

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT INDIA

 


 

Indonesia 

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT INDONESIA

 


 

Ireland

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT IRELAND

 


 

Israel

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT ISRAEL

 


 

Italy

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ITALY

 


 

Japan

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT JAPAN

 


 

Jordan

Entry requirements:

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT JORDAN

 


 

Kenya

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT KENYA

 


 

Laos

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LAOS

 


Latvia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LATVIA

 


 

Lithuania

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LITHUANIA

 


 

Luxembourg

Entry Requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT LUXEMBOURG

 


 

Madagascar

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MADAGASCAR

 


 

Malaysia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

 

ASK US ABOUT MALAYSIA

 


The Maldives

private villa in the Maldives on a spit of land surrounded by turquoise water

Photo: Soneva Fushi

Entry Requirements:

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT THE MALDIVES

 


 

Malta

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT MALTA

 


 

Mauritius

Entry requirements:

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MAURITIUS

 


 

Mexico

Tulum Riviera Maya, Mexico

Photo: Journey Mexico.

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT MEXICO

 


 

Monaco

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT MONACO

 


 

Mongolia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

Montenegro

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MONTENEGRO


 

Fez Morocco ceramic studio Art d'Argile

The ceramic studio Art d’Argile in Fez Morocco. Photo: Tim Baker

Morocco

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MOROCCO

 


 

Mozambique

Entry requirements:

  • Full vaccination, or PCR test conducted within 72 hours of departure

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT MOZAMBIQUE

 


 

Namibia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

Ask us about Namibia

 


 

Nepal

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT NEPAL

 


 

The Netherlands

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE NETHERLANDS

 



New Zealand

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT NEW ZEALAND

 


Norway

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT NORWAY

 


 

Oman

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT OMAN

 


 

Panama

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT PANAMA

 


 

Papua New Guinea

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT PAPUA NEW GUINEA

 


 

Peru

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT PERU

 


 

Poland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT POLAND

 


 

Portugal

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT PORTUGAL

 


 

Qatar

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT QATAR

 


 

Romania

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT ROMANIA

 


 

Rwanda

gorilla standing in the jungle in Rwanda

 

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT RWANDA

 


 

Saudi Arabia

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SAUDI ARABIA

 


 

Serbia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SERBIA

 


 

The Seychelles

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT THE SEYCHELLES

 


 

Singapore

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SINGAPORE

 


 

Slovakia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SLOVAKIA

 


 

Slovenia

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

 

ASK US ABOUT SLOVENIA

 


 

South Africa

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SOUTH AFRICA

 


 

South Korea

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SOUTH KOREA

 


 

Spain

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SPAIN

 


 

Sri Lanka

Entry requirements:

  • None

Useful links:

ASK US ABOUT SRI LANKA

 


 

 

Sweden

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links: 

ASK US ABOUT SWEDEN

 


 

 

Switzerland

Entry requirements: 

  • None

Useful links:

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Taiwan

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Tanzania

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Thailand

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Turkey

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Uganda

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United Kingdom

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Uruguay

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Zambia

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Zimbabwe

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Beautiful sandy beach near Lagos in Ponta da Piedade, Algarve region, Portugal

Where to Go in May: The Best Places to Travel

Mild. Temperate. Those are the words used to describe the agreeable climate in many parts of the globe come May. In many destinations, it’s an oh-so-lovely time to be hiking, sightseeing, or simply people-watching at an outdoor café.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Japan

Beautiful Cherry Blossom, Japan

Cherry blossom trees, Japan.

May (after Golden Week, which ends on May 5) brings great weather throughout the entire country. While the cherry blossoms generally peak in April, you can still enjoy the sweet scent and beauty of the blooms in May, but without the crowds.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Japan. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Scandinavia

Reine, Lofoten, Norway. The village of Reine under a sunny, blue sky, with the typical rorbu houses. View from the top

The village of Reine in Lofoten, Norway. Photo: Shutterstock

After months of darkness, May’s longer days bring locals out to soak up the sunlight, making the outdoor cafes lively. You’ll also find an abundance of freshly caught seafood, and celebrations throughout the countryside leading up to the summer solstice.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Scandinavia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Santorini and Mykonos, Greece

Oia town on Santorini island, Greece. Traditional and famous houses and churches with blue domes over the Caldera, Aegean sea

Oia town, on Santorini, is famous for its blue-domed churches and white houses overlooking the caldera. Photo: Shutterstock

May through early June is one of the most beautiful times to travel to the Cyclades—the group of Greek islands that includes the iconic spots of Santorini and Mykonos, but also less-crowded favorites of our travelers, including Naxos, Paros, and Sifnos. Days are warm, but the sun is not as relentless as it is in summer. Wildflowers blossom, beaches are empty, and locals welcome you with smiles.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Greece. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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European Canal Barge Cruises

Wendy biking near a barge in the Burgundy canal in France.

Wendy biking near the barge canal in Burgundy, France. Photo: Timothy Baker

In May, the weather is best (not too hot, not too cool), and the crowds haven’t yet arrived, making this a perfect month to get to know a small slice of the Continent intimately and thoroughly. Read what Wendy loved about her own barge cruise in Burgundy in May.
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Portugal

Vineyards in the Valley of the River Douro, Portugal

Vineyards in Portugal’s Douro Valley. Photo: Shutterstock

The country’s weather is beautiful from March to mid-June. In the Algarve, the coastal towns are not too busy yet, so you can get a table in restaurants and enjoy uncrowded beaches. The Douro Valley’s rolling hills are lush and green from the winter rains, and there is excitement in Porto as the city prepares for summer festivities.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Portugal. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Spain

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain. Photo: Ronny Siegel/Flickr

Café terraces open in May, and residents head outdoors to enjoy Spain’s beautiful cities before the heat sets in and the crowds arrive. Spring is the perfect time for strolling and picnicking in the sparkling Mediterranean light. In Madrid, everyone pours into the streets in mid-May to celebrate San Isidro.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Spain. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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France

Burgundy's rolling hillsides

Burgundy’s rolling hillsides. Photo: Trufflepig

Paris is already crowded by late spring, but May is the optimal time to explore France’s countryside: Down south in Provence, the weather is lovely, there aren’t as many tourists, and fields of poppies are in colorful bloom. In Burgundy, temperatures have usually warmed up after the feast days of the Saint de Glace (which fall in the second week of the month and seem to bring showers or even frost). Later in May, flowers on trees bloom and the vineyards turn a bright springy green. May is also filled with bank holidays and tends to be any French person’s favorite—and it never hurts to see the French in the right mood.
Read reviews of WOW trips to France here, here, and here. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Croatia

view of water and town Rovinj Croatia

Rovinj, Croatia. Photo: Billie Cohen

In late April and May, you have glorious weather, the crowds are thinner, and prices are a little lower than at the height of summer.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Croatia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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The Cotswolds, England

England, Cotswolds, Hidcote gardens. Photo: Jonathan Epstein

Hidcote Manor Gardens in the Cotswolds, England. Photo: Jonathan Epstein

By May, spring has taken hold, so flowers are blooming across the Cotswolds—fruit-tree blossoms, clematis, and wisteria are everywhere. The air smells fresh, and there are so many shades of green. Hotel rates are also lower than in the summer high season.
Read reviews of WOW trips to England. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Los Cabos, Mexico

a villa with a firepit and pool in Cabo Mexico

May in Los Cabos means less crowded beaches and restaurants—and more comfortable temperatures. Photo: CaboVillas

In May, the weather is mild and there’s little chance of rain. The bustle of spring break has passed, so it’s much less busy than just a month prior. That means less crowded beaches and restaurants—but more comfortable temperatures than the very hot summer months ahead. Plus, villa rates are lower than in high season (December through April), with great deals to be had.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Los Cabos. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Peru’s Sacred Valley

Springtime at Machu Picchu Peru

Springtime at Machu Picchu. Photo: Luis Felipa

May is a wonderful month to be outdoors exploring the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Choose from a wide variety of hiking trails for easy day hikes or overnight treks through the Andes. Skies are mostly clear, hillsides are green following the heavier rains that have ended by mid-April, and there are fewer crowds. Temperatures are also warmer on average than during the peak season (June through August). Base yourself in the Sacred Valley and enjoy convenient side trips to Machu Picchu and Cusco.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Peru. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Rio de Janeiro and the Pantanal, Brazil

a toucan in Pantanal, Brazil. Photo: Matueté Brasil Travel Design

Pantanal, Brazil. Photo: Matueté Brasil Travel Design

Given its large mass and varied geography, the perfect time to visit Brazil depends on what parts of the country you hope to see. May makes for a good city-country combo: some of the best animal sightings in the Pantanal wetlands, and the sunniest skies and a gentler mood in Rio.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Brazil. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Atacama Desert, Chile

Atacama desert, Andes, Chile

Atacama desert, Andes, Chile. Photo: Shutterstock

This geological wonder is typically dry by May—though the Atacama is one of the driest places on the planet, in recent years it’s seen rain showers and even flooding from January to March—and many dormant desert plants are in bloom, transforming the arid landscape. Try to visit during the new moon, when the Atacama’s famously dark sky is at its prime for stargazing.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Chile. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Bolivia

small piles of sand dot the Salar de Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia. A snowy mountaintop is in the background

Salar de Uyuni salt flat, Bolivia. Photo: Shutterstock

May is the sweet spot at the Salar de Uyuni salt flats: It’s not too cold, not too crowded, and the Salar is dry enough to cross in a vehicle but you still get some reflections off its surface.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Bolivia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Scotland

Kinnoull Hill tower ruins, Perth Scotland, overlooking the River Tay on a clear day

Kinnoull Hill tower ruins overlooking the River Tay, Scotland. Photo: Shutterstock

In May the weather is mild and even warm on occasion, and you won’t have to deal with the August crowds. Since this month falls before peak season (June–September), you can find some bargains, and the hills and roadways are dotted with blooming gorse, a bright-yellow flower.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Scotland. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Mediterranean Cruises

Celebrity Reflection cruise ship

The Celebrity Reflection cruise ship. Photo: Celebrity Cruises

May is the sweet spot: The weather is gorgeous, temperatures are ideal for sightseeing, and crowds are not as abundant as in summer, when kids are out of school and both overseas visitors and Europeans flock to the Mediterranean.
Read reviews of WOW Mediterranean cruises here and here. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Aegean Coast, Turkey

view from a wooden gulet boat on Turkey's Aegean Coast

A wooden gulet is an enticing way to explore the hidden islands of the Aegean. Photo: Sea Song Tours

In May the sun is out but it’s not sweltering, the sea is calm, and summer crowds haven’t arrived. Plus, rates are up to 50% lower than during the high season of July and August.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Turkey. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Jerusalem

Tower of David, Jerusalem, Israel.

The City of David, in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, is an archeological site with remains dating back more than 5,000 years. Photo: Noam Chen

The optimal time to visit Jerusalem is after Passover—which ends on April 30 in 2024—but before summer: During this window, the weather is pleasant and the hotel rates are lower. Particularly wonderful is to be at any of the thousands of kibbutzes that dot the country for the festival of the first fruits for Shavuot.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Israel. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Jerusalem

Fiji

aerial view of Savasi Island Fiji

Savasi Island is a 52-acre private island in Fiji with only seven villas. Photo: Savasi Island

May falls during the islands’ drier “winter,” but outside the peak months of June and July, when Aussie and Kiwi vacationers drive up airfares and hotel rates. During the winter, temperatures are at their coolest (with highs hovering around 80), and the occasional rain showers are brief. With less humidity there are also fewer mosquitoes.
To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Quito plaza, Ecuador

Quito Plaza, Ecuador. Photo: Myths & Mountains

Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, is called the City of Four Seasons for a reason: The weather can change in the blink of an eye. May falls during the shoulder season, when the temperature is mild, usually reaching the high 60s, and there are fewer travelers. It’s also a great month to combine mainland Ecuador with the Galapagos Islands, before all the families descend in summertime, filling the boats there.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Ecuador. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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A Safari in Namibia

Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia

Sorris Sorris Lodge, Namibia. Photo: Tino De Njis/Namibia Exclusive

In May, temperatures are mild night and day, the occasional rains tease the desert wildflowers into bloom, and the animals are fat and happy. Read what Brook and her son loved about Namibia in spring.

Read reviews of WOW trips to Namibia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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A Safari in Zambia and Zimbabwe

two people paddle past elephants on the Zambezi River in Chiawa, Zimbabwe

Zambia’s Lower Zambezi National Park is one of the continent’s most magnificent wildlife reserves, in one of its safest and most welcoming countries. Photo: Explore

In May, everything is still verdantly green from the rains and the temperature is delightful, but it’s dry enough that you see plenty of wildlife and there are virtually no mosquitoes or tsetse flies. Game viewing during this time is not quite as intense as later in the season, when it is very dry and dusty, but the landscape is more beautiful and the animals more at ease.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Zambia and Zimbabwe. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Romania

The Corvinesti castle also known as the Hunyad castle, is a Gothic-Renaissance castle in Hunedoara (Transylvania), Romania.

The Corvinesti castle also known as the Hunyad castle, is a Gothic-Renaissance castle in Hunedoara (Transylvania), Romania. Photo: Shutterstock

May and June offer prime weather with the fewest crowds at the country’s dozens of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Available activities range from horseback riding and skydiving to truffle hunting and wine tasting.  Yes, we’re well aware that Romania shares its northern border with Ukraine, but Wendy and her family felt completely safe there last August, and even got to talk with refugees and hear about their experiences.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Romania. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Kolb studio.

Kolb Studio, Grand Canyon. Photo: Mike Buchheit

Beat the summer crowds and head to the canyon in springtime, when the weather is still pleasant. The right local fixer can have you flying over the canyon, hiking or riding mules into it, and gazing into its vastness from the best vantage points along the rim. (The South Rim is open year-round; the North Rim opens in mid-May.)
To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why May is a good time to go.

North America and Caribbean

Hawaii: Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island

Mexico: Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Maya

Montana and Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park

St. Barts: beach and villa vacations

Utah’s national parks

 

Central and South America

Costa Rica: Pacific and Central regions

 

Europe

England: castles, manor houses, and gardens

European canal barge cruises

France: Paris apartment rentals

Germany: Bavaria

Hungary

Ireland: Killarney and County Kerry

Italy: Umbria and Venice

Malta

Norway (in late May)

Turkey: Cappadocia and Istanbul

 

Asia and Pacific

China: big cities and small villages, and Yunnan Province

India: Trekking and tiger reserves

Indonesia: Bali without the crowds

Myanmar’s higher elevations

Nepal

New Zealand, including Queenstown hiking and cycling

Papua New Guinea

Southeast Asia

 

Africa and Middle East

Madagascar

Morocco

Oman

Seychelles

South Africa: Cape Town and Winelands

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Lupins bloom above the ancient Inca ruins of Choquequirao in the Andes, Peru

Where to Go in April: The Best Places to Travel

Flowers in full bloom, festive celebrations, and mild temperatures make April a lovely time to visit many parts of the globe. The best deals usually appear starting one week after Easter (which falls on March 31 in 2024).

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Riviera Maya, Mexico

empty Beach at Caribbean sea in Playa del Carmen, Mexico with footprints

Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

Starting a week after Easter Sunday and running through May, rates are low, resorts aren’t too crowded, and the weather is pleasant (mid to high 80s) with little rain.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Mexico. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Hawaii

Makena, Maui beach Hawaii

Makena, Maui. Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

April means an optimal combination of great weather and relatively low prices in the islands. (Just make sure to avoid the crush of visitors and higher rates that Spring Break brings.)
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Belize

Tiny island with coconut trees and boat in Belize

Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

In April, the trade winds are fresh, rains are rare, there are barely any bugs, and high season is winding down. Explore world-class coral reefs, visit uncrowded Mayan ruins, learn to scuba dive (as Wendy’s son did), fish for 100-pound tarpon (which kept her husband busy), laze beside sparkling Caribbean waters—or charter your own private yacht.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Belize. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Paris

view of the Eiffel Tower across the green treetops of the Tuileries Garden taken from a balcony at Le Meurice hotel

View from Le Meurice, Paris. Photo: Billie Cohen

Discover the first hints of spring in Paris while strolling through the Tuileries or pausing a moment under the blossoming trees by Notre Dame Cathedral; in April, the weather is usually mild and the city is bedecked in blossoms. You’ll beat the tourist crowds before they arrive later in the spring and likely catch some excellent art exhibits, too.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Paris. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Southern Spain: Seville and Andalusia

City Of Cazorla And Yedra Castle - Cazorla, Jaen, Andalusia, Spain, Europe

City Of Cazorla And Yedra Castle – Cazorla, Jaen, Andalusia, Spain, Europe. Photo: Shutterstock

Come April, the temperatures throughout Andalusia are pleasant, the aroma of orange blossoms is in the air, the light is beautiful, and there are fiestas (and bullfights) all over the region, including all the events during Easter Week.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Spain here and here. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Morocco

camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Wendy and family on a camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Contrywide, the weather is comfortable in April. Temperature extremes are common in the desert, but at this time of year days are warm and nights are just chilly rather than unbearably cold.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Morocco. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Peru

Lupins bloom above the ancient Inca ruins of Choquequirao in the Andes, Peru

Lupins bloom above the ancient Inca ruins of Choquequirao in the Andes, Peru. Photo: Adriana Von Hagen

April sees the best mix of weather both inland and on Peru’s coast; it’s sunny and warm in Lima, and dry and temperate in the Andes. Since the rainy season has just ended, the air is clear, and the fields are green and lush, dotted with the yellow, pink, and mauve hues of quinoa, amaranth, lupines, and potatoes ready to harvest.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Peru. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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The Netherlands

tulips and windmill at Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands

Spring is tulip time in the Netherlands. Photo: Keukenhof Gardens

April is bright and pleasant, and it’s prime time for Tulipmania, when the Keukenhof — one of the world’s largest flower gardens — is full of blooms. King’s Day (on April 27 in 2023) is the biggest street party of the year in Amsterdam; it’s very busy, but a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the Dutch joie de vivre (you can also enjoy the parades and festivities in a more rural setting). By traveling in April, you’ll also miss the public holidays in May that bring out large crowds.
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Crete

The island of Spinalonga, Crete, Greece. Photo: Blue Palace Resort and Spa

The island of Spinalonga, Crete, Greece. Photo: Blue Palace Resort and Spa

Renowned for its rich local culture, Crete is a wonderful place to visit in April when Greek Orthodox Easter falls during that month. Experience renowned Cretan hospitality throughout the festive celebrations, which are distinctive to Greece’s most southern (and thus warmest) island. There are also beautiful wildflowers in April, fewer crowds, and lower hotel rates than you’ll find later in spring.
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Istanbul

gardens and flowers around a pond at Dolmabahce Palace Istanbul Turkey

Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul.

During the annual tulip festival in April, the city is awash in millions (literally) of colorful blooms. The weather is temperate, perfect for visiting the outdoor ancient sites that can be scorching in summer — and the tourist hordes have not yet arrived. Since it’s shoulder season, there are deals to be had at hotels.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Istanbul. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Mediterranean Cruises

Seabourn Ovation cruise ship

Seabourn Ovation anchored off Montenegro.

April is the perfect month to enjoy the brilliant blue skies in the Mediterranean, when the sunny days start to outnumber the cold and cloudy ones of winter. Cruise ships have just repositioned to the region, so you can explore iconic ports such as Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Rome, and Venice without the crowds and heat of summertime. And fares are lower, since this is considered the off-season.
Read reviews of WOW Mediterranean cruises here and here. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Maldives

overwater bungalow at Joali resort in the maldives

The cantilevered hammocks at JOALI Maldives’ villas. Photo: Ryan Damm

European vacationers drive up prices from Christmas through Easter, but for the few weeks after this period, you’ll find a sweet spot of lower hotel rates and ideal weather: Temperatures are consistently in the high 80s year-round, but in late April there is almost no rain or wind, so the water is calm for snorkeling and diving.
Read reviews of WOW trips to the Maldives. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Namibia

Namib Desert, Namibia

Namibia’s Namib Desert is right on the Atlantic Ocean. Photo: Shutterstock

Starting in mid-April, the temperatures are mild night and day, the occasional rains tease the desert wildflowers into bloom, and the animals are fat and happy. (Brook took her own family on a fun-filled trip to Namibia in April.)
Read reviews of WOW trips to Namibia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Namibia

Laos

Luang Prabang, Laos - 26 November 2016: Buddhist monk and the details of architecture of Buddhist temple Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang - UNESCO World Heritage Site

Wat Xieng Thong Buddhist temple in Luang Prabang, Laos. Photo: Shutterstock

Songkran, the Lao New Year, is celebrated in mid-April with a whole week of parades, street markets, and concerts. Tradition holds that revelers douse one another with water in order to wash away the past year’s sins; unlike in Thailand, where you might well be ambushed outside your hotel in the morning, in Laos the locals usually ask before splashing you. (See photos of Brook’s experience in Laos over New Year.)
Read reviews of WOW trips to Laos. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic

Cityscape views of one of Europe's most beautiful town- Vienna. Peoples on streets, urban life in Vienna Austria

Vienna’s city streets, Austria. Photo: Shutterstock

April means mild weather, springtime flowers, and no bus-tour crowds in Central Europe. In Budapest, the Spring Fair runs all month long with folk music, dancing, and concerts. Crowded summertime destinations, such as Lake Balaton in Hungary and the Wachau Valley in Austria, are relatively tranquil. In the Czech Republic, all the countryside castles are just reopening from their winter dormancy.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Central Europe. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Papua New Guinea

mean with lakatoi boats on beach of Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea. Photo: Pixabay/freesally

In April the rainy season is just ending, so prices are better than in the high months of May, June, and July.
To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Papua New Guinea

 

Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why April is a good time to go.

North America and Caribbean

California: Yosemite National Park

Mexico City

St. Barts

Utah’s national parks

 

Central and South America

Bolivia

Brazil: Rio de Janeiro

Colombia: Bogota

Costa Rica: Pacific and Central regions

Ecuador: Galapagos family travel

Patagonia

Peru: Machu Picchu

 

Europe

Croatia (second half of the month)

England: Castles, Manor Houses, and Gardens

European Canal Barge Cruises: deals and tulips

Germany: Bavaria

Greece: Athens

Ireland: Killarney and County Kerry

Italy: Amalfi Coast, Florence, Lake Como villas, and Sicily

Portugal

Romania (second half of April)

Scotland: wildflowers and deals

Spain: Madrid

 

Asia and Pacific

Asia Cruises

China: big cities and small villages, and Yunnan Province

India: trekking and tiger viewing

Indonesia: Bali without crowds

Myanmar

Nepal

New Zealand, including Bay of Islands and Queenstown hiking and cycling

Seychelles

Vietnam: north and central regions

 

Africa and Middle East

Israel and Jerusalem (after Easter and Passover)

South Africa: Cape Town and Winelands

Zambia (second half of the month)

 


 

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

Fakarava island in french polynesia with canoe on turquoise blue water

Where to Go in September: The Best Places to Travel

Leisure travel usually slows down after Labor Day, as kids go back to school and adults go back to work. But September is a smart month for many places around the world, thanks to fewer tourists and shoulder-season deals. Here is a sampling of the best places to travel in September.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Norway

Northern Lights, Norway.

September is the sweet spot for Norway, when it’s still warm enough to spend your days exploring the fjords but the night sky gets dark enough that you have a good chance of catching the Northern Lights.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Norway. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Mediterranean coastlines and islands

colorful boats in Marsaxlokk Harbour, Malta

Marsaxlokk Harbour, Malta. Photo: Exclusively Malta

In September, the Mediterranean region is still sunny (but not too hot) and it’s warm enough to go swimming—and yet the crowds have thinned because kids are back in school. From the Algarve in Portugal to the French Riviera to the Cinque Terre in Italy to Turkey’s Aegean coast, the weather is great for strolling through villages and indulging in the local culinary treats. Don’t forget about islands like Corsica, Sicily, or Malta, either: On the latter, there are village feasts happening in September, with parades, concerts, and even fireworks.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Portugal’s Algarve, France’s Riviera, Sicily, Malta and Turkey during the pandemic. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Ireland

Sheep grazing in Killarney National Park Ireland.

Sheep grazing in Killarney National Park, Ireland. Photo: Celebrated Experiences

September and October, when the summer crowds have gone but relatively warm weather remains, is one of the best times to visit. It certainly might rain—this is Ireland, after all—but that just means you’ll have rainbows!  In September, which is considered high season, leaves start turning, ushering in fall.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Ireland during the pandemic. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Tuscany

tractor harvesting grapes in a vineyard in Tuscany Italy

Vineyards in Tuscany, Italy.

Come September, the vineyard-covered hills across much of Tuscany come alive for the vendemmia, or grape harvest. The rumble of small tractors rolling along the long rows of vines, the chattering of families and farm hands as they snip off individual clusters by hand, the tinkling of glasses and forks against plates as long tables are set up outdoors for everyone to take a break for lunch al fresco…these are the sights and sounds of autumn in Chianti, Montalcino, Montepulciano, and the rest of Tuscany’s wine country.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Tuscany. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Porto and the Douro River Valley, Portugal

Grape harvest in the Douro Valley, Portugal

Harvest in the Douro Valley, Portugal. Photo: Porto Tourism

Late September and early October are typically the time for the grape harvest in the Douro. You can participate by picking grapes (more fun than it sounds) or—better yet—stomping the fruit à la I Love Lucy with your own two feet. There are also some amazing hikes just north of Porto, which are at their best in fall when the weather and landscape are starting to change; options range from easy strolls to expert-level routes.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Portugal. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Germany

Bamberg Bavaria, Germany. Photo: Claudia Schwenger

Bamberg Bavaria, Germany. Photo: Claudia Schwenger

September hits the sweet spot of pleasant weather and minimal crowds, and there are many charming, open-air harvest festivals taking place. Plus, there’s Oktoberfest, most of which actually falls during September.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Germany. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon view of the watchtower.

The watchtower in Grand Canyon. Photo: Mike Buchheit

After Labor Day, the Grand Canyon gets much quieter, prices fall from the highs of summer, and the weather is still pleasant.
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Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park in fall, Wyoming.

Grand Teton National Park in fall, Wyoming. Photo: NPS

From mid-September to mid-October, the aspens are golden, the area isn’t crowded, and hotels often discount their rates; plus, the grizzly and black bears are more visible as they stock up prior to hibernation, and the elk are bugling. While the weather can be cooler, it’s a good excuse to take advantage of the fireplace in your room.
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Cruises: Alaska, Eastern Canada, Mediterranean

Star Breeze

Setting sail on the Star Breeze. Photo: Windstar Cruises.

As the summer winds down, you can often find the lowest pricing on cruises in iconic destinations like Alaska and the Mediterranean. For those seeking a getaway that’s closer to home, many ships sail routes through New England and Eastern Canada, stopping in places like Boston, Nova Scotia, and Quebec City.
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Mexico City

Mexican national symbol among colonial buildings on Independence Day.

This Independence Day light display in Mexico City shows an eagle devouring a snake—a popular national symbol. Photo: Shutterstock

Mexico City and the country’s colonial heartland (San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Puebla, Queretaro, Michoacan) come alive for independence celebrations, which fall on September 15 and 16. Throughout the month of September, cities and plazas in the region transform with patriotic fervor, commemorating the start of the Mexican War for Independence in 1810. Visitors will find a jubilant atmosphere, and the festivals and parades typically bring with them some of Mexico’s most traditional street snacks.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Mexico. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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French Polynesia

The Brando Resort, French Polynesia

The Brando Beach Villa, French Polynesia. Photo: Brando Resort

Humpback whales approach the islands (mostly Rurutu and Moorea) to give birth and feed from August to October. The waters hold a lot of food that fatten up the babies before they head to the Antarctic. If the whales are calm and the weather is good, you can even snorkel with them and listen to the sounds they use to communicate with each other; it’s really quite an amazing experience.
Read reviews of WOW trips to French Polynesia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Kangaroo Island, Australia

kangaroos on kangaroo island Australia

Kangaroo Island, off the coast near Adelaide, is a top destination for animal lovers. Photo: South Australian Tourism Commission

Kangaroo Island is Australia’s own Galapagos, a time capsule of the region’s native plants and animals, largely undisturbed by civilization for thousands of years. Kangaroos, wallabies, echidna, koalas, dolphins, sea lions, fur seals, and scores of birds can be seen in their natural habitats all year round; however, antipodal spring is a particularly special time to visit, with clear and warm days returning, wildflowers blooming, and joey kangaroos emerging from their mothers’ pouches. (It’s also before the Australian school holidays hit and families start arriving in October.)
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Trancoso, Brazil

The beach lounge at Villas de Trancoso Brazil

The beach lounge at Villas de Trancoso. Photo: Villas de Trancoso

If you are after peace and quiet, Trancoso’s off-season (i.e., June through September) is pure bliss: Temperatures are still in the high 70s to 80s, and you will often have mile upon mile of palm-tree-backed beaches all to yourself.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Brazil. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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South African Safaris

Elephants, Singita Kruger, South Africa

An elephant family at Singita Kruger, Kruger National Park.

September is glorious in South Africa. The winter chill has left, and spring is on its way. The grasses that grew high after the rainy season have been chomped down, leaving the animals in full view. Cape Town is warming up, and the rains have more or less gone for good. Whales can be seen off the coast, the vineyards are green, and safaris are spectacular throughout the parks and reserves.
Read reviews of WOW trips to South Africa. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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India

Agra Fort - Medieval Indian fort made of red sandstone and marble with view of dome at sunrise. View of Taj Mahal at a distance as seen from Agra Fort.

Agra Fort, with a view of Taj Mahal in the distance. Photo: Shutterstock

September is ideal in Northern India: In Delhi, the monsoon rains have given way to clear skies and pleasant temperatures. At the Taj Mahal, you’ll find the fewest people and the best photographic conditions. It’s also a good time for trekking, with fall color in the Himalaya.
Read reviews of WOW trips to India. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Uzbekistan

View over the mausoleums and domes of the historical cemetery of Shahi Zinda through an arched gate, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

View over the mausoleums and domes of the historical cemetery of Shahi Zinda through an arched gate, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photo: Shutterstock

After the summer heat, Uzbekistan’s weather is once again comfortable for touring the ancient cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva, and for hiking in the mountains or camel riding in the Kizil Kum Desert. Click here to read about the trip Wendy and her family took to Uzbekistan.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Uzbekistan. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Uzbekistan

 

Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why September is a good time to go.

North America

The California Coast

Maui

Newfoundland and Labrador

Yellowstone

Central and South America

Argentina: Skiing in Mendoza

Bolivia

Brazilian Amazon

Chile: Atacama Desert

Colombia: Bogota

Ecuador: Quito

Peru

Europe

Arctic

Croatia

Czech Republic: second half of the month

European Canal Barges

Hungary: second half of the month

Iceland: northern lights

The Italian and Swiss Alps

Italy: Florence

Italy: Lakes Region

Italy: Umbria

Italy: Venice

London

Paris

Romania

Scotland

Spain: Andalusia and Madrid

Switzerland

Turkey: Cappadocia

Turkey: Istanbul

Asia

Bali

Beijing

Bhutan

Mongolia

Myanmar

Nepal

Seychelles

Thailand: Bangkok

Africa and Middle East

Botswana

East Africa Safaris

Jerusalem

Madagascar

Morocco: second half of the month

Oman: second half of the month

Rwanda: Gorilla Trekking

Zambia

Zimbabwe

Australia and Pacific

Fiji

Great Barrier Reef

New Zealand: Queenstown

Papua New Guinea: Trekking

 

 

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Iceland waterfall Skogafoss in Icelandic nature landscape. Famous tourist attractions and landmarks destination in Icelandic nature landscape on South Iceland. Aerial drone view of top waterfall. -

Where to Go in June: The Best Places to Travel

In much of the northern hemisphere, June is an excellent time weather-wise to squeeze in a trip before most school vacations start, the summer crowds surge, and the heat descends. In some places, it’s also a great month for hiking and spotting elusive beasts of the wild. Here are our Trusted Travel Experts’ recommendations for the best places to travel in June.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Iceland

View of basalt stacks Reynisdrangar, black sand beach near Vik and violet lupine flowers and lonely church, South Iceland

The black sand beach near Vik with violet lupine flowers. Photo: Shutterstock

Around the summer solstice (June 21), Iceland offers 24 hours of sunshine and an explosion of wildflowers as far as the eye can see. It’s also a good time for animal lovers: There are day-old foals, lambs, and wild chicks, and eggs visible in ground nests.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Iceland. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Canada’s Maritime Provinces, including Newfoundland

The coastline of Twillingate, New World Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

The coastline of Twillingate, New World Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Photo credit: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

June is typically an optimal month for iceberg watching—a popular pastime in Newfoundland. On a warm day, you can watch these majestic mountains of ice flow along the province’s northern and eastern coasts.  It’s also the start of the summer season of food, festivals, and spectacular scenery in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Atlantic Canada. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Canada’s Maritimes

San Sebastián, Spain

Beach and colorful houses of San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain, is ideal in June. Photo: Shutterstock

June is a great time in San Sebastián: The weather has cleared but it’s not yet warm enough for beach-goers, so the crowds are manageable. Enjoy the top pintxo bars while they are still filled with locals—most of whom will be replaced by tourists come July and August. And a lot of produce comes into season now, making the many Michelin-starred menus even more delectable than usual.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Spain. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to San Sebastian

The Mediterranean Island of Malta

Xlendi Tower, Malta

Xlendi Tower, Malta

If you must travel in summer and you want ocean temperatures that are warm enough for swimming, plan your Malta trip for the second half of June, when the island isn’t as busy—and the weather not as hot—as later on in the summer. There are also village feasts happening around the country just about every weekend from May through October, with parades, concerts, and fireworks. (If swimming isn’t a prerequisite for your trip, March is a fabulous time for Malta.)
Read reviews of WOW trips to Malta. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Malta

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Grand Canyon view of the watchtower.

The watchtower in Grand Canyon. Photo: Mike Buchheit

The peak of summer sees crowds almost as huge as the Grand Canyon itself, which is up to a mile deep and 18 miles wide; go in June and you’ll have much more breathing room, as well as access to the far less visited North Rim (which is open only from mid-May to mid-October). The right local fixer can arrange helicopter flights over the canyon, mule rides down to where the rocks are 1.8 billion years old, float trips along the Colorado River, and behind-the-scenes tours of sites not accessible to ordinary travelers.
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Alaska Cruises

An adult humpback whale breaching

An adult humpback whale breaches in Southeast Alaska.  Photo: Lindblad Expeditions/Michael S. Nolan

The first two weeks of June in Southeast Alaska—the region also known as the Inside Passage—typically offer drier days and better wildlife spotting on the beaches at low tide. This is also a prime time to spot transient orcas, migrating humpback whales, and hauled-out harbor seals. Winds coming off the snow-covered mountain peaks make the air crisp, and the forests showcase an abundance of colorful and diverse wildflowers.
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Start an Alaska small-ship expedition cruise

Cappadocia, Turkey

Balloons over Cappadocia. Photograph courtesy of Earl Starkey

Balloons over Cappadocia. Photograph courtesy of Earl Starkey

In June the wildflowers are in bloom and everything is still green. The light is ideal for photography, the days are long, and the nights are lovely. It is also a perfect time for balloon flights over the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Turkey. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Italy’s Dolomites Region

The Dolomites, Italy

The craggy peaks and verdant valleys of the Dolomites, a.k.a. the Italian Alps, provide some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. In June you are guaranteed sunny days and warm evenings, with not too much humidity. Enjoy hiking and biking into the UNESCO-designated landscape, and afterward sample the local culinary delicacies over lunch at a mountain rifugio or from a picnic basket.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Italy. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Bali

Uma by Como, Ubud, Bali

Uma by Como, Ubud, Bali. Courtesy Como Resorts

June is the calm before—and after—the tourist storms that hit this island during the Christmas/New Year period and in July, August, and early September. It also has the most reliably pleasant weather (daytime temps in the 80s and gentle breezes to keep the sun from feeling too hot) and decent prices (high-season hotel rates don’t kick in until July).
Read reviews of WOW trips to Bali. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Koh Phangan, Thailand

small boat on beach of Koh Phangan island Thailand

Koh Phangan, Thailand. Photo: Journeys Within

While the rest of Thailand is entering the rainy season in June, the island of Koh Phangan is still sunny and dry, making it ideal for snorkeling, diving, and lounging on the beach. As it’s high season on Koh Phangan, you won’t see deep discounts for your stay there, but if you’re pairing the beach time with a larger journey around Thailand you can take advantage of the “green season” specials in the rest of the country.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Thailand. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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India’s Himalaya Mountains: Trekking and Tigers

royal bengal tiger in the ranthambore tiger reserve in rajasthan india

A royal Bengal tiger stretches in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, India. Photo: Sanjay Saxena

June is an excellent time for hikers, as many Himalayan trekking routes are open, and the mountains (up to about 14,000 feet, at least) are covered with rhododendron blooms and other wildflowers. And while it’s very hot in the central plains, it’s also the best time for visiting that region’s wildlife parks—especially the tiger reserves.
Read reviews of WOW trips to India. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Rwanda and Uganda: Gorilla Trekking

gorilla group in the jungle, Uganda

Gorilla trekking in Uganda. Photo: Explore Inc.

Gorilla sightings are equally good all year long (though never guaranteed). However, the best time for gorilla tracking is June, when it’s cool and there is less precipitation (but remember, this is still the rainforest, and storms can hit any day).
Read reviews of WOW trips to Rwanda and Uganda. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Borneo

Malaysia Sabah Borneo Scenic View of Tun Sakaran Marine Park tropical island (Bohey Dulang) Semporna, Sabah.

Tun Sakaran Marine Park. Photo: Shutterstock

Borneo’s dry season (if you can have one in the rainforest) runs from May through September, and by June the fruiting season is in full swing; this is the ideal time to see orangutans and other animals swinging through the trees.
To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Yakushima, Japan

forest river in Yakushima Japan

Japan’s sub-tropical island of Yakushima is ideal for intrepid travelers. Photo: Sankara Hotel & Spa Yakushima

This sub-tropical island, located in the waters just south of Kyushu, is ideal for intrepid travelers: Its mountains and vast forest of ancient cedar trees are crisscrossed by a network of hiking trails, from easy walks to challenging ascents. June signals the end of the rainy season, so you’ll find stunning waterfalls along the trails; it’s also when endangered loggerhead sea turtles return to Yakushima’s beaches to nest.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Japan. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

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Bhutan

Punakha Dzong Monastery, one of the largest monestary in Asia, Punakha, Bhutan

Punakha Dzong Monastery, one of the largest monasteries in Asia, Punakha, Bhutan. Photo: Shutterstock

In June the higher mountainsides are dressed in the pinks, whites, reds, purples, and oranges of Himalayan rhododendron flowers. Iris, orchids, primula, and other flowers are blooming, spring plantings are poking their leaves up out of fields, and migratory birds are heading north across the mountains. Many travelers have gone home, so roads are not teeming with buses and other tourist vehicles (which is very important in a country with only one east-west road). Moreover, with fewer visitors, Bhutanese locals have time to sit and chat or cook special meals instead of the typical tourist buffets. Yes, you may have some clouds or perhaps a shower, but the more peaceful countryside makes the trade-off well worthwhile.
To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Bhutan

Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why June is a good time to go.

