Looking for things to do on your next vacation?
Coming up with new and exciting things to do while you’re away can be hard, especially when you’ve got lots of people to keep happy. It can be easy to slip into a rut of having doing the same things every time!
Well we’ve got a list to make you look like a planning genius, with 75 vacation ideas to build into your next holiday, or even base an entire holiday around.
I’ve split them down into categories, so it’s easy to pick out what to do on your vacation, though go easy on us, we know some could have fitted into multiple homes!
Outdoorsy Things To Do On Vacation
Walking holidays are a brilliant way to slow down and learn much more about a location. Some people spend months hiking, ticking off the highest peaks on a continent, or taking old pilgrimage routes such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain. You can, however, just hire a toasty cabin, load up with great booze and spend the days out in the cold, and the nights sharing stories with friends. Perfect.
Learn To Scuba Dive
If you already have your PADI license, then scuba diving might already be on your list of activities to do on holiday, however, even if you don’t, you could build your vacation around a course, which can be completed in only three days (we did exactly this in Vietnam). And once you’re trained, there is (almost literally) a whole new world to experience, from wrecks to reefs.
Take a Road Trip
Road trips are a great way to see a lot of a country in a small amount of time. It’s easy (though sometimes more expensive) to hire a car in one location and then return it to another (see this example in Croatia or this from Australia), though you can just as easily do a round trip. Whether it’s in an RV or a car, camping or motels, you can mix it up, and with so many special routes on earth, you’ll never be short of inspiration.
You don’t have to be a pro to take to the waves, you can hire boards at most surf beaches and turn it into a vacation activity. Taking a surfing lesson is going to help, you’ll be feeling more confident on the surf in only a couple of hours, though beware you may pick up the surf bug for life!
Fishing has to be one of the most peaceful vacation activities (well, unless you go after something extreme such as tigerfish in the Zambezi like my Dad did), so it’s something you can take a couple of days to do whilst on holiday, or base an entire trip around it.
Visit National Parks
National parks are areas protected by the state, and with nearly 100 countries having them (and with some designating over 10% of their total space to national parks) there is no shortage of options. Whether you combine a visit with hiking or cycling, or set yourself a bucket list of visiting the best in the world, it’s a very popular thing to do on vacation.
Get Out On The Water
Whether it’s a boat trip, paddleboard or kayak, there are lots of options to get out on the water when you’re on vacation. These trips will often get you to places you can’t reach on land, and allow you to see wildlife that doesn’t come ashore.
Nothing lets you experience the great outdoors quite like having a small piece of canvas between you and the elements. You don’t need much kit to get you going, and it can also save you a lot of money in the short term. Start off with a short trip to learn the basics, before taking on longer trips in more remote locations.
I’m probably a little biased as I’ve done some extreme cycling trips, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of getting out on a bike. When you go on vacation, it can be a great way to see a larger part of a new location, or you could even base an entire trip around cycling like this famous family (or check out this site for some worldwide cycling adventures).
Slide a Zip Line
Not for everyone, but if you love the thrill of moving at high speed through some (often) unusual places, then search for the nearest zip line next time you’re on vacation.
They’re in more places than you might think! Ziplining out of a volcano? Check! Riding a bicycle on a high wire over a forest? Check! You can even zip line off of the Eiffel Tower!
Skiing or Snowboarding
A classic, but generally expensive, winter activity that many people fall in love with, hitting the slopes for a vacation can be done more cheaply than you might think. And if the thought of rushing down a mountain on ice a 40mph doesn’t interest you, then there’s still lots to do at a mountain resort that doesn’t involve the slopes.
Wildlife Focused Things To Do On Vacation
Go on Safari
There is nothing quite like a safari. Whether self-driven or on a tour, you spend hours in the wilderness, often without seeing anything, eyes peeled, feeling like an explorer, for the euphoria of finally seeing something new. A rare hook-lipped rhino browsing a tree, a black-backed jackal waking up for an evening’s hunt or, as the case was above, an elephant just outside the window. For me, my favourite place is Kruger National Park in South Africa, but there are dozens of great reserves you can choose.
