Boosting your happiness throughout October

Greetings Hidden Gem Travelers (also Aloha, Aang, Eh, and Hola – hints to this week’s destinations)! 

I’ve been reflecting on how difficult 2020 has been and continues to be for so many people and brainstorming how I can be a bright spot in your inbox on Thursdays.  I was inspired by a recent article in AFAR that said, “New research shows that just making future travel plans can boost our spirits, energy, and well-being.”  That sentiment rings true to me personally as anytime I’m planning a trip, for myself or clients, I feel a happiness boost.  Having a vacation to look forward to, and a much-needed break from the day-to-day grind is therapeutic and more needed than ever in our “new normal.”

With this data in mind, I’m dedicating the month of October to boost your happiness, energy, and well-being by highlighting 21 global destinations for travel in 2021 (and beyond).  If you feel motivated to plan your next bucket list trip, then I will have succeeded! 

So how will this work?  Each Thursday in October, I will be publishing a newsletter highlighting 4-5 destinations worth your consideration for travel in 2021:

October 1st – North America

October 8th – Central & South America

October 15th – Europe

October 22nd – Asia & Asia Pacific

October 29th – Africa

And in the spirit of making sure your happiness is boosted, I’m offering a chance to win a travel-themed prize for everyone who requests a free consultation and mentions ’21 in 2021’, by November 1st, 2020.  Note – the consultation doesn’t have to be for a highlighted destination or have to be for travel next year but can be anywhere that you want to travel in the future (hopefully the newsletters will inspire you to identify your next best vacation destination!).  Sound fun? 

Without further ado, we begin our happiness boosting by highlighting four places in North America that I know you will love based upon my own experiences and those of my clients.  Read on for the scoop…

It’s immensely difficult to pick only four destinations in North America that should be on everyone’s travel wish list!  See if you agree with me that these four destinations are travel bucket list-worthy and worth repeat visits.   We will stick to the west for this list, focusing on places I personally recommend and work our way from north to south…

1 – Alaska

I blogged about Alaska after a 10-day trip through this amazing state just last year.  If you haven’t yet been to Alaska, it’s time to make a plan!  Most often experienced by water, Alaska can also be explored by land (we did both).  This trip is a must-do for families as it’s an incredible shared-memory and educational experience for kids of all ages. 

Starting with land experiences, I will share one of mine.  Upon arrival in Alaska, I spent half a week in Ketchikan and had a hidden gem experience that was well out of my comfort zone.  I hiked the Deer Mountain Trail which is a very difficult full-day hike up the mountain with many switchbacks – you climb to 3,000 feet!  I’m not a big hiker in daily life so needless to say, I almost had to be carried down due to jelly legs.  But the experience was highly memorable in a good way as I had an enormous sense of accomplishment and was rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding islands, alpine lakes and ridges, rainforest canopy, fields of high elevation lupine, and unique bird sightings.   

North of Anchorage, Denali National Park is home to the largest mountain peak in North America, Mt. McKinley, and offers diverse, unforgettable activities ranging from white water rafting to visiting Husky Homestead for a meet and greet with Iditarod champion sled dogs and puppies in training.  Base your stay in Talkeetna and take a floatplane into the park; you’ll land on an alpine lake between two glaciers – hidden gem experience check!

In my opinion, experiencing Alaska by water is an incredible way to see the most of our 49th state as many areas are only accessible by plane or boat.  There is a WIDE variety of boats from large cruise ships, small expedition ships, and charter yachts.  If you are traveling as an extended family, a cruise will offer something to make everyone happy – both onboard and on land.  I learned this firsthand when we spent a week cruising the Inside Passage beginning in Seward (near Anchorage) and down the coastline ending in Vancouver, BC on Silversea’s luxury ship, the Muse.  Through our daily onshore excursions, we were able to experience each port of call in a meaningful way – from landing on a glacier in a helicopter to ziplining and hiking in the Tongass rainforest.  The trip was the definition of a life-enhancing, incredibly memorable experience!   

2- Vancouver & Environs

What don’t I love about Vancouver and British Columbia??  I love the Canadian vibe of this waterfront, international city, and its proximity to Victoria and Whistler.  Vancouver is a popular pre- or post- stop on cruises to Alaska, and in fact, that’s how I experienced the city and environs last year.  I’d go back in a minute for a longer stay!  The first thing we did upon arrival was a day-long, private bike tour of Vancouver which allowed us to see the city on an active tour with the guide to focusing on our interests.  Vancouver has something for everyone in all seasons from cycling/mountain biking, kayaking, year-round outdoor experiences at the nearby Grouse Mountain ski resort, world-class shopping, an amazing culinary scene (foodies will love Granville Island), and international cultural experiences. 

I’m so glad that I took a day to make the trip to Victoria, lesson learned I should have done an overnight, to experience this special island, and tour the incredible Butchart Gardens.  Victoria is the capital city of the province of British Columbia and is located on Vancouver Island (confusing, I know).  It’s charming, historic, and well worth a guided tour and overnight to fully appreciate its depths.  A 30-minute drive away are the iconic Butchart Gardens which isn’t only for gardeners or botanists.  Butchart is a National Historic Site of Canada that began as a cement plant in 1904 and became one of the most beautiful gardens in the world!  Spanning 55 acres, your jaw will drop with the beauty of the themed gardens.  In the summer, the late evening fireworks over the garden are another reason to stay overnight – hidden gem experience alert!

Next time, I will head east beyond Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies, Whistler, Banff, and Lake Louise.  I love the itineraries and experiences offered by our partners, Canadian Excursionist, geared to both families and couples.  For example, a horseback ride into the majestic Canadian Rockies backcountry finished with a restorative mountain spa experience at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sounds amazing!

3 – Hawaiian Islands

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Hawaii but once you’ve visited you never forget it.  We chose Hawaii (the islands of Maui and the Big Island) for our honeymoon, and it met all our desires and expectations!  Last year, I completed the Hawaii Tourism Specialist certification to update myself on all things Hawaiian Islands.  Hot off the presses news is as of October 15th, you can visit Hawaii without quarantining if you provide a negative COVID test.  Perfect timing – Hawaii was just recognized as the happiest state in the US as reported by Travel+Leisure magazine!

On my next trip to Hawaii, I’ll be heading to Kauai to hike the 11-mile long Kalalau Trail along the breathtaking, iconic Na Pali Coast with a local guide as the trail is rugged, remote, and visually stunning!  I’m motivated to do this hike because I survived the uphill hike in Ketchikan (as previously described in my Alaska overview).   Some pictures of the trail here:

Personally, I don’t think you can go wrong with selecting which the Hawaiian Islands to visit on your trip unless you’re going with specific criteria in mind.  For example, if you crave peace and quiet, I’d steer you towards Kauai or Lanai or if you want a buzz of activity, Oahu and Maui are a better match.  If you only want to experience one island on your trip, Hawaii, AKA the Big Island, is very diverse with different regions to explore, including the Kona resort and golf area, Paniolo (cowboy) area, other-worldliness Volcanoes National Park, and naturally beautiful Waimea Canyon, dubbed the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.  Can’t decide?  You can see all the islands in one trip on a cruise – traditional cruise ship or yacht charter options are available.

Working with a travel advisor will be key in selecting the island(s) and where you’ll stay.  There are thousands of options for accommodations on the Hawaiian Islands from world-class resorts, boutique hotels, villas, and B&Bs.  In the new normal, I can help you find a place that matches your needs and makes your feel comfortable as well as guide you to the experiences that will make your Hawaiian vacation amazing full of hidden gems – well beyond a simply “fun” experience – while helping you avoid crowds of tourists. 

4 – Los Cabos, Mexico

Interestingly, Los Cabos is around the same latitude as the Hawaiian Islands!  I was supposed to be there next week for a conference that was canceled due to the pandemic, and you would be right if you’re assuming that I’m bummed not to be packing right now.   

On the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is a destination of contrasts with lively Cabo San Lucas and laid-back San Jose del Cabo, just a half-hour drive apart.  Cabo San Lucas is a haven for luxury resorts and nightlife, and San Jose del Cabo offers colonial charm, local art galleries, and classic farm-to-table Mexican dining experiences. 

Speaking of contrasts, you can stay seaside, in the desert, or the mountains and the Virtuoso network has some epic resorts in all these diverse landscapes!  After my conference, I planned to tour each property as well a few that are awesome but outside of the network.  In Virtuoso, are a diverse group of five resorts: Esperanza (voted #1 hotel in Mexico in 2019 by US News & World Report), Grand Velas Los Cabos (luxury all-inclusive that’s family-friendly), Montage Los Cabos (brand new golf course), The Cape (hip and trendy décor with a rooftop deck), and the Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal (each guest room has its own private plunge pool) properties.  I’ll add that the Four Seasons Los Cabos at Costa Palmas should be on the list with their “Adventure Concierge” who guides you in accessing some truly awesome experiences!  If you’re into an adults-only resort, Palace Resort’s Le Blanc Spa Resort is an all-inclusive and good value. 

As far as hidden gem experiences, I’ve got to try a camel safari through the desert ending along the beach in Rancho San Cristobal – a rare desert to ocean experience!  And glamping overnight Mexican style sounds pretty epic too.  Final the word on Cabo, check out this tongue-in-cheek, creative video on the home page of the tourism board! 👉

I already feel happier!  Are you ready to learn more about any of these North American destinations? Send me an email or give me a call.  Now is the perfect time to begin planning for next year and beyond.  And of course, experiences make the best holiday gifts!

💎 Hidden Gem Tip:  Send me any questions you have about the upcoming destinations, and I’ll be sure to answer them in the newsletter! 

Wishing you and your family continued good health,


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Hi, I'm Susan Wilson

I’m the founder of Hidden Gem Travel Consulting. As your personal travel advisor, I craft custom worldwide itineraries that astound and inspire you.


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