Put on pause during the pandemic after a brief run, Air New Zealand’s 16-hour flight to Auckland — the only nonstop service from Chicago to New Zealand — is back, on offer three times a week (Wednesday, Friday, Sunday) on a slick Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (from $1,693). Want to spread out? Try a roomy three-seat Skycouch (from $4,272).
Why go this spring March marks the start of fall in New Zealand, and on the subtropical North Island you’ll find thinning summer crowds, abundant sunshine, and highs in the mid- to upper 60s through May. It’s the ideal time to experience quintessential Kiwi outdoor adventures like hiking amid volcanoes in UNESCO-designated Tongariro National Park or kayaking the stunning Whanganui River in lush Whanganui National Park. Up for a swim? Snorkel through Rikoriko Cave, one of the world’s largest sea caves, 14 miles off the pristine Tutukaka Coast.
United’s eight-and-a-half-hour nonstop (from $1,512) debuts May 25, giving travelers a second daily direct option. This one leaves O’Hare at 9:25 p.m. (American’s departs at 5:45 p.m.)
Why go this spring Come for temperatures in the mid-70s and stay for the city’s famous jamborees, from the massive Primavera Sound festival (pictured; May 29 to June 4) to the Feast of Sant Joan (June 23 to 24), where locals stoke lively fogueres (bonfires) to welcome the arrival of summer. A two-hour train ride south along the coast gets you to Priorat, Catalonia’s intimate and mountainous wine country, where you can stay at the 24-suite Gran Hotel Mas d’en Bruno (from $380 a night), a luxury property opening in May.
IRELAND’S WEST COAST
In recent years, if you wanted to get from Chicago to this stunning part of the Emerald Isle, you had to fly through Dublin, on the east coast, or connect elsewhere. But beginning May 25, United will offer daily seven-hour direct service (from $939) to Shannon, making destinations like Galway and Limerick more accessible than ever.
Why go this spring Iconic Irish pursuits never look better than in springtime in western Ireland, where you can enjoy blooming green hills and temperatures in the low 60s. Tiny Shannon is just your gateway: A quick drive southeast will take you to the 15th-century Bunratty Castle, while the Wild Atlantic Way coastal route includes the jaw-dropping Cliffs of Moher and the picturesque Dingle Peninsula’s ancient ruins and stunning views. Want to splurge? Stay at the Adare Manor (from $1,238 a night for a deluxe room), a repurposed neo-Gothic castle 25 minutes south of Shannon.