Visit an Aquarium
Most big cities have an aquarium, and they are a great place to head on vacation, especially if the weather’s not good. Unless you’re doing to take up scuba diving, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get to see the sea’s creatures up close, and whether it’s a sneaky octopus, ugly old grouper or, surprisingly, the world’s biggest fish, there are some incredible aquariums out there that house almost everything.
Go Shark Cage Diving
Shark cage diving has long been on my bucket list (hopefully not the last thing!), but I’ve not quite mustered up the courage. If you are a little braver than me, it would definitely be a ‘talking point’ from your vacation. Oh, and there are locations all over the world, so no excuses…
Visit a Zoo (or Sanctuary)
Zoos are a great place to give your kids an appreciation of the incredible animals of our world, without having to travel. Many also do great work for conservation and educating people on the challenges the natural world faces. If zoos don’t sit well with you ethically though, when you’re on vacation, search for local animal sanctuaries instead. Sanctuaries don’t buy, sell, trade or breed animals, they just save ones that can no longer live in the wild.
Go Whale Watching
Seeing the world’s biggest animals crashing through the surface of the sea puts your own little human form into perspective. Whether you go out on a boat, or watching from a viewpoint on land, there are dozens of countries in which you can have this magical experience while on your vacation.
Dabble in some Birdwatching
Not the most glamorous of pursuits, I’ll admit, but, as with all hobbies, one that gets more compelling the more you understand about it. I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore twitcher, but I do always find it interesting to look up unique birds in new areas I’m visiting, especially when they’re particularly rare. Even if you’re not into birds at all, keep an eye out for the stories that might be worth pursuing when on vacation, such as the island saved by a bird.
Entire vacations can be built around horseriding if that’s your thing, or you can just take the odd tour or excursion built into another trip. Even if you’re not currently a rider, many places will offer beginner experiences to get you going.
Visit a Bird Sanctuary
I know we’ve had both animal sanctuaries and birdwatching as separate items on this list, but I feel a bird sanctuary is a separate experience, and one worth seeking out independently of the other too. They are specialists, and you often get to see incredible species such as owls and raptors up close. A good example was Raptor Domain, which we visited while on Kangaroo Island in Australia, which has some fantastic shows and the chance to take private experiences.
Cultural Things To Do On Vacation
Visit Iconic Landmarks (UNESCO Sites)
The first thing I search when booking a trip is whether there are any UNESCO sites nearby (we’ve even taken entire trips just to visit them, such as the Plain of Jars in Laos). There are over 1,000 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, which are protected for the future of mankind, making them the ultimate bucket list of places to visit.
Go on a Food Tour
Booking a food tour with a local guide (find the best on Viator) is a great way to get to know a city, the unique foods and the culture all at once. They are often run by students looking to make some extra money to fund their studies, and we’ve met some amazing people that way. Our most memorable was an evening in the rain, exploring the small restaurants and street stalls of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
Go to the Theatre
Catching a show at the theatre on vacation is about as cultural as it gets, right? And you don’t necessarily have to go for something well known. How about this local play we saw in Strahan, Tasmania which is apparently the longest running in the country, or the utterly unique water puppet show we saw in Hanoi, Vietnam. Have a search for local shows, you might just be surprised what’s out there.
Visit a Museum
Your parent’s favourite activity to do on holiday? Visit a museum, of course! Whilst I didn’t appreciate it as a kid, I’m the first to check out the local museums while on vacation now. They can be an amazing insight into the country you’re visiting, or even a powerful reminder of how brutal our world can be.
Go on a Walking Tour
Many cities have free walking tours that you can join, which serve as the perfect introduction to your new surroundings, and are run by the most wonderful volunteers. If you’re looking for one, check out Guruwalk, who have tours in over 300 cities around the world.
Go on a Bike Tour
Like a walking tour, but on wheels!
Again, many cities offer these (check out this company in Melbourne as an example) or you can plot your own route, like we did around the ancient temples of Ayutthaya in Thailand.
Try Traditional Cuisine
Even if you don’t do a full food tour, it’s also an experience to seek out the local cuisine when going on vacation.
Visit Botanic Gardens
Usually the most peaceful place in a city (well, if you avoid the kids dropping acid anyway!) we always make a b-line for the nearest botanic gardens when we’re on holiday in a city.
