Though sometimes it’s easer to turn to old standbys rather than up-and-coming destinations, taking a chance on a new vacation spot can lead to pleasant surprises. For wanderlusters looking to break the ho-hum vacation mold, GoLastMinute.com has highlighted five unexpected last-minute vacation destinations, each with plenty to discover.
When Norwegian Air Shuttle announced in 2015 that it would offer new nonstop routes to this French Caribbean island from Boston, Baltimore and New York City, curious travelers weary of well-trodden tropical escapes tuned in. In fact, the island reported a 149% increase in visitors between 2015 and 2017.
Martinique was lucky to have escaped the onslaught from hurricanes Maria and Irma, and bolstered by recent accolades fromCaribbean Journal, Conde Nast Traveler and Business Insider, it shows no sign of slowing down.
Idyllic beaches, verdant volcanic peaks and eclectic cuisine with African, French, Carib Amerindian and South Asian influences remain top draws; there are also recent hotel additions such as the 5-star boutique French Coco and stylish Guesthouse Apolline. Lovers of history, rum, coffee, folk music and art will be pleasantly surprised by this Windward Islands escape.
New fashionable hotels like El Moore Lodge and Siren Hotel, a flourishing downtown bar scene and the recently opened Q-Line streetcar system make the Motor City a no-brainer for travelers looking for a big city experience. Detroit, nicknamed “The Comeback City,” has a distinct gritty-but-optimistic vibe and a DIY spirit, evidenced by urban farming projects, public art pieces and former auto magnate mansions turned into millennial homesteads. It’s also home to the Detroit Institute of Arts, housing one of the largest collections of art in the nation, and sprawling Belle Isle, the largest urban island park in the U.S., complete with a nature center, a conservatory and an aquarium.
As a bonus, Detroit borders the Canadian city of Windsor, home to a scenic riverfront trail, Caesars Casino and the historic Olde Walkerville neighborhood, making it a two-for-one destination for passport holders.
The city is served by the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, one of the country’s largest hubs. It’s a base for budget carriers Spirit Airlines, Southwest Airlines and JetBlue, all known for their frequent low-cost fare sales.
Detroit is also reachable through quick and affordable Amtrak and Greyhound service from other Midwestern cities, and is an easy road trip for those living in Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Toledo, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cleveland and Toronto.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Last-minute travelers have dozens of worthy options for Florida escapes, but perhaps none has undergone as big a transformation as Daytona Beach, ranked No. 1 in Travel Channel’s 2017 list of “Top 10 Attractions in Florida.”
Once a major pit stop for Spring Break sunseekers, Daytona Beach still brings beach lovers, but only those willing to follow the strict “beach code,” which prohibits thong bikinis, loud music, alcoholic beverages and glass containers. Indeed, this town has shed its disorderly persona and embraced a more family-friendly image.
High-rise hotels line the beachfront, a hard-packed white-sand expanse where, conveniently, cars are permitted to drive. Aside from the typical lineup of aquatic activities, travelers come to town for the Daytona 500 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. For culture connoisseurs, there’s the Museum of Arts and Sciences, a Smithsonian Institute affiliate, and the historic Mary Bethune Home, filled with family heirlooms, photographs and antiques collected by Dr. Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman University.
Though Daytona Beach has its own small airport served by Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and JetBlue, flying into Orlando will make finding a last-minute flight deal more likely — it services 37 domestic and international carriers. Daytona Beach is about an hour’s drive from Orlando, so a car rental or shuttle service is a must.
Budget carrier WOW Air is partly responsible for increased interest in this Nordic island nation, a haven for nature lovers brimming with verdant pastures, volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs and of course, opportunities to see the mystical Northern Lights. That’s because the airline’s cheap round-trip fares to European cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona can include a multi-day stopover in the capital of Reykjavik, close to attractions such as the immensely popular (and overly Instagrammed) Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, the ice caves beneath the Langjökull Glacier and UNESCO site Thingvellir National Park.
But the city of 123,000 residents is worthy of a trip even for those not headed to continental Europe. With flights departing from Los Angeles, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Pittsburgh and New York (among other cities), Europe’s most sparsely populated country is closer than you think. Watch for sales from WOW Air with one-way fares as low as $99 between Boston and Reykjavik.
Don’t let this border town’s former seedy reputation turn you off from discovering a recently revitalized culinary and art scene. The New York Times recently called Tijuana a “popular jaunt for Los Angeles and San Diego residents who want to eat and drink well — and affordably — for a weekend, or even an afternoon.” Spur-of-the-moment travelers will find taco stands, elegant restaurants and eclectic food trucks, many specializing in border cuisine with the dual influences of Southern California and Baja Mexico. Epicurean adventures are scattered along Avenida Revolución, the tourist business district and anchor for nightclubs, music venues, coffee shops and even a handful of breweries.
While Tijuana has its own international airport, North American travelers may find better last-minute flight deals into San Diego, just a few miles north of the pedestrian bridge into Mexico. Stylish and affordable boutique hotels like One Bunk and K Tower make a spontaneous weekend south of the border surprisingly within reach.
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