The $1 Million Summer Vacation
According to a recent study, Americans would spend an average of $43,154 on vacation if money were no object—almost exactly the same amount as the average salary nationwide. But if money is no object, why not go whole hog?
In an effort to find the real definition of no-holds-barred luxury, we asked seven travel insiders to dream up how they would spend a cool million on the trip of a lifetime. Their answers were inspiring, with deep dives spanning entire continents and options that touch every corner of the globe (sometimes all in one vacation). In short: It’s time to upgrade your bucket list.
A Safari on Steroids
The Insider: Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, one of the world’s leading bespoke tour operators
“I’m drawn to the natural beauty of Africa and it’s hard to pick which region speaks to me the most. So if I were to design the ultimate trip, it would be a private jet charter down the continent from Cairo to Cape Town with multiple stops. I’d revisit some of my favorite iconic places such as Kruger National Park, the Okavango Delta, and the Serengeti. I’d dive deeper into Ethiopia—one of the hottest places in the world [temperature-wise]—where I would summit active volcanoes, join camel caravans across the barren landscape, and explore Bale National Park, which is still off the tourist map (for now). And I would add in some rare cultural and physical experiences, like climbing the Brandberg mountains in Namibia one day and soaring above the Namib desert by hot-air balloon the next. It would all be a mixture of testing physical limits, retracing the steps of iconic explorers, and diving into the unknown—but with gorgeous secluded lodges or private camps as accommodations at the end of each day.”
Planes, Trains, and Boats—All or Nothing
The Insider: Andrew Zimmern, peripatetic gastronome and host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods
“If I had a million to spend on the trip of a lifetime, to whom do I listen? The angel on one shoulder or the devil on the other? One voice tells me to rent a Learjet for a few months, fly to Europe with my son, show him Capri and Ischia, Sardinia and Sicily, sail the Greek Isles, pass through Cyprus, and go by private rail from Budapest or Istanbul across Central Asia. Show him nomadic peoples in Mongolia, the glory of St. Petersburg and the Grand Hotel Europe, fly to China and spend a few weeks navigating to Hong Kong, then Thailand and Vietnam. I’d sail the South China Sea and tour Japan. From there we head to the Solomon, Cook, and Samoan islands, across the Pacific to Ecuador and on through South and Central America. We could cross the oceans once again and make it to Namibia, where we could start a northern-bound voyage from Botswana to Morocco and back to Europe again. Ultimately we’d wind up in the Scandinavian countries and fly home to Minnesota direct on Iceland Air. Should take about 4-5 months and easily run through the million.
And yet I think I’d rather listen to the voice on the opposite shoulder and go to a place like Milobi in Suriname, or the small coastal towns of Senegal, or the wilds of the Amazon, or the southernmost tip of Madagascar to a Sakalava town and park myself for a few months and spend the whole wad making sure that one impoverished village—one community beyond repair—had food, water, and electricity in perpetuity. That would be pretty f--king cool.”
A South American Odyssey
The Insider: Horst Schulze, chief executive officer of Capella Hotel Group and former president of Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co.
“I’d begin by traveling to Peru, where I’d hire a very well-versed guide for a private tour of Machu Picchu. Then I’d go back to Lima to explore the city’s high-end restaurants as well as its street food—Lima is said to have some of the best restaurants in the world. From there I’d travel to Chile, where I’d visit Easter Island and discover its secrets. I’d hire a guide to take me around the Galapagos and teach me about the region’s unique flora and fauna, both by land and by sea.
I’d continue the theme in the sub-Antarctic wilderness of Tierra del Fuego, where I’d hire a guide for the ultimate fly-fishing trip. The sea-run brown trout there average 10 to 13 pounds in weight and are sure to be impressive catches. By then, I’d be close enough to the tip of the continent that I could charter a boat to Antarctica and discover the final frontier. Where better to take in nature than on a Zodiac boat, cruising along glaciers, watching whales and penguins?”
Globetrotting With the Next Great Shutterbugs
The Insider: Superstar photographer Murad Osman, known to his 378,000 Instagram followers as @followmeto
“I would open a roving photo school for children and take my students on a worldwide photo tour. A lot of talented people were born in poverty and live in hard conditions, but they dream big—we try to tell their inspiring stories on our site. So a worldwide tour for young amateurs would be a great way to do what we do best as photographers: to share the beauty of different countries and help a younger generation discover the world. I would buy them their own top-of-the-line cameras and have them shoot with me and other photographers; who knows, maybe we can create a new generation of big-name professionals. We would visit all seven continents, see the deserts, waterfalls, jungles, fly in helicopters and meet sunsets in mountains.”
Asia by Private Jet
The Insider: Social media impresario Jeremy Jauncy, founder and CEO of @BeautifulDestinations, the largest travel account on Instagram
“A dream trip of mine would be to charter a jet with Fly Victor from New York City to Hong Kong. While I'm there, I'd stay at the Upper House, for a bit of an escape that's still within the city limits. Their GM, Marcel Thoma, is a true legend. From Hong Kong, I'd jet over to Tokyo and stay at the Aman, another sleek oasis in the center of a metropolis. After that I'd take a break from my urban vacation to head to the beach. I'd fly to Cebu in the Philippines and charter a private yacht to Palawan, where I'd stay at El Nido Resort, one of my absolute favorite hotels. These are all some of the world's most beautiful destinations and a dream trip for sure.”
The Ultimate Culinary Pilgrimage
The Insider: Will Drew, group editor for The World's 50 Best Restaurants awards
“Unsurprisingly, my dream trip would involve a food-led world tour, with some superb wine thrown in for good measure! But that doesn’t mean it would be restricted to fine dining and super-luxury hotels (at least not all the time). As we all know, the ultimate 21st century luxury is time, so I’d love to be able to travel through Asia in no great hurry, exploring the amazing variety of culinary cultures, street food, and landscapes. I’ve never been to Japan or Korea, so a few weeks of serious eating there would be essential. As well as taking in the huge variety of amazing restaurants that Tokyo has to offer, I’d love to visit Fukuyama in the west, the Gifu prefecture in central Japan, and Kyoto, the home of kaiseki cuisine. In Korea, I’ve just learned about the traditions of temple cuisine from chef Mingoo Kang, and I’d like to get a taste of that. I’d also love to explore more of South America, taking in Chile (including Borago and 99, among others), Argentina (too many to name), and Brazil (with Lasai and A Casa do Porco high on the list), including the wine regions, of course, as a glorified gourmet backpacker.”
Four Semesters Abroad
The Insider: Sam Shank, CEO and founder of the last-minute booking app HotelTonight
“My family loves to travel. My wife and I strive to show our sons (ages 7 and 11) that experiencing new places will expand their horizons and creativity. Nothing beats the cultural immersion of actually living somewhere new, so if I had a million dollars to travel, we would take our boys out of school for a year and spend three months apiece in four different destinations. The rules: Each place must be on a different continent. Each must have a different climate. Each must have a different native language. Each should be totally unique. And wherever we go, we’d take a lot of spontaneous weekend getaways. I asked my family for ideas at dinner and came up with Sydney, Paris, Singapore, and Buenos Aires as a dream itinerary … but we’d also be game for playing it by ear!”