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8 dream vacation splurges

These destinations are bound to satisfy your wanderlust. Read on for where to go next — and how to prepare for the cost.


AS YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR NEXT BIG VACATION, what do you hope to take away from the trip? Demand for premium travel experiences remains high, and for many, that means pursuing a passion. “We’ve found that people are using travel to add depth to their lives in a way that can only happen when you take yourself out of your routine,” says Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of the travel advisory firm Embark Beyond.


Henley Vazquez, CEO and co-founder of the travel advisory firm Fora, has seen a similar shift. “Our affluent clients are looking for experiences that allow them to come home from a trip a little smarter or healthier or more open-minded than when they stepped on the plane,” she says.


That could mean immersing yourself in a culturally significant city, finding an overlooked culinary hot spot, embracing nature or tending to your health and well-being.


“Travel comes up in every single conversation I have with clients these days,” agrees Merrill Wealth Management Advisor Mary Jo Harper. “Having a budget earmarked for travel is a very high priority for them.”

As you pursue your next travel passion, consider these eight destinations — some of them under the radar — recommended by Vazquez and Ezon. Then check out the best ways to plan for a travel splurge while keeping your other financial goals on track.


Cultural discovery

A view of a mosque and other architectural highlights in Istanbul with boats and a body of water in the foreground.

Ancient civilization made new: Istanbul, Turkey

“The cross-section of cultures and religions in Istanbul is like nowhere else,” Vazquez says. “It’s Asian and European and ancient and modern. The city literally spans a divide between two continents and checks all the boxes for culinary, retail and cultural travelers.” The new Renzo Piano-designed Istanbul Museum of Modern Art, which sits above the Galataport, the world’s first underground cruise ship terminal, has added new life to the Bosporus shoreline. “There’s an emergent female-chef scene, the shopping is on point, and the hotel landscape is incredible,” Vazquez adds.

People walking down steps on a narrow street lined with shops in Kyoto.

History preserved: Kyoto, Japan

Nowhere else can you experience Japanese culture and history in such a stunning and accessible setting. Once the capital of the island empire, Kyoto has a conservative culture that stands in stark contrast to Blade Runner-esque Tokyo, giving visitors a more authentic look at Japanese history, says Ezon. Take it slow, advises Vazquez. “I always tell people not to visit during cherry blossom season, which is when everyone wants to go,” she says. “Instead, try to experience this ancient city like a local. Take a meditation class in a park, wander the temples, or combine your trip with a stay at a wellness resort. Don’t rush around the city trying to see everything in a day.”

Culinary experiences

Overhead view of the old city of Bologna.

Italy’s foodie escape: Emilia-Romagna

Nicknamed the nation’s Food Valley, the Emilia-Romagna region, which includes the towns of Parma and Bologna, remains under the radar, “reserved for ‘in the know’ foodies escaping the tourists in nearby Tuscany,” Ezon says. Situated in the north of Italy between the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine Mountains, this fertile region known for Parmigiano Reggiano and prosciutto, to name just two foods, is home to 21 Michelin-starred restaurants.

A platter of meat, basket of bread and bottle of wine on a table.

Sizzling city: Buenos Aires, Argentina

“This city has one of the hottest food scenes in the world and with the current exchange rate is also one of the most affordable,” Ezon says. Its cuisine is influenced by immigrants from Italy, Germany, Britain, Spain and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Indigenous cultures. Argentina’s wines, which are among some of the world’s most coveted, pair perfectly with the country’s world-famous beef, a key ingredient that defines modern Argentine cuisine.

Outdoor adventures

A herd of zebras on a plain.

Into the wilds of Africa: Tanzania

Travelers can take advantage of this East African nation’s excellent national park system to book boat safaris, game drives and walking safaris during both the wet and dry seasons. Nyerere National Park, in the southern part of the country, has the highest concentration of elephants in East Africa, Vazquez notes. “With very few travelers there, you almost get the park to yourself.” Recently she’s seen a surge of wellness-focused clients booking safaris in tandem with a hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro with local guides and porters. “Part of the experience is the training and preparation for the six-day hike,” she says. “This is a summit you have to earn.”

Two canoes on the shore of a lake with the Canadian Rockies in the background.

The splendid outdoors next door: The Canadian Rockies

“With the brilliant azure waters of Lake Louise, the jagged mountains of Banff and the vast glaciers along the Bow Valley, the Canadian Rockies offer a host of adventures,” Ezon says. That means active pursuits like whitewater rafting, biking, paragliding, mountain climbing and kayaking, plus golf in striking settings along rivers, mountain peaks and glacial lakes. Notable golf destinations include the 1928 Stanley Thompson-designed course at Banff Springs and Silvertip, a par-72 course that rises 600 feet and doubles as a bird sanctuary.

Wellness retreats

A hiker looking toward a red-rock butte.

Healing energy: Sedona, Arizona

The red rock canyons — and reputed mind-altering energy currents — of Sedona are the ideal backdrop for wellness seekers. “It’s a spiritual destination and such a beautiful place to recharge,” Vazquez says. The world-class spas are elevated by the canyon views, with new resorts integrated seamlessly into the stunning landscape. “For a lot of people, going to Sedona doesn’t even require flying,” she adds. Book a room that’s completely immersed in the surroundings, and you won’t need to get in your car to go for a hike, get a massage or stargaze.

Lounge chairs on a patio overlooking Swiss mountains and water.

Serious pampering: Switzerland’s spas

Set among awe-inspiring mountain backdrops, Swiss spas take a more clinical approach to wellness, helping guests solve problems like weight loss or chronic pain. “There are those that are ideal for pampering and detoxifying, and others that are more medically focused for serious alternative interventions and longevity programs,” Ezon says. Some of the finest spas include a 150-year-old wellness retreat that sits above Lake Lucerne and another close to the ski resort of Gstaad that traces its roots back 350 years.

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