Nothing beats the anticipation of a summer vacation. And according to Expedia’s Travel Trends Report released last November, two-thirds of Americans were planning big, extravagant trips to far-flung destinations for 2022. It’s why this year was preemptively dubbed the year of the “GOAT” — the “Greatest of all Trips.”
And it’s more than lived up to its name. In March, Reuters reported that many of the popular booking sites — Vrbo, Hopper and KAYAK among them — were seeing higher demand for spring and summer leisure travel in conjunction with the easing of COVID-related restrictions. Data from AirDNA, a company that tracks the daily performance of over 10 million properties on vacation rental firms Airbnb and Vrbo, showed that the booking pace for travel in the northern hemisphere spring was 49% higher than in 2021 and 26% higher than pre-pandemic 2019.
Summer, too, is shaping up to be a banner travel season — particularly now that the U.S. has done away with its COVID testing requirement as it pertains to travel. In fact, United Airlines — which accounts for the bulk of international traffic among major U.S. carriers — said that within 72 hours of the Biden administration scrapping the testing requirement, it saw more than 2.4 million searches for international travel — up 7% from the week prior. Roughly 1.5 million of those searched were for travel from the U.S. to international destinations like Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Fortunately, Brandon Berkson knows a thing or two about travel. After being furloughed from his job as a travel publicist, Berkson turned his focus to his then-pandemic hobby — an Instagram page for hotel enthusiasts — and grew it into a full-fledged media company that highlights the trendiest hotels, restaurants and destinations around the world. The resulting product, Hotels Above Par, features two-minute curated guides designed for the “hip traveler who is short on time.” Since its launch, Hotels Above Par amassed a readership of more than 150,000 across its various platforms and become a leading authority on boutique hotels.
All of this to say: Berkson has a finely honed radar when it comes to travel trends. Below, his recommendations for a summer jaunt of either the domestic or international variety.
Valle De Guadalupe, Mexico
Valle De Guadalupe is Mexico’s wine country and perhaps its most burgeoning secret. In my opinion, it’s way cooler than Napa (and more wallet-friendly). The area is full of design-forward boutique hotels, upscale restaurants helmed by some of Mexico’s best chefs and a wealth of wineries. And the best part? Only an hour and a half from the San Diego/Tijuana border, Valle De Guadalupe makes for a great “weekender.”
Pro tip: Take a taxi from San Diego International Airport to the border, cross the easy-to-navigate pedestrian bridge from San Diego into Tijuana, and have tour operator, and Valle de Guadalupe expert, Baja Tour Guide personally pick you up on the other side and take you around to all the area’s wineries and restaurants.
Do: Wine taste your way through the valley. My favorite spots include Bruma — a contemporary-style, underground winery centered around a colossal tree stump that sprouts out of the space’s encasement and into the air — plus Clos de Tres Cantos (the architecture is Mayan-pyramids-meet-Medieval-France). End the day drinking and partying at Casa Frida: an influencer-frequented staple known for its fun ambiance, killer cocktails and danceable DJ-curated reggaeton.
Stay: Encuentro Guadalupe is my favorite hotel in Valle de Guadalupe (Rihanna has been spotted here). Unique to its core, it’s comprised of individually boxy pods that punctuate the bushy ridge of a hill overlooking the valley and all its wineries (the infinity pool is fantastic).
Eat: Fauna. Hands down, this is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. The inside-outside, rustic-yet-upscale restaurant serves farm-fresh dishes sourced from local purveyors. Most of Fauna’s tables are set in its blooming on-site garden, which looks towards the valley’s endless vineyards. In terms of what to order, the menu often changes, however, if that day the Giant Broccoli is on there, you must order it — it’ll have you wanting to eat all your vegetables!
With my profession, I’m fortunate to have been to many places around the world. And I say this with confidence: Santorini is one of the most beautiful destinations I’ve ever visited. Among other standouts, for me, it’s the friendliness of its Greek residents who come to work on the island for the summer, quintessential Cycladic white homes with blue domes overlooking the sea, and endless denizen-run restaurants that meld tradition, gastronomy, and passion.
Stay: Andronis Concept Wellness Resort is a monochromatic, semi-brutalist hotel perched on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea. Each suite has its own private-plunge pool, best enjoyed on a sunny summer afternoon with a good book in hand.
Do: Head over to Oia, Santorini’s most photographed locale, and take in the beauty of all the white-clad cave houses that cascade down to the sea. Stroll the main thoroughfare, where upscale boutiques, terracing restaurants and breathtaking viewpoints await.
Eat: For lunch, head to Amoudi — a hub for local fishermen — and eat at the authentic Amoudi Fish Tavern, which, if you ask me, has some of the best octopus I’ve ever had. Santorini exudes romance. Whether it be self-love or with a partner, grab dinner at Thirasia at Katikies Kirini — they have an outdoor patio peering out at Oia that’s drop-dead gorgeous come sunset, especially when accompanied by their Vitello Tonnato.
Many consider Denver to be nothing more than a transit hub, where you have a layover before catching a connecting flight to ski towns such as Vail or Aspen. Well, you heard it here: Denver is one of the U.S.’s most understatedly cool destinations. Its endless breweries, ubiquitous food halls, robust boutique hotel scene and unassuming street art presence are all part of an appealing tonic that make it one of the country’s fastest-growing cities.
Stay: The Thompson Denver is the city’s newest boutique hotel. Moody tones and super contemporary decor are the aesthetic here, how I like it. Before bed, grab a nightcap at their sixth-floor bar Reynard Social and peer out at Denver’s downtown through their floor-to-ceiling windows.
