Where to Spend Your Tax Refund When Uncle Sam Owes You Big
Even if your tax refund is merely average this year, that’s still $2833 to add to your vacation stash. And if Uncle Sam owes you big, well—the sky’s the limit on your getaway ops. Of course, there are plenty of trips in between, from baller weekends in Vegas to month-long twirls around the bottom of the planet. Here are 10 of our favorites.
If you’re going to visit Antarctica, you might as well make a month of it. Lindblad Expeditions offers an Antarctic cruise that lasts 24 days, with stops in South Georgia and the Falkland Islands along the way. With the help of a National Geographic expedition team, you’ll wander among leopard, fur and elephant seals; various and sundry whales—and tens of thousands of penguins: adelie, gentoo, chinstrap, macaroni and kings for sure; emperors if you’re lucky. (The little guys on the iceberg in the very first shot of this story—also by Ralph Lee Hopkins—are chinstraps.) Back on board, thaw in the sauna, schvitz at the gym—or simply warm up over hot toddies during a talk about Ernest Shackleton, whose grave you’ll visit on South Georgia.
Price tag: From $25,220
Patagonia tends to be one of those once-in-a-lifetime trips—and not just because flights from the U.S. average 15-20 hours: The southern tip of Chile has some of the most surreal nature on earth, from massive glaciers to turquoise lakes. Also: guanacos. Plan to stay at the remote but spare-no-amenity Explora Patagonia lodge in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park, where you’ll choose from 40 horseback riding and hiking excursions—not least, the trek to the park’s namesake towers.
Price tag: from $1,962 per night (3-night minimum stay required)
Instead of revisiting your usual beach spot this year, hop a 11-hour flight from the West Coast to Fiji. Though you’ll find any of the archipelago’s verdant mountains, pristine beaches or technicolor snorkeling sites truly transporting, go for the remotest of the remote: Laucala Island Resort, a stunning retreat owned by Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz. Aside from the resort’s 18-hole golf course and lush gardens, each of the 24 villas comes with a private pool and fully stocked personal bar. Staff will even hook you up with personalized dining menus to enjoy in your room or tucked away in the jungle.
Price tag: $4,800 per night
The bustle of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City may be intoxicating—but for maximum escapism, hit the dreamy coastline. One of the best new places to see what we mean: Anantara Quy Nhon Villas, hidden away in lush tropical gardens, where each of the 26 sea- or jungle-facing villas comes with a butler and private pool. The surrounding town of Quy Nhon has plenty of secluded temples and hiking trails worth exploring, and should you return to the resort with spent muscles, the four-hand massage is the way to go at the resident spa.
Price tag: From $535 per night
To be clear, anytime you come face to face with a herd of zebra, a pride of lions—or thousands of migrating wildebeest—you’re having a good trip. But travel with Micato Safaris, one of the best outfitters in existence, and you can get very specific about what else you’d like—from an Elite Running Safari to a Wilderness and Winelands Safari. Known as much for its philanthropic efforts as its incredible vacation packages, the family-run business pays for one local child’s education for every safari sold.
Price tag: From $9,550 per person
Cabo San Lucas
Of the slew of new high-end stays in Cabo, there’s one where the food alone would be worth the trip: Nobu Hotel Los Cabos, where the namesake chef’s take on locally-inspired Japanese food comes with a private stretch of beach, minimalist design and a stunning spa (don’t miss the hydrotherapy garden). Just don’t forget to leave campus at least once—for the boat trip to the iconic el Arco.
Price tag: From $419 per night
Glittering like the most blinged-up desert oasis, Dubai has the world’s biggest shopping mall, the world’s tallest building, and the world’s largest indoor amusement park. But before you blow all of your refund at the Gold Souk, set aside some funds for a room at Burj al Arab, the world’s first 7-star hotel (of course). You won’t want for luxury at any of the 202 duplex suites, but you’ll need to book a night at the Royal Suite for the most OTT stay of your life. We’re taking two master suites, a private movie theater, and marble-and-gold bathrooms with five-head rain showers.
Price tag: $9,000 per night
If you think the standard-issue overwater Maldivian bungalow is—well—over-the-top, wait til you see The Muraka villa at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Unveiled late last year, this two-story structure actually takes you under the water, with windows onto to the surrounding coral reef. So instead of counting sheep in bed, you’ll count turtles, rays, sharks and an endless parade of tropical fish. Keep the immersion theme going at Ithaa, Conrad Maldives’s equally awesome underwater restaurant, where you’ll find a seven-course, seafood-intensive menu (and a bill of $320).
Price tag: $50,000 per night (sold in 4-night packages)
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Arguably the world’s most famous train (thanks, Agatha Christie), the Venice Simplon-Orient Express harkens back to a golden age of travel. With routes through Paris, Venice, London, and Istanbul, the 2019 version still feels timeless, but with a few modern updates. See: the new Grand Suites with full bathrooms, private in-room breakfasts, Art Deco adornments, and limitless champagne.
Price tag: From $7,713 per person (based on double occupancy)
No one ever said you need to leave the country for an over-the-top vacation. For all its Elvis impersonators and chapel weddings, Vegas has a disproportionate number of high-end hotels and restaurants. To experience the scene for yourself, book a room at the Bellagio, then try the tasting menus at Joël Robuchon or Le Cirque. Even after all that, you’ll probably still have enough cash left over for a couple rounds at the craps table.
Price tag: Bellagio: from $169 per night; Le Cirque prix-fixe menu: $108 per person (you should plan to double that, at least, for any meal at Joël Robuchon)