A German friend once told me, “Americans don’t take vacations, they take field trips.” To a certain degree, this is true. When Americans travel abroad, we often book expensive tours that cram fifteen cities into twelve days. We spend much of that time loading luggage onto a bus and checking preset vignettes off a guide’s itinerary.
Almost a decade ago, my family had the opportunity to spend a summer in a small English town. For ten weeks, four of us lived in a two bedroom flat. Each day we jumped on a train and found new things to do, like Stonehenge, punting on the Cam in Cambridge, or learning the intriguing history of biscuit tins, at the Biscuit Museum in Reading, (pronounced “RED-ing”.) And every few days, I purchased groceries at the local Waitrose. After that experience, we decided we prefer staying in one city on vacation and taking day trips.
We started renting private residences whenever possible, even in the States. It cuts down on baggage, because a washer and dryer are usually available. Having a full kitchen saves money on food and time spent finding restaurants. And you learn a lot more about a culture when you shop at the local grocery or farmer’s market – like learning that Waitrose is pronounced “WAY-tross”, not “wait-ROSE.” That took me about a month to figure out.
I’m not going to tell you where to travel. If you’re fulfilling your wanderlust, you know better where you want to go. But, in what may become regular “wanderlust tips” from me, here are a few unique lodging options to enhance your vacations.
An Entire Island
I haven’t rented an entire island yet, but I got close. If you visit Mont Saint-Michel, off the coast of Normandy, you can stay in one of the small hotels right on the island. When you do, you and no more than 250 other hotel guests have an entire medieval town to yourself until 10am. That’s when the tour buses deliver throngs of tourists to the gates. By 11 o’clock the narrow streets are wall-to-wall people in the summer. I hate crowds, so that benefit is worth the price of a night’s stay for views like this:
Richard Branson of Virgin rents his private island out for over $100,000 a week; but some islands can be had for a few hundred a day. Airbnb has island options all over – including in Panama, Belize and Norway.
Have you ever romanticized being a lighthouse keeper? Lighthouse stays are available on many waterways. A few years ago I stayed at a Hudson River lighthouse in Saugerties, New York. Some lighthouse stays are only accessible by boat, while other are on the coastline. For our stay, we had to hike the last half mile. Since it was February, and the river was completely frozen, we were saved the hassle of waiting for low tide to access our accommodations.
A listing of lighthouse stays can be found here: Lighthouse Stays
Yurts & Treehouses
A yurt is a Mongolian nomadic home, made hip by modern glampers.
I haven’t stayed in one yet. I can’t sell my husband on traveling two days to the upper reaches of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to go glamping. But I’m going to keep trying.
You don’t have to travel to the limits of human subsistence to crash in a yurt. More accessible yurt rentals can be found at the below link. Most include private bathrooms.
Another glamping option is a treehouse.
Treetop rentals can now be found all over Canada and Pacific Northwest – even Atlanta, Jackson Hole or Arkansas.
I haven’t yet stayed on a houseboat either – again because of my husband. He gets motion sickness. The first one I saw available for overnight rental was on the Seine in Paris! Anywhere there is water – ocean, lake or river – you can find houseboats for rent. Airbnb has a search feature for houseboats. Beds on Board also offers houseboat stays on fresh water or salt.
Estates and Castles
Gather a group of friends for a special occasion and rent an estate, villa, or castle! Yes, you can rent out a castle! Last year I spent a week outside Barcelona with friends and family. The retired vineyard slept twenty-two people, making the cost about $50 a day per person. Add to that $450 round trip airfare and $2 bottles of Spanish wine, and you have an amazing budget getaway. Granted we had to fly Norwegian Air, from Barcelona to Oslo to New York, but it was worth it for all this:
Other estates and castles can be found in places like Italy, Scotland and France.
Picture Sources: pexels, pixabay and Lesley Mahady