10 Unexpected Vacation Ideas

by Catherine Sanderson

Catherine Sanderson

Spring Break is just around the corner, and before we know it summer vacations will be here!  So where’s on your travel radar?  It doesn’t matter whether your future escapes are big or small, near or far, long or short.  Planning dedicated time for escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, rest, relaxation and quality time (with others or alone) works wonders for the soul.

To get your escape ideas flowing, we’re sharing some of our favorite “unexpected” vacation destinations:

Washington, D.C. with kids!

We thought it would be fun to go with the kids because we love it there, but it ended up the best family vacation ever!  Watching the kids become interested in our history and walking for miles without a complaint was so wonderful. We plan to go back soon and explore even more. Driving into D.C. at night with all of the monuments lit is one of the most beautiful sites that I have seen…maybe it is the history major in me, but it gets me every time and sharing with kids is even better!


Sedona, Arizona

…it makes my soul sing!!!!


Colmar, France at Christmas


It is where the Christmas markets actually began and the entire town is decorated from the street to the roofs. All of the crafts are handmade and lovely. You can browse the treasures while sipping mulled wine that you get in a reusable cup that you can continue to refill for only a Euro. It is so cozy and exudes the true meaning of Christmas. We dream of taking the kids back to experience this type of Christmas.


Skiing in The Canyons, Utah

FullSizeRenderFor those who love to ski and snowboard, we loved the Canyons in Park City, Utah. It is a family-friendly resort town, but also very hip and fun for the college age and young adults!
I snowboard, and loved this “snowboard-friendly” resort. Along with three terrain parks on the mountain, there are plenty of beautiful runs for the skiers.
Every afternoon you ski down to the base and find a band playing!
Even getting on to the lift in the morning you would find yourself tapping your ski boot to a local artist playing right next to the lift line, which was always pleasantly short!
Three things I loved about traveling to the Canyons, Utah:

  1. One non-stop flight from Austin to Salt Lake City, and a short 30 minute drive to the mountain! You leave Austin mid-morning and can be skiing/snowboarding the same day by 1:00 pm!! (Much quicker than Colorado!)
  2. The Canyons is a mile and a half from the fun town of Park City, which is full of great restaurants, shops and entertainment.
  3. The Canyons offers a wonderful and cozy little village where you can keep the family together if you want good quality time with them!


Group Hiking in Tuscany

You find magic when hiking through Tuscany!

Last spring, I hiked through Tuscany with 11 others, led by the travel company, Alchemy Adventures. The experience was magical. The group leaders softly and graciously opened the door for me to explore, ponder, walk quietly with myself, and surround myself with the incredible souls who walked alongside me. Each step through that beautiful countryside, each breath of mine, in and out, was medicinal. Out with the old, and in with the beautiful new.

The towns were each unique and memorable, the eating and exploring experience with the group was — there really is no adjective — it just was, and I’ll never forget it…closing my eyes and remembering always makes me smile. Always. I made dear friends for life, and am thankful that I got the chance to shed, to grow, to know that I am so, so strong — I didn’t just hike through Tuscany with a bunch of women, I happily and freely soared with those precious people.


Wine Tasting and B&Bs in Fredericksburg, Texas

Everyone loves a girls weekend or a little R&R with your significant other, right?! I took a girls trip to Fredericksburg for my friend Jessie’s bachelorette party last January, and we had a ball! There were at least 15 of us, and we stayed at the Hoffman haus. We spent Saturday afternoon touring two wineries and one whiskey distillery (we rode on a tour bus), and it was really neat! This was the perfect mix of a low-key girls weekend with wine mixed in!


Santa Monica, California

Neissa_santamonicaMy favorite “unexpected vacation” is Santa Monica. I suppose I suspected it would be wonderful when I first went many years ago, but what I didn’t expect was that I would love it so much and I would want and need to go back every year for a ‘cleansing,’ if you will. What makes this trip so easy is the cheap and direct Southwest Airlines flight from Austin to LAX, and then when I arrive I gain two hours so, which is  more time to spend walking along the beach and soaking up the ocean air. Even though I love going there with my husband, Russell, I love going alone as well. I love my quiet and long walks along the beach, the Santa Monica steps that always kick my butt, colorful flowers, non-stop sunshine, amazing food, awe-inspiring sunsets and standing under the gigantic and gorgeous palm trees and wondering just how old they are, wishing they could tell me all they’ve seen in their lifetime.


VRBO House (within driving distance) with Friends

catherine120140329__141047_1Last spring, a group of 9 (+ 2 small kids) of our friends rented a big beautiful beach-front house outside of Galveston for a long weekend.  Despite any other big and far traveling I’ve done, this was one of my favorite trips ever.  We all drove there, split the cost of house, and stocked it with food and drinks from home and the local grocery — making the trip very affordable.  There’s something amazing about having your closest friends all under one roof with the beach steps away, cooking meals together (everyone was assigned a different meal so the work was split up!), lazy walks along the beach, happy hours at the house and talking and telling stories all night out on the deck.

VRBO has a zillion amazing house options for renting, and I highly recommend everyone do this! I really hope to make it a tradition with our group of friends 🙂


Riviera Maya, Mexico

Travel agent and iGnite member Sam McClure picked THE PERFECT spot for our honeymoon — The Viceroy Resort in Riveria Maya. Both Clayton and I live fast-paced lives and are always on-the-go, so we wanted a very relaxing and quiet place to retreat for 6 days, especially after planning our wedding for 7 months!  I simply looked forward to doing nothing while we were there. This met my needs 100%!  Everything was wonderful—the spa, the food, the drinks, the beach, the staff and service, and the villas. I highly recommend the Viceroy for a romantic getaway!


Active Vacations

IMG_0382My husband Brad and I have decided that our family vacations from now on will be active ones.
Over the past 20 years of traveling with our growing kids, we have done enough sitting on the beach.  So have our kids!
This Summer we are planning to learn the sport of Kite Surfing (or Kite Boarding).
Tulum, Mexico offers this, along with Playa Del Carmen and even South Padre.
What fun to all learn together! I am sure we will get lots of laughs at the end of the day over margaritas!
*BONUS: Learning a new sport on your trip not only is fun and challenging, but builds your mental strength, too!


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2 thoughts on “10 Unexpected Vacation Ideas

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