Do: Mosey around Denver’s hip RiNo neighborhood, which blends mining town-like brick buildings with revived industrial warehouses. In addition to colorful street art (you can learn the story behind each piece with Denver Graffiti Tours), there are several independent boutiques, restaurants and bars here. Then, for some R&R, head to The Beer Spa, which — and I’ve never seen anywhere else like this — offers a private spa experience with treatments suffusing many of the healthy ancillary ingredients found in beer (think a hydrotherapy bath comprising both B2 and B3 vitamin-packed barley as well as natural sedative, hops).
Eat: Head to The Bindery for weekend brunch and order the Duck Confit Hash — it’s farm-to-table cuisine at its finest. If you want to take advantage of Denver’s robust brewery scene, head to Our Mutual Friend Brewing in RiNo.
You’ve heard of the Cannes Film Festival and all the celebs who flock here come May, posing on the red carpet in their sparkling gowns and expertly trimmed suits. This might be a surprise, but summer in Cannes is much more than just the annual festival marking the beginning of the season. From the designer stores lining Cannes’ luxe beachfront locus La Croisette to the harborside European-style cafes with outdoor patios peering out at hundreds of multimillion dollar yachts, Cannes’ ubiquitous ritz and expensive glamour foster an atmosphere worth witnessing at least once.
Do: Shop the several independent French boutiques on Rue des Antibes (lots of chic menswear here). Amble around the town’s historic Le Suquet neighborhood and make your way up to the Musée de la Castre: a medieval fortress and castle with the best view in Cannes. If craving a dip into the Mediterranean, the lengthy stretch of beach lining La Croisette is an excellent place to set up shop.
Stay: Hotel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes exudes elegance and exhibits an old-world European-style glamour that makes you understand why the rich and famous vacation here. Right next door, and at a lesser cost per night though just as chic, is its sister hotel, Hotel Barrière Le Gray d’Albion; it’s the trendy younger sibling of the two, with its modernist-style décor.
Eat: While expensive — again, you knew that when you chose Cannes for a summer trip — Luigi is a supper club and piano bar with a winning decor. Imagine a 1950s-style, dimly-lit lounge with a low-level ceiling, burgundy-everything interior and nightly performer singing jazz classics.
St. Moritz, Switzerland
Ski destination or not, St. Moritz is a Swiss jewel. It has a charming city center with tons of shops and galleries, hiking trails galore and a picture-perfect lake. To say summer here is dreamy is an understatement.
Do: Pop into the galleries and shops making up the city center, check out the Leaning Tower of St. Moritz (yes, Pisa has a rival) and take the funicular up to Muottas Muagl, where alpine hiking and unparalleled views of St. Moritz and St. Moritz Lake await.
Stay: Though technically located in the neighboring village of Pontresina, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof is a St. Moritz staple, a historical, grande dame of a hotel that opened its doors in the early half of the 19th century. You’ll feel like alpine royalty when staying here. The 19th-century bowling alley serving Swiss Raclette is my favorite part of the hotel. Make sure to take a dip in the indoor infinity pool.
Eat: Grab traditional Swiss cuisine at Chesa al Parc, located in the beautiful Kulm Hotel.
This Balearic Isle is much more than DJ residencies. Its expansive natural landscapes, picture-perfect beaches, ivory-white small towns with cobblestone streets and old fincas hidden in olive tree mazes will change any pre-conceived “party-all-day” perception you harbored about Ibiza.
Do: My favorite beach in Ibiza is Ses Salinas. You can expect beautiful people, crystal-clear water and soft sand. Away from Ses Salinas, on Wednesdays, hit up Hippy Market Punta Arabi, which sells fun bohemian-inspired knickknacks and tchotchkes. Being that you’re in Ibiza, whether you like to go out or not, it would be a disservice to yourself (and the island) if you didn’t at least make one nightclub appearance (even if just for an hour). Head to Amnesia, one of Ibiza’s most iconic watering holes.
Eat: Casa Maca is this little outpost in rural Ibiza that celebrates farm-to-table cuisine through its artisanal coal barbeque (the seafood is fantastic). The bucolic outdoor patio setting calms any intensity you brought with you; yet again, another quiet island bolthole that breaks the stereotype of Ibiza being “just clubs and loud noise.”
Stay: The Standard, Ibiza is an excellent home base for your Ibizan escapades. Having just opened, its 53 rooms and suites feel boutiquey and unhurried.
Marrakesh, Morocco, is both multi-faceted and enchanting — from its main thoroughfare medina with merchants selling traditional craft (you’ll be tempted to buy a new rug for your apartment), to its high-end hospitality scene that often welcomes the world’s elite.
Do: The old city center medina’s winding passageways are lined with merchantries: places to buy North African-style tapestries, leather goods fresh from the tannery and and inlet restaurants that serve unrivaled couscous and tagine. Spend the afternoon walking around the botanical gardens and blue cubist villa that makes up Jardin Majorelle-Yves Saint Laurent Mansion — the former Moroccan hideaway of late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
Stay: La Mamounia is Marrakesh’s most legendary boutique hotel. Its five-star, Morish-style opulence sets the tone for your chic Moroccan vacation. The gardens are an idyllic place to soak up the desert sun. Those looking for some R&R can head to the spa and its traditional hammams for local-inspired treatments. If you need a break from Moroccan food, the restaurant here, L’Asiatique par Jean-Georges, has a fabulous summertime dim sum menu.
Eat: If you’re looking for a vibe that oozes Marrakesh, head to Dar Yacout in the city’s medina. Traditional food — tagine is always a good idea — served in an atmospheric courtyard.
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