Give The Gift Of Travel This Holiday Season


My annual roundup of noteworthy destinations for 2018 will be out in January, providing sustenance and diversion to offset those New Year’s resolutions.

But as I write this, it is still Chanukah; even more than usual, family and friends are on our minds. Now that I have a 3-year-old, I appreciate anew my own parents’ magic at delighting my sister and me throughout eight nights of candles, music and yes, presents we actually liked.

So this week, in a prelude to the official where-to-go list, here are suggestions for the gift of travel — for the people you want to spend more time with in 2018.

For your children: Take a holiday vacation. The place doesn’t matter; the occasion does, and make it an annual ritual.

I can fill any given weekend with activities, but on holidays, there’s no substitute for family, however you define it. Whether it’s Passover in Mexico, Fourth of July in Nantucket, Thanksgiving in Paris or Chanukah in Berlin, I’ve told my far-flung relatives that we should resolve to imbue meaningful days with communal memories.

For teenagers: Anywhere in nature, preferably a national park, here or abroad.

Even the most jaded teen cannot help at being awed by the grandeur of mountains, glaciers and deserts. Hiking and skiing are great ways to bond, but just taking it all in can feel transporting in a way that transcends generational differences.

Cities can be polarizing — by age, by interest, by cuisine — and civilization offers myriad ways to tune out. But your teenager’s smartphone very likely will get no reception in a canyon, and with limited entertainment and dinner options, arguments will be minimal.

For Europhiles: Venice. Yes, it’s sinking. Yes, it’s overrun by tourists and, lately, gargantuan cruise ships.

But for the Jewish traveler, Venice is more inviting than ever. Last year, the still-active local community celebrated #VeniceGhetto500, the half-millennial anniversary of the original ghetto. With several recently opened kosher eateries and spruced-up sights around one of Europe’s prettiest Jewish quarters, Venice is ripe for revisiting.

For island lovers: St. Helena, UK. The ultimate island getaway is now within reach.

As I wrote earlier in the year, the British territory, stranded in the mid-Atlantic, was historically so remote that the only way to get there was via Royal Mail ship from Cape Town.

But this past fall, South Africa Airlink finally launched flights connecting St. Helena with Cape Town and Johannesburg — bringing accessibility of a sort to a rocky isle with a quirky Jewish history.

For people in a Paris rut: Toulouse. Just four (mostly traffic-free) hours from Barcelona through the Pyrenees, Toulouse offers a fresh take on all the things you love about Paris: a historic Jewish community, picturesque neighborhoods, distinctive cuisine and a lively cultural scene. But it has fewer crowds, and sunnier weather.

Toulouse has lately been in the news for the 2012 terrorist attack on a Jewish school and ensuing trial, but the city — with its pastel Old Quarter and monuments from centuries of French Jewry — is so much more than the headlines.

For an extended sojourn, with plenty of Yiddishkeit: Melbourne. It’s summer Down Under, where Melbourne combines the best of Old and New Jewish Worlds: The climate and outdoorsy lifestyle of L.A.; the buzzy, locally sourced foodie scene of Israel; and the warm traditionalism, and lovely Victorian architecture, of Anglo-Jewish communities.

Along with the March Jewish street festival, historic synagogues, Jewish museums and kosher eateries make this a great winter getaway.

For Israeli relatives: The Oregon coast. Like a lot of people from hot climates, my Israeli friends — admittedly not a scientific sampling — revel in the cool, drizzly vacation weather that would prompt complaints from many of us.

Oregon is for people who love the sea but could use a break from heat and sunshine. The central coast around Cannon Beach — the region where Jewish composer Ernst Bloch wrote his masterworks — boasts wide, empty beaches, rock formations in crashing Pacific surf, and quaint, shingled villages. In the cool green forests just an hour from Portland, it’s never too hot for a hike.

For a multigenerational vacation, without kids: A European river cruise. As I wrote in this winter’s Jewish Journeys magazine (an insert in this week’s paper), riverboats offer an intimate, small-scale alternative to lavish ocean vessels, along with routes heavy on Jewish heritage.

With limited space and diversion onboard, river boats may not be ideal for restless kids. But several generations of adults can enjoy the lower-key, refined atmosphere, the convenience of all-inclusive pricing and the ease of smaller ports — all without ever having to unpack.