North America and Caribbean

American West: river rafting

Canada: British Colombia

Caribbean: off-season rates

Mexico’s Riviera Maya

Montana and Wyoming: Yellowstone National Park

St. Barts: value season and annual sales

Utah’s National Parks

Washington: whale watching in the San Juan Islands

 

Central and South America

Bolivia

Brazil: Pantanal wetlands, Rio de Janeiro, southern Amazon, and Trancoso’s off season

Colombia: Bogota

Costa Rica: green season

Ecuador: family trips to the Galapagos

Peru

 

Europe

England: London

France: Paris, Provence, and canal barge trips

Germany: Bavaria

Italy: Florence’s Festa di San Giovanni, Sicily, and Umbria’s festival season

Norway

Portugal, including the Algarve

Romania

Scotland

Switzerland

Turkey: Aegean Coast and Istanbul

 

Asia and Pacific

Australia: Great Barrier Reef

Cambodia: green season

China: Yunnan Province

Fiji

French Polynesia (second half of the month)

Laos: green-season deals

Mongolia (first half of the month)

Nepal

New Zealand: winter activities in Queenstown

Papua New Guinea

Seychelles

Uzbekistan

 

Africa and Middle East

Botswana

Egypt: value trips

Madagascar

Namibia (first half of the month)

South Africa: whale watching and shark-cage diving

Zambia

Zimbabwe

 

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip. 

A lit Christmas tree at night in front of Santa Maria del Fiore Florence Italy

Where to Go for the 2022-23 Holidays

Time is running out to book a trip over the December/January holidays. We’ve tapped the experts on Wendy’s WOW List—the well informed, on-the-ground trip planners who’ve been wowing our readers throughout the pandemic—to find destinations that are still able to be booked for Christmas or New Year’s vacations. These are places where they can still find you charming hotel rooms and savvy private guides and can put together a high-caliber trip.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

Italy

A lit Christmas tree at night in front of Santa Maria del Fiore Florence Italy

Florence lights up for the holidays. Photo: Shutterstock

Italy was incredibly crowded and pricey this summer. For a true taste of the country, the answer is to go in winter, when the weather is mild and the cities and countryside have a more local flavor. Ride a Vespa around Rome; learn how to row a gondola in Venice; gather with your family at a private villa on Sicily or Lake Como; take in an opera at La Scala in Milan; or stroll holiday markets in the Dolomites.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN ITALY

France

The Champs-Élysées at Christmas time, Paris, France

The Champs-Élysées at Christmas time, Paris. Photo: Paris Perfect

If you got shut out of France this summer, now is your chance to book a December trip. The light in Provence in winter is why so many famous artists moved there, and this month is prime time for the region’s acclaimed truffles. Of course, Paris is fabulous for Christmas and New Year’s—the City of Lights gets even more dressed up for the holidays. France’s best Christmas markets are in Strasbourg and run until December 24. If your trip dates include December 25 or 31, don’t worry that everything will be closed: The right expert can arrange a private cooking class on Christmas, or concert tickets on New Year’s Eve.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN FRANCE

Costa Rica

beach, coastline lined with green jungle at Costa Rica Carrillo and Samara Beaches in Costa Rica

Carrillo and Samara Beaches, Costa Rica.

From beach to cloud forest to volcanoes, Costa Rica packs a lot of highlights in a small country. The skies are generally dry in December, but the land is lush and green from the recent rainy season. If you’re having trouble finding hotel rooms for your family over the holidays, our experts can help: They’ve blocked rooms at their favorite properties expressly for you last-minute planners.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN COSTA RICA

Belize

Tiny island with coconut trees and boat in Belize

Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

Nonstop flights to Belize take off from several U.S. cities that are only about three hours away. Once you’re there you can explore world-class coral reefs, visit uncrowded Mayan ruins, learn to scuba dive as Wendy’s son did, fish for 100-pound tarpon (which kept her husband busy), and laze beside sparkling Caribbean waters. Accommodations range from beach resorts to overwater bungalows to remote jungle tree houses. If you’re traveling the week leading up to Christmas, you can even charter your own private yacht to enjoy fabulous snorkeling, sunbathing, kayaking, and endless horizons.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN BELIZE

Canadian Rockies

Lake Louise Canada in winter

Lake Louise. Photo: Billie Cohen

The Rockies are absolutely gorgeous when covered with snow, making it a winter wonderland that is perfect for the active family…think snowshoeing, sleigh rides, and ice canyons. You can go dogsledding near Lake Louise, cross-country skiing near Jasper, and snowmobiling outside Banff. Wind down your day in a cozy private cabin or a cushy resort with spa treatments to ease any sore spots from your snowy adventures.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES

London

London skyline with Nelson's Column and Big Ben at dusk

London skyline. Photo: Julian Love/London and Partners – Visit London

Enjoy a Dickensian Christmas in London, which puts on a display of spectacular lights and holiday markets. A knowledgeable local guide can make the city’s stories come alive, whether via an after-hours tour of the Tower of London, an exploration of the city’s street-art scene, or a pub crawl to the best local watering holes.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN LONDON

A castle in the English countryside

Broughton Hall Christmas

Broughton Hall, in the Yorkshire Dales, at Christmastime.

Looking for a place to gather with extended family? Consider a stately home—even your very own castle—that suits a group of 16 or more in England. These houses are tastefully decorated throughout, tree and all, and come fully staffed, so you need not worry about cooking or cleaning over the holidays. Nearby you’ll often find Christmas markets to stroll, but you can just as easily stay on property and enjoy plenty of activities that bring your family together and put you in the Christmas spirit: wreath-making workshops, cocktail masterclasses, even a brass band recital.

ASK ABOUT A MANOR HOME IN THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE

Panama

pier and overwater bungalows in Bocas del Toro Panama

Bocas del Toro on Panama’s Caribbean Coast. Photo: Costa Travel

Under-the-radar Panama has hotels and private villas on both the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines—which deserve to be better known for their diverse marine life and prime surfing spots—not to mention verdant highland landscapes, VIP Panama Canal tours for would-be engineers, and coffee and chocolate fincas that will welcome you for tours and tastes.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN PANAMA

Colombia

A view from the beginning of the hike towards Cocora Valley which is famous for its tall wax palm trees in Colombia

Cocora Valley, Colombia.

Colombia’s charms range from Bogota, sitting 8,000 feet up in the Andes, to Cartagena, with its charming walled Old City on the Caribbean coast. In between you’ll find boutique haciendas in the coffee regions, cable cars to scale the mountains around Medellin, and a rich diversity of wildlife. The interior cities are quieter over the holidays—a plus when it comes to exploring museums and navigating traffic—while places along the coast often demand multi-night stays. Not all of Cartagena’s beaches are alike; work with an expert to find the right strand for you.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN COLOMBIA

Norway

Northern lights in Norway.

Enjoy a cozy holiday with your family in Norway: Ride a sled pulled by reindeer in search of the northern lights, go snowmobiling above the Arctic Circle, learn about the indigenous Sami culture, enjoy locally sourced meals inside your timber lodge or ice hotel, and warm up between outdoor pursuits in a wood-fired sauna.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN NORWAY

The Maldives

Beautiful beach landscape with overwater bungalows Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives

Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives. Photo: Shutterstock

What better tropical getaway than jetting off to these idyllic islands in the Indian Ocean? Most are home to just a single resort, where you can spend your days snorkeling with manta rays, digging your toes into the sand at beachside restaurants, and relaxing in your private overwater bungalow. Pure bliss.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN THE MALDIVES

The Alps

Ski Resort of Corvara at Night, Alta Badia, Dolomites Alps, Italy

Corvara ski resort, Alta Badia, Dolomites Alps, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Wintertime Alpine fun comes in many flavors, from rustic huts on the Italian slopes to chic French ski towns to Zermatt’s après-ski scene. Whether you’re after a private guide to take you off-piste skiing, a hut-to-hut adventure, or a more civilized locale with options for non-skiiers, we can probably connect you with the right expert. Deciding between the Alps or a ski trip out west? You’ll pay more for the flights to Europe, but lift tickets there are considerably more affordable.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN THE ALPS

Mexico

Gorgeous view of Teotihuacan, The Sun´s Pyramid surrounded by hot air balloons, shot take at the dawn.

Mexico City is vibrant with arts, restaurants, and parks—and the historic Teotihuacan pyramid is nearby too. Photo: Shutterstock

Our southern neighbor is a perennial favorite for the winter holidays, but several corners of the country still have good availability in December. Head to the Riviera Nayarit, north of Puerto Vallarta, or to Los Cabos for gorgeous beaches and great dining options. For an urban experience without the crowds (because the locals are all at the beach), try Mexico City, where the springlike weather brings warm days and cool evenings. Southeast of the capital is Puebla, known for its colonial history, colorful architecture, and culinary and art scenes. And on the Yucatán Peninsula there’s Mérida, a hotspot during both the Mayan and colonial eras, today rich in history and culture.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN MEXICO

Galapagos Islands and Ecuador

Hacienda Zuleta, Ecuador. Photo: Hacienda Zuleta

Options are dwindling in the Galapagos for the holiday weeks, but availability is easier to come by at Galapagos hotels than for boat-based journeys. In mainland Ecuador, where December temperatures are in the 70s, it’s easy to combine Quito’s Old Town with a historic hacienda in the nearby Andean highlands, where you can explore craft villages, hike in ecological reserves, and horseback ride among quilt-like pastures.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN THE GALAPAGOS AND ECUADOR

 

Peru

machu picchu ruins

The ruins at Machu Picchu, Peru. Photo: Aracari

Imagine spending the holidays at Machu Picchu, or riding the rails in luxury on the Andean Explorer train line from Cusco to Lake Titicaca to Arequipa. There can be afternoon showers in Peru at this time of year, but smart planning can focus your outdoor activities on the mornings—you can even hike the last few miles of the Inca Trail and arrive at Machu Picchu via the Sun Gate, which has a spectacular, panoramic view of the ruins.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN PERU

Safari in Botswana or Zimbabwe

Rhino-spotting on safari in Botswana. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

South Africa and Kenya may be booked up, but there’s still availability in Botswana and Zimbabwe, where December falls during the green season. In return for the possibility of an afternoon or evening rain shower you get lush vegetation (which makes for great photos), more prolific predators (because the grazing species are having their babies), and significantly lower rates at many camps and lodges.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY SAFARI

Antarctica Cruises

Zodiac cruise through the ice, Antarctica. Photo: Abby Suplizio

Zodiac cruise through the ice, Antarctica. Photo: Abby Suplizio

If seeing wildlife is your goal, the latter half of December is the very best time to cruise to Antarctica. By then, thousands of penguins, including their fluffy chicks, have made their home along the coastline, the sea ice has usually broken up enough to allow great access, and the weather is generally better than earlier or later in the season.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY ANTARCTICA CRUISE

Southeast Asia

Sri Panwa, Phuket, Thailand hotel pool

Sri Panwa, Phuket, Thailand.

2023 is Southeast Asia’s moment: Nonstop flights are coming back, and the crowds that descended on Europe this summer haven’t yet arrived. With so many great new hotels opening in Bangkok, it won’t be hard to find room over the holidays; there are still rooms aplenty in Hanoi and Saigon too. Flight options into Cambodia are more limited, but the reward is wide hotel availability in Siem Reap, and far fewer tourists at Angkor Wat than you’d have seen there in December 2019.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

Bora Bora and Tahiti (French Polynesia)

Hiva Oa Marquesas Islands French Polynesia

The Aranui 5.

Many resorts are booked up for the period between Christmas and New Year’s, but you can still snag an idyllic overwater bungalow for the week leading up to Christmas. You can also still book a cabin on the Aranui 5, a supply boat that doubles as a passenger ship and sails 12-day itineraries through the remote Marquesas archipelago.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN FRENCH POLYNESIA

Europe’s Christmas Markets

Christmas tree and projected snowflake lights on a building at the Warsaw Christmas market in Warsaw Poland

Warsaw’s Christmas market. Photo: Polish Tourist Board

Many of Europe’s charming Christmas markets close on December 24, but a growing number are staying open past the holiday. That’s true at many markets in Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Belgium; in the Netherlands, the Amsterdam Light Festival runs all the way until January 22. A savvy specialist will work your itinerary to hit the markets that still have a truly local feel.

ASK ABOUT A CHRISTMAS MARKETS TRIP

Sri Lanka

sigiriya rock Sri Lanka

Sigiriya Rock, Sri Lanka. Photo: Pixabay

Last year’s political unrest is over, but Sri Lanka has yet to see tourism bounce back. That’s great news for intrepid travelers: Many hotels aren’t charging peak rates, and the dollar is very strong against the rupee. Combine the country’s cultural landmarks with a scenic train ride through tea plantations in the hill country, then overnight in a tented “cocoon” near a national park that abuts the ocean and offers frequent leopard sightings.

ASK ABOUT A HOLIDAY TRIP IN SRI LANKA

 



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Skyline in the Old Quarter of Seville, Spain

Where to Go in March: The Best Places to Travel

It may still feel like winter at home, but March finds wildflowers blooming in many parts of the world, and festivals of all sorts happening around the globe. Here’s a round-up of destinations that are at their prime in March.

To understand what makes a trip WOW, read these recent reviews from our travelers. And don’t miss the rest of our “Where to Go” series on the best destinations for every month of the year.

The Galapagos, Ecuador

underwater photo of a sea lion in the Galapagos islands

Snorkeling with Galapagos sea lions

In March, water temperatures and clarity are the best they get all year, making it ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. It’s also hatching season for Galapagos tortoises, and male frigate birds can be seen with their telltale neck pouches puffed up and flared out to attract females. Adults who don’t want to travel with lots of kids should avoid the spring-break weeks that range from late March to mid-April. The opposite is true for families: Book way ahead for those peak spring-break weeks that often feature family-focused departures.
Read reviews of WOW trips to the Galapagos. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to the Galapagos

Cartagena, Colombia

Islas de Rosario, Colombia

Islas de Rosario, Colombia, near Cartagena. Photo: Shutterstock

March is a great month to visit Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast: You’ll find sunny days, clear skies, and a fresh breeze that makes the temperature much more comfortable.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Colombia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Colombia

Belize

A row of thatched palapas on golden sand on the tiny island of Rendezvous Caye in the Belize Barrier Reef, off the coast of Belize, Central America

Rendezvous Caye in the Belize Barrier Reef. Photo: Shutterstock

The Caribbean trade winds that prevail in March and April make for ideal sailing conditions. The summer humidity hasn’t yet arrived, and evenings are fresh and breezy. You can charter a crewed catamaran that will take you wherever you want to go: tiny, palm-studded islands with hardly another soul in sight, or spots with open-air beach bars and restaurants.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Belize. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Belize

Andalusia, Spain

Skyline in the Old Quarter of Seville, Spain

Skyline in the Old Quarter of Seville, Spain. Photo: Shutterstock

By late March in southern Spain, temps are in the 60s, the aroma of orange blossoms is in the air, the light is beautiful, and there are fiestas (and bullfights) all over the region. Before the crowds descend for Holy Week and the spring festivals, March is a great time to visit the iconic sites in Seville and Granada, or go off-the-beaten path in Ubeda and Baeza.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Andalusia. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Andalusia

Puglia, Italy

Polignano a Mare, puglia, italy, seaside village

Polignano a Mare, Puglia, Italy. Photo: Pixabay/newneo47

Many of Puglia’s charming boutique hotels and seaside osterias reopen in March after the winter off-season, making this a lovely time to visit while the locals are still well-rested from their time off and the summer crowds haven’t yet arrived. Learn the art of making burrata—a local speciality of this food-focused region—picnic in an olive grove, and visit a glass artisan’s atelier. (Just don’t expect to go for a dip in the ocean, as water temperatures are in the 50s.)
To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Puglia

Crete, Greece

Elouda villa, Crete, Greece. Photo: Blue Palace Resort

Elouda villa, Crete, Greece. Photo: Blue Palace Resort

While many Greek islands go into hibernation in the winter, with resorts and restaurants shuttering for the season, Crete is large enough that it stays vibrant year-round. It’s also Greece’s most southern—and thus warmest—island. Not everything will be open in March, but it’s a great time to get a dose of local culture, and hotel rates are lower than you’ll find later in spring.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Greece. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Greece

London

The London Eye Ferris Wheel

The London Eye Ferris Wheel. Photo: Celebrated Experiences

If you think Notting Hill couldn’t get any more colorful, you should see it in the early spring, decked out with blossoms on its tree-lined streets. March brings glorious fields of daffodils to Kensington Gardens too—and everything’s in bloom in Chelsea. The icing on the cake is Kew Gardens, just a short trip outside central London and the perfect spot to celebrate the arrival of spring.
Read reviews of WOW trips to London. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to London

Malta and Gozo

Ancient walls and streets of Valetta, the capital of Malta. Photo: Shutterstock

The ancient walls and streets of Valletta, the capital of Malta. Photo: Shutterstock

March sees few of the cruise-ship visitors who arrive daily in Malta come summer. With highs in the mid-60s and a lush green coating on the hills brought out by winter rains, this is a particularly great time of year for countryside walks and cycling on neighboring Gozo, which is smaller and more rural than Malta.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Malta. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Malta

Chile

A view of Torres del Paine's lakes from the French Valley

A view of Torres del Paine’s crystalline lakes from the French Valley in Patagonia.

Chile is roughly twice the length of California, so it covers vast latitudes and corresponding climates. March sees some of the best weather throughout the country: warm temperatures in Patagonia, dry days in the Lakes District, and lacking the oppressive summer heat in central Chile and Easter Island. You’ll also avoid high season, which starts before Christmas and lasts through February.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Chile. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Chile

Jordan

Alone in Petra at sunrise

The ruins at Petra, Jordan.

By March, the weather is warming up—making it possible to spend a night out in Wadi Rum—the almond and olive trees should still be in blossom, and the crowds are thin.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Jordan. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Jordan

Cape Town, South Africa

harbor of Cape Town, South Africa with boats and table mountain

Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: HPBotha/Pixabay

By March, temperatures have begun to cool, and the fierce southeasterly wind calms down—which means that outdoor activities (sea kayaking, shark diving, trips to Robben Island) are seldom canceled due to weather. It’s also one of the best months for hiking and cycling, and the “March lilies” are flowering all over the city. This being harvest time, there is frenetic activity at the nearby wine estates, accompanied by many jovial festivals.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Cape Town. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Cape Town

Norway

Northern Lights, Norway

Northern Lights, Grøtfjord, Kvaløya, Norway. Photo: Gaute Bruvik – visitnorway.com

In March there is still a lot of snow for all of Norway’s great winter activities—skiing, of course, and also dogsledding, snowmobiling, reindeer sledding, snowshoeing, and so on—but also lots of sunshine, average daytimes highs in the 30s, and long days. Statistically, this is also the best month to see the Northern Lights.
Read reviews of WOW trips to Norway. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Norway

Queenstown, New Zealand

Mount Nicholas Station, Queenstown, New Zealand

Mount Nicholas Station, Queenstown, New Zealand

It’s the end of summer down south, and the weather is just warm enough: around 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the day, with nice cool evenings. You have access to all of the back-country activities that bring people to this world capital of outdoor adventure.
Read reviews of WOW trips to New Zealand. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to Queenstown

Northern India

Holi Festival at Nandgaon temple complex, Uttar Pradesh, India

Holi Festival at Nandgaon temple complex, Uttar Pradesh, India. Photo: Abhijit Kar Gupta/Flickr

The date for Holi—India’s famous festival of colors—is set by the Hindu calendar, but it almost always falls during March; in 2024, the date will be March 25. (This is one celebration where you simply can’t be a bystander, and you don’t want to show up in your best attire: Everyone throws vibrantly colored powder and water at one another.) Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Jodhpur, and Udaipur are all great places to be during the merriment that is Holi.
Read reviews of WOW trips to India. To get your own WOW trip and VIP treatment, use the black button below. 

Start a trip to India

 

Other Smart Options This Month

Click on any of the destinations below to find out why March is a good time to go.