Some of our favourites are Kirstenbosch, which is set on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town, Mae Fah Luang in Northern Thailand (which is admittedly not in a city, but you get to walk through the treetops, so it still gets my vote) and our beautiful local slice of paradise in Williamstown, Melbourne.
Go to a Concert/Gig
If you’re looking for some evening entertainment while on vacation, then check out the local gig listings, you never know which bands may be in town. In a major city, have a look at the big concert halls too to see if there are operas or classical concerts that might add to your cultural experience. A personal favourite of mine are the Candlelight Concerts, which offer an unforgettable experience in over 100 cities.
Visit the Local Market
“If you’re going to a country, particularly in Southeast Asia, [where] you’ve never been before, it’s a very good idea to go to the market first, see what they’re selling, get an idea of what they’re good at, what the people are buying”.
That quote was from Anthony Bordain, who are we to argue with one of the world’s most seasoned travellers?
Child Friendly Things To Do On Vacation
Go to a Theme Park
From Disneysea in Tokyo to the quaint Tivoli Gardens in Denmark, there are incredible theme parks right across the world, some of which you might not get near unless you’re on vacation. If you’re looking for something for the smaller ones, there are still lots of options such as Legoland which has eight sites across the world.
Play Mini Golf
Mini golf or putt-putt seems to have risen in popularity over the last decade. When I was a kid it was very much the domain of traditional seaside resorts, now cities are filled with indoor arenas which are used as much for date nights as they are for time out with the kids. Either way, I have very happy memories of trying to beat my dad at crazy golf when I was a kid, so seek out your nearest ‘course’ next time you’re on holiday.
Visit a Petting Zoo
I have never seen my daughter happier than when she’s learning about animals at a petting zoo. There’s something about a more hands-on experience that gets her to respect and understand them a lot better, which is not an opportunity she would have naturally, as we live in a city. If you’re looking for something that will definitely lodge in the memory of your kids, then this is it! It’s she talks about for days after we’ve been.
Go to the Beach
Simple, but effective. It does get more vacationy (is this even a word!?) than a day at the beach with the family.
Visit a Planetarium
If your little one has even a passing interest in the night sky, you’ve got to get them to a planetarium. It will help them (and let’s be honest, probably you!) learn more about the stars and constellations, maybe setting them up with a hobby for life. Visit the useful Planetarium Database to find one near your next vacation destination.
Go to an Interactive Museum
There are some absolutely amazing child-friendly museums around the world, places that take down the glass and encourage kids to get stuck in, the perfect day to get through a rainy vacation day.
Go on a Treasure Hunt
If you’re looking for something a bit different to do with the family, then check out My City Hunt who have built virtual scavenger and treasure hunts in over 2,000 locations around the world. You pay per person, and then complete a mix of challenges via their app. A fun way to explore a new city.
Visit a Water Park
Kids go crazy for water parks, and with one in almost every hot location in the world, they make for a perfect day out when on vacation.
Creative Things To Do On Vacation
Make a Scrapbook
Want to channel your inner Carl and Ellie? Then you’ve got to make your own adventure book! Keep ticket stubs, currency, postcards, flowers, posters, photos, feathers and programs to create your own memory-filled book to tell the story of your vacation.
Take a Cooking Course
We’ve already covered going to restaurants, taking food tours and visiting the local markets, but if you truly want to learn the most about a nation’s cuisine then book into a cooking course. We did exactly that while we were in Thailand, and took some Thai cookery tips back with us, as well as meeting some fantastic people.
Start a Blog
If you’re looking to turn your travel adventures into something that might make you money in the long term, then you could start a travel blog.
Take a Dance Class
This is now something you’ll find me doing, but taking a dance class can be a great way to meet locals, especially if you’re on vacation alone. Check out these nine reasons to take a dance class when you travel.
Go on a Photography Tour
Type photography tour into a tours website such as Viator, and you’ll get lots of options in bigger cities. There have the dual benefit of taking you to some of the best places to get great photos of a city, as well as having a professional photographer help you to master your camera. Given these sessions are only a bit more than a regular tour, if you’re a photographer this is a great way to level up your skill!
Keep a Journal
You can keep a travel journal in a traditional way, with a rugged notebook and pen, or you can do something more modern, such as using an online travel journal creator such as Tripline. Whilst it might feel like a task at the time, when you look through it in future, you’ll realise you have capture moments that might otherwise have been forgotten.
