Vacation pros predict some of the South’s buzzy getaways this year and share advice on what to pack

By Lia Picard

February 2, 2023

Located just outside of Birmingham in the posh yet quaint suburb of Mountain Brook, the Travel Studio seeks to fuel travelers’ wanderlust in more ways than one. There, people can meet with travel advisors, including founders Anne Liles and Ragan Stone, as well as shop for travel-related products in the jewel-box boutique. 

“It’s basically a lot of the things that we’ve found around the world along the way,” Liles says. That might be sunglasses by the Italian brand Epos, which Liles and Stone discovered while visiting Lake Como, or a diffuser from the rustic Coqui Coqui hotel in the Yucatan. “It’s such a pretty piece, almost even a decorating component, but the smells are wonderful, and we fell in love while we were down there.”

Though the advisors send travelers all over the world, Liles points out that it’s always the right time of year to explore the South. “We have a lot in the South, even just for a weekend getaway, that people just forget about,” Liles says. “The South has a lot of food and culture and hotels, and just neat pockets and places to go.”

So whether you’re looking for a quick winter escape or want to look forward to summer vacation, here are seven tips to consider for Southern travel in 2023.

Boca Raton is cool now.

Boca Raton might, in the past, have brought up memories of great-grandparents and bingo halls, but it’s not some sleepy destination these days. Start with the Boca Raton. Originally called the Ritz-Carlton Cloister Inn, the place has lured travelers to its waterfront locale since 1926, but recently underwent a major renovation. The property, which consists of five hotels in varying sizes, has an outpost of Manhattan’s Sadelle’s, a buzzy deli that serves bagels, smoked fish, and brunch fare, and sits near attractions like the Boca Raton Museum of Art. “It’s old-school, but they’re bringing it back to life,” Liles says of the area.

Catching a golf tournament? Bring a sensible hat.

If attending a golf tournament is on your 2023 to-do list, be it the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, or the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, a hat is a must. For a client of Liles headed to a golf tournament, she suggested a Lorna Murray hat. “They’re foldable, they’re packable, and I feel like it just can dress up an outfit,” she says. The fabric also has a UPF of 50+ which is paramount when you’re outside all day.

Get a taste of the tropics in the Keys.

Everybody thinks you have to go to the Caribbean to really get away, Liles says, but the Florida Keys offer a similar vibe—no passport required. She’s found that her clients enjoy going to Isla Bella Beach Resort on Marathon. It’s family-friendly and is a great jumping off point for exploring the other Keys by land or sea.

Take the family on a mountain trip in style. 

Blackberry Mountain, the chic resort in Walland, Tennessee, is a luxe spot for families. The accommodations, whether it’s the stone cottages or the treehouses, are spacious, and there’s plenty of room on the property for everyone to spread out and explore. The resort even offers family activities including climbing, yoga, and paddle sports. 

blackberry mountain
photo: courtesy of blackberry mountain

Or, leave the kids home and go on a romantic getaway.

A little less than an hour west of Asheville sits the Swag, a mountaintop property in Waynesville. Its seclusion and cozy accommodations make it a prime romantic destination. Choose among suites or, even better, cottages, and enjoy the meandering 250-acre property with hiking trails and a hot tub that overlooks the valley and Cold Mountain. Liles suggests making it a two-for-one trip if possible, with a stop in Asheville before or after heading to the Swag.

SWG TheLookout EastForkPottery
photo: courtesy of the swag

Blue Ridge views at the Swag.

Take a sturdy-yet-chic bag to the beach.

It wouldn’t be a summer in the South without a trip to the beach, and Liles suggests taking a Bembien Lola bag, made of handwoven rattan, in tow. “They work great with the sand,” she says. Maybe throw in a bottle of Coqui Coqui’s bug repellent, too. 

Check out the new addresses in historic Savannah.

“I’ve been getting a lot of interest in Savannah recently for couples’ getaways, too,” Liles says. She points out that the beautiful historic town has plenty of new offerings to explore, from the Perry Lane Hotel to the Thompson Savannah crowned with the swanky rooftop Bar Julian. There’s also the recently opened Garage at Victory North for seasonally driven bites.

Bar Julian City Scope
photo: courtesy of bar julian

Bar Julian in Savannah, Georgia.

p jpeg 6
photo: courtesy of the thompson

Savannah’s Thompson Hotel.