Our family usually takes a big international trip each year. While we really, really wanted to cross an ocean or two in 2021, we opted to stay state-side again for the time being. With the ever-shifting landscape of COVID-19, we’re glad we did.
That said, there are several places I’ve got my heart set on when it’s safer (and less of a hassle!) to travel out of the country. Here are three special spots that will be at the top of my list when we’re once again cleared for takeoff — and why you might want to consider adding them to your travel plans as well!
Who doesn’t love the City of Lights? Paris has always been a special place that’s near and dear to me — we baby-mooned there when I was pregnant. While we had an incredible time exploring the arrondissements, navigating the Metro, and browsing all the terrific shops and museums, I felt a twinge of sadness when my doctor warned me before-hand not to eat any unpasteurized cheese or sample any of the terrific French wines. I also got tired a lot — as I was rapidly approaching my third trimester when we visited. While we covered a lot of ground, I’ve always considered that trip as “Paris lite.” There was so much I didn’t get to experience.
So yes, I desperately want to go back to Paris, and take that child — now well into his teens — along with us! I’ll brush up on my French, hit the cafes, sip Burgundy and eat as much cheese as my heart desires and my stomach will tolerate. I’ll stroll the Seine, shop at those posh clothiers, and might actually buy a legacy piece or two. We’ll grab ice cream at Glacier Berthillon, take the elevator all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and watch our son fall in love with Paris, just like his father and I did all those years ago. I just can’t wait to go back!
Pro Tip: While the tourist hot-spots are well-worth checking out, it’s the more sedate sections of the city that truly charm. The Latin Quarter’s quiet squares and the Île Saint-Louis are favorites.
Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
Set on the rugged Atlantic Coast, the small town of Dingle in southwest Ireland is a place we dream of getting back to as soon as possible. It’s one of the most stunning parts of the world, and we consider ourselves so lucky to have visited. Though only about 40 miles away from Killarney, it truly feels like you’re a million miles away from hustle, bustle, and stress. There’s a small rural route leading in and out of town, the roads are narrow through the green, dramatic hills, which are dotted with old stone cottages abandoned during the famine. You’ll also come across incredible vistas offering peeks of the sea.
The town, which is tucked into an inlet right on the ocean, is charming and picture-perfect, comprised of historic brick buildings and homes. Dingle is part of the Gaeltacht, a portion of the country where the Gaelic language is still widely spoken, and officially recognized by the government. Gaelic customs and traditions are also celebrated widely, which is especially reflected in Dingle’s pub culture. These spaces come alive at night, and there’s no better way to spend an evening than over a few pints, listening to traditional live music (fiddling was our favorite) and engaging in craic (conversation) with new friends. Everyone we encountered was friendly and happy to answer questions about their beautiful hometown. We really enjoyed talking with them and learned so much!
The hiking here is incredible, with trails taking you up along cliffs that overlook the ocean, and along sandy beaches. This landscape is so stunning and other-worldly, portions of Star Wars: The Last Jedi were filmed in and around Dingle. History buffs will marvel at the nearby Gallarus Oratory, a centuries-old stone structure near the harbor and Kilmalkedar Church, a monastery thought to date back to the 12th century. Find its ancient ogham stone with a hole at the top to swear an oath or commitment — legend has it people would place their thumbs through the hole to marry each other. And don’t miss the clochán, “beehive huts,” dotted across the countryside near Dingle. They’re curious spots that once housed hermit monks who lived in the area.
Pro Tip: Dingle is the perfect spot to really unplug and unwind. If you’re longing for a place to slow down, shut things out, and truly get away from it all, consider this magical, far-flung destination!
Playa Herradura, Costa Rica
You’d better believe after the past 18 months or so, I’m ready for some time on the beach. We adored time spent at the Los Sueños Resort, located on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and can’t wait to get back. While the sand here tends to be a bit gritty and gray, the beaches are still beautiful. The resort’s infinity pool also has stunning views of the sea — so you’ll get the best of both worlds!
The wonderful thing about this area of Costa Rica is that you can be as active/adventurous or low-key/chill as you want. While I’ll certainly enjoy lounge-time when we return, we’ll also make sure to make the trek (again) to Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s an absolute jewel, packed with astounding biodiversity, including both flora and fauna; a good guide will be on the lookout for monkeys, sloths, exotic birds, insects, and even medicinal plants to point out for you so you don’t miss a thing.
Consider packing a snorkel set, because the magic extends underwater. Gorgeous fish also frequent the coast here, though the water can get murky during storms. There are also zipline and canopy tours available near the resort, where we caught glimpses of toucans.
If you don’t want to leave Los Suenos — no worries. The resort grounds also offer ample opportunity to spy wildlife; we saw howler monkeys and macaws there during our stay. And it just doesn’t get any better than grabbing a cold drink, a good book, and parking it in an ocean-front hammock for the ultimate relaxing recharge.
The final thing to consider, and why Costa Rica absolutely tops my return to travel list: pura vida, or “pure life.” After the stress of the past year and a half, I’m ready to relive the joy of this special place and its pura vida vibe. Truly, everyone we encountered during our stay was welcoming, cheerful, and exuberant. After all, they live in a gorgeous place, surrounded by unsurpassed natural beauty! This special mindset and attitude are definitely contagious, and you’re bound to feel so much better after experiencing it for yourself. My bags are already packed!
Pro Tip: While Costa Rica sits near the equator and is quite warm, there is a rainy season that tends to be at its strongest in September and October. It’s something to keep in mind when booking your trip, especially if you’ve got your heart set on visiting Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast.