With Tax Day just behind us, many of us are looking forward to soon receiving a little something back from Uncle Sam. Are you in search of inspirational ideas on where to invest your tax refund? In travel. After all, you worked hard in 2014, so why not treat yourself to an awe-inspiring trip in 2015? Want three more great reasons? 1. If you’re considering vacationing in Europe – the Euro is unbelievably weak at present and might even inch closer to parity with the US dollar later in the year. 2. If you book a go-today vacation before April 30, 2015, you can take $100 off any air-inclusive vacation using the promo code of TAXTIME15 – and that’s per person. 3. There’s a school of thought that travel might actually be beneficial to your health.
If you’re starting to concede that a fabulous trip is the way forward, read on for five ideas of where your tax-refund travel adventures could take you.
The town of Amalfi, the Amalfi Coast
Where to go: Italy is home to some of Europe’s most sublime scenery. Decide if you prefer a cultural urban experience, a relaxing countryside experience – or a combination of both. If this is your first time to Italy, you can’t possibly go wrong with the trio of Rome, Florence and Venice. If you’ve already seen the must-see sights and still find yourself craving more of Italy – seek out one or two of its beautiful spots like the Amalfi Coast, the Cinque Terre, the Northern Lake District or an off-the-beaten corner of Tuscany.
What to see: Some of the world’s most impressive architecture, art museums, cathedrals and archaeological sites: Greek, Etruscan and Roman. Lovely squares, medieval hill towns, vivid Mediterranean beaches and a downright unforgettable ambience.
What to eat: While each region in Italy has its own authentic specialties, every visitor to Italy should partake in fresh seafood, traditional pasta and rice dishes, cured meats, pizza and gelato. Other favorites (of this blogger) include bean soups, steak (Florence), black truffles (Umbria), arancini (Sicily) and burrata (Puglia). If you’re interested in Italian cuisine, taking a cooking class or market tour in Italy is a great way to learn about regional dishes.
What to drink: Exceptional wines (including sweet, sparkling and port-like wines); liqueurs like amaretto, limoncello, and fragolino; vermouth (hello Martini!); grappa – and heavenly coffee.
What to buy: Italy isn’t known as a fashion capital for nothing. Fashionistas in search of la moda italiana will want to visit Milan and Florence (and go on outlet tours). However, when shopping in Italy, there is more to experience beyond Ferragamo, Armani, Prada, Valentino, Gucci, Versace, Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana. Florence in particular is famed for its leather markets. Elsewhere in Italy you’ll find gorgeous pottery (Tuscany), great antiques (Rome) and exquisite glassware, lace and handcrafted masks (Venice). Last but certainly not least, food products like olive oils, wines, hard cheeses and balsamic vinegars make for great souvenirs.
Click here to see all our travel packages to Italy.
The ancient Acropolis at sunset, Athens
Where to go: Even if ancient Greek temples, archaeological sites and fantastic Byzantine architecture aren’t your thing, everyone should plan on spending a night or two in Athens. From there many history buffs choose to spend more time on the mainland – often to visit the superb ancient sites of the Peloponnese peninsula – before cruising to Greece’s magnificent islands. If you intend to island hop while in Greece (and you should), Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and Rhodes are all popular choices. If time is pressing but you still want an island experience, make a day trip from Athens to the car-free island of Hydra.
What to see: Greece has something for everyone: history addicts, foodies, shoppers, sun worshippers, etc. Obviously your interests should shape your itinerary. There are 17 World Heritage Sites in Greece as well as several fantastic museums in Athens. The Acropolis Museum for one is a must-do. In addition to Greece’s ancient and medieval sights, one of its best attractions is simply the Aegean Sea and its host of mesmerizing islands.
What to eat: While you’ll find chic, innovative cuisine in many restaurants in Athens, we’re fans of Greece’s informal tavernas. Cozy, lively and often serving up tasty, grandma-prepared dishes, tavernas are a staple of Greek cuisine. When you dine in one, go for a good mix of the many wonderful appetizers called mezedes. You’ll also find a wealth of meat (lamb in particular) dishes along with fantastic seafood, salads, olives, yogurts, fresh cheeses and terribly good sweets, which are often made of honey and nuts.
What to drink: Drinking ouzo is a national pastime in Greece. This aperitif can be consumed straight or on the rocks. Wineries located on the island of Santorini and on the Peloponnese peninsula produce some very respectable wines for you to sample while in Greece. We must also say that the Greeks do amazing things with iced coffee, and if you plan to visit Greece over the summer, sipping a foamy, iced café frappe while gazing at the beach is an essential activity.
What to buy: jewelry, pottery, olive oils, honey, leather goods, wines and spices.
Click here to see all our travel packages to Greece.
