Domestic Travel On My Mind (Post COVID-19)

Filed Under: Travel

I’m not yet at the point where I’m planning any travel for the next few months, though I most definitely am at the point where I’m thinking about travel. I’m sure I’m not alone, as I’ve been thinking about it since day one of social distancing. 😉

With that in mind, I wanted to share what’s on my mind right now when it comes to future travel, share some specific recommendations, and also ask you guys for tips.

I’m expecting to travel domestically first

Once it’s responsible to travel again — whenever that might be — I most definitely am anticipating to be able to travel domestically well ahead of being able to travel internationally. That’s because it seems like border closures are here to stay for the time being.

While I have a lot of amazing international trips I’m hoping to eventually take, at the moment I’m turning my focus to thinking about domestic travel. That’s almost a refreshing change of pace, because I’ve spent so many years focused on international travel.

As I think about where I’d like to eventually go, my thoughts are as follows:

  • I’d preferably like to stick to the lower 48; while Hawaii is awesome, I could see Hawaii in particular continuing to have special restrictions that differ from those in the mainland
  • This is my own bias, but personally I’m much more excited at the prospect of going to a secluded area and/or a resort in a smaller town; I wasn’t a big city person going into all of this, and am even less of a city person after all of this

My favorite US points hotels I’ve stayed at

While the US has some great city hotels, I’ll ignore them in this post, because like I said, I personally like to avoid big cities. If you want to go to a major city, there are going to be solid points hotels.

As I think about my favorite points hotels I’ve stayed at in the lower 48, a few come to mind:

  • Alila Ventana Big Sur can be booked with Hyatt points, and is absolutely amazing; if I hadn’t already been, this is the first place I would plan on going, because I loved it that much
  • Las Alcobas Napa Valley can be booked with Marriott points, and I both liked the hotel and liked Napa Valley a lot more than I was expecting
  • The St. Regis Aspen and W Hotel Aspen can be booked with Marriott points; personally I love Aspen, as it has a small town feel and lots of nature
  • The St. Regis Deer Valley can be booked with Marriott points; while I slightly prefer Aspen to Deer Valley, Deer Valley still has a ton of awesome hiking in summer

Alila Ventana Big Sur

Big Sur, California

Hotels I would like to stay at

Again, I’m focusing entirely on hotels not in big cities. Let me start by briefly mentioning three US hotels I’d love to stay at, but which can’t be booked with points, and which are typically outrageously expensive:

I mention those just to be thorough, since I’d say all three easily rank among the top leisure hotels in the US.

But more specific to redeeming points, I’m now thinking about US points hotels I’d love to stay at, and especially ones I could visit with my mom.

One that comes to mind is the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Lake Oconee, which is located in Georgia and can be booked with points. This could be a pretty drive from Florida, and seems like a nice change of scenery.

Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee

What I’d love to hear some thoughts on is Miraval properties. In 2017 Miraval joined Hyatt:

Miraval Berkshires

These are all wellness resorts where rates include food, non-alcoholic drinks, and most rates also include activities. You can redeem World of Hyatt points at these properties, though the redemption rates aren’t cheap.

A stay for two people costs 65,000 World of Hyatt points per night, which is a lot, but that includes the room, all meals, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages, and a $175 resort credit per person.

This is where I’d love some advice. For anyone who has stayed at a Miraval property, how was it? Was it worth it and actually fun? How long would you stay? Which of the existing locations is better?

Miraval Austin

Landmarks I would like to see

Hotels aside, I’d really like to visit the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore. I think the Grand Canyon is pretty self explanatory, while I’m actually not even sure why I want to see Mount Rushmore.

Am I crazy for even considering a trip to Mount Rushmore, and if not, what are the logistics of that actually like? It seems like there might be a Holiday Inn Express about an hour away, but I’m not sure if there’s a better plan here that I’m missing. 😉

Bottom line

While I’m not ready to plan anything yet, I continue to dream about travel once this is all over, and strongly believe that domestic travel will return before international travel.

With that, I’d love to open this up to you guys. Where are you excited to visit domestically once this is all over, whether that’s a city or nature? Are there any awesome points hotels in nature/outside of big cities that I’m missing? What are your favorite points hotels in the US? Are Miraval properties worth going to?

My biggest tip is to consider a trip to Alila Ventana Big Sur with Hyatt points, because we really had such an amazing time there, and I was kicking myself for not having gone earlier…

Comments
  1. I took a weekend trip out to Rapid City (my last trip before becoming a father) to see Mt. Rushmore. To be honest, Mt. Rushmore was the least impressive part of the sights that I saw – I spent all of 5 minutes taking in the view before leaving. At least when I visited in mid-summer 2019, there was a good amount of construction going on as well. The still-in-progress Crazy Horse monument is more impressive IMO, and the geographic starkness / almost-alien nature of the Badlands was the highlight.

    RAP is a nice little airport, and I appreciated that the airside bar had a swipe-to-fill machine for craft beer.

  2. We just booked a Labor Day trip to the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek, CO, for the exact same reason as you! Couldn’t have thought of a better way to escape than to fly into Denver and drive into the mountains. We haven’t yet had a chance to stay at the St. Regis in Aspen, we may have to try that next time!

    If only they’d take advantage of all this down time at DEN to finish up that Centurion Lounge! 😉

  3. Western South Dakota has a lot more to see than Mount Rushmore. From Rapid City you are near the Black Hills, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, and Custer State Park (one of my favorite state parks). Your could also visit Devils Tower National Monument 1.5 hours away in Northeast Wyoming.

    Eastern South Dakota, however, doesn’t have much to offer.

  4. I’ve been looking at Mt. Rushmore myself, and there are some various chain hotels including some full service properties in Rapid City, SD.

  5. Very looking forward to the reviews of the two Amans! They’re also on my bucket list once my parents can come to the US and join me on a road trip!

  6. I can’t find any award availability for las alcobas this summer which I find very hard to believe.

  7. “Excited” and “domestic travel” don’t fit together. Nothing to see in this dumpster fire of a sh$tshow of a “country” except for bigots, racists, ignoramuses, xenophobes, imbeciles and religious zealots. This is one of the worst countries in the world, based on any objective measure, and one of the most hateful societies ever to have existed in this world.

    Save your points, save your money until one can travel again to a place that has any sort of resemblance to a civilized society.

  8. I’d agree with previous comments on MR and Black Hills don’t get you expectations too high on MR. I would like to see Crazy Horse though 🙂

  9. Also, I live in Atlanta and I wouldn’t recommend the Ritz Lake Oconee – I’ve stayed there and it’s really dated. The pool and the lake are nice but that’s about it.

  10. Looking forward to visiting hotel Domestique in Travelers Rest, SC. It was founded by George Hincapie, who did his Tour training in the area and offers world class cycling in an almost European environment.

  11. I would think once we’re allowed to travel in 2020 the national parks, landmarks and any normal summer travel destination will be a total mob scene. More so than previous summers… assuming we can travel this summer.

  12. I’ve heard the same reports about Mount Rushmore from others. Almost everyone said it’s not worth it plus that it’s much smaller than you expect.

  13. @Lucky- somewhat unrelated, but can you do a post about hotel loyalty program category / point changes? We saw a big push over the past several months by Marriott in particular to move hotels up to higher categories, plus raise the number if points required. Thus, we made numerous advance bookings including Edition Barcelona which will likely now get canceled as it’s summer travel. I think Marriott and others should retroactively rewind these changes to promote additional bookings, and in fairness to all those who had bookings over the summer with the previous award requirements. Just a thought but a post could promote some attention around this and get these programs to reconsider the changes they’ve made. Thanks!

  14. I’d echo those that said Mt Rushmore wasn’t all that great. I enjoyed Wind Cave, Devil’s Tower, and the Minuteman silo much more. As for hotels, I was pleasantly surprised by the Hotel Alex Johnson. Of course I also like those kind of old storied hotels (like the Marcus Whitman in Walla Walla, WA or the Davenport in Spokane, WA).

    While I love international travel, I really like exploring the small and medium size cities in the US. There is just so much to see, even if it means some less than top rated hotels.

  15. What if… we used this pause as an opportunity to take a hard look at our “need” to travel so often? I think history will look back on the time of relatively cheap airfare and getting on a plane for a weekend trip overseas as the anomaly.

    Being interested in travel doesn’t make anyone interesting… drive-by trips to other cultures rarely add intellectual depth… but even still, who doesn’t like to travel? I sure do like a little escape every so often. But for the sake of our world health and environment, what if we… found ways to find self-worth and interest beyond traveling tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of miles every year?

    I realize this is a travel blog, and I appreciate it for that, but it is encouraging a very “one-note” and world-destructive lifestyle for many others…

  16. Re your question, if anyone has ever stayed at a Miraval property, I was just watching the Real Housewives of New Jersey season 5 cast trip and it was at the Miraval at Arizona.

  17. We already had hotels booked in Hawaii for October before I ever heard of COVID19. I have my outbound flight booked but will only book the return if/when waivers begin to cover that period. It’s funny you mention Rushmore as I’d already mentioned it as an alternative if we can’t go to Hawaii. Beside the other nearby places I’ve heard the Teddy Roosevelt park is also worth visiting.

  18. @J: “But for the sake of our world health and environment, what if we… found ways to find self-worth and interest beyond traveling tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of miles every year?”

    Agreed. Travel is a pleasure, so is having children and eating meat, and all are destructive to different extents to world health and the environment. The world doesn’t need a growing population; nor does it need the meat consumption. Unless one is willing to give up all pleasures, including having children and eating meat, best not to preach, especially on a blog dedicated to the guilty pleasure of travel.

  19. Ben – since you mentioned Big Sur, I wanted to share a recommendation in the event you return. We stayed at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur two years ago in late April/early May. It’s a truly special place. Pricey – roughly $7500 for three nights in the ocean rooms on the cliff side (with the grass roofs) but we still felt like they delivered value for that price. Last summer we went to the FS Lanai and loved it too, but Post Ranch sticks out to us as our favorite. Hard to put a finger on what it is about that place….the deer grazing on the cliff side outside our room as we arrived, the wild turkeys strolling through, the walks through the woods, the service, the views….but worth it for a once in a lifetime experience.

  20. Go to Nantucket. There are no points hotels on the island, but it’s all about biking and nature and swimming in the ocean. It’s fantastic. Stay at the Wauwinet if you want to be remote. Or in town at the White Elephant, Roberts Collection, or Verandah House. It’s fantastic.

  21. @ Jason H – I stayed at Hotel Alex Johnson. Central location in ‘downtown’ Rapid City (it’s a fairly small town), but outside of the somewhat-kitschy lobby, I thought it was vastly overpriced for the hotel room itself. The entry door barely fit the frame (didn’t really shut that well), furnishings well overdue for a refurbishing, and everything felt kind of rickety and run-down.

  22. Second Alila Ventana. It’s amazing, tucked away in Big Sur although it’s a sit around and relax kind of vacation as there’s very little to do nearby.

  23. Likewise agree that Mount Rushmore is likely to be a disappointment. The Grand Canyon, however, will likely exceed your expectations.

  24. I agree with everyone above, Mount Rushmore is alright, but I wouldn’t make a special trip.

    If you like Aspen, I highly recommend Telluride, which is just as beautiful and a bit more down to earth. It’s awesome in the summer if you’re looking for a quiet getaway. It’s also close to Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Mesa Verse national parks. Not sure about points hotels in the area.

  25. I had the same impression of Mount Rushmore as others here, but the rest of Western SD was great. Badlands is great, as are the Black Hills and I also surprisingly enjoyed stopping by Wall Drug more than Mount Rushmore, as cheesy as it is. Someone mentioned Devil’s Tower as well, which is worth checking out.

    I also want to echo what someone said about Post Ranch Inn. I stayed there in August for two nights, right after staying at Ventana. I loved Ventana, and Post Ranch Inn is a whole other level. Waking up looking over the cliffs watching the sunrise as fog rolls in from the ocean is, for lack of a better word, magical. I am not sure I would choose to stay there every time I go to Big Sur (I try to return every few years, as it’s really one of my favorite places) given that Ventana is also so great and can be booked on points. But it’s totally worth a stay at least once.

  26. Eastern Georgia is beautiful and it’s a nice drive up there. You could take the A1A to Savannah enjoying the coast, and then turn inland and see the dense vegetation and lakes until you get to the hills and mountains in Northern Goergia.

    Currently driving from Orlando to Atlanta on I75. It’s all land and small towns for miles and miles.

    And the Ritz Lake Oconee is really nice from what I’ve heard. It’s a nice change of pace from city hotels.

  27. Stayed at Miraval in Austin this past February right before the outbreak. We spent 4 days/3 nights at the property which seemed like a good amount of time. We checked in Tuesday and checked out Friday and the place was nearly empty. On Thursday someone told us there were 35 guests and they can hold about 200. So all of the courses/classes we took were mostly private (just wife and I) or sometimes 1-2 other people at most. We still keep in touch with 2-3 of the staff members we met as they were super nice and still giving us some advice along our way.

    4 days/3 nights was a good amount of time to really check out and relax. I think if it was a shorter trip it would not have been as effective and maybe you would feel a bit more rushed to do certain activities

    The food was all really good and plenty available all day. The classes/courses were all very interesting and going in I thought it would not be my thing. We wanted an all inclusive for a few days and did not want to go to a typical island resort. And Miraval delivered. Great service, clean facilities, great staff, etc.

    We used Chase points transferred to Hyatt. I guess because the place was so empty they gave us a nice room upgrade too.

    That said we met a few guests who have stayed at both Austin and AZ Miraval and they all said hands down AZ is better. We have friends in Austin so head there often (we went into the city for a few nights after we checked out of Miraval). We also live in the Northeast, so I’d probably check out the Berkshires one when things settle down. And when we visit friends again we’d probably do Miraval Austin. Not sure we would go out of our way though to go to the AZ one even though it gets better reviews than the Austin one.

  28. I’m addition to Nantucket, I second what Ryan says about Telluride. It’s absolutely amazing. Very remote but the effort to get there is rewarded by an amazing town and fantastic mountain location. Great in both summer and winter. It’s by far my favorite place to ski in winter. You’ll love it in summer.

  29. As a European semi-obsessed with the US, I’m very, very jealous of everything the US has to offer in terms of domestic travel. I have been fortunate enough to visit all US states (most of them many times) and my fiancée and I making great progress on visting all national parks as well. We have a five week trip booked this summer to, among other things, Badlands National Park and Custer State Park, and we’re so bummed out about probably not being able to visit this time. We’ve reluctantly booked a backup trip here in Sweden but everything here looks pretty much the same, so while beautiful it’s difficult to see something ”new” (and our hotels are downright awful compared to oversees) as you can in the US. I would recommend Kanab, Utah and the surrounding national parks. Amangiri looks awesome!

  30. If you want to stay domestic, theres always the virgin islands!

    Alaska could be an interesting opportunity this year. The cruise lines have cancelled their Alaska season, which means Denali National Park will be empty.

  31. Lucky

    Was at Blackberry Farm the week before the US started putting shelter in place orders up.

    It is one of the most incredible places I’ve been to and is super relaxing! The food and service are absolutely incredible.

    It is a R&C property and the benefit through Visa Infinite is about 20% off certain times of the year.

    Food and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the nightly rate.

  32. @ryan. I am Australian but have been to telluride I think 5 times. I love it. Have you found any points hotels there?

  33. If you’re going to Mt. Rushmore, I stayed at the Home2Suites in Rapid City last year and found it to be better than the average H2S.

    We live in Colorado and rarely travel regionally, so we are considering Wyoming, Montana, and Utah options that we hope can be realistic Memorial Day plans if those states begin openly inviting visitors. We’re also considering Alaska in early July if things are going well.

    We have a trip that was already booked to rural Scotland in early August that we hope can continue. It looks about 50/50 right now as the Scottish regional government has closed a lot of rural establishments to visitors until mid-July.

  34. I stayed at both Mirival properties and would say they are absolutely worth it but extremely expensive. Even with the 175 resort credit, you will still be paying hundreds of dollars in activities (as not many are free). And spa treatments (expensive but a must). Food is included (room service $15 delivery fee), and is very good, most changes daily so isn’t same stuff. Meals are very different though at both properties.

    The other thing to be aware of is while there is fast WiFi, Mirival is a device free property, outside the room, except in designated areas you can’t use your phone or computer.

    The rooms are also small for the amount it cost. Activities are really good but need to book many in advanced.

    Arizona is bigger and has more to do but Tucson is harder to fly to though but both have Free airport shuttles.

    Also at Mirival, Hyatt benefits are limited like I don’t believe you can get late checkout.

    Overall I would recommend it but Mirival like canyon ranch are wellness resorts and are very different from some of the other resorts you reviewed.

    Also don’t expect 5 star service despite the price

  35. I would recommend Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley. It has a beautiful setting, great spa, and lots of hiking trails around and inside the resort. Obviously being in the wine country, you can also go to plenty of wineries around the resort. Lots of great restaurant in the vicinity as well.

  36. As a whitewater kayaker the Middle Fork Salmon in Idaho is one of the finest river trips you can ever experience in the world. It is my annual escape for five days. Living on the river and moving downstream each day is better than any luxury hotel you will ever experience. And pretty sure the last thing on your mind will be coronavirus.

    My friend James Ellsworth runs a raft company for those who want guiding and to be taken care of for the five nights. Middle Fork River Expeditions. It’s the go to company for this incredible experience in one of the most beautiful canyons in the world.

    Late June is an ideal time for those on guided rafts.

  37. How about Asheville? It’s a city, but not a “big” city, and the Aloft is dog friendly for Winston!

    If you go to Aspen, make the drive to Snowmass, too. It’s so pretty.

  38. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Rapid City – Rushmore Plaza when visiting Mount Rushmore. It’s probably as nice a place as you’re going to find in Rapid City. There’s not much to do in Rapid City, so you could include a drive to the iconic Wall Drug Store 50 minutes away from there by car. Crazy Horse, Devil’s Tower and the Badlands are all worth seeing. If you’re interested in a scenic road trip, consider continuing your journey from Devil’s Tower on to the Grand Tetons, south of Yellowstone. You’ll find accommodations at all levels, the scenery is quite breathtaking and it’s a great place for hiking. It also tends to be less crowded than Yellowstone. Renting a small boat for a day outing on Jenny Lake in the Tetons could prove to be one of the most enjoyable activities of a lifetime. Two nights in Rapid City should be plenty– save most of your time for the Tetons.

  39. Don’t know how Miraval Berkshires will turn out although I’ve been to the property before it was turned into Miraval a bunch of times and even stayed there once via Priceline back in the day. Grew up 20 minutes away and the Berkshires are overall a hidden gem. Tons of hiking and outdoor activities. Loads of restaurants. Upscale but not pretentious or over the top like the Hamptons or Aspen. Dorinda

  40. …from RHONY has a place in Great Barrington that is 15 minutes away from the new Miraval so maybe you could drop by for a visit 🙂

  41. If you go to see Mt Rushmore, I’d recommend a trip to see the missile silos which are about 60 miles East of Rapid City on I-90.

  42. @Jay

    everything in moderation. Glorifying 100,000+ miles a year without consideration for its effects is not that.

  43. You should definitely visit Jackson. You have been saying for the last couple of years that you like nature oriented trips, and Jackson is right next to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone. Although if you want to maximize your Yellowstone trip, staying inside the park would save you a lot of time. If you avoid June 1-Sept 1 the crowds should be much less, both in the parks and in Jackson.

  44. Vermont is great if you want nature and quaint small towns. There’s The Equinox, Luxury Collection in Manchester VT, and The Lodge at Spruce Peak in Stowe recently joined Hyatt. Fly into Albany (nonstop from FLL JetBlue/SW) to explore Southern VT.

  45. @Robin Tell us what you really think about America the Not So Beautiful. I think you left out a derogatory adjective or two. Would like to know what slew of bad American experiences prompted your tirade.

  46. Lucky, maybe not your thing but deluxe ranches can be fun experiences amidst beauty and, if you want it, peace and quiet. Four of the best are Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, MT, The Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg, MT, Three Forks Ranch, Savery, WY. and Magee Homestead, Saratoga, WY.

  47. Hate to be a broken record but yes, Mt. Rushmore that not that interesting but since we were traveling from Iowa to the mountain west we decided to make a stop. Traveling across South Dakota, spending a night at the overpriced Best Western in Wall, the monument was kind of a . Then again doing that travel with three teenagers who were about as excited as ever (not) to see the monument didn’t make it any better.

    I also found lodging in the entire state of South Dakota to be vastly overpriced for what you get. Same goes for some parts of Wyoming and I am not even talking about places like Jackson.

  48. Mount Rushmore itself is meh.

    Crazy Horse is impressive. Needles highway is awesome.

    Devil’s Tower (across the border in WY) is one of the coolest natural landmarks I have seen anywhere – US or abroad.

  49. Go camping in the Black Hills for a week then book the Holiday Inn for a night to see Mt. Rushmore. It will feel like a Ritz after a week of camping. At least it did for me 20 years ago.

  50. I tell all my friends that Mt Rushmore is similar to the leaning tower of Pisa. If you just need to checklist items around the world go ahead and see it, but if you could be doing something else in the area that day then don’t even worry about it and go enjoy the other offerings. As others have said – the outdoors in SD/ND can be spectacular but Rapid City area is not the best.

  51. Why is a hotel or resort a destination ?
    Maybe this new economy would be an opportunity to let the airline dust settle and get out and make the trip slower and the scenes longer lasting ?
    Drive to some of these American destinations and eat local and stay local and talk to local people and get a feel for what the general mood is and how we will go forward. Be friendly and smile a lot. Drink the local beers and keep a little mellow smoke at hand for the ride and the sights. Turn the internet down a notch or two and gain some insight. You might be changing direction in the near future thru no fault of your own. Do some thinking and soul searching and above all , demand that you find something to humor your outlook and make you laugh.
    We’re all on a one way to the grave with no connections or layovers. Life is short.
    Try something different. You will be awarded with personal points that pay off in later years.
    Maybe use a straw to drink champagne if you must while you query yourself about pecan logs and the last sign you saw. Sometimes getting lost is more than going in the right direction.
    At least you can carry all the luggage you want and sing out loud.
    l

  52. Yellowstone and Crater Lake are amazing national parks. I actually worked as a waitress in Yellowstone during my college summers (Fishing Bridge). Take a road trip. My husband and I traveled all over the West before we had kids. It’s even more fun now that you can listen to pod casts. All we had was AM radio. I know, that dates us. (I almost forgot – take in Monument Valley!)

  53. I was planning to visit Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone in Sept with my folks but seems a fairly remote possibility if borders still closed by then – plus if no vaccine by then they probably can’t go flying 🙁

  54. “I wasn’t a big city person going into all of this, and am even less of a city person after all of this”.

    Ben, whatever happened to your supposed love for Tokyo and Hong Kong? No more fond memories of Paris?

    Of course to each his own. But I have to take issue with the “after this” part, which I’m sure we will be hearing more and more about. Let me just say this: the big, dense city I call home (Hong Kong) is one of the safest places in the world at the moment, with local infections down to basically zero and only 4 deaths after 4 months of this affair. And oh, we never had lockdown here – shops and restaurants are open, transit running, and most people still go to work every day.

    HK at the moment proves that big cities are not inevitable infection hubs, as long as people are reasonable and governments competent, both of which I know are big asks. Unfortunately HK’s immunity does not extend to other spheres, as proven by the preceding months of civil unrest driven by unreasonable people (on both sides) and incompetent government. But that’s a whole other story.

  55. I enjoyed Mt Rushmore, but we had access to a helicopter and saw it up close and personal so I’m sure that was a big part of the reason.

  56. On another note, the era of social distancing really makes me enjoy Residence Inns, especially the 1.0 versions which are very detached.

  57. Could there be a tour of properties directly located in United States National parks. There’s actually quite a few “luxury” hotels in national parks, and I would enjoy your reviews on them.

    El Tovar lounge comes to mind in the Grand Canyon, has a restaurant in it that’s actually amazing.

    The actual properties from what I’ve seen online have the quality of a mid-tier Comfort Inn, but actually have great service.

  58. As a skier, I would highly recommend Big Sky, Jackson Hole or Telluride over Aspen or Deer Valley. Both are truly destination resorts, (versus being close to Denver or Salt Lake City) and are both close to cute small towns and National Parks. To me they feel more genuine, and less “corporate luxury” like in the aforementioned places. Kinda like how Squaw and Northstar differ in Tahoe despite both being the two nicest resorts there.

  59. The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay can be added to the list of secluded resorts.

    It’s not very far from SFO but at the same time very distant secluded and as amazing resort.

  60. I don’t see any point to visiting Tucson. There are tons of nice places in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, etc. area with 30 minutes of the airport. Including places like the Phoenician.

    No offense to people in Tucson but it is a good 90 minute, without traffic drive there

  61. Well I’m obviously biased as I live in eastern South Dakota. Sioux Falls airport is served by the 3 major airlines as well as Allegiant and Frontier. The city of Sioux Falls has a great downtown with easy access to the town’s namesake (Falls Park) and some unique and wonderful eating establishments. The 4 and a half hour drive west across the state is easy. The view as you approach the grand Missouri River which bisects the state is a sight to behold. The Badlands are otherworldly and worth a stop. The Black Hills hold a lot of treasures and though I’ve been there dozens of times I still haven’t seen and done anything. Mount Rushmore is certainly worth a stop. There are multiple hiking and biking trails. One of the best times to be there is the fall with the fall colors. The Buffalo round up in Custer State Park in October is an amazing experience.

  62. I too am aching to travel. I think the Germans even have a special word for it. I feel like a zombie just staying In LA even though There’s beautiful weather now and there’s a lot more space than most cities …I am so over and done with this place.I haven’t done as much domestic travel either….Napa could be nice, But I prefer wine tasting in Italy or France. I have spent a lot of time in Big Sur at a place called Esalen In the past…i always prefer cities where I can walk and use public transport. I don’t have the miles nor the funds as a solo traveler To stay at expensive resorts and frankly I would rather be out then staying in a hotel.Lake Tahoe sounds good I’ve never been there as well as the Grand Canyon. There are some great national parks in southern Utah. But I too am thinking about places like Scotland or a walk in the Cotswolds. ..There’s an adventure company called Row That has kayaking tours all around the world that I’ve been wanting to do. But my first choice if I can will be just to go to Mexico. The energy is so good down there , the weather is great the people are friendly and I love the variety of things to do…There’s a lot of birdwatching down on the Pacific coast or even the Yucatan coast..I thrive on travel…like the author, if I could just travel all year long,,,that would be a fine way to spend the rest of my life…ready to go to Japan !, losing our freedoms in this insane lockdown

  63. My Friend and I stayed at Miraval Austin soon after it opened and even though it wasn’t 100% ready we loved it! Food across the board was excellent and many healthy choices. The activities were amazing! We did archery, hiking, challenge course, cardio drumming, healing chimes. And discussion w a person on mayan world view. This is not my typical trip but the choice of activities was great and the instructors really new their topics.

    The room was decently sized with my friend and I each having our own queen bed. The bedding is probably the best I’ve ever slept in. I had a spa experience that was fabulous too and was covered by the 175 per day price. We live in the north east and are now planning to check out miraval berkshire. Can’t wait!

  64. I would consider this a good opportunity to maybe try something different from your normal travels and consider a continental road trip.

    A lot of the fun is in seeing/doing what you weren’t expecting. Planning ahead is a fool’s errand at this point so I would be considering this approach and no reason why the Mt rushmore area can’t be one of your stops.

  65. Robin!
    Feel free to take your whining little backside and move anywhere in the world that suits your fancy.
    I doubt anyone will miss you!

  66. How about stepping out of your comfort zone for your Mom..rent or buy a 2 bedroom 2 bath RV…GO WHERE THE ROAD TAKES YOU…you can take lessons and be a pro in 2 or 3 days …flat tow a car and good to go… hit all her bucket lists..at her pace and speed…I am female 70 with cancer and having my own bed ..pillows ..blankets is something all I want somedays…but waking up to someplace new is amazing! Even if all I can do is set and look or walk the dog is all the excitement I need that day. Spending quality times cards games laughs…and on the road is even more exciting. Nice hotels are great and you can still stop at some but just stopping places you never would is even better…meeting great friendly people..just a couple lawn chairs out front saying hi to everyone can be exciting. Just my opinion for some great travel time!! And showing love to Mom and Dad…

  67. Hello from Italy.
    My 2 friends die from corona.
    Please be careful.
    Wash hands and don’t go out.

  68. Your very lucky ( ) living in a big country with so much nice cities and nature! Did countless round trips through almost all states (except Alaska and Hawaii) including 2 cross country trips; northern and southern route. Visited some of the states 10+ times.

    Very high on my list is Hawaii. Had that planned for July/august, not sure if this is possible. ☹
    Amangiri is also a hotel which I like to visit. Although still cannot afford it. Maybe we can negotiate a group rate.

    Let me know if you need specific information about a region or city. Happy to help! Big fan of canyon region meaning Nevada, Arizona, Utah and so on.

  69. Robin, pretty sad that in 25+ years in the US you experienced only horribles. Why are you still here? Where would you prefer to live?

  70. If you got Fox Nation, and really interested about nature and domestic travel, then you might want to watch a few episodes of Park’d by Abby Hornacek, she talks everything about many amazing national parks inside America. That could be real useful if you wanted to check out national parks (and probably find some amazing points hotels around those parks)

  71. Arizona resident here… Second @Timothy’s comment about El Tovar within Grand Canyon NP. The only real points hotel is a Holiday Inn in Tusayan, which is great only because it’s a good way to use our IHG 40K certificates, but the hotel itself is a huge meh. El Tovar is fantastic, and worth several nights. My biggest recommendation for the GC is to avoid weekends and holidays, and hike at least an hour below the rim each day. It’s gorgeous throughout, but less than 10% of visitors actually leave the rim, and the perspectives change within minutes. Bring plenty of water and hike to Ooh Aah Point on the South Kaibab Trail as well as 1 1/2 Mile Rest House on the Bright Angel Trail. If you wanted to combine with a longer AZ trip, Sedona is gorgeous and I like the Hilton Bell Rock Resort for redeeming the Aspire $250 resort credit.

    As for Mount Rushmore, I agree that many of the other sites are impressive and worth your time, but I found Rushmore to be great as well. Try to attend a ranger presentation and watch the film – gives you a greater appreciation and perspective than just looking at the monument from afar.

  72. @Matt S:

    The only interesting thing about the tower in Pisa is the wear pattern on the steps.

    Really makes you think about how old it is.

  73. I highly recommend Miraval as a trip to take with your mom. I have been to Miraval Austin twice and Miraval Arizona five times. I love them both. Austin is smaller and doesn’t have as many activities but for a 3 or 4 night stay there will be plenty to do. Also, Austin is often less expensive if you are paying rather than using points. Last November I stayed on a special they offered, 3rd night free. Both offer a 5th night free option year-round, again if you are paying money rather than points. The key to having a great trip is to do some planning ahead of time. Look at the daily schedule, which is available 3 months ahead of time and call the property to sign up for the activities you want to do, as some may fill up. The Cardio Drumming class and the classes with horses at the Arizona location are very popular.

    What I really appreciate about Miraval is once I arrive at the airport, I don’t have to worry about anything until it is time to fly back. Transportation to and from the property is included, all. meals are provided, and tips are not allowed. You can be as active or inactive as you want. They offer hiking, challenge courses, mountain biking, climbing walls, HiiT classes as well as yoga, meditation, art therapy, photography, and cooking classes.

    If you want to start or change your exercise routine, I highly recommend a session with the exercise physiologist, Kristi Weber, at the Arizona location. She will determine your fat/lean composition and do a treadmill test with a heart monitor to determine your maximum heart rate and come up with a realistic exercise program for you. I think it costs $150. and you can use the daily credit to cover it.

    I always come back from a visit there truly relaxed.

  74. I agree with @Janis Kramer.
    Take your parents and Winston on an amazing road trip. The RV idea sounds cool, but if that’s too much just do hotels.
    Its a chance to give back to them and take them places in the US and Canada that they’ve wanted to go but maybe now that they are older it’s less feasible.

    My own mom and my sister wouldn’t fly somewhere and visit national parks in their own. So last summer I planned and booked everything and all they had to do was get from home to their departure airports and get on the plane to DEN and I took care of everything else. Sometimes we used points and sometimes we paid. Sometimes we were in national park lodges or cabins and other days we were in towns nearby in chain properties. We brought a cooler and camping stove and some utensils and bought some propane canisters after we got on the ground. Some of the best memories were cooking a lunch or dinner by a mountain lake and sometimes it was sandwiches and salad. We saw many of the places mentioned in the comments by other readers and they were all wonderful in their own way. We covered 6 states and 4,000+ miles in 18 days, we visited I think 15 or 16 National Park Service locations including some that were bucket list items for all of us. We did some small hikes within the physical limitations of my mom and sister and within our time limits. We saw mountains, rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, canyons, tons of wildlife, starry night skies and enjoyed lots of fresh air. The scenic driving was major relaxation therapy for me.

    My family was so appreciative of the chance and we had great quality time together rather than just visiting my mom’s home for a week and having a cup of tea in her living room.

    I enjoyed that trip as much as any trip I have had to Hong Kong, Paris, etc….

  75. The wealth of natural beauty in MT, WY, CO and UT beggars description and we end up visiting one of those states every year.

    This year we are headed to Triple Creek Ranch at Darby, MT in September.
    It’s all inclusive (food, drinks, shuttle etc.) including all indoor and outdoor activities, such as hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, archery, fishing etc. With some luck, may catch couple of rainbow trouts or walleyes.

  76. We love TCR. Were there last August. Have you tried The Ranch at Rick Creek, Three Forks Ranch, or Magee Homestead? TCR is probably the better value.

  77. My perspective on Mount Rushmore is that the above posters are correct about the monument site itself. You come out of the visitor’s center, fight through the crowds, look up and there it is. It’s one of those things that you do it once to say you’ve done. But…….if you take the right side roads in the area just outside of the monument, you can get some different perspectives of Mount Rushmore that are very peaceful and very different. Such as seeing a side view of the presidents from a quiet pine forest. That part was cool because it’s different.

    That said, there’s a lot to see in western SD, including many other sites. Don’t miss the badlands. We’re actually planning to take a road trip out there this summer, with the kids – if we still can.

  78. Anyone flying on an airplane until a therapeutic or vaccine is available is basically playing Russian Roulette with the gun pointed at himself or herself. Just saying!

  79. Great post and idea, Ben. Amangani, by the way, is terrific; I stayed there as a ski hotel (it’s about 20 minutes from Jackson Hole’s base lodge) and it had a great sense of solitude and peace. I would avoid during the summer, which is their peak season, but it seems like it would be a phenomenal place to spend a quiet weekend in the late fall or winter.

    I always prioritize international travel, but most of my experiences traveling domestically remind me that we in the USA do live in one of the most extraordinary nations on the planet with tons to see and do. Do we have Rome or Paris, no. But may I suggest:

    1) The Redwood Highway / US 101 north from Sonoma all the way to the Oregon border is just mind blowingly spectacular- far less traveled than Highway 1 through Big Sur, but captivating and alluring. Not much in the way of fancy lodging but a lot of soul-affirming landscape.

    2) See above- you should absolutely spend time in Jackson, Wyoming. We did it in the winter and did a snowmobile trip through Yellowstone– we had the entire national park to ourselves and it was extraordinary.

    On my list this year if/when travel resumes– Santa Fe (never been). I’m also itching to do a road trip through New England – and in particular Cape Cod and Maine. Marfa, TX is also high on my list (but difficult to get to).

  80. Spent 5 years outside of Rapid City in the 70s and went back for a visit a couple years ago. The highlights:
    -Stayed in Lead – small former mining town (pronounced like the marketing lead)
    -Mount Rushmore, because you should – it really is something to see, go to the museum for cool stuff about the building of, etc. Don’t spend the whole day here.
    -Crazy Horse, because it’s so much better, including the light show later that night, again be sure to do the museum with lots of native american context
    -The badlands (don’t just drive around, there are plenty of spots to get out and do some short 1 mile or less hikes/overlooks). We really wanted more time here than we took. Sunsets are beautiful.
    -The South Dakota Air and Space Museum on Ellsworth AFB, including the very cool tour of a trainer minute man missile silo
    -Spearfish canyon drive and water falls – beautiful scenery and many water falls that are an easy hike
    -Custer State Park – includes needles highway with some breathtaking views, exciting driving and cool animal viewing

    Things I learned from living there: the more billboards you see for something with the biggest gushing comments, the more it will be a horrible tourist trap. The term “modern” means it has running water, maybe including hot water. The closer you stay near Mount Rushmore/Keystone, the more it will cost. Never travel during the Sturgis Motercycle Rally unless you want that kind of trip. It’s one of the busiest parts of the summer and you will share every inch of road with many motorcycles.

  81. Blackberry Mountain, Twin Farms, The Point, Primland, Montage Palmetto Bluff, Rancho Valenica are some of the other best resorts in the USA that come to mind that you may be interested in.

  82. Have been to western SD numerous times, including Rushmore. Typically stay in AirBnB or these little lakeside cottages on the outskirts of Rapid City:

    https://lakeparkcampground.com/

    Email me if you want any other ideas or recommendations for the area.

  83. @Francis Bagbey: No, we haven’t been to Three Forks Ranch or the The Ranch at Rock Creek. We’d love to visit TFR and have only heard excellent vibes about them. But as you have mentioned already, TCR has a much better value – the food, drinks, ambiance you name it. Also, we love the drive along the UT, ID and MT.. it’s just mesmerizing and liberating!

    I have been to 36 countries – they all are unique in their own, but none gives me so much pleasure visiting these amazing and so unique natural and geographical beauties of that part of the country, esp. the South West and the Mountain West regions.

    The National Parks of UT/ AZ are beyond words. Every time I visit, I have to take a trip – esp. the Grand Staircase, and the Big Five Nat’l parks.

    The other few cities I love to visit – Santa Fe and Taos in NM. These two are our dreamscapes during winter since we are into skiing.

  84. Nice to hear from you. Thanks for your travel perspectives. If you make it to Three Forks Ranch, you are assigned a guide for your stay. Ask for Tyler; he was excellent especially for fly fishing. Happy travels!

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