Deciding how to use your precious PTO days can feel daunting. Do you prefer the mountains or the beach? Should you stay stateside or jet across the pond? No matter what summer vacation you're looking for, we have a few ideas to help you decide—including some with spectacular views. Depending on where you want to go, there are different "best times" to travel. Avoid the southern United States and its scalding climates in the latter half of July and at the beginning of August, when the temperature and humidity can hit triple digits. However, the Pacific Northwest and Northern Europe are just hitting their peak during that time. June tends to be the most popular time to travel during the summer.
The best place to take a summer vacation depends on what you're looking for. Opt for a quaint seaside town like Newport, Rhode Island, or Cape Cod if you want a private beach getaway. If you love a firm itinerary, choose a city like New York or Edinburgh and pack the day with sightseeing tours, restaurant reservations, and museums galore. If you're looking to travel within the U.S. or take a road trip, we have a list of the best cities that feel like you're in Europe—no flight needed.
So jet-setters, start tracking flight prices and get those packing lists ready. Road-trippers, double check your maps and consider renting an RV or camper to get where you're going in style. Ahead, we highlight 15 incredible summer vacation ideas you'll love, from ghost tours in Savannah, Georgia, to bucket-list destinations like the Pope's summer residence in Italy.
Glamp on Governor's Island
It's so magical to be on this little island off the island of Manhattan. You can unzip the tent or sit on the porch of the tiny home you're staying in and watch the Staten Island ferry sail past the Statue of Liberty as the sun sets. There are s'mores and hammocks and bikes—all the fun of camp anywhere—but those views remind you that you couldn't be anyplace else. —Eleni Gage, Temporary Executive Editor
Tour Gilded Age Estates in Newport, Rhode Island
Indulge your inner history buff and take an educational vacation this summer. Newport is famous for its historic mansions, the grandest of which is The Breakers, the Vanderbilt family's summer "cottage." If you time your trip wisely, you can catch a glimpse of Newport's famous sailing regatta in the harbor too.
See Wild Horses on Cumberland Island
"My mom and I went to Cumberland Island, Georgia, on the mother-daughter trip of a lifetime. On the ferry over, we saw manatees in the water and egrets on the shore. You can bike to the quiet beach with a gourmet picnic lunch, nap on swings on the wide front porch, helped yourself to the honor bar, go on birding walks, and see the chapel where John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette got married. It's such a special place if you love history and nature." —Elyse Moody, Temporary Senior Editor
Take a Break from City Life
Set along the Hudson River waterfront, Hutton Brickyards is the chic adult version of summer camp: Think saunas and snuggly robes, coffee by the waterfront, and orange wine fireside. Once a brick factory, the sprawling 100-acre compound is now a hotel and events retreat with a small village of individual luxury cabins, an open-air restaurant where a female-led chef team makes magic of hyper-local ingredients, and the on-property Edgewood Hotel you could shoot a movie in. Calling dibs among my friends for a wedding venue but would recommend for a weekend upstate getaway in a heartbeat.—Claire Brito, Social Media Editor
Feast on Seafood in Portland, Maine
Want to go to the beach but not interested in getting your tan on? Opt for the seaside city of Portland, Maine. Ride bikes along the coastline, stopping for lobster rolls along the way.
Take a Ghost Tour in Savannah, Georgia
Horror fans and history fans alike will love Savannah, Georgia, for the wealth of spooky ghost tours that take place after the sun goes down. During the day, walk around downtown to check out all the cute shops and delicious restaurants.
Attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Each August, performers, actors, and comedians flood every venue (and street) in Edinburgh, Scotland. Tour the city by day and grab tickets to take in you pick of the more than 600 shows by night.
Visit the Pope's Summer Residence
If you're planning a trip to Italy, be sure to hit the lakeside town of Castel Gandolfo, an hour's train ride from Rome. With stunning views and quaint, quiet streets, we can see why the Pope chose this spot for his summer home and observatory back in the early 1600s.
Embrace Country Music
The Broadway strip of Nashville's Music Row is packed with country music cafes, bars, nightclubs, and performance venues. Take a tour of the city to soak in the history during the day, then explore the stars' favorite haunts at night.
Hike a National Park
Did you know there are more than 400 national parks in the United States? Pick one and spend your days there hiking, kayaking, camping, and taking in the wonderful sights and sounds of nature.
Camp Under the Stars
No need to trek to Washington's Mount Rainier to stargaze this summer (although it is stunning). Prop up a tent in the backyard for a staycation and track the constellations from the comfort of home.
Travel Europe via Train
While it can be a more tedious way to travel, trains also boast some of the best views—and the right ones can be supremely luxurious. Hop between European cities by opting for a more beautiful (and eco-friendly) travel method.
Live Like You're on Love Island in Majorca, Spain
Take a note from the hit British reality show Love Island and spend a few weeks in Majorca, Spain. Unlike the on-screen contestants, you can decide whether you want to broadcast every second of your epic vacation. We've even got ideas for your summer captions.
Play Tourist for the Day
If you live in a major metropolitan area, take a weekend off and play tourist. See a show, visit that new museum exhibition, and walk through the city you call home—you're bound to discover something new.
Take an Epic Road Trip
As the age-old saying goes: It's the journey, not the destination. So make getting from point A to point B the best part of the trip by planning a road trip with a few of your best friends. Pull over for every roadside attraction instead of worrying about beating the ETA on Google Maps.
Kate McGregor is House Beautiful’s SEO Editor. She has covered everything from curated decor round-ups and shopping guides, to glimpses into the home lives of inspiring creatives, for publications such as ELLE Decor, Domino, and Architectural Digest’s Clever.
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