As much as we’d all like to get away as much as possible, most of us just can’t ignore our daily responsibilities.
Whether it’s work, school or family, routine tends to get in the way. But that makes it even more important to think long-term so you can make travel a part of your life. Here are five incredible once-in-a-lifetime trips that you can research, plan and even book years in advance.
The total solar eclipse experience
Did you witness one of nature’s greatest displays during the Great American Eclipse of 2017? Although the entire country saw the moon take at least part of the sun, only about 10 million people could observe the “path of totality” that stretched from Oregon to South Carolina. Don’t worry if you missed it as there will be another one on 20 April 2023. You’ll just have to head to Australia for the whale shark watching paradise of Exmouth Peninsula and Ningaloo Reef off Australia’s Coral Coast Western, both on the road this year. North America gets another turn to view the celestial event on April 8, 2024. This eclipse will make its way through Mexico before crossing the US, traveling from Texas to Maine, passing right over Niagara Falls and in Canada through Ontario to Newfoundland.
Drive down Historic Route 66
This is your cue to plan a trip specifically to drive the infamous Route 66. The 2,448-mile drive from Chicago to Los Angelos, also known as the Will Rogers Highway, is one of the nation’s most iconic roads. The original Route 66 – designated in 1926 – began at a sign on Adams Street in Chicago, on the shores of Lake Michigan. It traveled through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona and ended up in the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California.
The highway was officially decommissioned in 1986, but travelers can still follow its original route, albeit with detours. However, this trip is mostly about American cities and attractions along the way anyway, making the extra few miles worthwhile. Stop at Route 66 Drive-in in Springfield, Illinois, for 1950s-style movies, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, and the quaint Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.
A cruise to the Galapagos Islands
Do you love animals? Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands – visited by Charles Darwin in 1835, which inspired his theory of evolution – are home to some of the world’s most unique species, including sea lions, flamingos, penguins and giant tortoises. Officials at Galápagos National Park go to great lengths to protect the landscape and the animals that call it home, limiting the number of islands that people can visit and the number of visitors that can come each year. But that’s what makes this such a stellar place for a pre-planned trip. For the ultimate experience, book a small boat cruise around the islands with a company like Ecoventura, which also offers a naturalist who takes guests on hikes and snorkeling trips to safely see all the majestic creatures in their habitats natural.
Sailing around Antarctica
It’s the coldest, most hostile continent on the planet, yet ice-covered Antarctica is a must on any travel bucket list. It’s expensive, but exploring the Great White Open is attainable, thanks to a cruise industry that has made one- and two-week itineraries routine. Generally booked at least a year in advance, cruises usually start in the world’s southernmost city, Ushuaia, Argentina. Passengers usually stop at the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. At each stop, travelers embark on a Zodiac (an inflatable boat) to see wildlife, reach overland on snowshoes, visit research stations and even go polar diving.
The price is also determined by the luxury on board and the size of your cabin. This is not your average luxury cruise; expect scientific lectures and lessons. Choose an expedition ship with a capacity of less than 250 passengers to limit environmental impact.
East African Safari
An East African safari is as dreamy a vacation as they come. You want to make the most of it, but luckily, you have time to plan. For those after the Big Five, a visit to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is essential, but don’t overlook the plains of Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park; Together, they make up the 11,500 square mile Serengeti ecosystem.
It is through this great corridor that the Great Wildebeest Migration of 1.5 million animals takes place during July and August. But if those months don’t work, plan a trip between January and March when the wild calves are born in the southern Serengeti.
Other game reserves, scenic stops, luxury lodges and additional experiences are usually included in the safari itineraries, which usually include a driver picking you up on a round trip from Nairobi (Kenya) or Arusha (Tanzania). Visitors can also add special moments like a hot air balloon ride to most safari trips, or go all out with a side visit to Rwanda or Uganda to trek and see mountain gorillas. Of course, there are plenty of other African places to go on safari, so if you really want to, you can start planning a second, third or fourth visit to the continent right now.