Painting or Drawing
Not a talent I was lucky enough to be blessed with, but if you are an artist, then painting on vacation can be both relaxing and liberating, with limited supplies and a new location to challenge you.
Adult Things To Do On Vacation
Visit a Casino
What better thing to do on vacation than win back all the money you spent on getting there? I know, fat chance really, but if you fancy trying your odds, you don’t have to be in Vegas, many countries allow casinos.
The most interesting one I’ve seen?
It has to be Sun City in South Africa, complete with golf course, water park – oh, and a game reserve!
Go to a Brewery
Yes, it’s predictable, but breweries offer more than just beer now, with many having fabulous restaurants attached and even things to do for the kids. Well, that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!
Get a Tattoo
What better way to mark a great holiday than a tattoo? Well probably a postcard, maybe some well-shot photos, a couple of souvenirs – but maybe a tattoo? And you don’t just have to be a drunk Brit in Maguluf to get one, there are some traditional methods such as Sak Yant in Thailand, that make for a better story.
Take a Cruise
Cruises might not be for everyone, but they could be the best vacation you’ve not yet tried. How about a holiday where nearly all costs are included, or you get to visit multiple places on a single trip, childcare is included, or duty-free booze the whole way! Yep, there are many benefits to taking a cruise vacation.
A 2016 survey said that more than 70% of travellers have been skinny-dipping. You not one of it? Another one to go on your vacation to-do list!
Take a Cocktail Making Class
A cocktail making class is a fun way to enjoy an afternoon as a couple or a group, and pick up a new skill along the way. Once you’re done, check out if one of the 50 best cocktail bars in the world is in your city.
Visit a Winery
This is turning into a pretty booze-heavy list, but I’m making no apologies there!
If you’re in the right part of the world, then a day of wine tasting at the best vineyards in the area is a great way to unwind. A couple of our favourites have been the Yarra Valley near Melbourne and the wineries around Stellenbosch in South Africa.
Get a Massage
Vacations are meant to be about R&R, and a massage is one of the most relaxing activities you can do (well, as long as you get the right type!). Book in, chill out and enjoy the moment.
Go to a Comedy Club
Laughter lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and might even work your abs. But beer and a good night out are the reason most of us visit a comedy club! Search for ‘professional comedians new material‘ for a chance to see someone you might know pre-run their new tour, or just be content with seeing some of the local stand-ups do their thing.
Go to a Nudist Beach
You know what they say, “if you haven’t been to a nudist beach at least once in your lifetime, you haven’t lived”.
Yeah, ok, I made that up to fill some space, but this is something different to throw on your ‘vacation bucket list’. Check out these nudist beach tips for first-timers if I’ve got you interested, and see if you’re near any of the world’s best nudist beaches.
Visit a Spa
You deserve a spa day, you know you do! And visiting a spa has to be near the top of the ultimate adult things to do on vacation. From resort spas, to a day in soothing mineral spring waters, there are different types in different locations, Conde Nast even found one in the Himalayas.
Go to a Meditation Retreat
If you need to completely switch off for a while, then heading to a meditation retreat for your vacation might be the perfect answer. Your phone will be locked away, with an aim of getting you focused on the present, and you’ll learn skills that will help you relax for life.
Unusual Things To Do On Vacation
Take a Ghost Tour
Visit almost any old city in the world, and you’ll find a ghost tour available. We’ve only taken one, which was while we were in York, but it was brilliantly done, the guy running it was a fantastic storyteller. And you might be surprised at which cities are considered the most haunted.
Get Tips From Atlas Obscura
If you’re looking for the most unusual activities to do on vacation, then there’s one simple tool to rule them all, Atlas Obscura. This website is packed full of weird, curious, but often incredibly fun places.
You’ll be amazed at how many cities have hidden underground worlds. Big cities such as Paris and Rome have catacombs that can be explored, Edinburgh and Naples let you take underground tours or, if you want to take it to the extreme, there are entire cities built into the ground such as Malta’s Hal Saflieni Hypogeum.
Visit a Cat Cafe
Yes, really! If you’re missing your little fur ball and want a taste of home while on vacation, seek out a cat café. We’ve found them in places as diverse as Chiang Rai in Thailand and Melbourne in Australia.