North America

Alaska: winter activities

Canada: British Columbia spring skiing

Hawaii: Oahu whale-watching

 

Central and South America

Brazil: Salvador and Trancoso

Colombia: Bogota

Panama

 

Europe

Portugal: Algarve’s almond blossom

 

Africa and Middle East

Dubai

Israel

Morocco: Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains

Oman

 

Asia and Pacific

India: Mumbai and wildlife parks and Himalaya hiking

Nepal

Sri Lanka

Seychelles

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel

Many of us would like to ensure we’re coronavirus-free before we travel. Pre-trip Covid tests are required by some foreign countries, with the test administered anywhere from 24 hours to a few days before your arrival.

Thankfully, it’s become much easier to get quick Covid test results, whether you are seeking a mail-in option that eliminates having to visit a public-health clinic or testing site, or you require an in-person or video-proctored test on a short timeline.

Below are several of your best options for a test with the last-minute results you need for some destinations: We’ve listed in-person options for PCR tests in select U.S. cities, mail-in PCR test kits that you can do from home (note that some places will not accept results from mail-in tests), and proctored, self-administered antigen tests that you can take in a foreign country. If you’re looking for a PCR test in a location not listed below, do a search for quick Covid test—not “rapid,” as that is the term commonly used for antigen tests—and your desired location. In my reporting, I’ve found that urgent-care centers are a good bet for quick Covid tests.

Jump to: In-Person Tests

Jump to: Mail-In Tests

Jump to: Tests That Can Be Self-Administered Abroad

In-Person Tests

Nationwide

  • ARCpoint Labs offers tests at dozens of labs across the country. The cost is $150 for same-day results.
  • Curative conducts saliva-based tests at pop-up sites across the country. There is no out-of-pocket cost, and results are usually available (but not guaranteed) in 1-2 days.
  • DM Covid-19 Test will send a clinician to your home almost anywhere in the Lower 48 states to conduct a curbside test, with 3-4 days’ advance notice. Results are available the same day in Orlando, Philadelphia, northern Virginia, central Maryland, Washington, D.C., and New York for $349, or the next day at any location that they cover for $299.
  • CVS has drive-through testing—as well as walk-up testing in some locations—and reports that the average turnaround time is 1-2 days. Tests are free for those who meet certain criteria related to symptoms and exposure, and $139 otherwise. (Note: Pharmacies’ turnaround times are not as reliable as testing centers that guarantee results in time for travel.)
  • Walgreens offers drive-through tests at select locations; turnaround time varies by location and by the lab used to obtain results. There is no cost for most individuals. (Note: Pharmacies’ turnaround times are not as reliable as testing centers that guarantee results in time for travel.)
  • Passport Health is offering tests at some of their clinics at a cost of $200, with results in 72 hours.

Arizona

  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Phoenix; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.
  • Saguaro Bloom sells test kits with a self-administered swab at their Scottsdale location; the cost is $149 for results in 24 hours, or $279 for same-day results.

California

  • Covid Check Today will send a clinician to your home (or any other location) in Los Angeles, San Diego, or Orange County to conduct a test. The cost is $199 for results in 24 hours ($149 with insurance), or $349 for results in 6 hours.
  • Cosmos Health Solutions offers tests in Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Tustin. Tests are free with insurance, with results in 24-48 hours; you can pay $75 for results in less than 24 hours, or $150 for results in 1 hour.
  • Good Life Medical Services has drive-through testing in Los Angeles that is free if you have insurance, or they will send a clinician to your home for $250. Results are returned in 48-72 hours; 24- to 48-hour turnaround is available for an additional $250-$350.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Long Beach, and Los Angeles; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.
  • Reliant Urgent Care conducts tests at locations across Los Angeles county; the cost is $175 for same-day results.
  • OnSite Safe conducts drive-up testing in Van Nuys and Sacramento, using saliva samples. The cost is $164-$215 for results by midnight 2 days after your test; in Van Nuys, you can pay an additional $24.75 for results by midnight the next day.
  • US Specialty Labs does drive-through testing with documentation for travel in San Diego for $135, with results in under 24 hours.
  • McCampbell Analytical offers self-collected test kits, which you pick up and drop off at their lab about an hour outside San Francisco in Pittsburg. Options range from results the next day for $99, to results in 3 hours for $699.
  • IGeneX offers testing in Milpitas, next door to San Jose; their staff will assist as you collect your own sample using a nasal swab. It is $250 for results in 24 hours, and $400 for same-day results.
  • Wellness 4 Humanity conducts saliva tests in San Jose, with results in 24-48 hours for $189, or guaranteed the next day for $439.
  • CityHealth conducts tests in Sacramento and throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, with costs billed to your insurance and results in 48 hours; you can pay $120 for results in 24 hours.
  • Med2u Inc. does home/office visits in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. The cost is $200, plus a travel fee of $100 or more; results are available late the next day.
  • OpenClear is a concierge service that brings a clinician to your home or office in the Los Angeles area for Covid testing. Costs range from $499 for results in 48-72 hours to $899 for results in 12-24 hours.

Colorado

  • Covid Check Today will send a clinician to your home (or any other location) in the Denver area to conduct a test. The cost is $199 for results in 24 hours ($149 with insurance), or $349 for results in 6 hours.

Delaware

  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Middletown; it’s $219 for next-day results.

Florida

  • Get Result Today performs tests at several locations throughout Florida. The cost is $139 for results within 24 hours, or $249 for results in 30-60 minutes. At-home testing is available in some locations for an additional fee.
  • Covid Check Today will send a clinician to your home (or any other location) in the Miami area to conduct a test. The cost is $199 for results in 24 hours ($149 with insurance), or $349 for results in 6 hours.
  • Covid Testing LLC does testing at several locations in Orlando and Central Florida. Testing is free with insurance, plus a $35 charge for next-day results or $75 for same-day results.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, and Atlantis; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours.
  • LAB Doctor offers tests in Ft. Lauderdale for $179, with results the next day.
  • BayCare is conducting tests at the Tampa airport for $150, with results typically returned in 48 hours.
  • OnSite Safe conducts drive-up testing in Tampa, using saliva samples. The cost is $164 for results by midnight 2 days after your test; you can pay an additional $24.75 for results by midnight the next business day.
  • Med2u Inc. conducts tests at their Hollywood office, and will do home or office visits in the surrounding region. The cost is $200, plus a travel fee of $100 or more; results are available by late evening of the next business day.
  • Physician Partners of America will come to clients in the Tampa and Orlando areas to conduct a test for $300, with results in 24 hours.
  • OpenClear is a concierge service that brings a clinician to your home or office in the Miami area for Covid testing. Costs range from $499 for results in 48-72 hours to $899 for results in 12-24 hours.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Daytona Beach; it’s $219 for next-day results, or $299 for same-day results.

Georgia

  • Viral Solutions offers drive-up testing in several locations around Atlanta at no cost. Results are typically available in 2 days.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Atlanta; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours.
  • Wellness 4 Humanity conducts saliva and throat-swab tests in Atlanta, with results in 24-48 hours for $169, or guaranteed by 2:00 a.m. for $209. They will also come to your home or office for an additional $249.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Atlanta; it’s $219 for next-day results, or $299 for same-day results.

Hawaii

  • Wellness 4 Humanity conducts saliva and throat-swab tests in Honolulu, with results in 24-48 hours for $199.

Illinois

  • Prime Care Physicians offers drive-up tests at their clinic in Schaumburg with results in 15-48 hours; they accept some insurance or charge $125 out of pocket. They also do in-home or in-office tests for an additional $100-$150 fee.

Maryland

  • Brookville Pharmacy conducts tests in Chevy Chase; the cost is $200 for results in 48 hours, or $250 for results in 24 hours.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests at their Columbia office; it’s $219 for same-day results, or $299 for results in one hour.

Massachusetts

  • Tufts Medical Center conducts tests in Boston, with results in 48-72 hours. If your insurance does not cover the test, the cost is $135.
  • Veritas offers tests at locations in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Ipswich, Andover, Beverly, and Newton Center. The cost is $120; results are available the same day if your sample is collected before noon, or the next day for afternoon tests.

Nevada

  • Covid Check Today will send a clinician to your home (or any other location) in the Las Vegas area to conduct a test. The cost is $199 for results in 24 hours ($149 with insurance), or $349 for results in 6 hours.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Las Vegas; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, or $150 for results in 12 hours.
  • Phamatech, Inc. conducts shallow-nasal-swab tests in Las Vegas. The cost is $120 for results in 24-48 hours.

New Jersey

  • LabQ offers walk-up testing at various locations in New Jersey. The testing is free, with results in 24 hours.
  • Urgent Medical Care & MRI in Jersey City conducts tests with a 30-minute turnaround at a cost of $250.

New York

  • Get Result Today performs tests in Manhattan, Glen Cove, and Merrick. The cost is $139 for results within 24 hours, or $249 for results in 30-60 minutes. At-home testing is available for an additional fee.
  • LabQ offers walk-up testing at various locations in New York City. The testing is free, with results in 24 hours.
  • Bloom Labs sells test kits with a self-administered swab at their Manhattan location; the cost is $299 for results in 3-4 hours.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests near JFK airport; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours.
  • CareCube offers tests at their locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. The cost is $100-$150 with insurance, or $225 without, with results in 4-6 hours.
  • The Medical Offices of Manhattan performs tests at their three locations in Manhattan, with results in 1 hour. The office visit costs $199 (your insurance may cover this), and the test costs $225.
  • Venistat will send a clinician to your home anywhere in New York’s five boroughs or on Long Island. The cost is $115 with insurance, or $185 without. Results are guaranteed in 24 hours; the average turnaround time is 14 hours.
  • OnSite Safe conducts drive-up testing in Manhattan, using saliva samples. The cost is $184 for results by midnight 2 days after your test, or $208.75 for results by midnight the next business day.
  • The New York Center for Travel and Tropical Medicine offers tests with same-day results in Manhattan; the test costs $395, an official certificate for travel an additional $35.
  • Urgent Care of New York performs drive-up tests at its four locations in Westchester and Rockland counties for $75 (they accept most insurance for the $120 cost of the visit), with results in about 20 minutes.
  • Med2u Inc. does home/office visits in New York City. The cost is $200, plus a $100-$200 travel fee; results are available in 24 hours.
  • OpenClear is a concierge service that brings a clinician to your home or office in the New York area (including Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) for Covid testing. Costs range from $499 for results in 48-72 hours to $899 for results in 12-24 hours.

North Carolina

  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Wilmington; it’s $219 for next-day results.

Oregon

  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Portland; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.
  • AFC Urgent Care Center offers tests at their 5 locations in the Portland area. The cost is $139 for results in 24-72 hours, or $199 for results in 15-60 minutes.

Pennsylvania

  • AFC Urgent Care Center conducts tests in South Philadelphia. They bill insurance for a standard test with results typically returned in 1-3 days; same-day results are available for $150.
  • Frontage Lab does testing at its Exton facility. The cost is $200 for same-day results.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Philadelphia and East Falls; it’s $219 for next-day results, or $299 for same-day results.

South Carolina

  • Phlebo on the Go offers mobile testing in Hilton Head and the surrounding area; the cost is $165 for results in 24 hours.
  • DM Covid-19 Test conducts curbside tests in Fort Mill; it’s $219 for next-day results.

Tennessee

  • At their two locations in Nashville, Complete Health Partners offers a package that includes a medical exam and a Covid test for $250, with results in 30-45 minutes.

Texas

  • APC Health offers drive-through tests in Pearland. The cost is $60 for results in 24 hours.
  • DevLab bio conducts tests at their lab near Dallas-Fort Worth. The cost is $115 for next-day results, $215 for same-day results, or $290 for results in 30-45 minutes.
  • BioExcel Diagnostics performs saliva tests at their lab in Houston. The cost is $60 for results within 48 hours.
  • OpenClear is a concierge service that brings a clinician to your home or office in the Houston area for Covid testing. Costs range from $499 for results in 48-72 hours to $899 for results in 12-24 hours.
  • iGenomeDx conducts drive-up tests at its San Antonio lab for $125. Results are available by 6 p.m. for tests done before 10:30 a.m.; otherwise, results are available in 24-48 hours.
  • ADL Health conducts drive-through tests at its San Antonio testing center; the cost is $169 for results in 24-48 hours.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Austin; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.

Virginia

Washington

  • The City of Seattle offers free tests with results in 48-72 hours.
  • Worksite Labs conducts tests in Seattle; the cost is $90 for results in 24 hours, $150 for results in 12 hours, or $250 for results in 90 minutes.
  • Discovery Health MD conducts test at the Seattle Airport and at the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton nearby. The cost is $176 for next-day results or $349 for results in 1 hour.

Washington, D.C.

Mail-In Tests for the U.S.

ADL Health

  • The price: $119 for travelers flying on United; $169 for all others
  • The promise: Results are typically available 24-48 hours after the lab begins processing your sample.
  • The process: Order a kit online; when you’re ready to conduct your home test, return to ADL’s website to activate your kit. Collect your sample via a shallow nasal swab, then send it to the lab using the enclosed, prepaid UPS Next Day Air shipping label.
  • Get more info on ADL Health.

APC Health

  • The price: $100
  • The promise: Results are available within 24 hours of your sample arriving at their lab.
  • The process: When you request a kit from APC, you can choose to collect your saliva sample independently, or during a video call. (Some countries require that you be supervised while taking the Covid test necessary for entry.) Return your specimen via the prepaid UPS materials. Results include a QR code.
  • Get more info on APC Health.

Azova

  • The price: $114.99
  • The promise: Results are expected 12-36 hours after the lab receives your sample.
  • The process: Choose from a nasal-swab or saliva test kit. Once you receive your kit, you can schedule a video observation to collect your sample. Return it via the prepaid next-day air shipping materials.
  • Get more info on Azova.

Carbon Health

  • The price: $145
  • The promise: Results are expected within 72 hours of shipping your sample to the lab.
  • The process: Order online and your testing kit will be shipped to you via FedEx overnight delivery. Collect your saliva sample and return it in the overnight packaging provided.
  • Get more info on Carbon Health.

The COVID Consultants

  • The price: $199 (+$25 if you need a Saturday delivery label)
  • The promise: Results are guaranteed within 24 hours of your sample arriving at the lab.
  • The process: Fill out their form and The COVID Consultants will immediately send you a kit (you can choose between a sputum test or nasal swab) and an invoice. Collect your sample and send it to their lab via the included packaging for overnight shipping.
  • Get more info on The COVID Consultants.

empowerDX

  • The price: free with insurance, or $99
  • The promise: Results are normally available with 24-48 hours of the lab receiving your sample.
  • The process: Order a kit online and you will receive it within 2 business days. Collect your sample with the shallow nasal swab, then return it via the enclosed FedEx next-day packaging.
  • Get more info on empowerDX.

Everlywell

  • The price: $109
  • The promise: Results are reported within 24-48 hours of the lab receiving your sample. The stated time of your sample collection may default to midnight. You must be 18 or older to use the test.
  • The process: Order a kit online and it will arrive within 2-8 business days, depending on the shipping method you choose. Once the kit arrives, insert a swab about one inch into each nostril, then return your sample to the lab via the prepaid UPS next-day service label.
  • Get more info on Everlywell.

ImmunitiRx

  • The price: $225, with a 10% discount on orders of 4 or more kits (+$15 if you need a Saturday delivery label)
  • The promise: Results are reported 24-36 hours after their lab receives your sample.
  • The process: Order a kit online and ImmunitiRx will send it out via FedEx two-day shipping. Spit three to four times into the supplied cup, then deliver it to a FedEx DropBox for overnight shipping to the lab (box and shipping label provided).
  • Get more info on ImmunitiRx.

LetsGetChecked

  • The price: $109
  • The promise: Results are usually available 24-72 hours after the lab receives your sample.
  • The process: Order a test online, then activate the kit via the company’s website when you’re ready to use it: Collect your sample with a shallow nasal swab, then mail it to the lab via the enclosed express UPS shipping label.
  • Get more info on LetsGetChecked.

Med2u Inc.

  • The price: $200, plus $39 shipping fee per order (+$10 if you need a Saturday delivery label)
  • The promise: Results are available 12-14 hours after the lab receives your sample.
  • The process: Order either a nasal-swab or sputum testing kit and collect your sample. Return it to the lab via the prepaid overnight shipping label.
  • Get more info on Med2u Inc.

Quest Diagnostics

  • The price: $135
  • The promise: Results are typically available 1 to 3 days after your sample arrives at the lab. You must be 18 or older to use this test.
  • The process: Quest’s kit includes materials to collect an upper respiratory nasal sample and a prepaid overnight Fedex shipping label. (Quest also offers drive-through testing at a number of Walmart locations across the country for $125.)
  • Get more info on QuestDiagnostics.

Reliant Health Services

  • The price: $129
  • The promise: Results are usually available 24-48 hours after your sample arrives at the lab.
  • The process: The kit includes materials to collect a saliva sample and a box to return it to the lab via prepaid Fedex overnight shipping. When you’re ready to take the test, register it online, indicating that you are using it for travel. If your destination requires video observation, you will be connected to a practitioner for a telehealth visit.
  • Get more info on Reliant Health Services.

VaultHealth

  • The price: $90
  • The promise: Results are returned 24-48 hours after your sample arrives at their lab. The provided documentation lists the date of the sample collection, but not the time.
  • The process: Receive your testing kit in the mail (or via Doordash delivery in select cities), then do a Zoom video call with a test supervisor, who will guide you through the process of saliva collection. The kit includes prepaid materials for overnight shipping.
  • Get more info on VaultHealth.

Tests That Can Be Self-Administered Abroad

Note: These kits are antigen tests, which many countries now also accept for entry (typically within a shorter window prior to arrival than PCR tests). Internet access suitable for a video call is essential. 

Abbott BinaxNOW + eMed 

  • The price: $150 for a pack of 6 tests via eMed; $70 for a pack of 2 via Optum
  • The promise: eMed sells Abbott’s BinaxNOW test kits that you can self-administer anywhere you have broadband internet access and a device with a camera. Results are determined in 15 minutes during your guided testing session.
  • The process: Order the kits online and you can self-administer them via a video visit with an eMed Certified Guide. The test involves a shallow nasal swab. You must download the NAVICA app before departing the U.S. and bring two tests per person.
  • Get more info on eMed.

Ellume + Azova

  • The price: $26-$45 for test kit, $15 for video observation visit
  • The promise: Ellume’s test kit meets the testing requirement to enter the U.S. only when conducted under video observation, which Azova provides. Results are sent via SMS and email within 24 hours.
  • The process: Purchase an Ellume kit online or in a pharmacy, then go to Azova’s website to schedule a video visit during which you will take the test. Video observations are available 24/7, but it is recommended that you schedule your session as soon as you have booked your flight back to the U.S.
  • Get more info on Ellume.
  • Get more info on Azova.

Lucira + Azova

  • The price: $89 for test kit and video observation
  • The promise: Results in 30 minutes.
  • The process: Order a kit online, then schedule your video observation. Results are available via QR code and pdf.
  • Get more info on Lucira + Azova.

On/Go + Azova

  • The price: $55 for test kit and video observation
  • The promise: Results in 15 minutes.
  • The process: Order a kit online, which includes two tests. Take the first test 24-48 hours prior to your scheduled video observation, during which you will be instructed to take the second test. Results are available via QR code and pdf.
  • Get more info on On/Go + Azova.

Qured

  • The price: $45
  • The promise: Take a kit during a telehealth visit and receive results in 2 hours.
  • The process: Order a kit online, schedule your video consultation, and at the appointed time one of Qured’s health advisors will walk you through the testing process. The kit includes a second test, which users are advised to take 24-36 hours later to confirm the result.
  • Get more info on Qured.

Reliant Health Services

  • The price: $69; discounts for boxes of 2, 6, and 10 tests
  • The promise: Results are typically available within 15 minutes of your telehealth session .
  • The process: Order a kit online. When you’re ready to take the test, register your kit on the website during operating hours (9:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Sunday); you will be sent a link to access a video-observation session.
  • Get more info on Reliant Health Services.

