Excluding a few fits and starts of relative freedom, the majority of our waking hours over the last two years have been spent at home, tethered to computer, phone, and television screens with the idea of travel a dangling carrot for good and safe behavior. With loosening worldwide restrictions, people are itching to spread—or charter—their wings and experience the luxury offerings of places both near and far, familiar and exotic, rural and urban. This renewed sense of freedom has potential travelers pouring over their options for relaxation and exploration with a “world is your oyster” approach.
While some travelers are still cautious about heading far from home, others are choosing
to pursue the extravagant destinations of their dreams. According to Marla Fowler, Virtuoso Certified Travel Advisor and founder of Filling the Nest Luxury Travel & Lifestyle, discerning travelers feel they have some catching up to do and are prioritizing their “trip of a lifetime.”
“All that talk about ‘someday’ has turned into ‘someday is now,’ and the greater the adventure and the farther away, the better,” she says.
For Fowler’s luxury clients, some examples of these bucket-list trips include places like the Scottish Highlands, private African safaris and private yacht charters that cruise around the
Caribbean, Greek Isles, Galapagos Islands, Adriatic Coast, or even the Amazon River. Fowler says privacy at sea is a “must-do” this year, and luxury providers have options for crewed yachts, those you can skipper yourself, and ultra-luxe options that include white-glove service, exclusive lodging and insider international itineraries.
Private charters aren’t limited to sea travel—according to Fowler, private air service has become quite the norm for today’s luxury traveler.
“The ultimate definition of ‘jet setting’ and the epitome of seamless travel, private jet service offers the most control, privacy, and flexibility and can be paired with luxury experiences creating unforgettable adventure packages,” she says.
“Around the World” journeys from the Four Seasons Experience in the Sky collection and the on-demand services of Priv ets are popular among luxury travelers. Fowler expects an increase in airborne itineraries in 2023, a sign that private air travel will continue to factor into the future of luxury travel.
Amina Dearmon, owner and luxury travel advisor at Perspectives Travel, sees interest from clients who’ve been waiting for renewed access to European countries. France, Greece and Italy have always been popular destinations, but Dearmon says clients are now staying longer and bringing the whole family along.
“If you’ve always wanted to spend the summer in the South of France, or explore the Greek Isles on a private yacht, the clock is ticking on how long these opportunities will be open without the same influx of tourists that we saw pre-COVID,” she says.
Dearmon also sees a rising interest in off-the-beaten-path Caribbean excursions and ultra-luxe Mexico trips. While not the closest, Caribbean properties like Secret Bay in Dominica, Jumby Bay Island Resort in Antigua, and Baoase Luxury Resort in Curaçao offer extraordinary natural beauty and service.
“For example, Secret Bay offers sustainably built villas in the Dominica rainforest with dedicated villa hosts to ensure complete relaxation for your stay,” she says.
In Mexico, new properties are emerging that exceed expectations you might have for all-inclusive resorts by incorporating cultural experiences and wellness options in addition, of course, to margaritas on the beach. Such destinations include the One&Only Mandarina and the soon-to-open Four Seasons Resort Tamarindo on Mexico’s west coast and Etéreo in Riviera Maya.
Canada is no longer off-limits to American travelers, and according to travel advisor Philip James, this country of incredible beauty, diverse landscapes, and friendly people is a top recommendation for 2022 travel.
“Whether you trek or ski or chug through the Rockies by rail out west in British Colombia, or have coastal experiences at the eastern or western extremes, or dive into the indigenous peoples’ cultures of the heartlands, the majesty of Canada finally awaits your visit,” says James. His top accommodation recommendations include Manoir Hovey in New Hartley, Quebec and Rosewood Hotel Georgia in Vancouver.
Like Fowler, James also has clients traveling much farther and pursuing experiences vastly different than those close to home. For the intrepid traveler, African safaris in countries like Botswana, Tanzania and Namibia offer a unique allure.
“As with so many luxury travel experiences, they key to having the most memorable and potentially life-changing moments is through trusted and well-connected ground operators,” says James. “Their local relationships are what can make safari journeys so exceptional.”
For Jennifer Burck, travel advisor with Castles and Cruises Travel Company, a significant number of clients are looking for luxury closer to home.
“There’s still a lot of interest in outdoor/nature vacations within the United States, especially for travelers who are ready to take a vacation but feel more comfortable spending the majority of their time outdoors,” she says. Burck notes our country’s expansive national park system and variety of luxury resorts that cater to outdoor pursuits.
