Spring break: 7 vacations to take with your tax refund

Perhaps it’s true that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. So why not make the latter a bit more fun?

This year, according to the IRS, the size of the average tax refund is $3,008. If you’ve already trudged through your paperwork and are just waiting for that check to clear: congratulations! You deserve something special.

While everybody has different ideas about how to best use that coveted refund money, we’re firmly of the belief that a getaway is the best reward.

Whether you’re impatiently awaiting your refund or in need of an extra dose of motivation to finish up that paperwork, we’ve got seven ideas that will help you make the most of your tax return. From a tropical week-long getaway to a luxurious weekend in the desert, these seven vacations are only waiting for your return — and for you to press “book now.”

Ko Samui, Thailand

One of Thailand’s most well-known vacation island destinations, Ko Samui is known for its sandy beaches, coral reefs and seemingly-endless resort options.

While you may be tempted to spend all your time on the 13-mile island relaxing by the water, Ko Samui also has plenty of active options for those who want to get out and feel more than just sand between their toes (think diving, exploring bamboo villages and visiting ancient sacred sites).

Flights to Bangkok are available from $700 round-trip from New York and from $550 from Los Angeles. Bangkok Airways offers daily flights from Bangkok to Koh Samui from about $130 one-way.

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A stay at the Six Senses Samui (from $385 per night) could be the perfect way to unwind after a stressful tax season. The resort preaches wellness, with an emphasis on emotional wellness that will last long beyond your return flight.

Bhutan

Travel to Bhutan is easy from a budgeting point of view. The self-proclaimed happiest country on earth has set a standard tourist rate of $250 per day. But that tourist fee will ensure that visitors have their visa, three-star accommodations, transport, food, entrances to sites and a licensed guide service all taken care of.

Round-trip flights from New York to Paro (via Delhi) are available from about $1,200. You can spend up to a week exploring Bhutan with all the money you get back from your tax return. In that time, you’ll be able to trek through the country’s famous mountains, dine on Bhutanese cuisine in the capital city of Thimphu and visit the iconic Tiger’s Nest Monastery.

Lima, Peru

Peru’s capital and largest city is often just seen as a stopover on the way to Machu Picchu. But the city is a thriving metropolis, home to awe-inspiring history and a thriving culinary scene — it’s the only place in the world with two restaurants in the top 10 of the world’s best.

If you’re a surfer, you can spend time catching waves. Architecture buffs can wander the old streets, exploring well-preserved colonial buildings dating back to the 1500s.

Book your stay at the famous Country Club hotel, considered by some to be the birthplace of the pisco sour. Rooms are available from $211 per night.. Round-trip flights from Los Angeles start at only $350 and around $450 to get there from New York City.

Barbados

Barbados is one of the true gems of the Caribbean. While the 166-square-mile island has plenty of selection —rum, reggae, jazz, food, history and nature — it doesn’t have the same crowds as many other Caribbean islands.

Spend a week exploring the island’s history, dining in beachside fish shacks or drinking in roadside rum shacks where locals like to boast that their island is the birthplace of the liquor.

Flights from New York City to Barbados start at about $400 and from Los Angeles, it’s about $600 round-trip. Every single one of the rooms at the Fairmount Royal Pavilion (available from $468 per night) face the beach.

Danube River Cruise

Make your tax return stretch all the way across a river. Viking River Cruises offers an eight-day “Romantic Danube” cruise that will take you from Nuremberg to Budapest. The trip includes excursions to castles in Budapest, a tour of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna or an option to visit Salzburg, where “The Sound of Music” was filmed. The eight-day cruise is available to book from $1,999. That price includes all food and one cultural excursion per day, but does not include airfare.

Utah

If a vacation in the Utah desert doesn’t sound like one of the most heavenly escapes imaginable, you haven’t seen Amangiri. The ridiculously-stunning resort is an oasis of modernist luxury architecture in the middle of the desert — complete with vistas of mesas, a Navajo-inspired spa and private pools at each suite. Rates start at $1,400 per night and include all board and airport transfers. Plus, you get privileged access to the nearby National Parks when you’re an Amangiri guest.

Belize

Escape to a Central American paradise with your refund this year. Belize is beloved by many for its variety: tropical rainforests, exciting mountains and pristine beach are all within easy access of each other.

Book a trip to one of the Cayes, or islands, off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean. If you feel like going all out, book some time at St. George’s Caye, a private island resort. One night at the private and luxurious villa accommodation will set you back $894 per night — but it can be shared with up to six people. (Just wait for your friends to get their refunds back.)

Flights to Belize City are available from major U.S. hub airports starting at about $400.

This story was originally published by Travel + Leisure.