By Matt SmolskyWhether you're planning a trip to an exotic location, still dreaming, or pining to go back again, try staying in a vacation rental the next time you go. While hotels and resorts have advantages, nothing equals the feeling of being on vacation in an exotic location and feeling like you're a native. Vacation rentals give you an unbeatable opportunity to know what it feels like to be a native in paradise. But be warned: Once you start vacationing in exotic locations, you'll never want to come back and, if you do, you'll always want to return as soon as possible.
To call South Island picturesque is an understatement. It's one of the reasons Lord of the Rings was filmed there: the region has an otherworldly quality that's striking and memorable. As many times as you see it, you still feels as if you're seeing it for the first time. The area has it all--perfect, pristine coastlines, mountains, glaciers, volcanoes. You can ski, dive and hike. Or take in wine tours, spa treatments and find unique gifts while shopping.
Since you've flown all the way to the South Island, why not extend the stay for a week and take in the North Island? It has plenty of natural beauty to offer, but since 70% of the population lives on the North Island, you can get to know New Zealanders and have a more urban experience in Auckland or Wellington. Travel tips: the beaches are simply breathtaking and the island is very drivable.
On your way back from New Zealand, ask the boss for an extra week off. You'll be laying over in Hawaii and you may as well stay awhile. Whether it's your first trip to Hawaii or your 100th, a vacation on the islands is simply worth it. Hawaii is the original exotic location and you can literally have it all. Escape to the quiet beauty of Kauai, or immerse yourself in the modern luxury of Oahu. Take a day or a year to relax on Maui's beaches, or get a taste of every eco-system on the planet (and get away from it all) on the Big Island. You'll feel like you're a world away from everything and everybody, and you won't have to teleport to another planet or exchange currency.
After you're week (or two) in Hawaii, you won't be even close to being ready to go back to work. So do like the Europeans do and round out your vacation to a whole month and head down to Bali. Try Ubud and take in the Puri Saren Agung, a lavish palace now used for incredible performances by traditional Balinese dancers. There are magnificent rivers, temples, rice terraces, and lots of art districts where you'll find both galleries and workshops. After all, Ubud is considered the cultural center of Bali.