 

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

tourist woman on safari in South Africa sitting in jeep with elephant in distance

Here’s Why I Felt Covid-Safe on Safari

As the floodgates of travel reopen and we all learn to negotiate staying safe while away from home—and as European sidewalks and museums are once again crowded with visitors—I want to tell you about the low-risk travel formula I’ve hit upon: an African safari. I’ve spent time in southern Africa twice in the past year (in Botswana and Zimbabwe in 2021, and in Namibia and South Africa in 2022), and on both trips I felt safe and returned home Covid-free. Here’s why:

 

Our safari vehicle at Sabi Sabi: no sides or top, with our ranger at the wheel and our tracker up front. South Africa
Our safari vehicle at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve: no sides or top, with our ranger at the wheel and our tracker up front.
Our enclosed vehicle at Little Kulala in Namibia.
The salad buffet and open-air dining room at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, South Africa.
The salad buffet and open-air dining room at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge.
The open-air “lobby” at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge, South Africa.
The open-air “lobby” at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge.
The dining room at Earth Lodge, South Africa.
The dining room at Earth Lodge.
A special outdoor table for my family at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia.
A special outdoor table for my family at Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, Namibia.

Just about everything happens outdoors.

On a safari, the bulk of your day is spent on game drives—and at most camps, that means being in a vehicle with no sides (and often no top), and plenty of fresh breeze immediately diluting any exhaled virus particles. Vehicle set-up does vary by camp and by destination; this is something worth discussing with an in-the-know travel planner before your trip. The camps I visited in Namibia’s desert, for example, use enclosed vehicles to keep the sand out. I could open the windows and pop up the roof when I wanted fresh air, and I felt comfortable riding inside with my guides after confirming that they’d been vaccinated (more on that below).

Long before Covid, most safari camps and lodges were already designed for outdoor dining. A year ago, every single meal I ate on safari was served al fresco. On my recent trip, camp staff opted to set up indoors on a couple of chilly mornings and rainy evenings. In the few instances where I didn’t feel comfortable enough sitting near a window, they happily moved my family outside—and brought us blankets to stay warm, and even luminaries for ambiance.

 

Our tracker in Sabi Sabi, Lesley, teaches my son how to grind coffee in the bush.  South African safari
Our tracker in Sabi Sabi, Lesley, teaches my son how to grind coffee in the bush.
inside a charter flight with pilot and tourist woman South African safari
Charter flights make for close quarters; every one of our pilots was vaccinated.
tourist woman and guide on safari in South Africa
Namibian guide Joas arranged for treatment at a private hospital when his parents got Covid; he’s vaccinated.

Most people in the travel industry are vaccinated.

At the time of my most recent trip, just 30% of South Africa’s population and 15% of Namibia’s population was fully vaccinated. But I asked every person I was in close contact with if they were vaccinated, and the answer was always yes. Some of those in Namibia felt that their job was at risk if they didn’t get vaccinated; at the camps I visited in South Africa, a local clinic had vaccinated the entire staff. Even when a country’s overall vaccination rate is relatively low, uptake among people who work in travel is often much higher.

 

The sitting area in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge safari
The sitting area in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge
The bedroom in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge South Africa
The bedroom
The indoor/outdoor bathroom in my suite at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge in South Africa
The indoor/outdoor bathroom

You’re not interacting with lots of people, even when camps are full.

I visited a range of camps and lodges this year, from remote spots with just eight tents to one with 25 stand-alone villas. While each one was busier than the places I visited last year, nowhere ever felt crowded. I could chat with fellow travelers over the breakfast buffet or at the airstrip waiting for a charter flight, but I never found myself in close quarters with strangers. What’s more, there’s a bit less mixing at safari camps these days: Before Covid, the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve where I stayed, on the edge of South Africa’s Kruger National Park, grouped the same guests together for both game drives and meals. Today, those who don’t pay for a private vehicle will likely share one with others, but each group dines separately.

A savvy fixer can speed you through the only place you’ll find crowds: the airports.

Johannesburg Airport was a ghost town a year ago, but things have picked up significantly since then. Luckily, each time I arrived at an airport on my most recent trip, Trusted Travel Expert Cherri Briggs had someone there to meet me. Sure, I’m capable of navigating check-in counters and customs procedures on my own—but having a minder accompany me meant that I got to skip to the front of lines and use security checks reserved for crew and other VIPs. So even though the airports were busy, the time I had to spend in them shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers was minimal.

 

Photographing Soweto with our photojournalist/guide.
An impromptu drum lesson in Soweto.
Witnessing the devastation of recent flooding on Soweto’s streets.
Visiting a preschool in Soweto. Photo: Ilan Ossendryver
A spontaneous embrace from a food vendor at a Soweto market. Photo: Ilan Ossendryver

I saved my riskiest interactions for the end of the trip.

While the safari was the main purpose for my trip this year, I wanted my ten-year-old son to see a bit of urban Africa as well. We were flying through Johannesburg, so Cherri helped me plan a day-and-a-half in the city. Since city activities were the part of the trip when our exposure to Covid was likely to be highest, we built this into the end of my trip rather than the beginning. On our last day in Africa, a photojournalist-turned-tour-guide took my family to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Satyagraha House (where Gandhi once lived), and the Kliptown neighborhood of Soweto. Cultural exchanges can be tricky, and in Soweto I planned to follow my hosts’ lead in terms of Covid protocols, without disrupting the flow by asking about vaccination status; in practice, that meant going indoors unmasked to visit a preschool, to hear a group of local musicians perform, and to buy some knit hats from a trio of enterprising grannies. Everywhere I went, the welcome seemed warm and genuine, and I’m glad I didn’t have a mask hiding my smile for those brief interactions. (I tested five days after returning home, per CDC guidance, and was negative.)

So that’s why I felt safe on safari—but here’s why I’d go back in a heartbeat:

Rhinos in Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve South Africa
Rhinos in Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
Lions drinking after a kill South African safari
Lions drinking after a kill.
Playful lions south africa safari
Playful lions.
cheetah seen on safari in South Africa
The enormous lungs beneath a cheetah’s prominent chest aid its sprinting abilities.
an elephant seen on safari in South Africa
A thorny breakfast for an elephant.

The wildlife experience is unchanged since Covid.

Few corners of the globe remain unaffected by Covid; the African veld seems to be one such spot (excepting, perhaps, the hand sanitizer that appears beside your sundowners on evening game drives). This was my fifth time on safari, and I saw more animals at Sabi Sabi than I’d seen on any other trip: playful packs of lion cubs running laps around their mothers; elephants munching on shrubbery, seemingly unconcerned by the plant’s inch-long thorns; a barrel-chested cheetah and her offspring that came close enough we could hear them purring; a leopard and the impala kill it had dragged impressively high into a tree; two sturdy rhinos, unaware that their horns would soon be removed to discourage poaching. The wildlife that brings so many to Southern Africa is still there in abundance.

 

Transparency disclosure: So that I could experience South Africa, WOW Lister Cherri Briggs arranged for a reduced rate at Bush Lodge and Earth Lodge in the Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve. Everything I did on my trip is accessible to every traveler who contacts Cherri via Wendy’s WOW questionnaire. Thanks to Wendy’s WOW system, you’ll get marked as a VIP traveler.

 

white woman traveler portrait Botswana Africa Safari with animals in background

Why 2021 Is the Year to Go on Safari

As we dip our toes back into international travel, you might assume you’re better off avoiding a place like Africa: The variants sound scary, after all, and vaccination rates are low. The local medical infrastructure is stretched thin. And 15 hours is an awfully long time to wear a mask on the flight over. You might also assume you can always take a safari next year or the year after instead.

I weighed all those factors myself this past spring—and then decided to go on safari anyway. Why? I am fully vaccinated with a shot that’s proven to be reasonably effective against current variants (so even if I did get Covid, current medical thinking is that I would most likely not need hospitalization). I’d be spending the bulk of my time outdoors, at remote camps where the staff is regularly tested and has little contact with the cities that host the great majority of Africa’s Covid cases. And I could use the same masking and distancing strategies there that have kept me safe for the past year. For me, the benefits far outweighed the risks.

I’m so glad to have taken advantage of this highly unusual opportunity to go on safari now, while the camps aren’t full but the animals are abundant, and before pent-up demand pushes the cost of a safari even higher than it was before Covid. Every single traveler I met during my time in Botswana and Zimbabwe was grateful to have made the same decision, with any anxiety they might have felt beforehand evaporating on that first game drive.

In fact, I returned home convinced that anyone who has a safari on their bucket list should go this year. Here’s why:

You’re outdoors the whole time.

On safari, almost everything you do is outdoors. Meals…
Sundowners...
Game drives.
Even the vehicles are open-air.
Baboon behavior is fascinating to watch—and so reminiscent of human interactions.
Botswana's birdlife is varied and numerous; here, a saddle-billed stork takes flight.
This white rhino is a benefactor of Great Plains Conservation's relocation project, which aims to protect the animals from poachers. (That's why its horns have been cut.)
It felt like I had the bush all to myself—and I very nearly did.

 

Aside from airports and a few van rides, every moment I spent with others during my time in Africa was in the open air—much of it on glorious game drives and breezy boating safaris. I stayed at Duba Plains Camp and Selinda Camp in Botswana, and at the Victoria Falls River Lodge in Zimbabwe; in each, the main lounge area had a canvas or thatch roof and no walls, allowing for excellent air circulation. Meals were all outdoors too; in Botswana, dinners were even brought to my private deck to get around the country’s ban on public alcohol consumption. (Rest assured, the safari guides are still happy to serve sundowners in the bush to cap off your afternoon game drive.)

There is no crowding of safari vehicles.

Before Covid, many of Africa’s most popular places and experiences were being pushed to their limits. But this year, in places like the Ngorongoro Crater or the Masai Mara—particularly during the Great Migration in August and September—it will be far easier to see the animals without other vehicles invading your view. I even met travelers who got their own private trek to see the gorillas in Rwanda. Such exclusivity would normally cost $15,000 but was theirs for free, simply because not all the permits had been sold the day they trekked.

You can book something at the last minute.

At Victoria Falls, I had this natural wonder of the world nearly all to myself too.
The paths and viewpoints that are usually packed with tourists were almost completely empty. I saw only 10 other people in the hour that I spent there.
I also made a spur-of-the-moment decision to buzz the falls by helicopter!
In any other year, I’d have had to reserve rooms at the small camps I visited at least a year in advance. But everywhere I went there were available rooms. At Selinda Camp in northern Botswana, I arrived by boat.
Common spaces at the camps I visited were all open-air; here is the library at Duba Plains Camp.
My tent at Duba Plains Camp had a plunge pool that overlooked the Okavango Delta.
My "tent" at Selinda Camp had hardwood floors and a copper bathtub.

 

I’d been captivated by the reviews we’ve received over the past year of safaris planned by WOW Lister Julian Harrison. So once I was fully vaccinated, I enlisted Julian’s help to plan my own trip. After hearing that he’d soon be heading to Botswana himself and could scope out the situation on the ground, I made that my main destination. In any other year, I’d have had to reserve rooms at the small camps I visited at least a year in advance. But everywhere I went, there were empty rooms.

Availability for 2022 is already hard to come by at many safari camps and lodges, since so many 2020 and 2021 bookings have been postponed. Right now may be your only chance to plan a safari and not have to wait years to actually travel. (And with camps eager to attract guests, you may also be able to strike a deal and get an extra night or a helicopter ride for free; that certainly won’t be the case next year.)

The local staff are so happy to see you.

Everyone from safari guides to airport workers told me how grateful they were to see travel picking up again.

Some travelers who are thinking about a safari worry that their presence at a lodge could increase the health risk to local staff, by bringing them into closer contact with coworkers and travelers. Every time I brought this up with the people I encountered during my trip, the response was the same: For them, the ability to earn a living greatly outweighed the risk of getting sick. Everyone from safari guides to airport workers told me how grateful they were to see travel picking up again. Many are supporting not just themselves but also extended family—and bringing the strict health protocols followed in camps back to their local villages.

The animals are not skittish.

I wondered if the animals would be more skittish right now, with so few vehicles around in the last year. Clearly they are not—the lions weren't bothered by us at all.
That's a white rhino in the middle of the road.
We watched a lion pup eat its lunch (zebra tartare).
This elephant pulled plants up from the roots, then swished them around in the water to clean off any dirt before eating them.
These oxpeckers are feasting on insects they find in the zebra's coat.
African wild dogs are one of the world's most endangered mammals. My safari guide knew where one pack's den was, so we got to spend more than an hour with them.
The common warthog—so ugly it's cute.
A lone wildebeest at sunset.

 

I wondered whether, after more than a year without vehicles around, the animals might be shy. They weren’t. I’ve never been as close to African wildlife as I was on this trip. While it was easy to socially distance from the few other guests at my camps, my six-foot bubble was frequently tested by lions, elephants, and even endangered wild dogs. One reason for this? The camps Julian chose for me are located in private concessions, where the animals have never been spooked by erratic, inexperienced drivers or great clusters of vehicles.

You’re keeping the poachers away.

When the world shut down in spring 2020, conservationists worried that poachers would seize the opportunity to get their hands on rhino horns and elephant tusks. The best-run camps developed systems to maintain a presence on their lands—but I also heard stories of interlopers taking up residence at camps that were left empty during the lockdown. As places reopen and game drives become a daily routine once again, the presence of travelers among the animals is essential to driving those poachers away.

The required Covid tests are easy.

tourist and safari guide in Botswana plain with helicopter landing to administer covid test on game drive

Selinda Camp arranged for a nurse to fly to me during my game drive to administer my Covid test.

For the test I needed before my trip, I made an appointment at a local clinic that promised same-day results. A mail-in kit would have been easier, but I wanted to take a single test with a quick enough turnaround time that I could use it for both my overnight layover in Johannesburg, and for entry into Botswana the next day. You can find both in-person and at-home options here.

Botswana also requires a free rapid test on arrival. Julian made sure I was seated in the first row of economy on my flight from Joburg, so that when I arrived at the Maun airport, I was among the first to be tested. About 10 minutes later, I had my negative result and was on my way.

To enter Zimbabwe (and to later get back into the U.S.) I needed a third test, which Julian assured me would be arranged by my camp’s staff. In Botswana, a nurse flies from camp to camp, testing travelers and bringing the swabs back to a lab in Maun. At some camps, that could mean missing a morning game drive while you await the nurse’s arrival—but not at Selinda Camp, where Julian had me stay. Not wanting to diminish their guests’ experience, the managers there have arranged for the helicopter to land at a designated spot deep in the bush. When I headed out on my morning game drive the morning of my test, my safari guide planned the route so that we were having breakfast right where and when the helicopter touched down. A nurse hopped out and took samples from my nose and throat; the results were emailed to my airline the following morning. The test cost $330—but considering what people pay for a WOW-worthy safari, it’s money well spent not to miss a moment with the animals you came all this way to see.

The airports are empty.

tourist woman standing in Johannesburg South Africa airport with no crowds around during pandemic

There were no crowds in the Johannesburg airport.

If you’ve flown domestically this summer, you’ve probably noticed that U.S. airports are a zoo: long check-in lines, big TSA queues, packed gate areas. But at all four African airports I flew through, social distancing was a breeze, with wide-open terminals and more employees than travelers.

Ready to plan your own 2021 trip to Africa?

There are a number of safari specialists whose strengths you can read about on The WOW List; all of those experts are following entry requirements and camp operations closely so that their traveler’s trips are low-hassle. If you’re not sure which one will be the right fit for you, click the black button before for a personalized recommendation.

Ask us for a safari recommendation

 

Transparency disclosure: So that I could investigate Southern Africa on your behalf, WOW Lister Julian Harrison arranged for complimentary stays at Duba Plains Camp and Selinda Camp in Botswana, and at Victoria Falls River Lodge in Zimbabwe.

 

Understanding Travel Insurance in the Covid Era: What you need and where to get it


We’ve gotten so many questions about travel insurance during Covid that we devoted one of our WOW Week travel talks to the topic. The WendyPerrin.com team was joined by three experts on travel insurance and evacuation assistance: Stan Sandberg of travelinsurance.com, Meghan Walch of insuremytrip.com, and Sheri Howell of Medjet. Below are the top six takeaways from our talk, and you can watch the full video above.

Many travel insurance plans have added coverage for pandemics.

Before Covid, it was standard for insurance plans to exclude coverage due to an epidemic or pandemic. Now, some plans—but not all of them—are treating Covid like any other medical illness; they will cover trip cancellation or interruption due to Covid, or medical bills if you are diagnosed with it during your trip. To confirm your policy’s particular coverage, read the disclosures or speak with an agent before you purchase.

Standalone medical coverage is cheap.

Most travelers are looking for a “comprehensive” travel insurance policy: one that covers their nonrefundable trip payments plus any medical expenses that arise during travel. If your main concern is covering illness or injury, you can save hundreds of dollars by foregoing coverage for trip cancellation or interruption. (Annual policies generally only provide medical coverage, and are a good option if you take more than four trips per year.)

For insurance that covers preexisting medical conditions or allows you to “cancel for any reason,” act quickly.

These pieces of coverage are time-sensitive, which means that you’re only eligible for them if you purchase your policy within 10 to 21 days (depending on the carrier) of making your first trip deposit. For more details on “cancel for any reason” insurance, see “Cancel For Any Reason” CFAR Travel Insurance: What It Is and How It Works.
.

Travel insurance typically covers default of a hotel or other supplier, but not of a travel agency.

Say you put down a deposit for a reservation at a hotel that subsequently goes out of business. Many plans will cover you for financial default of a hotel. However, if your deposit is being held by a travel agency or other intermediary that goes under, your insurance might not reimburse you. To confirm that your financial investment is protected, speak with a representative of the insurance provider whose policy you plan to purchase and explain your specific situation. Click here to read more about travel insurance coverage for financial default.

If travel insurance is the cake, evacuation assistance that gets you back home is the icing.

If you have a medical emergency, most policies will cover your transportation to the nearest acceptable medical facility. If you fall off a horse at a ranch in Argentina, that could mean an ambulance ride to Buenos Aires. If you want to be transported back home, you need additional coverage from a program such as Medjet: Once you are hospitalized, they will transport you back home to the hospital of your choice. See also What Medical Evacuation Coverage Do You Need?

Don’t buy the insurance your airline tries to sell you when you book your flights.

Travel insurance is not one-size-fits-all. Use a comparison site such as travelinsurance.com or insuremytrip.com to search for the most cost-effective policies that best fit your particular needs, with the coverage limits you want.

There was a lot more great info shared by our travel-insurance experts; watch the video above to hear it all. And for a primer on the basics of travel insurance, read this article.

 

 

 

Close-up on a red closed sign in the window of a shop displaying the message "Closed due to Covid-19".

How to Protect Yourself in Case a Travel Company You Pay Goes Out of Business

Travel planning these days often requires that you make a large, non-refundable, advance payment. Here’s how to protect your investment:

Does travel insurance protect me if a travel company ceases operations?

Some comprehensive travel insurance policies will reimburse you for trip cancellation or interruption due to bankruptcy or financial default of your travel supplier: an airline, cruise line, or tour operator, for example. Many such policies will not cover you, however, if the company you used to book your trip—a travel agency or other intermediary—goes out of business. This is one area where policies differ widely, so to confirm that your financial investment is protected, speak with a representative of the insurance provider whose policy you plan to purchase and explain your specific situation.

When do I need to purchase this insurance?

Within a couple of weeks after putting down your deposit toward a trip. One reason why is that coverage for financial default may be activated only if you buy insurance within 10 to 21 days (depending on the policy) after making your initial trip payment. You also usually can’t file a claim for cancellation due to financial default until 10 to 14 days after you’ve purchased the policy. Note that you may not be covered if your trip is years out: Some policies limit financial-default claims to trips taken within 12 or 15 months of purchasing your insurance.

Will the policy offered by my cruise line protect me if the cruise line goes out of business?

