When you finally get to take time off this year, traveling to places that take you to another level physically and spiritually will leave you lest restless and more satisfied than vacations that are filled with scheduled tours, jam-packed spaces and noisy crowds.
Whether your idea of roughing it is "no room service after 9 p.m." or wild white water rafting, there's a perfect place in the world waiting just for you. Here are some trend-setting scenes to get those vacation wheels whirling:
Resorts and hotels understand that guests need more than a bed, beverage and banquet buffet. The hip W Scottsdale hotel offers hiking trails, yoga classes, swimming, golf, a fitness center and spa. Taking amenities one step further, there's also a Zen meditation garden plus Doga (yoga for owners and dogs) and Vino & Vinyasa.
The Pets Are Welcome (P.A.W.) property extends its wellness offerings to include canine companions. Offered once a month, Doga is taught by a certified yoga instructor who takes dogs and owners through meditation massage and a series of yoga-inspired poses designed to increase flexibility and relax the muscles.
On the rooftop WET℠ deck, guests are invited twice monthly to complimentary Vino & Vinyasa, sponsored by lululemon, where local yoga instructors teach breath-synchronized movements as attendees enjoy stunning sunset views, yoga and then relax afterwards with friends and a glass of wine.
State-of-the-art fitness and spa facilities are expected at better hotels as well as on cruise ships. Royal Caribbean International ships feature huge health and fitness complexes complete with rock-climbing wall, basketball and volleyball court, jogging track and nine- or 18-hole mini-golf courses. Some even have ice skating rinks and offer extras such as hiking, kayaking and snorkeling.
Windstar sailing cruises have topnotch fitness equipment, trendy workout classes, personal trainers and water-aerobics pools. Water-skiing, windsurfing, kayaking, sail boating and snorkeling are complimentary on the entire Windstar line.
Travel that is good for you and the environment is a booming industry. Find ecotourism trips with groups such as Untamed Path, EcoClub and The Ethical Traveler.
Build your own trip by selecting ecologically sensitive hotels. The Green Hotel Association guides members along Mother Nature's path with tips from water saving measures to organic cotton linens to nontoxic cleaning products.
Stroll way out of the box with moonlight hikes in eerily stunning Canyon de Chelly on Arizona's Navajo reservation. You can't wander the reservation alone. Find a guide and more trip info at www.discovernavajo.com.
Replenish your mojo with a journey to ancient spiritual sites. Temples in Bali, Stonehenge in England, Machu Picchu in Peru, vortexes in Sedona, Ariz. and sacred Mt. Kailas in Tibet are among countless places where humans have long found a way to commune with unworldly energies. Sacred Earth Journeys lists hundreds of locations to explore.
Learn As You Go
Looking to combine the feel good punches of volunteerism, travel and exercise? There are some fantastic trips available - from assisting scientists studying climate change effects on caterpillars in Costa Rica, to helping conduct sea life surveys on reefs in the Indian Ocean - you can travel, learn and offer much needed manpower to your favorite cause. Travel with the Sierra Club, Earthwatch Institute and American Hiking Society. Go to ecovolunteer.org, enter the animal you'd like to study and find all the places where researchers would welcome your help. One of the most comprehensive directories of environmental groups has been compiled by the National Wildlife Federation.