7 Last-Minute Vacations to Take This Summer
Booking a last-minute summer vacation is a risky affair, replete with higher costs that come with bigger crowds—not to mention overbooked flights and scarce accommodations. But if you target the latter half of August, you widen your chances considerably at scoring low rates and availability (yes, even at highly popular warm-weather locales), in large part because most family travelers—the road warriors of summer road trips—are back home priming for the start of the next school season. Finally ready to stop procrastinating? Here are seven destinations worthy of consideration.
Easily accessible via a short flight from most East Coast and Mid-Atlantic cities, Burlington sits at the apex of all that is great about Vermont—easy access to the Green Mountains, day-trip options to quaint towns like Waterbury, and hours of in-city distraction in the form of funky shops and a wide pathway that surrounds Lake Champlain. An easy half-day brewery tour will let you hit Burlington Beer Co. and load up on their seasonal pale ales, visit Lost Nation and taste a few of their goses (one of the best beer styles to enjoy in hot temps), and down some of the smoked meats and hazy New England IPAs at Prohibition Pig without stressing your itinerary. Afterwards, hop on a bike for a lazy lakeside pedal or (for the truly ambitious) conquer the state's famed single track, which weaves throughout national and state parkland just outside the city. (For even more nature time, carve out at least one day for an epic day hike to the summit of Camel’s Hump to take in the expansive views). Psst—if Burlington proper proves to expensive at booking time, the town's proximity to Stowe Mountain Resort means scoring an affordable hotel or condo should be pretty easy.
Yosemite National Park, CA
Make no mistake: if you plan to visit Yosemite National Park in August, you won’t be alone. As one of the most popular of all the parks in the U.S. National Park System, Yosemite welcomes hordes of tourists throughout the summer months. Here's the thing, though: most visitors don’t venture much farther than a few miles off the park’s main roads and parking lots (if they bother to get out of their car/bus/minivan at all). That’s too bad for them but great for those willing to put in a bit more effort and head into Yosemite’s backcountry, where it'll feel like you have the park all to yourself. Primitive and backcountry camping are permitted throughout the park, which offers well-maintained trails and loads of routes to follow whether you're interested in an overnight jaunt or channeling your inner John Muir and going off the grid for a few days. If you’re not a DIY adventurer, though, not to worry. REI Adventures runs guided backcountry trips (including four- to six-day outings geared for the entire family) as well as a few lodge-based day-hike packages.
Mexico City, Mexico
It might seem counterintuitive to travel south during the hottest time of the year, but Mexico City sustains moderate temperatures (around 74 degrees Fahrenheit) all summer, leaving the blazing temps to the rest of the country. The city has recently undergone a culinary revolution thanks to restaurants like Mexican/Basque newcomer Biko and Enrique Olvera's modern gastronomy institution Pujol—must-visit spots that work in nicely pre- or post-sightseeing around the area's historic sites and museums. The best part? Because of Mexico City’s sprawling size (it clocks in at 573 square miles, which are broken down into 16 neighborhoods (or “colonias”) each brimming with its own flavor, energy, and personality), finding affordable accommodations should be so easy that you might even consider changing scenery and booking another hotel mid-stay.
Nelson, British Columbia
Despite being just an hour-and-a-half drive from Vancouver, Nelson feels worlds away from society—a once sleepy mountain town that has matured into a tiny hub for all things active. Nearby, Whistler Blackcomb Resort boasts legions of outdoor summer adventures, including more than 30 miles of lift-access hiking, one of the world’s best mountain bike terrain parks, and rides on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which bridges Whistler and Blackcomb mountains with glass-bottom cars that let you peer down at the landscape 1,430 feet below. In Nelson proper, you can also easily access miles of hiking, biking, and climbing routes nestled within the surrounding Selkirk Mountains, as well as museums and shops and a surprisingly diverse variety of cuisine.
Like neighboring islands Aruba and Bonaire (the A and B of the Caribbean’s ABCs), this former Dutch colony sits below the region’s hurricane belt. However, while Aruba is typically pricey and Bonaire is pretty sleepy (unless you’re into scuba diving), Curaçao possesses its own kind of allure—and typically for less coin. Because accommodations here are predominantly of the Airbnb and bed-and-breakfast variety, it’s easier to score a deal no matter where you want to stay—be it across the island or right in the capital of Willemstad, a city replete with restaurants, shops, and colorful Dutch Colonial architecture. Water sports abound, from diving and snorkeling to windsurfing and sailing, but with summer temps hovering in the mid-80s, lounging on one of the many public beaches (or by your resort's pool) are also perfectly viable alternatives.
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Even off-the-radar cities in Europe are crowded come summer, so you won’t have Krakow all to yourself. However, unlike other Central European cities like Budapest or Prague, things remain pretty affordable here year-round. It's a wonder why, though: the city's quaint town center is filled with Old World architectural marvels like Wawel Cathedral and St. Mary’s Basilica, and the sheer amount of historical sites means World War II buffs can fill days here simply touring them all. Among the highlights are the Polish Aviation Museum, Oskar Schindler’s Factory, and Auschwitz, which lies just outside the city and makes for an easy day trip (at least logistically). Set aside an afternoon to stroll the Main Market Square, which still ranks as the world’s largest medieval market and offers plenty of dining, shopping, and people watching.
This summer, why not flip the script and head south to one of the world’s most revered ski destinations? While all your friends are sweating out the last days of summer, you can enjoy the rare treat of carving fresh turns at Chile's Ski Portillo, not to mention watch many national World Cup ski teams practice on the same runs—and ride the same lifts, and stay in the same hotel—as you. The no-frills resort, which borders the often-snow-covered Inca Lake, sits at the mountain base and was recently renovated but still leans toward minimal: there are no TVs in guest rooms and WiFi remains spotty (but we doubt you'll miss them). Instead, take in the gob-smacking views of the surrounding Andean peaks from the hotel's expansive balcony, on one of several lifts that crawl up the vertiginous peaks, or from the sun deck at Tio Bob’s, the mid-mountain restaurant where you can follow up dinner with a nightcap at Portillo Bar. JS Tip: Given you’re flying to Santiago and traveling a few miles, five-day to week-long all-inclusive packages will get you the biggest bang for your buck.
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