Chateau de Chenonceau, the Loire Valley
Where to go: When deciding where to travel in France, truth be told – it’s hard to pick a bad spot. Favorites with American travelers include Paris, Provence and the French Riviera (the Côte d’Azur), the Bordeaux wine region, the Loire Valley and the Normandy beaches. If you’re a foodie at heart, get thee to Lyon!
What to see: France has almost 100 official National Monuments and a whopping 39 World Heritage Sites. In addition to its many cathedrals, palaces, castles and abbeys, France is also home to phenomenal museums and truly beautiful scenery; there’s a reason why so many artists, writers and musicians have found inspiration and settled in France.
What to eat: French cuisine varies dramatically by region and season. In Alsace you’ll find very German-like food (sausages and sauerkraut). Alpine regions of France are very generous with the cheese and potatoes and serve amazing winter dishes like raclette, fondue Savoyard and tartiflette. Farm-filled Normandy is hailed for its butters, cheeses (camembert) and creams. Provence is very Mediterranean, so think tomatoes, salads, goat cheeses, seafood and olive oil. A good way to summarize French cooking methods is the following: in the North – butter, in the South East – olive oil, in the South West – duck fat!
What to drink: France produces some of the world’s most prestigious wines. Top regions include Bordeaux, Burgundy (Bourgogne), the Rhône Valley, the Loire Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon. Sparkling wines are also extremely popular with those produced in Champagne being one of the country’s biggest exports. Other ideas: Normandy makes very good ciders, and you can find excellent local beers in Alsace.
What to buy: perfumes, soaps, lavender sachets and clothes – and again food and wine products make great souvenirs.
Click here to see all our travel packages to France.
Muckross House, Killarney National Park
Where to go: After a couple of days in Dublin, most travelers seek out Ireland’s spectacular natural landscapes. Popular areas include the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, Connemara National Park, The Burren, the Wicklow Mountains, MacGillycuddy’s Reeks and the Aran Islands. And don’t forget Northern Ireland’s famed sights like the Glens of Antrim and the Giant’s Causeway. To best capture this island’s immense beauty, many traveling to Ireland rent a car and base themselves in castle hotels, bed & breakfasts or farmhouse properties.
What to see: Ireland is rich in Neolithic archaeological sites like the Newgrange monument; located in the fertile Boyne River Valley, it is older than Egypt’s Pyramids of Giza! Other excellent cultural sights in Ireland include the monastery of Clonmacnoise, Trinity College Library (Dublin), Kylemore Abbey and Kilmainham Gaol (Dublin).
What to eat: At present Ireland has a frankly delicious, farm-to-table culinary phenomenon going on. Throughout the country you’ll find traditional Irish classics, pastries and dairy products made with the freshest of ingredients. In its cozy capital city of Dublin, you’ll find truly fine, innovative dining along with cheery, casual spots.
What to drink: Beer and whiskey. If you want to learn more about Ireland’s famous brew, Guinness, tour the brewery in Dublin. Whiskey fans will be pleased to encounter distilleries all over the island. Popular ones to visit include Jameson, Tullamore Dew and Bushmills.
What to buy: Ireland’s woolen knitwear is legendary. Other classic choices include Belleek Pottery and Waterford Crystal.
Click here to see all our travel packages to Ireland.
Sunset in Costa Rica
Where to go: Despite being the same size as a combined Vermont and New Hampshire, Costa Rica is a Hercules of biodiversity, and as it’s compact, you can relax on its picture-perfect beaches (Caribbean and Pacific), trek to active volcanoes and explore rainforests – all on the same vacation.
What to see: Outside of San José’s fantastic cultural attractions, popular natural areas to visit include Arenal National Park, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve and Manuel Antonio National Park. Are you an active traveler? Soak in hot springs, raft down the Savegre River, go birdwatching, zip line through the Arenal Rainforest – or take a boat trip to Damas Island!
What to eat: While its cuisine is decidedly not fancy (rice, beans, fish, meat, ceviche, yuca, tasty little meat pies, fried plantains, etc.), Costa Rica does have a mighty cornucopia of exciting tropical fruits.
What to drink: With all those great fruits, it’s no surprise that Costa Rica has some pretty rockin’ juices. What else? The fresh coconut water is divine. Beer and rum are very popular alcoholic beverages.
What to buy: pottery, furniture, carved masks and coffee.
Click here to see all our travel packages to Costa Rica.
We hope these travel ideas have given you food for thought on how to best use your tax refund. Regarding our current $100 promotion, below is the fine print:
- Use the promo code TAXTIME15 to take $100 off any air-inclusive vacation.
- That’s $100 off per person.
- You must book by April 30, 2015.
- This promo isn’t valid for custom group bookings, it can’t be combined with other offers and it can’t be used on existing reservations.
How can you book? Online at go-today.com or over the phone (free of charge) at (800) 227-3235.