4 Unique Alternatives to Taking a Traditional Vacation

4 Unique Alternatives to Taking a Traditional Vacation

When most of us think of a stereotypical vacation, we probably picture sitting in a beach chair in a tropical locale, sipping a fruity drink, and taking in the sun without a care in the world. And there’s nothing wrong with that; everybody needs a relaxing vacation from time to time.

But more and more often, people are choosing to take vacations with a more fulfilling—and sometimes healthier—purpose.

In this article, we’ll look at four unique vacation ideas to explore when looking for an alternative to a “classic” vacation.


One of the fastest growing alternative vacations is volunteer tourism, sometimes known by the portmanteau voluntourism. This is where vacationers travel to places in-need of volunteer help, and spending time there on social, construction, or other needed projects.

According to NPR, as of only a few years ago, more than 1.6 million tourists per year spend time on voluntourism vacations. These trips usually involve traveling abroad to impoverished areas, and may involve working with children or animals, or assisting with building projects.

These trips may also involve assisting rebuilding efforts in the wake of major natural disasters, as volunteers come from all over to help rebuild communities. Post-disaster volunteering may be international, or could involve traveling domestically to pitch-in.

Voluntourism may happen through a religious organization or service club, or could be facilitated through a dedicated volunteer travel organization, depending on your desired destination and project work. US News has more tips for planning a volunteer vacation, if you’re looking to get started.

Typically, volunteer vacations can have the most impact when the traveler can spend an extended amount of time on the project, allowing him or her to make a real impact in the community. If you’ve only got a few days off, you may wish to explore our next alternative vacation, the staycation.


A staycation is a vacation where you stay in your own city. Most staycations involve taking time off at your own home, although some staycationers try to take “the best of both worlds” by staying in a hotel near your home. Both options have their benefits, and provide a different take on an alternative vacation.

If you are staycationing in your own home, take steps to make it a real vacation and not just a typical “day off”. Don’t check your work email, or even set aside your mobile phone completely if you can. Try a new restaurant that you’ve never been to before. And hold off on that household to-do list for now, because remember: you’re on vacation!

“Cutting off” from the day-to-day hassles and headaches can be easier if you staycation in a hotel in your town. Spend some time at the hotel pool, order room service, and take it easy.

Staycations aren’t always just relaxation, though; you can use this time to improve your health as well. Just because you’re taking a vacation doesn’t mean that you have to be lazy. You can use this free time to commit to a new fitness plan without all of the distractions of work. Self-improvement can sometimes be the best vacation of all.

Whether at home or in a hotel, make a plan for your staycation to make the most of it. And if you can coordinate this vacation alternative with a friend, even better! You can both relax, try new things, or get healthy together, for added fun and motivation.

Adventure Vacations

If a traditional vacation is meant to have as little activity as possible, then an adventure vacation is the exact opposite. Adventure tourism involves traveling to beautiful (and sometimes) remote locations in order to experience an outdoor adventure or high-intensity activity. If you’re used to only relaxing vacations, an adventure trip will definitely take you out of your comfort zone!

Example adventure vacations may involve climbing a mountain peak, backpacking through a dense forest, or trekking to a remote village. If these sound intimidating—well, they are. But you’re not going to be going on your adventure alone.

Most adventure vacations are facilitated through a specialized adventure travel organization, which will provide you with all the information you need to get started. These agencies will inform you of any special equipment you need, (whether you have to bring it along or if it is provided), and will set up your vacation along with other like-minded travelers and guides to take you all along your journey.

Make sure to discuss with your agency what your goals are for adventure travel, along with your experience and skill level. You don’t want to go on a ten-day rainforest excursion if you’ve never been camping before, and you don’t want to take on a strenuous mountain climb as your first one.

So if you’re looking into getting started with adventure travel, consider starting small with day trips. You don’t have to go to a rainforest, desert, or mountain peak; many adventure vacations include active hobbies such as rock climbing, hiking, and mountain biking. These are hobbies that can vary in intensity, and have routes to serve beginners or experts.

Whether you’re a seasoned adventure traveler or just getting started, an adventure vacation is a unique and rewarding way to spend your travel.

Health Resorts

Sometimes you want a vacation that combines both relaxation and health. If this is your goal, an alternative vacation to a health resort might be perfect for you.

Health resorts offer the high-class treatment of a traditional vacation with healthy eating and fitness activities, contributing to an overall healthy lifestyle. Every region of the United States has many health resorts to choose from. Many resorts are located in beautiful areas and offer luxurious accommodations, similar to an upscale hotel or traditional resort. But the difference comes in the nutrition and activities provided.

Healthy meals are often a major feature of health resorts, and many are all-inclusive, with food included in the nightly or weekly rate. Meals may be served directly at the resort, either with pre-planned breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, or in a buffet-style setting. Several health resorts have registered dietitians or nutritionists on-staff to assist with healthy meal choices.

Health resorts also feature fitness activities to lose weight or stay fit while you travel. These activities are not as intense as an adventure vacation—you won’t be climbing a mountain or backpacking through a jungle—but offer easy ways to stay healthy, like light hiking, dance classes, or yoga. These activities may be offered as part of a set daily schedule, or may be optionally taught at different times of day.

Be sure to research the fitness options provided by each health resort to determine the right choice for your desired activity level.

The best part of health resorts, (and what further separates them from adventure travel), is that after a long day of health and wellness, you can fall asleep in a luxury hotel bed; there’s no sleeping on a tent-floor here. That’s why for many travelers, a health resort is the best of all worlds: a relaxing trip, a healthy lifestyle, and a unique vacation experience.

Get Started

It’s not hard to get started with a unique vacation. For high-intensity travelers, reach out to an organization that specializes in voluntourism or adventure travel. For health-minded travelers, research the best health resort for your fitness and nutrition goals. And if you don’t know what to do for your vacation alternative? Try a staycation to kick off a new healthy habit.

Whatever you pick, you are destined to have a unique and different experience beyond the standard vacation.