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?”