“People just want to do something – but they also want to be safe,” says Mary Jean Tully, founder and CEO of Tully Luxury Travel. These days, her clients are seeking more intimate (read: sparsely populated) travel experiences that offer a welcome escape while also allowing for social distancing. “To avoid close encounters, some travellers are now considering off–the–beaten–path destinations where there are open spaces and not many people,” she says. Others are booking accommodations and experiences that prioritize privacy and seclusion, for themselves and their loved ones. “Covid–19 has made many people socially shy and wanting to stay within their cocoon of family and close friends,” Tully says.
Whether you’ve decided to go solo or are booking with your bubble, here are some lesser–known locales and under–the–radar ways to escape the crowds.
Rent a retreat
The idea of a family holiday in a beautiful, private compound is more alluring than ever. Check out niche vacation rental websites like Welcome Beyond and DOMstay&live that offer access to one–of–a–kind properties in exceptional locations around the world. The latter has showcased a portfolio of award–winning, architecturally interesting homes curated by founder Marta Nowicka, an interior architect, since its launch in 2017. You can even hop from one rental to another: American travel club Inspirato launched Inspirato Pass, a monthly subscription service for unlimited vacation stays at private homes and selected hotels and resorts. Meanwhile, Relais & Châteaux’s The Lodge at Glendorn in Pennsylvania has 12 spaced–out cabins, so you can have a family getaway – without necessarily being surrounded by family.
Escape to the outdoors
Expect the popularity of outdoor adventures to continue through the cold–weather months. Practise meditation in one of the cozy wooden A–frame cabins or cottages at Nectar, a yoga studio and retreat on British Columbia’s Bowen Island, or try winter glamping in Quebec’s provincial park network, Sépaq, with a stay in a remote hut, rustic shelter, yurt or cabin. (The architect–designed Écho cabins at Parc national des Hautes–Gorges–de–la–Rivière–Malbaie, where there are 41 kilometres of snowshoeing and backcountry skiing trails, have amazing mountain views.) Better yet, really get out there and experience winter at one of Canada’s incredibly scenic, but slightly more rugged, parklands: At Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park, there is snowshoe touring, cross–country skiing and, for permit holders, snowmobiling, or head further north to explore the rugged terrain and stunning glaciers of Kluane National Park and Reserve with the help of the experts at Yukon Guided Adventures.
Seatings for Oddbird’s – a Swedish non–alcoholic wine producer – alfresco pop–up restaurant in a nature reserve near Stockholm, called Nowhere, sold out almost immediately this summer. Phoenix–based outdoor dining company Cloth & Flame also sets up gourmet private dinners in secluded, wild locations, including the Sonoran Desert and inside the Grand Canyon. And it’s not just dining: Accommodations are also popping up. Companies like Black Tomato and British Columbia’s Wild Havens can set up waterproof, canvas bell tents – complete with creature comforts like a bed, fresh linens and a portable power station for your small electronics – anywhere from your urban backyard to the banks of the Mekong River.
Bring your bubble
Small group guided trips are an increasingly popular option for both safety and logistical reasons. Tour company Collette offers curated itineraries for groups of two or more, and Toronto–based G Adventures recently introduced a Book Your Bubble private tour collection specifically for family members or close friends. These 80 flexible itineraries, from hiking the Inca Trail to sailing around the Greek islands, are customized with health and safety protocols in mind.
Seek out privacy
The opening of new, villa–only properties and more exclusive, resort–within–a–resort offerings couldn’t be more timely for privacy–minded travellers who still want access to luxurious amenities. A booking for Camp Sarika at Amangiri (which has its own pool, lounge, spa spaces and restaurant) lets you experience the surreal desert landscapes of southern Utah in relative seclusion; its 10 tented pavilions sit on a 600–acre property, which has its own trail system and is close to five national parks. Meanwhile, at One&Only Mandarina’s beachfront resort in Mexico, which opened in November 2020, choose from treehouse rooms and clifftop villas, all with private pools, large terraces and dedicated butler service.