No. Some travel companies—cruise lines, tour operators, and such—sell their own insurance or “protection” policies. The premiums may seem attractive, but you will not be covered if that company financially defaults. Instead, you need the protection of third-party insurance—meaning, a policy written by someone other than the travel company that is operating your trip.

Am I protected if I pay by credit card?

If you don’t receive an item or service that you paid for by credit card, you can dispute that particular charge. But what if your airline goes under the day before your trip and you can’t find another way to get to your destination, so you’re out the $5,000 you spent on nonrefundable hotel reservations? In that case, your credit card provider will credit you the cost of the flights, but it won’t help with the hotel stays (because the hotels are still operating). A travel insurance policy with a financial-default clause, however, will cover all of your losses because you were forced to cancel your entire trip.

For more guidance on the right insurance for your particular needs, read How to Buy Travel Insurance: What It Covers, When You Need It.

 

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

 

private jet with red carpet

Private Jets: The Safest Option, and More Affordable Than You Might Think

The biggest Covid risk that savvy travelers face nowadays is not at their destination. It’s getting to their destination. It’s airports and airplanes. So imagine if you could cut your airport waiting time down to 20 minutes, and share your airplane cabin’s air with just a few other people, by flying private. Think private jets are too expensive? If you’re already flying in first or business class, and if you’re traveling with a group of five or more people, you may find that chartering your own plane is within reach—and worth the cost to minimize your risk of exposure to Covid and ensure a worry-free trip.

Flying private will never be cheaper than flying commercial. Rates for a six-passenger aircraft generally start at $3,000 per hour of flying time. But if you can fill every seat—and provided you book through the right private-jet broker who doesn’t add a huge markup—it might make sense for your travel group. The price of, say, a transcontinental flight on a six- or seven-passenger light jet works out to about $3,750 per person each way. If you’ve got flexibility in your timing, airports, or destination, that price can actually drop by 75%: The trick is to book an “empty leg,” which means filling the return flight of a plane that’s been booked for a one-way trip. The schedule is dictated by the original passengers, but the savings for you are considerable: a coast-to-coast “empty leg” one-way might cost less than $1,000 each for a family of six.

If you don’t have the flexibility for an “empty leg,” you’re looking at pricing of perhaps $1,800 per person each way for a flight between New York and West Palm Beach, $3,000 per person each way between Boston and Vail, $3,500 per person each way between Dallas and St. Barts, or $3,000 per person each way between Chicago and Los Cabos, Mexico. Yes, it’s a splurge, but you also might gain more than you imagine, and not just in health and peace of mind. Here are additional benefits to consider:

Less time in airports

With a commercial flight, you need to get to the airport an hour or two ahead—time when you’re sharing indoor air with other people, some of whom may take their mask off to eat or simply aren’t bothering to wear it properly. If you’ve chartered your own jet, however, you can arrive 20 minutes before flight time, and you’re likely flying in and out of much smaller airports with few other passengers around.

Less exposure in the air

While commercial jets’ hospital-grade air filters are very effective, the particles exhaled by your seatmate may reach you before the air has a chance to be filtered. On a private plane, you share that air with just two or three people—a pilot, copilot, and possibly a flight attendant—instead of two or three hundred, and you could even pay for the crew to be tested before your flight.

Less vacation time wasted in transit

Say you want to fly from your home in Miami to a ski trip in Lake Tahoe, California. The commercial airport closest to the slopes is an hour away in Reno, Nevada. Since there are no scheduled nonstop flights from Miami to Reno, you’ll spend most of a day getting from A (Miami) to B (Denver) to C (Reno) to D (Tahoe). On a private charter, you can fly straight from Miami to a smaller airport that’s just 20 minutes from your lodge and strap on skis that same afternoon. In the U.S., there are about 500 airports open to commercial traffic, compared to 5,000 for private aircraft.

Your choice of timing

Airlines have drastically cut schedules during the pandemic, often leaving travelers with just one or two flight times to choose from on their preferred day of travel; sometimes these inconvenient changes are made at the last minute. When you fly charter, though, you dictate the schedule. And if you’re late to the airport, your plane will wait for you.

Frequent last-minute availability

With commercial flights, the closer you are to your departure, the more prices go up and options dwindle. With private jets, it’s not hard to find a charter at the last minute—and you may even pay less, since an operator doesn’t want their jet sitting idle. Payment can also wait: You’ll likely need to put down a 10% to 20% deposit to reserve a charter flight, with the balance commonly due two weeks before the flight.

Thinking of flying private?

There is a variety of private-jet brokers and sources, each with different pros and cons. Feel free to ask us for a personalized recommendation . We can level with you about the right source for your specific needs—one who will find you the safest, smartest option and negotiate the best rates on your behalf.

Ask Us About a Private Jet Trip

 

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Where to Go This Winter

Many of you have been asking: Can I travel safely this winter? The answer is that it’s possible to minimize your risk greatly—even when traveling to far-flung destinations—thanks to new, smarter entry requirements for certain states and countries, better Covid testing options, and new protocols that particular travel companies, hotel staff, and private drivers and guides have put in place. Read our reviews of real trips that travelers have taken to many of these destinations, all of which share three major characteristics: They are currently open to U.S. residents without a quarantine; they allow for social distancing, both during your daily activities and at your accommodations; and they are warm enough that you can eat many of your meals outdoors.

Click to get a personalized trip recommendation

Mexico

Beach villas and other private accommodations make it easier to social distance in Mexico. Photo: Cabo Villas

From private beachfront villas to small boutique inns with open-air common areas to colonial haciendas that you can reserve for just your family, you’ll find an array of options in Mexico that allow for easy social distancing—as these travelers did in July. Many airlines are operating between the U.S. and Mexico, with no Covid-testing requirements. For east coasters, a quick flight to Cancun gives you entrée to the Riviera Maya and Tulum; west coasters will find nonstops to Cabo San Lucas (where migrating whales and whale sharks pass by every winter) and Puerto Vallarta, the latter a gateway to the top-notch resorts and private villas on the Punta de Mita peninsula. Beyond the beach, the freestanding suites in the Mayan forest at Chablé Yucatán allow for complete privacy. Read Mexico trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Mexico

A Caribbean island

St Lucia beach with Pitons mountains in the background

St. Lucia is open to U.S. travelers. Photo: Shutterstock

A good many Caribbean locales are once again welcoming U.S. travelers. Some require pre-trip testing, others test on arrival or screen for symptoms, and some—including Anguilla—have created “vacation bubbles” so that travelers can take part in certain land and water activities that have been deemed safe. Read this article for more details. If you’re nervous about getting sick outside the country, know that Medjet will fly you home from the islands if you are hospitalized with Covid.  

Ask About a Trip to the Caribbean

Hawaii

Hawaii - Kaneohe Bay, Oahu

Hawaii now allows travelers to skip quarantine if they arrive with a negative Covid test. Photo: Shutterstock

The Hawaiian islands did away with their mandatory 14-day quarantine in October—provided that travelers register with the Safe Travels program and arrive with negative results from an approved Covid test performed no more than 72 hours prior (passengers headed to Kaua’i must still quarantine or stay in a “resort bubble,” and there may be quarantines for inter-island travel). A number of airlines will help passengers headed to the islands get a pre-flight test, for a fee. Once you’re in Hawaii, it’s all about enjoying the outdoors, from snorkeling to hiking to stand-up paddleboarding and ATV rides. Read Hawaii trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Hawaii

Belize

aerial shot of Belize ocean with sailboat

Charter your own boat in Belize for days of snorkeling, sunbathing, and plenty of distance from other travelers. Photo: Belize Sailing Vacations

Nonstop flights to Belize take off from several U.S. cities that are only about three hours away; travelers who arrive with a negative Covid test will be fast-tracked through the airport, while all others will be screened and tested. Once you’re there you can explore world-class coral reefs, visit uncrowded Mayan ruins, learn to scuba dive (as Wendy’s son did), fish for 100-pound tarpon (which kept her husband busy), and laze beside sparkling Caribbean waters. Only accommodations that have earned the country’s new Gold Standard Certificate of Recognition are allowed to open; options range from beach resorts with separate bungalows to remote jungle tree houses—or you can charter your own private yacht as I did, enjoying fabulous snorkeling, sunbathing, kayaking, and plenty of distance from everyone except your captain and first mate (who have at least 14 days between charters, to avoid contact between groups of guests). Read Belize trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Belize

Skiing in the Rockies

Aspen Skiing, Rockie Mountains

Ski resorts are limiting capacity this travel season. Photo: Parker Olsen.

The slopes are operating differently this year: Major resorts are limiting capacity to allow for social distancing on lift lines (snow conditions and run availability will determine specific numbers), and pass holders receive priority on peak dates. At many resorts, day-of lift tickets aren’t available at the window, but you can buy a pass for as little as one day of skiing. It’s usually sunny enough to enjoy lunch outdoors on the patio; as for dinner, condos and private homes are in high demand among those who want to dine without others around. A first-rate ski trip will be pricey this year, but the right specialist can help you snag those sought-after slope reservations, and can get you the ideal ski-in/ski-out hotel suite or private cabin. Read ski trip reviews.

Ask About a Ski Vacation

The U.S. Southwest

Arches National Park, Utah

Some of the southwest’s outdoor meccas, such as Arches National Park in Utah, make for fun winter adventures. Photo: NPS Photo by Jacob W. Frank

Utah offers Moab, a year-round adventure mecca with 4×4 tours, canyoneering, and hiking in nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks, plus spectacular resorts with your own private, standalone accommodations, such as Amangiri and Camp Sarika. New Mexico exempts travelers from its quarantine if they get a negative Covid test 72 hours before or after their arrival, and the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe is welcoming guests.

Ask About a Trip to the Southwest

The U.S. Southeast

covered gazebo dock stretching into lake in tennessee at Blackberry Farm resort

Blackberry Farm is in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, . Photo: Blackberry Farm

Northeasterners may not want to drive too far south, given the lengthy quarantine many face upon returning home, but if you live in the Southeast, there are a lot of drive-able, even pet-friendly, resorts in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee that have standalone cabins or cottages spread across considerable acreage. Just a few examples: Blackberry Mountain in Walland, Tennessee, situates guests atop the Great Smoky Mountains, with adventure (bouldering, anyone?) awaiting you at the doorstep of your cabin. The Cloister at Sea Island has its own private island on the Georgia coast. At Virginia’s Salamander Resort, every room has a private patio or balcony, and their famed equestrian center is open.

Ask About a Trip to the Southeast

Costa Rica

Rio Celeste Waterfall photographed in Costa Rica

The weather in Costa Rica during the winter months is ideal. Photo: Shutterstock

Costa Rica’s jungle lodges and beach resorts are open to all U.S. residents with no testing required. The weather is ideal at this time of year too, with the skies clear but the landscape refreshed by recent rains in much of the country. Read Costa Rica trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Costa Rica

Bermuda

Warwick Beach, Bermuda

Warwick Beach, Bermuda. Photo: Shutterstock

Bermuda is great in winter: The humidity is low, the temperatures are warm enough to have dinner al fresco, the golfing is excellent, the 2- or 4-person microcars available for rent make it easy to get around the island safely, and many of Bermuda’s colonial-style resorts have individual cottages with immediate access to the outdoors. You can also feel more comfortable knowing that travelers are screened rigorously, with Covid tests required in the week before a trip, again on arrival in Bermuda, and on days 4, 8, and 14. And if you can’t imagine going home, there’s always the “Work from Bermuda” program, which allows visitors to stay on the island for up to a year while working remotely.

Ask About a Trip to Bermuda

The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador

blue footed booby galapagos islands ecuador

The ratio of guides to guests is likely to be much lower than usual this year in the Galapagos Islands. Photo: peterstuartmill/Pixabay

Prior to Covid, on a Galapagos cruise you’d often have to share a guide with 15 other guests; these days, with travel to the islands just beginning to ramp up again, that ratio will likely be much lower. All travelers and staff are tested prior to flying to the Galapagos. Some hotels on the islands are welcoming visitors again, a few expedition-cruise ships are operating—or maybe your family group wants to have a small vessel all to yourself. If you’d like to extend your trip into the Amazon rainforest, consider Sacha Lodge, which is adjacent to one of the most biodiverse spots on earth; each group gets its own private guide, and the dining room is open-air. Read Galapagos trip reviews

Ask About a Trip to the Galapagos

The Maldives

Beach views from Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives

The Maldives require a negative Covid test taken within three days of the first leg of a traveler’s flight. Photo: Gili Lankanfushi

These idyllic islands in the Indian Ocean, many of which are home to just one resort, requite visitors to present a negative Covid test taken no more than 96 hours prior to the first leg of their flights to the Maldives; I spent a blissful five days there in October. It’s a breeze to socially distance at a private-island resort, where secluded beach villas and overwater bungalows are the norm. Restaurants are already open-air, toes-in-the-sand kinds of places, and the closest interaction you might have is with a manta ray while snorkeling. You’ll also benefit from lower rates and more generous cancellation policies at many resorts this winter. Read Maldives trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to the Maldives

An African Safari

zebras drinking from a stream in the great migration of animals in Kenya

Safari camps usually book up years in advance, but for the 2020 holidays, the camps and the safari drives will see fewer people. Photo: Shutterstock

Safaris had grown so popular within the past few years that you were likely to notch more sightings of other 4x4s than of lions or rhinos, and the best camps and lodges—which typically have only a handful of rooms or tents—would book up years in advance. Now is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience Africa’s wildlife in solitude, as one of our travelers did in December. Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all allow travelers in with a negative Covid test; Namibia and Rwanda require tests both before and after entering the country. A savvy safari-planning specialist can lead you to the lodges that are limiting occupancy in game-drive vehicles, are testing staff, and have open-air dining areas and in-room air conditioning (the latter a necessity in some parts of southern Africa at this time of year). Read African safari trip reviews.

Ask About an African Safari

Egypt

Egypt’s pyramids and other famous sites reopened in September at lowered capacity. Photo: Shutterstock

If you’re feeling truly adventurous, consider Egypt. While Cairo’s bustling souks and narrow streets don’t lend themselves easily to social distancing, there are certainly ways to sightsee while staying in your bubble, and this is an unprecedented opportunity to see the country’s pyramids and other archaeological wonders without the crowds: These sites reopened in September, but with much lower capacity. (Or do as these travelers did and have an expert arrange for private, after-hours access.) Travelers must bring a negative Covid test from the 72 hours prior to their departure. Read Egypt trip reviews.

Ask About a Trip to Egypt

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

overwater bungalow at Joali resort in the maldives

How to Choose an International Resort in a Pandemic

My water villa at JOALI Maldives had more than 1,000 square feet of interior space, plus a sizable deck with a private infinity pool and steps down to the water.
The villa deck at night.
JOALI gives every traveler a bike to get around the property. If you prefer not to pedal, your butler can also take you around by buggy.
The tables at each of JOALI's restaurants were spaced far apart, and we never had anyone seated at a table next to ours.
The JOALI waitstaff all wore masks when serving guests.
JOALI's restaurants all have walls that roll up, lending plenty of ventilation to even the indoor seating. This is the Mura Bar.
The view is grand from the cantilevered hammocks at JOALI's villas.
JOALI's water villas are built along a 1.2-kilometer jetty.
The building with the undulating roof is JOALI's open-air lobby. The main pool, restaurants, and beach villas are on the island in the distance.
JOALI's Japanese restaurant, Saoke, is constructed on a pier and artfully lit at night.
couple on exercise bikes at private overwaterbungalow at JOALI resort in maldives
When I mentioned that I wouldn't work out indoors at the gym, the JOALI staff brought the gym to us, delivering two exercise bikes to our villa's deck just in time for sunset.
All of the rooms at Dubai's Al Maha Resort are standalone villas with private pools.
Breakfast on my private deck at Al Maha.
Your private guide can take you on a desert safari into the sand dunes surrounding Al Maha.
The Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is home to Al Maha Resort—and to herds of Arabian oryx that have been successfully reintroduced to the region.
Guides deliver falconry demonstrations each morning at Al Maha.
You can also try your hand at archery.
A sunset camel ride at Al Maha involved plenty of space between guests.

 

I’m recently back from a 20,000-mile journey to see what international travel looks like during Covid. My husband and I spent a week at two resorts that make it easy to socially distance and spend time outdoors—one on a private island in the Maldives, and the other in the Dubai desert. Before and during our travels, we took careful steps to minimize our health risk. We’ve been back for 14 days, and we never got sick, so I’m sharing the strategies we employed to keep our risk low.

Not everyone will be ready to travel abroad now, but I’m so glad that I did. The trip was a much-needed escape—from Covid and from the smoke and fires near my home in northern California. I soaked up the beauty of exotic landscapes, from tawny sand dunes to tropical atolls arrayed like turquoise spots on a peacock’s plume. I’d long been curious to try scuba diving and finally gave it a go in the Maldives; it was exhilarating to peek into an entirely new world that may actually have benefited from the strangeness of 2020.

The time in airports and on planes (mask usage was lax on my international flights, so I put my faith in the HEPA air filtration and my own KN95 mask) was probably riskier than anything else I’ve done since March; during this pandemic, I’ve ventured indoors only for grocery runs and a few routine doctors’ visits. Still, I felt very safe at both resorts—and I spent far more time rejoicing in my good luck at being able to travel right now than I did worrying about becoming infected. Here’s my hard-earned advice:

Choose a country where every arriving traveler has taken one or more recent Covid tests.

I’d had to postpone a 10th wedding anniversary trip to the Maldives after the pandemic hit this past spring. When the country reopened its borders in July, I wasn’t comfortable rescheduling because they didn’t require travelers to be tested for Covid. But after the government implemented pre-arrival testing in mid-September, I rebooked my trip, knowing that the other travelers I’d be coming into contact with—both at the resort and on my flights there—would have been tested recently. To meet the requirement myself, I found an urgent-care clinic nearby that offered PCR tests with same-day results; you can find options in your area in How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel.

Pre-trip testing isn’t fail-safe—you can be newly infected when you’re tested and still get a negative result, or you can become infected while in transit to your destination—but this measure goes a long way toward reducing your chance of being exposed to the virus during a trip. Nowadays, many destinations that have opened their borders require travelers to be tested anywhere from 48 hours to 14 days before their trip; some mandate additional tests during the trip itself, which may give you an even greater degree of confidence. Learn more here: The Countries That Have Reopened to U.S. Travelers With No 14-Day Quarantine and What You’ll Find There.

I had to get tested again in the Maldives in order to enter Dubai on my way home—a process that turned out to be far simpler than my search for an appropriate pre-trip test in New York: We popped into our butler’s buggy after breakfast one morning and he drove us to the resort’s on-site clinic, where a doctor swabbed us and then sent the samples by ship to a lab across the atoll. We had our results in less than 24 hours.

Pick a place where the other guests will be foreigners who have been tested recently, as opposed to locals who have not.

At JOALI Maldives, the private-island resort recommended to me by the Maldives and U.A.E. specialist who booked my trip, all the other guests were foreigners who had been tested. Also contributing to my sense of safety: the resort’s private, spacious villas, each with their own indoor and outdoor living areas, infinity pool, overwater hammock, and outdoor shower.

My flights left me with a long layover in Dubai, so I also opted for two nights at Al Maha, a safari-style lodge located in a conservation reserve an hour outside the city. I did not feel quite as safe at this resort as I did at JOALI, and here’s why: While my stand-alone suite provided plenty of social distancing (from everything but the gazelles and doves who took up residence at the edge of my private pool), I hadn’t anticipated that most of the other guests would be Dubai-based staycationers. The only health screening for them was a temperature check at the property’s gate. Happily, I was able to take part in several on-site activities—a falconry demonstration, an archery lesson, a sunset camel ride, and a private desert drive—while staying masked and keeping my distance from other guests, though we did have to meet indoors at the lobby to join these activities.

Focus on resorts where you can eat outdoors or in your room.

