First day of summer: How to get your vacation groove on

Forrest Brown, CNNUpdated 21st June 2018
(CNN) — Memorial Day is the unofficial start to the summer travel season, but if you like things to be official, good news:
With the solstice, June 21 is the first actual day of summer 2018 in the Northern Hemisphere, and it's time to get your vacation groove on.
CNN Travel can guide you to some great destinations and give you some helpful tips to make the most of your summer trips.

Best places to go

Summer's a perfect time to visit Toronto.
Summer's a perfect time to visit Toronto.
How about a visit to America's northern neighbor, Canada?
Toronto offers a good value with a fantastic food scene and more summer festivals than you can easily count.
The TD Toronto Jazz Festival has been entertaining crowds for more than 30 years. Held in early September (technically still summer!), the Toronto International Film Festival is considered to be the largest public film festival in the world.
Maybe an island is more your speed?
The Azores, a self-governing Portuguese territory in the Atlantic, could be the ticket. New flight routes help you get there easier. Delta has added a seasonal option that will fly direct five times a week between JFK in New York and the capital of Ponta Delgada.
Neither of these strike your fancy? Then CNN Travel has 16 more suggestions.

Take the alphabet approach

Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort
The vivid colors of Bazaruto, Mozambique.
Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort
What's your favorite letter? Maybe that can be the serendipitous inspiration for a trip. It's so easy to start with A and end with Z, but let's meet in the middle with M, for Mozambique.
In southern Africa on the Indian Ocean, this country's Bazaruto Archipelago is an unspoiled group of six islands. One of the best ways to explore its stunning expanses is on horseback.
If you're not feeling M, let's lower it down a level with L -- for Las Vegas. Yes, we know, it's hot in Vegas in the summer. But it's also less expensive and they keep the A/C running. And there's more to this place than just gambling -- take the Neon Museum for instance.
If you're not on board with L and M, the English alphabet gives you 24 more options!

Great places to visit in July

A stunning view of Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.
A stunning view of Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park.
No month quite says "summertime" like July. It's a time for family trips to the beach, European getaways and in the USA, patriotic-themed travel.
The wild and rugged Black Hills area of South Dakota, home of Mount Rushmore, can combine that patriotism theme with a great location to enjoy the Wild West. And if you're worried about the heat, this part of South Dakota is usually a little cooler than the rest of the state.
At Custer State Park, you'll find a splendid spot for hiking, biking, rock climbing, birdwatching and more. And you can see that den of Wild West sin, Deadwood, where gambling and the lust for gold were the order of the day in the late 1800s.
If South Dakota isn't in the cards, we have four other suggestions for July, including one surprisingly "chilly" idea.


It's a big world out there, full of fantastic beaches.
If you're looking for a place to really relax, consider Isla Holbox in Mexico.
The small, skinny island is just north of the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. Mexicans have long been in the know about this laid-back getaway, but the news of Holbox's beauty and ease of living has started to get out to the rest of us.
If you want to combine a beach getaway with a culture dive into Italy, then Polignano a Mare might be for you. Found on the southern heel of Italy, it's set above deep blue water on gray-black cliffs. Along with its rocky escarpments, the town is known for its good seafood and desserts, such as a cono tuffato dipped into whipped cream.
If these two beaches don't have you reaching for the suntan lotion, we have a beach for every week of the year.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Parliament is a stunning piece of architecture.
Budapest Parliament is a stunning piece of architecture.
Budapest is one of Europe's grandest capitals and is something of a bargain compared with other cities in Europe.
If you need a relaxing vacation, this is the place to be. It's beloved for its spa and bathhouse culture, where people take the bathing rituals seriously.
You can see unusual things: A park where unwanted communist statues are left or a railroad that's run by children (and we mean in age, not temperament!)
From Parliament to the State Opera House, Budapest is filled with attractions you'll love this summer.

Summer books

Reading and summer are a great mix.
Reading and summer are a great mix.
Light summer reading is an annual tradition for summer. But this year, CNN's Katia Hetter has some suggestions that speak to our current times.
Whether you want to unearth some history or read a book of hope and revival, there's a book for you. A few ideas:
-- "A Woman in Her Garden," beautiful and thought-provoking words from the Cuban poet Dulce María Loynaz.
-- Betty Smith's 1943 classic "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"
-- "Turnip Greens & Tortillas," Atlanta chef Eddie Hernandez's cookbook
If you're not ready to turn the pages on these, we have more suggestions.

Packing tips

Fortunately, summer can make packing easier if you're visiting a warm-weather destination. But even then, packing can be a challenge.
A couple of packing tips to keep in mind from the experts:
-- No checked luggage: First of all, you don't need to pack heavy clothes. There's no debate about whether to go for a carry-on or check-in bag: These days taking only what fits in an overhead bin makes the best sense.
-- Think on your feet: Three pairs of footwear should handle your needs.
And we have eight more tips to do luggage the right way.