“We no longer have to choose between outdoor vacations and luxury—people can hike all day and return to their resort for gourmet meals and amazing hotels,” she says.
Another close-to-home option for families is the reliably enchanting world of Disney. Walt Disney World’s Magical Kingdom celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and is celebrating with added entertainment and other special touches.
“After the upheaval of virtual schooling and other constant changes our children have experienced over the past two years, the dependable magic of Disney World is especially appealing,” says Burck. “Disney places a special emphasis on attention to detail and customer service, so it’s easy to immerse yourself in the Disney magic bubble and escape reality.”
Planning extended vacations requires time and coordination, and many travelers are looking to achieve more immediate gratification through weekend escapes. Two popular quick-trip rural destinations for local families include Blackberry Farm in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and High Hampton in nearby Cashiers, North Carolina. The two mountain properties are now under the same ownership and offer several ways to pamper the mind and body, from exploration of gorgeous grounds to culinary experiences, spa treatments, and no lack of outdoor activities such as hiking, golf, swimming, horseback riding, pickleball, boating and more.
With new nonstop flights from New Orleans, another popular weekend destination for locals is Charleston, South Carolina.
“A visit to another queen city of the South, Charleston, will unfold warmth after warmth no matter what time of year one visits,” says James. “Charm is but one of the alluring features, but equally inviting are the many first-class hotels and dining venues that will have you questioning which city’s cuisine is tops.”
Beyond its charm and cuisine, Dearmon also recommends Charleston for its proximity to beaches and highly-ranked golf courses and opportunities to experience Gullah culture. Dearmon recommends staying at the 16-room Zero George Street Hotel (and taking the limited-seat cooking class) while James recommends Charleston Place—both luxury hotels offer the convenience of being downtown.
Prefer to head west? Distinctive properties in Texas for an elevated weekend escape include La Colombe d’Or (owned by New Orleans-raised Steve Zimmerman) in the eccentric Montrose neighborhood of Houston and Commodore Perry Estate in Austin, located just seven miles from the airport. Both former residential estates, the Commodore is nestled on 10 acres with sunken English gardens while La Colombe d’Or enjoys close proximity to a bustling neighborhood vibrant with art. Both properties exude distinctly European vibes and offer a variety of exceptional culinary and wellness experiences for guests.
Other luxe westerly destinations for weekend getaways include the Vermejo Reserve in northern New Mexico and the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa near Tucson, Arizona. According to Philip James, guests to the Vermejo Reserve enjoy being immersed in a uniquely restored ecosystem where buffalo roam freely while guests at Miraval enjoy a highly-transformative journey of self-care.
No matter which direction you travel, the climate is bound to play a role in your experience. Combine that with your family’s busy schedule, and you’ll find certain times of the year prove better to hit certain spots. Travel advisors have their picks for each season, and popular choices for spring are French Polynesia with its stunning views, Aruba for its family-friendly spring break adventures, and Washington DC—or Japan itself—for eyeing gorgeous cherry blossoms.
For summer escapes, Burck recommends The Resort at Paws Up in Montana and The Greenbrier in West Virginia.
“Summertime is a great time to visit the mountains and hike,” says Burck. “Living in New Orleans in the summer can be brutal, so escaping to the mountains is a literal breath of fresh air.”
Fowler recommends hitting the road and exploring the California coast with a luxury rental vehicle and customized 16-day itinerary from American Excursionist. For James, Finland is a hidden summertime gem.
“When your travels have taken you everywhere else, and you think you have seen and experienced it all, then it is time to explore Finland,” he says. “Four very distinct geographic regions—Lapland, Lakeland, Coast/Archipelagos, and Helsinki—are sure to entice.”
Everyone seems to agree that fall is the perfect time to head to Europe, which is then wrapping up its peak tourist season. A variety of captivating experiences are available everywhere from Vienna, Munich, and Ljubljana to Ireland, Scotland, Romania and Italy. Skiing is an obvious choice for winter destinations, with locals loving Big Sky Resort in Montana, the Four Seasons Resort Whistler at Canada’s Blackcomb Mountain and Beaver Creek resort in Colorado.
For an unobvious choice, James recommends heading south—far south.
“Though it might be our winter, this is the best time to do some polar expedition cruising in South America’s southernmost region and Antarctica,” he says. “While there, don’t miss the chance to spend some time exploring the unspoiled, rugged beauty of southern Chile and Argentina.”