I did not want to share indoor air with other travelers, so I chose resorts with al fresco or in-room dining. JOALI’s four restaurants all have walls that open up to let in the breeze, as well as toes-in-the-sand or edge-of-the-dock outdoor seating. At Al Maha, high temperatures dictated that breakfast and lunch were served inside—so we simply called for their free room service, which we had them set up outside in the morning and indoors at midday. Dinner was on the restaurant’s patio, where there was plenty of room to spread out. (In winter, Dubai’s temperatures peak in the 70s and all-day outdoor dining is possible.)

Find a property that houses its staff on site.

Both resorts that I chose have living quarters on site for their workers, which greatly reduces the vectors for virus transmission. It meant that I didn’t have to worry about my butler going home to a family member who works at a hospital, or my waitress getting infected on her subway ride to work. In both the Maldives and Dubai, resort staff must undergo a period of quarantine and testing prior to their employment. So the only way the virus could be introduced to either resort was through another guest.

Choose a resort that will let you postpone or cancel if you test positive.

Our JOALI butler mentioned one morning that his next guests, due to arrive from the U.K. in a few days, had just tested positive for Covid. The resort wouldn’t penalize them, he explained: Guests who can’t travel due to a positive test can postpone or cancel their stay with no additional fees; this particular couple had already rebooked for a later date. The rules are similarly generous at Al Maha, allowing cancellations or date changes up to 24 hours before arrival. An unexpected positive test just before your trip would be bad enough; book wisely to make sure you won’t be hit with the double whammy of a health scare and a nonrefundable deposit.

Be upfront about your comfort level.

The staff at JOALI quickly sensed that I was more cautious about Covid than most. (I never saw another guest wearing a mask on the property—but I also never wished that another traveler would put one on, since every group kept to itself and we were never indoors together.) As a result, my husband and I were given the most private tables at meals, and the fitness trainer even brought two exercise bikes to our villa’s deck so that we didn’t have to work out inside the gym. Resorts are hungry for business right now and eager to please the customers they do have, so make your preferences known, whether that’s keeping housekeeping staff out of your room (I was comfortable letting them in once I confirmed that they would be masked) or arranging a massage outdoors rather than inside a spa treatment room.

Book your trip through the right destination specialist—one who will not only get you the safest rooms in the safest resorts but also will coordinate expedited service through the airport.

Landing in the Maldives, I saw that my fellow passengers would need to share the enclosed space of buses ferrying them from jet to terminal. Imagine my delight, then, to see a woman holding a sign with my name as I got off the plane. I’d arranged for VIP arrival assistance through the Maldives trip-planning specialist on Wendy’s WOW List—and, as a result, we were spirited from the plane to a private minivan and driven to a lounge, where we enjoyed snacks and WiFi while airport officials gathered our luggage and took our passports to be stamped. The process probably saved us half an hour and allowed us to socially distance in a large room that my husband and I shared with just a few other families, rather than waiting in an immigration line that would have put us in close contact with others. On arrival in Dubai, we again received expedited service: a quick ride in a cart to the head of the fast-track immigration lane. Such assistance is available at many airports around the world, but only if you book through a savvy destination specialist.

 

Have you traveled during Covid? We’d love to hear what measures you took to stay safe. Let us know in the comments below.

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

 

Full Disclosure: JOALI Maldives and Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa provided this reporter with complimentary stays. WendyPerrin.com did not promise any editorial coverage, and there was no quid pro quo. Our policy when accepting discounted or complimentary trips is to use the opportunity to test out experiences; if they meet our standards and we feel there is value for our readers, we will cover them. For further input about Maldives and Dubai trips arranged by WOW List Trusted Travel Expert Justin Parkinson, read these reviews of Justin’s trips written by WOW List travelers.

 

Concept of airplane travel to exotic destination with shadow of commercial airplane flying above beautiful tropical beach.

Need to Fly Long-Haul? How to Choose a Safe, Smart Flight During Covid

Travel isn’t just my job; it’s my favorite hobby too. After Covid forced me to cancel three trips this spring and summer, I wondered when I’d get to leave the U.S. again. One of those cancelled trips was a tenth-anniversary getaway to the Maldives, the collection of white-sand atolls dotting crystal-clear turquoise waters in the Arabian Sea. The Maldives reopened to travelers in July.  I knew it’d be easy to socially distance at our private bungalow on the water’s edge. What worried me more were the long flights to get there: about 17 hours from New York, with a layover required somewhere. I recently rescheduled my trip to visit next week; here are the strategies I used that made me comfortable doing so:

Choose a flight where everybody boarding has just had a negative Covid test.

Many destinations that have reopened require travelers to be tested prior to arrival; some won’t even allow passengers to board an incoming flight until they have uploaded their test results or presented them at the airport. When the Maldives first reopened on July 15, they didn’t require pre-trip testing. It was only last month, after the government changed its policy and started requiring visitors to show recent test results on arrival, that I decided I was comfortable enough to go. I chose to fly via Dubai because the United Arab Emirates also requires a pre-travel test—as do most of the other destinations that are currently served by Emirates, are open to U.S. travelers, and don’t have more direct flights from New York. This same strategy is what made reader Jeff Goble comfortable traveling to French Polynesia (which also requires a pre-trip test, as well as a second test four days after arrival).

Choose an aircraft where you can avoid sitting next to a stranger.

My husband and I wanted as much personal space as we could get, but we couldn’t afford to fly business class. Most long-haul jets seat three or more passengers together in economy; while some U.S. airlines are blocking middle seats, foreign carriers haven’t followed suit. Happily, the 777s that Emirates flies on the routes we’ll be taking have a tapered design, so the last few rows have two seats side-by-side. Emirates charges for seat assignments, so I spent $550 to ensure that we wouldn’t be seated beside a stranger—even though I think it’s likely that the flights will be pretty empty. (On the other hand, I might be saving a bit of money by flying Emirates: Through October, they’re giving all passengers free coverage for Covid-related medical bills and quarantine stays.) Read Wendy’s additional tips about where to sit on a plane.

If you can’t fly nonstop, make your layover long enough to have some mask-free time.

I’d have flown nonstop to the Maldives if I could. But since I had to change planes somewhere, I wanted the opportunity to take my mask off after wearing it throughout a 13-hour flight. So that I can do just that, I’ve booked a three-hour stay at a hotel inside the Dubai terminal on the way to the Maldives, and two nights at a desert lodge near Dubai on the way back.

Keep in mind that combining countries on the same trip can make testing requirements even more rigid: In order to comply with the rules of both the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates, I had to find an in-person test with results returned in less than 72 hours. Were I headed just to Dubai, I’d only need an in-person test in a 96-hour window (which is much easier to arrange); if my only destination were the Maldives, I could have used a mail-in Covid test kit that returned results in 72 hours. After several hours of research, and hoping to get tested near where I’d be staying before the trip in upstate New York, I instead found a doctor’s office in Manhattan that returns results in 24 to 48 hours. So I’ll drive an hour into New York City to be tested on a Wednesday morning, receive results by Friday morning, and head to the airport that afternoon for my 11 p.m. flight. (Postscript: Just over a week before my flight, Emirates changed its policy and stopped requiring tests from some passengers transiting through Dubai; unfortunately, it’s too late for us to order a mail-in kit and receive results in time for our flight—and given the changing regulations, I’m still happy to be following the stricter protocols.)

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

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RV, motorhome, caravan parking next to a road in a parking lot in Alaska with spectacular, beautfiul background with lakes and conifer forest, blue sky and clouds

Thinking of Taking an RV Trip? Read This First

We’ve heard from a number of travelers who are wondering whether an RV trip in the American West will allow them to socially distance while seeing some of the most beautiful parts of our country. So we called WOW List candidate Dan Wulfman to get some up-to-the-minute intel. Dan has spent more than 25 years creating soup-to-nuts RV trips that include the vehicle rental, campground reservations, driving directions with interesting waypoints, and reservations for horseback riding, whitewater rafting, and more. In fact, Dan had been traveling by RV with his own family right at the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, when national parks were closing down and interrupting many spring breaks. Now that parks are reopening, Dan has been back out on the road to see what “open” really means for those traveling this summer and beyond.

Back in March, Dan advised all of his travelers who had trips booked in the coming months, or who were trying to plan something last-minute, to postpone for 2021. He’s actually recommending that they start planning those trips now, because campgrounds are already filling up for next summer in places such as Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Says Dan, “RV sales and rentals are exploding, but they’re not building any more beautiful campsites within walking distance of national treasures like Yosemite’s Half Dome, Bryce Canyon’s hoodoos, or Grand Canyon’s…grand canyon.”

Dan took to his RV again in July, covering more than 7,000 miles and visiting eight national parks, and his experiences confirmed his cautious tack: His original campground reservation inside Yosemite was canceled by the park because it was deemed too close to adjacent campers. And he didn’t even know if he’d be quick enough to snap up one of the park’s limited day-use passes until he’d already spent two days driving there. In the parks he toured, Dan found mask use sporadic. “I’ve never been in a hurry to leave Jackson, Wyoming, before, but this time I couldn’t wait to move on,” he told us.

Here’s what else we learned that travelers should think about before hitting the road:

Many RV-friendly destinations are still off-limits.

While some parts of the country are starting to open up, stay-at-home restrictions are being lifted on a state-by-state—and sometimes county-by-county—basis; places that are open now may have to close if a second wave of COVID-19 hits. Many national parks are still closed, or have only reopened portions of their roads, trails, and services. And it’s unclear if social distancing is even possible at the iconic sites that so many RVers want to visit, from the boardwalk around Old Faithful in Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim viewpoints. Check to see if your intended destination is both open and welcoming visitors.

You may have to sleep in a Walmart parking lot.

If you don’t yet have reservations—and even if you do—your options for where to bed down each night will be limited: Many national and state park campgrounds booked up long ago for the high season, and few travelers are bothering to cancel their reservations, since they’re so hard to get but relatively cheap. Even some of the parks that currently allow day visitors remain closed for overnight camping. There are organizations that help you park on private land, but those too will be subject to local restrictions, which may ebb and flow over the course of the summer. And while some private RV parks are technically open, their fire pits, pools, playgrounds, and restaurants remain closed—so there isn’t much to do once you get there.

It’s hard for a novice to plan a successful RV trip at the last minute.

A scrappy, experienced RVer can probably monitor which parks and campgrounds have reopened, jump on whatever last-minute availability appears, rent a vehicle (options range from Cruise America‘s large fleet to platforms such as Outdoorsy and RVshare, which connect renters with private RV owners), and pull together a pretty good trip. But newbies don’t know which RVs drive like an SUV and which feel more like a semi truck, and will be far less prepared if things go wrong (as is likely, given the current circumstances). Sure, you can “boondock”—parking on open land without water, electric, or sewer hookups—but what happens if your holding tank overflows?

Don’t expect luxury.

Are you now wondering what a “holding tank” is? That’s where an RV stores the wastewater from the sink and toilet, and those tanks need to be emptied every few days. It’s not a messy process—you simply hook up a hose to a campground’s dump station—but there’s no butler who will come do it for you. On an RV trip, you’re also responsible for the grocery shopping, the cooking, the cleaning, and of course the driving. This kind of trip is meant to be an adventure, not a day at the beach (unless you manage to find a campsite near a beach that’s open for sunbathing).

Activities that require anything but your own two feet may not be available.

Some of the companies that run the seasonal activities many travelers love to take part in out West—rafting, horseback riding, jet boating, canyoneering—are operating with reduced staff. This means that fewer tours are operating, and private experiences are in high demand.

Despite all of these caveats, having a private sanctuary that only you and your family enter is an appealing option to some of us who are ravenous to travel. Just keep in mind that undertaking an RV trip this summer or fall is going to require a generous dose of flexibility and a mindset that, whatever happens, you’ll simply be happy that you’re not still at home.

Ask Us About an RV Trip

 

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View from Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

Can You Socially Distance at a National Park This Summer?

As parks across the U.S. gradually reopened this spring, some took measures to maintain physical distancing between visitors—Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Parks, for instance, now require reservations in order to limit the number of daily parkgoers. That’s a good first step, but there are additional strategies to utilize if you want to keep largely to yourself in the most popular parks. Remember that there are more than 10,000 national and state parks in this country. We’ve always recommended going off the beaten path, and these days that could be important not only for your enjoyment of the quieter back roads and emptier vistas, but for your health. Just be sure to read the CDC’s guidance on domestic travel, use “Every State’s Coronavirus and Travel Information” to find out about quarantines and restrictions in the places you plan to visit, and learn what’s open and closed in each national park via the NPS website.

Wake up early, and explore in the evenings too.

If you can’t bear the thought of skipping an iconic spot that’s on your bucket list—say, Yosemite Falls or the South Rim of the Grand Canyon—it will be essential to time your visit right. One traveler who visited eight national parks this summer told us that mask-wearing was sporadic and crowds common at top attractions and on popular trails, including Yellowstone’s narrow boardwalks. The earlier you get up and out the door, the fewer people you’ll see on the roads and trails. Know the typical flow of traffic in the park you’re visiting. Most people seeing Bryce Canyon National Park, for example, drive through it from north to south; if you start early, you’ll stay ahead of the crowds the entire day. At night, check out Bryce’s amphitheater by the light of the moon. It’s magical, and likely few people will be there.

Use the right park entrance.

Many parks have entrances that are less busy than others. In Yosemite, for instance, far fewer people approach from the east (a route that is open only in summer) than from the west. Be strategic about which entrance you use, keeping in mind that some may still be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions; you can find details on what’s open and what’s closed in each park via the National Park Service. Reader Amy Evers and her family chose the northeast entrance for their recent trip to Yellowstone, both because it’s the least-used access point into that park and because it’s the most convenient to wolf viewing in the Lamar Valley.

Don’t neglect state parks.

Near any national park, you’re likely to find one or more state parks that are nearly as spectacular, but less visited. Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, for example, has a landscape like nowhere else on earth, with spooky hoodoos shaped like toadstools and witches and alien invaders. These hoodoos (thin spires of rock with curvaceous profiles) are quite different from the ones that have made Bryce Canyon famous: The former have rounded edges, as if they’ve melted into shape, while the latter are more rigidly striated. But even my well-traveled, adventurous Utah relatives have never been to Goblin Valley. This part of southern Utah is so remote that the nearby Henry Mountains were the last range to be mapped in the lower 48 states, back in 1872.

Take the road less traveled.

Rather than sticking to the interstates, plot your route along smaller roads; even if it adds time to the drive, you’ll likely be rewarded with better views (and maybe emptier bathrooms at the rest stops). If you’re navigating between Utah’s Arches National Park and Bryce Canyon, for example, taking Scenic Byway 12 adds less than an hour to your route. The most spectacular section of this road runs from Tropic to Torrey, with several miles of pavement that cling to the knife-edge of a mountain ridge with gorgeous canyons spilling down on either side dotted with scrubby pines, earning it the moniker “the Hogsback.” Byway 12 also winds through Capitol Reef National Park (one of the country’s few national parks that you can visit for free, since the highway runs right through it). Do be cognizant of local residents’ feelings about outsiders, though; while some communities are ready to welcome visitors, others are concerned that such an influx could overload their meager health-care services.

Avoid spots where people tend to congregate.

That means avoiding the commercial areas and visitor centers, and generally limiting your time indoors as much as possible. Instead, pack picnics, research trails before you leave home, download maps to your phone, and forego the usual souvenir T-shirt shopping session. Another good reason to come prepared: The number of available rangers varies by park and could be much lower than usual, and their Covid-era duties could be curtailed too. We heard from a traveler that rangers in one park were stationed in open-air booths to help visitors from a safe distance, but in another were much harder to find—which meant there was no one to help when rules-flouting visitors set up camp on restricted grounds or brought dogs into off-limits areas

Choose dirt over pavement.

Many park visitors barely leave their vehicles, doing so only long enough to snap a photo and move on to the next marquee sight. No matter where you are, the farther you head down a trail, the fewer people you’ll see. And it’s a national park, after all, so it’s virtually guaranteed to be scenic.

Seek out private accommodations.

Read Is This Hotel Safe? for guidance on how to choose the cleanest place to spend the night. A number of ranches out West have standalone cabins or cottages that naturally lend themselves to social distancing, and they are devising ways to keep meals and activities as private as possible. One family of readers from the D.C. area took a July road trip to parks in the Northeast, and we’ve rounded up more tips and strategies if you’re thinking of taking an RV trip yourself.

If you’re interested in a luxury road trip to see national or state parks, Ask Wendy who the right travel specialist is to plan your trip.

 

 

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The Best Trips to Book in July: What to Lock in Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


Late-summer getaways, warm-weather vacations for the coming winter, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that must be booked a year out…and even a safari deal exclusive to WendyPerrin.com readers: These are the trips you’d be smart to lock down now. That’s because, this month, you can get the most value for your money, you still have a range of accommodations to choose from, and our Trusted Travel Experts still have enough time to work their magic and optimize every aspect of your trip.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

Exclusive Deal: Zambian Luxury for Less

Lounge chair at Sausage Tree Safari camp in Zambia overlooking pool and watering hole and elephants on safari

Every room at Sausage Tree Camp overlooks the Zambezi River in Zambia. Photo: Sausage Tree Camp

For: July through October 2019

Located on banks of the remote Lower Zambezi River, Sausage Tree Camp allows guests to explore Lower Zambezi National Park from a very private, uber-luxurious tented camp. Views from every room and the lounge area overlook the Zambezi, where elephant and hippo abound. Leopard, buffalo, lion, and rare wild dogs frequent the area, along with zebra, bushbuck, and kudu. Nocturnal animals such as porcupine, pangolin, and aardvark are often spotted too.

Why book in July? This month only, our Trusted Travel Expert has negotiated a special offer just for WendyPerrin.com readers: Book now and receive 30% off rates for stays from July through October 2019, which is prime game-viewing season.

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London’s Quiet Summer Season

The London Eye Ferris Wheel

The London Eye Ferris Wheel. Photo: Celebrated Experiences

For: August 2019

London is ideal in August because the lack of business travelers drives down hotel rates, the weather is mild, and everything is open but the city is far less crowded—so it’s easier to get great seats to London’s renowned theater events, for example.

Why book in July? It’s your last chance to snag some of the best deals of the year—such as four nights for the price of three, or guaranteed room upgrades—at the city’s top four- and five-star hotels.

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Costa Rica for Christmas

Hot springs in Costa Rica

Hot springs in Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

For: December 2019

Christmas kicks off the dry season in Costa Rica, so it’s a great place to take your family for an eco-friendly holiday surrounded by nature. While you’ll feel good about helping preserve the country’s environment, your kids will love the abundance of available activities, including hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling.

Why book in July? By August, the top-rated eco-lodges are selling out for the busy December period. Since most families have a fixed window to travel during the school holidays, waiting to book will mean compromising on your accommodations.

Ask about a trip to Costa Rica

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St. Barts for Thanksgiving

Le Guanahani, St. Barts

Le Guanahani, St. Barts. Photo: Le Guanahani

For: November 2019

November is one of the best times to be in St. Barts: Many shops and restaurants have just reopened after hurricane season, so everything is fresh and new, but prices are still up to 40% lower than during high season—even over Thanksgiving.

Why book in July? Come the end of summer, many people start making Thanksgiving plans. Savvy travelers have their choice of villas or hotel rooms for the holiday by booking in July.

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Mexico’s Caribbean Coast: Whale Shark Season

Tulum beach, Mexico

Tulum beach, Photograph courtesy of Journey Mexico

For: August or Early September 2019

For a few months each year, whale sharks congregate along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, feeding on plankton. These gentle creatures are not actually whales at all, but the world’s largest fish, weighing as much as 20 tons, with a length of up to 40 feet. They will even let you swim near them; and unlike many other sea life encounters, this is one that happens naturally, without the animal confined to a cage. You can arrange such an excursion from Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox, the Riviera Maya, Tulum, or Cancun.

Why book in July? You still have access to the best accommodation, guides, and boats before the whale sharks swim away from the Mexican coast in early September; if you wait until August to make arrangements, you’ll have to settle for mediocre outfitters.

