The Open Suitcase needs travel ideas for the new year. Where’d you go in 2016? What did you love? Or hate? Leave your suggestions for places to visit, foods to eat, and things to do, or not do, in the comments section for a chance to win some travel inspiration.
The calendar flips in a few days and I need travel ideas for the new year. It’s how I survive winter.
I’m inviting you to play a round of show and tell.
Here are some of my favorite scenes and moments from 2016, by the month. Perhaps one or two of my trips will inspire you to visit too.
Then it’s your turn. Share a travel memory in the comments section below. I’ll pick my favorite and reward the lucky contributor with a gift.
My husband and I celebrated a milestone anniversary in January and took a bucket list trip to Africa. We journeyed from Pretoria to Cape Town on the elegant Rovos Rail, hiked along the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, and spent an amazing 4 days on safari in Kruger National Park.
If you go: I never use a travel agent but I did for this trip because the logistics were overwhelming – the thought of a 15-hour flight and a malaria protocol terrified me. I needed someone to hold my hand. Yvette de Vries and her company, African Portfolio, made the entire experience hitch-less and amazing.
Girls just wanna have fun and there’s no better place to do it than South Beach, Miami. I headed to the Sunshine State for a sisters’ getaway. We checked out the Art Deco architecture and did some people-watching, ate more than our fair share of Cuban cuisine, and visited the murals in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood.
If you go: It’s really noisy really late on Ocean Drive because the clubs try to out blast each other. For a good night’s sleep, book a hotel a block or two from the Drive. I enjoyed my stay at the Blue Moon Hotel on Collins Avenue.
I took advantage of a surprisingly warm March Saturday to tour Bushwick Brooklyn with my daughter. Jessica Festa conducts Bushwick #Instawalks; we worked a bit on technique, sampled some ham, beer, and chocolate (an unholy trinity to be sure), and learned about this large, diverse, and on the brink of booming Brooklyn neighborhood.
Sometimes you just gotta beach it. April was no exception. The hubby and I headed to St. Barth for our annual veg, nap, read, nap, eat, nap, swim, nap restorative respite.
If you go: Visiting the Caribbean in winter is expensive. We go during the transition from high season to low in mid-April; both villa rental rates and airfare are substantially discounted. The exception is when Easter is in April as it unfortunately will be in 2017.
I took a different kind of beach trip in May: a mother-daughter getaway to Montauk, NY. Pedicures, walks along the shore, and a sailing lesson were part of the fun. Oh. And there were lobster rolls. Many, many lobster rolls.
If you go: Long Island traffic can be brutal. Time your driving to avoid morning and evening rush hours.
My extended clan gathered for a family reunion in June. Tybee Island off the coast of Georgia was our destination. We rented several houses, ate our collective weight in shrimp, and told very silly “remember when” stories late into the night. Congratulations to the crafters (not me) who fashioned our beautiful tie-dye uniforms. Yes. They’re handmade.
I love to discover places that I can’t wait to return to and Aurora, located in New York’s Finger Lakes region, is one of them. It’s a charming little village with picture-perfect boutique inns that’s close to a number of wineries. If you’re considering a girls’ getaway for 2017, it’s an ideal destination.
If you go: Detour through Ithaca, NY, and visit FOUND in Ithaca, a multi-dealer antiques store. Pick up a vintage bedazzled clutch or straw handbag for your weekend adventure. Their prices are excellent.
I drove down the Jersey turnpike for a fun weekend in Philadelphia with my son in August. Instead of hitting the historical sights, as I’ve done on other trips, I checked out the Museum District and ran up the Rocky steps. Just once. Whew! We had a brush with fame when we ran into legendary Eagles QB Ron “Jaws” Jaworski, who owns several golf clubs near the city.
If you go: Philadelphia’s famous for cheesesteaks, but if you’d like something more upscale, make a dinner reservation at Butcher & Singer. The steakhouse has great food, attentive service, and a grand interior with soaring ceilings, chandeliers, and intimate banquettes. It’s very Mad Men.
I hadn’t visited Quebec City since I was a child. I’d heard the raves of friends and relatives and read endorsements in the press. When the opportunity arose to escape for a weekend yoga/photography retreat in a nun’s monastery, I didn’t hesitate. And I’m happy to report that everything you’ve heard is true. Quebec City is very European in feel. It’s got steep streets to scale on foot and a charming funicular to ride when your legs scream “Pas plus!” I needed the exercise though after eating heaping servings of poutine, a provincial dish consisting of french fries slathered in gravy and cheese.
I’m fortunate to live in the Hudson River Valley and my home region is breathtaking in autumn, so I tend to stay local. I spent a wonderful Saturday taking a photography class with professional photographer and patient instructor Rick Gerrity at the family-owned Donaldson Farm.
If you go: To avoid feeling overwhelmed when taking a photography tour, try to work on only one element, like composition or depth of field. And bring an extra battery.
“What’s in Grand Rapids?” was the reaction I received when I mentioned to anyone that I was heading to Michigan in November. I sort of felt the same way. But it was love at first sight and sip. Grand Rapids is a friendly city with a vibrant craft beer scene and one of the most popular sculpture gardens in the world, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.
It never feels like Christmas until I head downtown and get throttled by the crowds packed in and around Rockefeller Center. This year, rather than hustling in and out in a few hours, I surrendered to the season and booked a hotel room. I wandered all over Manhattan (23,000 Fitbit steps!), explored the Union Square Christmas market, and had time to fully appreciate the store windows and tasteful brownstone decorations. Nice knocker!
Now it’s your turn. Post a comment below about some place you visited this year and tell me why it was memorable. Good, bad, or ugly – share away! I’ll accept input until FRIDAY, JANUARY 6, 2017. Then I’ll pick my favorite. The lucky winner will receive a copy of You Only Live Once: A Lifetime of Experiences for the Explorer in All of Us. It’s an inspiring read that will fuel your wanderlust. Ready. Set. Share!