Take a Helicopter Tour
Helicopter tours are expensive, making them a rare occurrence for most people, but it’s exactly because of this that taking one will make your holiday more memorable. If there’s a big waterfall, there’s nearly always be a helicopter tour – the same with glaciers, canyons and islands! Here are some of the world’s best.
Go UFO Watching
There are many places in the world where you can take a UFO spotting tour on vacation. I’m not promising you’ll see any, but under the banner of ‘unusual things to do on vacation’ I think this one well and truly delivers!
That grainy photo above shows that I (at least sometimes) practice what I preach on this site. Paragliding is an experience unlike anything else I’ve done. We went running off the side of a mountain in Austria, and then floated down.
The views were incredible, the air silent, I reckon this is what it feels like to be a bird riding the thermals, well if you forget about the 6ft 2in German guy sitting directly behind me that is.
Things To Do On a Staycation
If a vacation is just a bit too much for you, then why not take a staycation, but try something different at home or in your local area, so it feels like a break? Here are some suggestions for you:
Read a Guidebook of Your Area, and Explore Like a Tourist
How can you travel without travelling? Exploring your own area like a tourist, that’s how. I’ve experience more of Australia than most Australians, but equally haven’t seen much of the UK. We sometimes forget what’s right around us, so grab a guidebook, learn something new and go find it.
Have a Screen Free Day
I know it may sound almost impossible, but try taking a screen sabbatical for a day.
I had a colleague who went on a retreat for a week, where they put his phone in a box, and he was only allowed to access it once a day. He said he noticed things around him that he would not have seen before. If you want to explore your local area as if it were a new place, leave your phone behind (and maybe just take your camera).
Start a New Garden
Starting a new garden could be the perfect project for a vacation. It can be backbreaking work at times, but if you need a break to take your mind off of work, then physical activity is perfect. If you’re looking for something a bit easier, why not set up a mini-garden in a pot or glass jar?
Have a Home Camping Adventure
Camping out in your own backyard can feel like an adventure, with all the home comforts only a few steps away. It’s a great experience to have with kids, and might be a way to introduce them to some bigger camping trips in the future. You can go all out by setting up a fire, playing some outdoors games and even setting up a camp shower with the hose!
Go for a Picnic
In my experience, a picnic is something that sounds like a good idea, but we never get around to doing.
Why? Because it’s a bit of a faff to set up.
The great news about a staycation is that you’ve got some more time, so put a picnic on your to-do list! Get the blankets, basket and food ready, leave your phones behind and head out as a family to enjoy the outside for a few hours.
Have a Movie Marathon
Completing a movie marathon during your staycation is a great way to relax, especially if the weather didn’t turn out the way you’d like. And binging your favourite series’ might even help you to spot recurring plot themes you’d missed before.
From James Bond to Mad Max, Saw to Indiana Jones – or even the nearly twelve hours of extended Lord of the Rings movies, there’s something for everyone.
Learn a New Skill
Admittedly, a week or two staycation is not going to be enough to learn a new skill (basic competency seems to kick in around eight weeks), however it can be a great place to start! Why not take an online guitar course, go and volunteer at a cycling shop to learn some maintenance, or join a meetup in a foreign language? There are so many ways to get started, but try the DISS method to get you going.
Have a Board Games Day
Wind back the clock thirty years, and book in a board games day for your staycation. If you’re like us, there’s a cupboard full of them that rarely see daylight, if not there are loads of new ones you’ve probably never heard of! Keep a leaderboard, and make a week or even an entire day out of it.
Have a Themed Dinner Night
Having a themed dinner night can be a way to mix up the evenings on a staycation, and be forced out of your cooking comfort zone. You can go one step further and theme the entire evening. Mexican, Japanese and Italian are easy choices, but why not try something more unique. How could you theme a casino night? Or a Disney night? Or a night that tells the story of your family heritage?
What To Read Next
If you’re still looking for ideas for your next vacation, then why not read about my personal favourite countries on earth – I cover four different continents here with links to all my best posts about them.
Or why not check out our favourite, experiences, places and food from our Southeast Asia trip?
Or just check out all the destination guides…
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