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Paris for Fall Fashion Week

The Eiffel Tower and surrounding gardens, Paris

The Eiffel Tower and surrounding gardens, Paris. Photo: Anthony Delanoix/Unsplash

For: September and October 2019

From September 23 to October 1, the city will be awash with models and fashionistas—it’s quite a sight. Join a small-group walking tour focusing on Paris’s couture fashion history between runway shows, or go shopping with an industry insider, with stops personalized to your style and budget.

Why book in July? Book now, while everyone’s still focused on the summer season, to ensure a room at a trendy hotel.

Ask about a trip to Paris

Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan the best possible trip.  You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

Canada: An Arctic Odyssey

Arctic swimmer floating in snowy lake at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

Spend your summer in the Arctic. Photo: Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge

For: July and August 2020

Explore the vast landscape of the high Arctic: Ride ATVs across the tundra, paddleboard alongside beluga whales, fish for Arctic char, and go fat-biking over sea ice. Your basecamp for the trip is a luxury wilderness lodge 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle owned by renowned polar explorers and accessible only by charter flight. The wildlife here is rich, from muskox and polar bears to seals and migratory birds.

Why book in July? This lodge may have the shortest season of a hotel anywhere on earth: It’s only open in July and August. Not surprisingly, it often sells out a year in advance.

Ask about a trip to Arctic Canada

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Italy’s Palio di Siena

Palio di Siena Janus Kinase

Palio di Siena, Italy. Photo: Janus Kinase/Flickr

For: July and August 2020

The Palio di Siena—a centuries-old, famously colorful horse race with bareback jockeys representing each of the city’s contrade, or districts—is held twice a year: on July 2 and August 16. More than just a 90-second-long race, the multi-day Palio festivities typify the pride and spirit of community felt throughout the city.

Why book in July? Seats for each of next year’s Palios go on sale as soon as this year’s event for that date is over. If you book as soon as the July Palio winds down, we can reserve an exclusive vantage point (such as a balcony overlooking the Mossa spot or the Curva di San Martino) for next year’s July race.

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Bhutan’s Festival Season

Bhutan festival dancers

Fall is the height of “tsechu season,” or festival season, in Bhutan. Photo: Toni Neubauer

For: September through November 2019

Fall is the height of “tsechu season,” or festival season, in the tiny country of Bhutan; each district holds its own colorful tsechu, full of dancing, Buddhist blessings, and socializing that draws locals from near and far. Bhutanese festivals are a kaleidoscope of color, horns and drums resonate through the air, and the local populace turns out dressed to the nines. Merely attending one bestows merit on you for your next life.

Why book in July? Only two airlines, Druk Air and Bhutan Air, fly into the country’s sole international airport (Paro), so seats are extremely limited. July is your last chance to get the fall flights you want, without having to compromise on logistics. Moreover, many of the top hotels are tiny, so those convenient to the most famous tsechus are often sold out by September.

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Australia’s Fantastic Wildlife

kangaroos on kangaroo island Australia

Kangaroo Island, off the coast near Adelaide, is a top destination for animal lovers. Photo: South Australian Tourism Commission

For: October and November 2019

Many people head to Australia during the southern-hemisphere summer, but the continent’s unique wildlife—including kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, and a great variety of birds—is more active and visible (and the human crowds fewer) in the milder spring months of October and November. Two top destinations for animal lovers are Kangaroo Island, off the coast near Adelaide, and the Flinders Ranges, located due north of the city. In both regions, you’ll also find fabulous wildflowers in bloom.

Why book in July? Hotels and guides book up six months or more in advance for the peak summer season, but you’re safe planning just three or four months ahead for a trip during this secret shoulder period.

Ask about a trip to Australia

Ask Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to plan the best possible trip.  You’ll be marked as a VIP and get a trip like this.

Peru’s Inca Trail

Wiñaywayna ruins along Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

It is magical to approach the ruins of Machu Picchu on foot via the Inca Trail. Photo: Southwind Adventures

For: November 2019 or May and June 2020

November is the last chance to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu before the wet season hits. It is magical to approach the ruins on foot, getting your first glimpse of the citadel from the Sun Gate, as many Incans did. On a private trek, it’s possible to arrange for a glamping experience with tents large enough to stand up in, inflatable mattresses, gourmet meals, and even a massage therapist. If you’re not up for a multi-day hike, you can take the train most of the way from Cusco and hike the last seven miles along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Why book in July? Permits typically sell out four months in advance, so by August you’ll have to choose between hiking and camping in inclement weather, or holding off until next spring.

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Los Cabos, Mexico, for Christmas

villa in Los Cabos Mexico with infinity pool

If you want to be in Cabo over Christmas or New Year’s, July is the latest that you will still be able to find space in a villa or hotel for your preferred travel dates. Photo: CaboVillas.com

For: December 2019

The winter months—and the holiday season in particular—are the most popular time of year for travel to Los Cabos. If you want to be in Cabo over Christmas or New Year’s, July is the latest that you will still be able to find space in a villa or hotel for your preferred travel dates.

Why book in July? Because if you wait until August (or even later), you’ll likely be stuck picking among extremely limited options that don’t quite match your requirements—accommodations with a long hike to the beach, perhaps, or not enough bedrooms to fit your group comfortably.

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Cartagena, Colombia: New Year’s Celebrations

The New Year's party at Sofitel Santa Clara in Cartagena, Colombia

The New Year’s party at Sofitel Santa Clara hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. Photo: Sofitel Santa Clara

For: December 2019

Each year, the crowds grow bigger and more glamorous as Cartagena rises higher up the list of worldwide hot spots in which to celebrate the New Year. There’s salsa dancing on the 17th-century city walls, parties all around the city, and of course a fireworks display at midnight.

Why book in July? Cartagena is a popular New Year’s destination for Colombians and foreigners alike. If you wait until August, you’ll have a hard time finding quality accommodations, guides, and boat charters for trips to the Rosario islands—a lovely escape from the city.

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Maldives for a Last-Minute Getaway

aerial view of an overwater bungalow at Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives

Huvafen Fushi, Maldives. Photo: Huvafen Fushi

For: July through October 2019

The recent and upcoming openings of several new luxury resorts have left the Maldives with more rooms than travelers. Though in July and September you might experience an hour-long afternoon or evening rain shower a few times a week, this is prime surfing season and the best time for spotting manta rays and whale sharks.

Why book in July? The island’s hoteliers will eventually balance out supply and demand—but for now, there is a lot of availability at great rates. Flights have never been cheaper, either: We’ve seen round-trip airfare from the U.S. for less than $1,000 per person.

Ask about a trip to the Maldives

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We’re here to help

If your goal is an extraordinary trip when the time is right, go to Ask Wendy. We know which trip-planning specialists have up-to-the-minute intel for your destination and can minimize your risk and maximize your experience. Check out Real Trips Right Now to see the difference that this makes.

 

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The Best Trips to Book in April: What to Lock in Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


Whether you’re still trying to figure out your summer travel plans, have already turned to fall, or are starting to think about next spring (many bucket-list trips need to be booked a year in advance, after all), we’ve gathered here a handful of memorable options for your next trip. These are the trips you should be booking in April if you want to experience nature’s greatest marvels and cultural extravaganzas at their best possible moments.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

Belize: Lobsters and Last-Minute Deals

Belize fisherman showing off his fishing catch on a dock, giving two thumbs up

“Scuba Steve” on the opening day of lobster season. He speared all this himself! Photo: Rachael Wilson

For: June 2019

June is the start of Belize’s slower season, which means that there are often great deals to be had: four nights for the price of three, free resort credits, and the like. Furthermore, lobster season opens up on June 15 and there are countrywide celebrations that include fishing tournaments, live music, and lots of dancing. We even know how to get you a lobster-cooking master class with one of the country’s most acclaimed chefs.

Why book in April? These last-minute deals usually appear four to six weeks prior; start planning now so that you’re ready to snap them up immediately.

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Morocco: A Surprising Hot Spot for the Holidays

camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Wendy and family on a camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

For: December 2019 and January 2020

Most people don’t think of Morocco as a holiday destination, but December 20 to January 5 is the tippy-top of high season there: Top hotels get sold out months in advance, rates are higher, and most properties in Marrakech have four- to six-night minimum stay requirements.

Why book in April? Last year, our Trusted Travel Expert was already having trouble finding holiday availability in May. Book now to ensure your spot.

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Patagonia’s Beautiful but Short Summer

For: December 2019 through February 2020

Southern Patagonia combines jaw-dropping scenery, an edge-of-the-earth vibe, and luxurious lodges better than anywhere else. Luckily, this landscape isn’t just for the uber-fit: Options range from easy day hikes to multi-day backcountry treks—and unlike higher-altitude trails in the Andes and the Himalayas, the only thing taking your breath away will be the views.

Why book in April? Patagonia has a very limited weather window and relatively few beds. After April, availability at the big-name lodges and authentic Argentine estancias during these popular summer months will be hard to find. (You might also consider the shoulder seasons of November and March, which see pleasant conditions and fewer crowds.)

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Northern Peru’s Archaeological Wonders—with Special Access

The ruins of Kuelap, Peru

The walled settlement of Kuelap, Peru, was built in the sixth century. Photo: Aracari

For: August 2019

Explore some of northern Peru’s most interesting hidden gems—including the seat of the oldest civilization in the Americas and the highest tropical mountain range in the world—with Trusted Travel Expert Marisol Mosquera as your guide. Thanks to Marisol’s connections, you’ll be hosted by archaeologists studying significant pre-Inca ruins, witness ongoing excavations, step behind the scenes in a museum, dine in a private home, and visit artisan workshops.

Why book in April? Right now, there are seven spaces left on this special journey, and Marisol is offering a 10% discount on the land costs for WendyPerrin.com readers.

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Portugal’s and Spain’s Less Crowded Shoulder Season

Lisbon, Portugal skyline with Sao Jorge Castle

Lisbon is getting even closer, thanks to new direct flights. Photo: Shutterstock

For: October and November 2019

While the Iberian peninsula has become so popular that you’ll find foreign visitors there well into fall, the locals have returned home by then, making the crowds a bit more manageable. Plus, the summer heat has subsided but the days are still long and the sun is shining. In Portugal, smart travelers stay at one of the spectacular hotels just outside Lisbon and Porto, so that you can enjoy the cities but retreat to a place of tranquility at the end of the day. In Spain, Andalusia is absolutely idyllic in fall.

Why book in April? The most prized hotels are already nearing full occupancy for the autumn months. Moreover, the Alhambra has changed its ticketing policy, making reservations increasingly limited, and complicated to arrange; book now to ensure that you get the date and time you prefer.

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Ireland’s Autumn Sweet Spot

landscape view of green fields in Ring of Kerry, Killarney, Ireland

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Photo: Jonathon Epstein

For: September and October 2019

Autumn hits the sweet spot in Ireland, when the summer crowds have left favorite sites such as the Cliffs of Moher and the Ring of Kerry—but the fine weather remains. And there are fun events taking place too, such as the Galway Oyster Festival and the Cork Jazz Festival.

Why book in April?  Ireland is extremely popular among travelers right now, so you have to book early—even for travel during the shoulder season—if you want dibs on the most well-connected guides and prime rooms at the most atmospheric hotels (a lake-view room at Aghadoe Heights Hotel, say).

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Antarctica’s Prime Season

travelers in red winter coats rowing a zodiac boat amid floating ice and glaciers of Antarctica

There is a short season when travelers can visit Antarctica. Photo: Expedition Trips

For: November through early March, for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons

As with Patagonia, there is a short season when travelers can visit the White Continent, and a limited number of ships capable of making the journey. Whether you are hoping to experience Antarctica at its most pristine early in the season, see fluffy penguin chicks up close, or search for whales as the sea ice opens later in the summer, there are excellent options still available for both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.

Why book in April? Airfare to South America increases as the season approaches—and high-demand cabins sell out quickly—so April tends to be a sweet spot with moderate airfare and good availability. Some departures still have early booking incentives available, too.

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One of Mexico’s Most Colorful Festivals

people parading in Oaxaca street for La Guelaguetza, one of Mexico's most colorful festivals

La Guelaguetza, in Oaxaca, is one of Mexico’s most colorful festivals. Photo: Journey Mexico

For: July 2019

One of Mexico’s biggest and most colorful festivals, La Guelaguetza takes place in Oaxaca on two different dates in July (this year, it’ll be on July 22 and 29). The celebration, also known as Los Lunes del Cerro or Mondays on the Hill, includes traditional dances, music, parades, art, costumes, and folk tales from the indigenous people who make up nearly half of Oaxaca’s population.

Why book in April? Tickets for the festival go on sale in May; if you get the dates of your trip and your hotels nailed down now, you’ll be ready to snap up event tickets as soon as they’re available.

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Norway’s Breathtaking Fjords (and Slightly Lower Prices)

The Reinefjord in Lofoten. Photo: Andrea Giubelli - Visitnorway.com

The Reinefjord in Lofoten. Photo: Andrea Giubelli – Visitnorway.com

For: mid-May to mid-September 2019

Norway’s fjords are iconic for good reason: These deep valleys, cut by glaciers along the country’s western coast, combine gorgeous landscapes with picturesque little fishing villages. You can cruise into the fjords, and go hiking and biking along their edges. The flowers and waterfalls are most impressive in the spring, while mid-June to mid-August usually sees the best weather (and nearly endless days). From mid-August to mid-September, the leaves start turning, and prices can be lower too.

Why book in April? There are only a few top-quality hotels in the fjord region, making it hard to find an available room for peak season if you wait until after Easter to book. The savviest guides get booked first as well.

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China: A Place to Hike Off the Beaten Path

Yading Nature Reserve—in Sichuan Province, China—is full of beautiful mountains, monasteries and autumn views. Photo: Raymond Ling

For: October 2019

Sichuan Province’s Yading Nature Reserve is full of turquoise lakes and holy mountain peaks that are the beautiful backdrops for invigorating hiking and camping. It has been home to Tibetan monasteries for more than 800 years, but the area wasn’t familiar to the outside world until the first Westerner to visit published his photographs in National Geographic in 1931 (which some think were the inspiration for the “Shangri-La” depicted in James Hilton’s explorer classic Lost Horizon). Today you’ll find isolated mountain temples, lamaseries, and Tibetan towns. In October, the red, yellow, and green trees form a particularly dazzling autumnal vista.

Why book in April? Although Yading Nature Reserve is still off the beaten path, it’s becoming more popular with domestic travelers. Book now to ensure you’ll have the best hotels and highest-caliber guides to help you take in your own slice of serenity.

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Canada: A Polar Bear Safari

polar bear reclining in Hudson Bay in Churchill, Canada,

Hudson Bay in Churchill, Canada, is one of the best places to see polar bears in the fall. Photo: Jennifer Santoyo

For: October and November 2019

Every fall, the shores of Hudson Bay in Churchill, Canada, transform into a polar bear kingdom as the mighty mammals make their annual migration to the sea ice. There is no other place on earth where humans can see so many polar bears so easily. Experience the thrill of wildlife watching from the safety of a customized polar rover.

Why book in April? The window for polar-bear viewing in Churchill is narrow and demand is high; book now to claim a spot before they sell out.

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India’s Fascinating and Famous Pushkar Camel Fair

camel wearing colorful decorations in front of a tent at Pushkar Camel Fair india

The Pushkar Camel Fair in India draws tens of thousands of camels and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims. Photo: Billie Cohen

For: October and November 2019

One of the most magical festivals in a country with a calendar full of them, the Pushkar Camel Fair is a spectacle of livestock trading and religious observance, with tens of thousands of camels and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims in attendance. The event ends on the full moon (November 12 in 2019), and villagers start arriving en masse about ten days prior. This year, our Trusted Travel Expert has a professional photographer leading a tour to the festival, ensuring that travelers will bring home shots worthy of that spot above the fireplace. The best time to visit is November 6-9, when the focus is on animal trading and you can stroll the bazaars.

Why book in April? The bottleneck for Pushkar is the limited number of good-quality hotels and tented encampments in the area. If you wait until May, you’ll likely be stuck in poor-quality accommodations that are quite far from the action.

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Zambia: The Highest Density of Leopards in All of Africa

An aerial view of Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia. Photo: Lower Zambezi National Park

An aerial view of Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia. Photo: Lower Zambezi National Park

For: November and December 2019

When Mfuwe Lodge’s wild mango trees ripen in November and December, entire families of elephants walk right through the lobby to snack on the fruit. Mfuwe is located in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, which also has the highest density of leopards in all of Africa and is home to immense populations of other wildlife, from wild dogs to lion and unique antelope species.

Why book in April?  During April only, our Trusted Travel Expert can get you five nights at Mfuwe for the price of four, and a highly discounted rate for a private guide and vehicle. It’s an offer that’s available only to WendyPerrin.com readers, so be sure to use Wendy’s trip request form.

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The Netherlands: Cruising through Tulipmania

a field purple tulips in bloom at Tulips at Keukenhof Gardens Netherlands

More than 7 million tulips bloom at Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands. Photo: Keukenhof Gardens

For: April and May 2020

Spring is tulip time in the Netherlands, of course, and one of the best ways to see the colorful display is via a barge slowly cruising the country’s canals. You’ll stop at Keukenhof Gardens, where seven million bulbs are in bloom, as well as in the canal-ringed city of Delft (once home to the painter Johannes Vermeer), and you’ll pass many of Holland’s iconic windmills set amid the photogenic spring landscape.

Why book in April? Only two of the barges plying the canals of Holland live up to our Trusted Travel Expert’s high standards, and the season is short—so you need to book early to reserve your cabin.

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The Best Trips to Book in June: What to Lock in Now

UPDATE:  THE PANDEMIC IS CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN TRAVEL, SO CLICK TO ASK WENDY BEFORE PLANNING ANYTHING.

PLEASE SEE OUR COVID-19 TRAVEL COVERAGE.

WE WILL UPDATE THIS ARTICLE AS INFORMATION DEVELOPS ON SAFE TRAVEL.


We know you’re busy figuring out your summer travel plans, but now’s the time to be firming up your winter holiday trip too. We’re not kidding: If you’re hoping to use frequent-flier miles or find a decent coach airfare for late December, it’s important to check seat availability in June, and many hotels in popular December resort destinations will be sold out by the end of the month. Haven’t even started making summer plans yet? Never fear: We’ve got that covered too.

(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)

Paris and London Apartment Rentals For the Holidays

christmas tree by London Tower Bridge

London’s Tower Bridge at Christmas. Photo: London Perfect

For: December 2019

Savvy travelers are already booking their families’ December getaways to Paris and London, two cities that sparkle even more than usual during the holidays, what with all the Christmas markets and festive lights. Go early in the month for Christmas shopping, or ring in the New Year London-style (the fireworks show over the Thames is one of the best in the world). By staying in an apartment, you can slip easily into local life, enjoy shopping for meals at neighborhood markets, and often house a family more affordably than in a hotel.

Why book in June? Plan now, while there is still a good selection of suitable apartments and space for you at the most festive events, whether it’s The Nutcracker at London’s Royal Opera House or a soufflé class with the former chef of the American Embassy in Paris.

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Indonesia: See Komodo Dragons While You Still Can

For: September and October 2019

Indonesia’s Komodo National Park, which spans two major islands and several smaller ones, is home to the famous giant monitor lizards known as Komodo dragons. Tourism to Komodo has jumped dramatically over the past few years, and for ecological reasons the Indonesian government is seriously considering closing the most heavily trafficked portion of the park on Komodo Island for one year, beginning sometime in 2020. (Current plans keep Rinca Island open and its resident Komodo dragons on display, though that could change.) While negotiations are still in the works, anyone who has Komodo Island on their bucket list should visit this year. September is an ideal month weather-wise; October is also pleasant, before the rainy season begins in November.

Why book in June? If the government does announce a future closure, demand will skyrocket, so get your plans in place sooner rather than later for the coming dry season.

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Kenya: A Brand-New Safari Camp

A cheetah in the high grass of Masai Mara, Keny

A cheetah in the Masai Mara, Kenya.