Tax season is upon us in the United States. If you played your cards right last year, that (hopefully) means a big tax refund. You could do something sensible with that cash like save for your kids’ college education or max out your 401k. Or you could splurge on a ridiculously unnecessary, bucket-list-worthy vacation because you deserve a little “me time.” Assuming you decide on the latter, here are five destinations worth blowing this year’s tax return on.
For a Wild, Honeymoon-Worthy Vacation
If you’re the sort of person with a pulse and eyeballs, you’ve no doubt dreamt of going on safari. Kruger National Park is hands-down the most iconic place in South Africa — arguably the world — to do just that. Within the park, the Sabi Sands Reserve boasts some of the most luxurious lodging for nature-watching. At the Lion Sands Treehouses, guests sleep in private, open-air treehouses with panoramic views of the rugged reserve. “The Big Five” frequently stroll the grounds, so enjoying a sunrise mimosa while watching lions, elephants, and leopards amble across your “front lawn” will become part of your daily routine here.
For a Natural Escape Away from the Crowds
Portugal’s “secret” archipelago is creeping onto the radar of in-the-know travelers. For the most part, however, it’s largely unknown. Picture the rugged, volcanic landscape of the Hawaiian islands with the small town charm and world-class vineyards of rural Portugal — all without the crowds. Spend your days whale watching, hiking volcanoes, and pedaling between impossibly beautiful island villages where you’re unlikely to hear a word of English. Roundtrip flights from just about anywhere in the U.S. can be pricey, but travel costs — lodging, food, car rentals, and tours — on the islands are quite reasonable.
For Classic Island Chill
For a traditional fly-and-flop-style beach vacation, Jamaica is a good value any time of year. In May and June, in particular, budget travelers can find roundtrip flights to Montego Bay from JFK and other East Coast departures for less than $500. Pour that money you saved into swankier accommodations like the all-inclusive Sandals Royal Plantation where every room includes an ocean view and a private butler. Or, if you’re determined to blow your entire tax return and then some, splash out at the Sandals Royal Caribbean. The over-the-top overwater bungalows here are the swankiest you’ll find without flying around the world to the Maldives or Bora Bora.
For Pure Outdoor Adventure
Iceland has been on everybody’s hot list — including ours — for the last few years. Adventure travelers would be hard-pressed to find a more outdoor-centric vacation spot. From stunning waterfalls and volcanos to dramatic fjords and mountain peaks, it’s an otherworldly landscape where every roadside lookout is Instagram-worthy. Plan a couple of nights in Reykjavik and a visit to the famous Blue Lagoon. Assuming money is no object, you can even overnight at the iconic geothermal hotspot at the luxurious new The Retreat spa hotel. To jettison the crowds, however, head to the island’s more remote reaches. Tucked into Iceland’s fantastical Thingvellir National Park, ION Adventure Hotel is an impossibly beautiful design hotel with a distinct, nature-forward ethos.
For a Sun-Soaked Getaway Close to Home
The Florida Keys
If you’re keen to vacation closer to home (i.e., not leave the country), The Florida Keys are a great option. Roundtrip flights in May from many East Coast cities run just north of $300 per person. Once on the ground, however, you can splurge on some of the most beautiful lodging in South Florida. For a relaxing getaway away from the maddening crowds, book an oceanfront villa all to yourself at Marathon Key’s Tranquility Bay Beachfront Hotel & Resort. If you’re looking for something closer to the action, Key West is the obvious choice. Marquesa Hotel is steps from the iconic Duval Street bar scene but offers the designer charm and upscale panache that once made Key West the richest zip code in America.
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