Nothing kills a vacation high quite like a layover.
Luckily, airlines have rolled out a crop of new direct flights from O’Hare and Midway over the past few months to appease the nonstop-or-bust travelers among us.
From Barcelona to Spokane and all parts in between, here are seven worth booking — along with what to do once you get there.
WOW air, Iceland’s low-fare airline, starts jetting from O’Hare July 14
Downtown Reykjavik is home to colorful buildings and restaurants serving eccentric fare (Kæstur hákarl = fermented shark; consider yourself warned). But getting out of the city is where it really gets good: Wade in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon. Step foot on a glacier. See a geyser erupt. And if you time it right, you just might see the Northern Lights.
American Airlines expanded into seven new markets on July 7, including Boise
Juniper, a Boise (pronounced BOY-see if you don’t want to sound like an outsider) restaurant that keeps things local down to the beer, sums it up nicely on its website: “We love Boise, mostly because it’s cool without trying too hard.” You’ll find that vibe at Juniper, plus Wild Root Café and Market, which serves a brulèed ruby grapefruit for breakfast, and at The Inn at 500 Capitol, where a glass of wine at check-in kicks your vacation off on the right note.
Volaris began flying to Querétaro from MDW and ORD in May
Mexico City, the Baja Peninsula and Tulum: been there, done that. For a less-expected visit to our neighbors down south, head to the capital of the state of Querétaro. The city was founded in 1531 and shows off its history with brick colonial streets and a Roman-style aqueduct that cuts through the city.
United Airlines started a once-a-day flight in June
The western part of Washington, where you’ll find Puget Sound shores and Olympic National Park, may get all the hype, but the state’s eastern border is worth a visit, too. Plan your days around meals at the much-talked-about Sante or The Wandering Table, and dip into Idaho to visit Coeur d’Alene, which offers lakes, mountains and that famous floating green only about 30 miles from Spokane.
American Airlines is now flying a seasonal nonstop until September 30
La Rambla, with its throngs of tourists and vendors selling cheap tchotchkes, is where not to go. You’re far better off getting your dose of culture by visiting one of Antoni Gaudí’s many buildings and hitting hip tapas spots like La Mundana. Stay at Soho House Barcelona, which opened in October, just months before the city’s ban on hotel developments began.
Guatemala City, Guatemala
American Airlines now offers seasonal flights from O’Hare
Set your expectations right: the capital city of Guatemala (called Guate by those in-the-know) is a big metropolis. Which means you should come ready to see loads of concrete, street vendors and dingy city buses. But the city’s been embracing a more traveler-friendly side in recent years. There’s the pedestrian-only 6a Calle and an emerging art scene in Zone 4. And if you touch down and quickly learn congested South American cities aren’t for you, the beach town of Monterrico is less than three hours away.
ViaAir now flies from Midway a couple times a week
What, Branson isn't one of your bucket-list destinations? OK, hear us out. This new flight lands you directly in the Ozarks, a picturesque getaway where crystal-clear waters meet limestone cliffs. Parts of the Ozarks to the north can resemble spring break in Cancún, but a stay at Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake takes a different approach. The nearly 100-year-old resort, rehabbed by Johnny Morris (of Bass Pro Shops fortune), sets you up with everything you need to embrace your inner outdoorsman.