Here’s the truth: No one needs another sweater, scented candle, novel, or wireless speaker. (They probably haven’t used last year’s yet.) A vacation, on the other hand, is something everyone needs. A vacation that’s been planned for them is even better. Here’s where to send (or bring) everyone on your list.
Rome is a classic. Yes, it’s spaghetti carbonara and gnocchi gorgonzola – heavy, old-fashioned, and delicious. But Rome is also incredibly vibrant and fresh right now, as seen in the new Maxxi Museum of 21st Century Arts and in new juice bars all over town. The old and new coexist harmoniously in Rome, which is a lesson for your intergenerational holiday. And if your mother complains that she feels old, remind her that Rome is almost 3,000 years old and looks pretty great. For ideas and details about historic sites and cool new shops, check out Fathom’s Guide to Rome.
Where to Stay
Splurge Hotel: J.K. Place Roma. A gorgeous new boutique hotel in the center of town.
Affordable Hotel: Buonanotte Garibaldi. A tucked-away, three-room bed and breakfast in Trastevere.
Cuixmala Resort, Mexico
Imagine Marrakesh — but on the Pacific Ocean. Cuixmala Resort is a massive, eco-luxury resort with 25,000 acres of beaches, lagoons and wilderness. Originally intended by billionaire Sir James Goldsmith to be a bio reserve for animals and getaway for his family, there are now casitas and villas for a limited number of guests. Middle Eastern motifs, Arabian splendor, perfect beaches, wild animals — this is a place that makes you wish life could be one everlasting honeymoon. You can relax all day on a private beach or you can get your heart racing snorkeling and horseback riding. Be warned, even before you go to the website, you will never want to leave.
Tip: This trip will cost a pretty penny. But the experience and the memories will be exceptional.
Zion National Park in Utah
To say that this nature preserve is magnificent is to undersell it. I’ve travelled a lot and few places have ever left me so breathless with wonder. What’s especially great and unexpectedly charming about Zion is that it’s the closest the U.S. comes to being a socialist state. So many national park experiences are solitary: you’re on your own, often in your own car. Zion is organized around a more communal experience. Individual cars are not allowed into the park. Everyone takes the same public buses. The friendly and informative drivers make it feel like America is one big, happy family. With all the hikes, animal spotting Las and activities for kids, it’s impossible to get bored. My suggestion is to fly to Vegas, rent a car and take the scenic route to Utah.
Where to Stay
There’s no need to splurge: Flanigan’s Inn, located in the center of town, is friendly and easy.
SLS Hotel in South Beach, Miami
Sure, it’s still the reliably tacky, girls-you-forgot-to-put-your-pants-on-before-you-left-the-house kind of town. But there is a style and a cool vibe that’s just contagious. Plus, it’s always a party.
SLS Hotel is a gorgeous new hotel right on Hyde Beach. Sit and eat delicious sushi, lounge in the pool with a cocktail and dance after sunset. Hyde Beach club is decorated with vintage surfer paraphernalia; it’s a lo-fi alternative to the usual Miami slick, which, of course, makes it even cooler. José Andrés is the best Spanish chef in the country right now and his restaurant, The Bazaar, is located at SLS as well. You’ll feel hot just sitting in the dining room.
Tip: Make sure to leave South Beach to explore downtown Miami. The design district is unbelievable. And visit the Mandolin Aegean bistro, set in a garden under twinkling lights. Greek restaurants in Greece wish they served food this good. You’ll want to eat here every night.
Let’s assume you had a difficult year, and you want to mark it with a contemplative, solo trip. I just got back from a solo trip to Machu Picchu — but I hardly felt alone. When you’re young and backpacking around, it’s easy to meet new people. When you get older, you tend not to do that as much. But at Machu Picchu, I was able to reconnect with that familiar feeling of “I’m randomly hiking with you and you’re my total best friend even though I will never see you again after today.” The journey can be rigorous or not; you can hike the Inca trail for four days or six hours; you can go solo or join a group. You’ll connect with yourself through the strangers you encounter.
Where to Stay
Hotel: Inkaterra Machu Picchu: As luxurious as it is, it’s more affordable than you would expect. A pisco sour by the fire is the tonic for anything that may ail you.