5 Epic Trips You Can Plan and Book Years in Advance

These once-in-a-lifetime trips give you something to look forward to for years to come.

Sunset at savannah plains in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya
Photo: Getty Images

As much as we'd all love to take a getaway at the drop of a hat, most of us simply cannot ignore our daily responsibilities. Be it work, school, family, or otherwise, life tends to get in the way. But that makes it all the more important to think long-term so you can still make travel a part of your life. Here are five incredible once-in-a-lifetime trips you can research, plan, and even book years in advance.

Total Solar Eclipse Experience

The sun emerges from behind the moon as people watch the total solar eclipse from El Molle, Chile, on July 2, 2019.
STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images

Did you witness one of nature's greatest shows during the "Great American Eclipse" in 2017? Although the entire country saw the moon take at least a chunk out of the sun, only about 10 million people got to observe the "path of totality" stretching from Oregon to South Carolina. Don't worry if you missed it, as you'll get another shot on April 20, 2023. You'll just need to jet off to Australia to the whale shark-watching paradise of Exmouth Peninsula and Ningaloo Reef off Western Australia's Coral Coast, both in this year's path. North America gets another turn to watch the celestial event on April 8, 2024. That eclipse will make its way through Mexico before coming through the U.S., traveling from Texas to Maine, passing right over Niagara Falls, and on to Canada through Ontario to Newfoundland.

Road Trip on Historic Route 66

Drone view of American car driving in a straight road of the famous Route 66.
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This is your sign to plan a trip to motor west — specifically, to make the drive down the infamous Route 66. The 2,448-mile journey from Chicago to Los Angeles, also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Mother Road, and America's Main Street, is one of the nation's most iconic drives. The original Route 66 — designated in 1926 — began at a sign on Adams Street in Chicago, on the shores of Lake Michigan. It cut through Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, and ended at the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California.

The highway was officially decommissioned in 1986, but travelers can still make their way down its original path, though it does require taking detours. However, this trip is mainly about the American towns, cities, and attractions along the way anyway, making driving a few extra miles worth it. Stop in at the Route 66 Drive-in in Springfield, Illinois, for 1950s-style movies, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, and the bizarre Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas.

A Galápagos Islands Cruise

Tourists sitting in Zodiac boat are taking pictures of Darwin Arch in Galapagos Islands.
Getty Images

Love animals? Ecuador's Galápagos Islands — visited by Charles Darwin in 1835, which inspired his theory of evolution — are home to some of the most unique species in the world, including sea lions, blue-footed boobies, flamingos, penguins, and giant tortoises. Officials at the Galápagos National Park go to great lengths to protect the landscape and the animals that call it home, limiting both the number of islands people can visit and the quantity of visitors who can come each year. But that's what makes this such a stellar place for a preplanned trip. For the ultimate experience, book a small boat cruise through the islands with a company like Ecoventura, which also provides a naturalist who takes guests on hikes and snorkeling trips to safely see all the magnificent creatures in their natural habitats.

Cruise Around Antarctica

Cruise ship in Antarctica
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It's the coldest, most hostile continent on the planet, yet ice-covered Antarctica is a must on any travel wish list. It's expensive, but exploring the "Great White Open" is accessible, thanks to a cruising industry that has made one- and two-week itineraries routine. Generally booked at least a year in advance, cruises typically begin in the world's southernmost city, Ushuaia, in Argentina. Passengers then typically make stops at the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Shetland Islands, and the Antarctic Peninsula. At each stop, travelers head out in a Zodiac (an inflatable boat) to watch wildlife, reach land to snowshoe, visit research stations, and even go polar diving.

The price is also determined by the luxuries on board the ship and the size of your cabin. This is not your average luxury cruise; expect scientific lectures and learning rather than buffets and bands. Choose an expedition vessel with a capacity of fewer than 250 passengers to limit the environmental impact.

East African Safari

Lion near safari truck, South Africa
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An East African safari is as dreamy a vacation as they come. You want to make the most of it, but luckily, you have time to plan. For those after the Big Five, a visit to Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve is essential, but don't overlook the plains of Serengeti National Park in Tanzania; together, they make up the 11,500-square-mile Serengeti ecosystem.

It's through this vast corridor that the Great Wildebeest Migration of 1.5 million creatures takes place over July and August. But if those months don't work, plan a trip between January and March when the wildebeest calves are born in the southern Serengeti.

Other game reserves, scenic stop-offs, luxury lodges, and add-on experiences are usually included in safari itineraries, which typically involve a driver taking you on a round-trip journey from Nairobi (Kenya) or Arusha (Tanzania). Visitors can also add special moments like a hot-air balloon ride to most safari trips, or they can go all out with a side visit to Rwanda or Uganda to trek and see mountain gorillas. Of course, there are plenty of other African countries to take a safari, so if you really want, you can start planning a second, third, or fourth visit to the continent right now, too.

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