Travel is a wonderful part of life, but as the past few years have taught us, it’s not always possible to do. Whether it’s due to a pandemic, financial burdens, or lack of time off from work that prevents us from traveling. Nevertheless, there are still ways to experience the joy of traveling, even when you physically can’t. One of the best ways is through reading. Stories can inspire us to experience places we never knew existed. There are amazing books out there to make you feel like you’re traveling without leaving the comfort of your home.
From first-account travel guides to fictional stories, the options for travel books are endless. While I appreciate the in-depth knowledge of various cities and countries provided in these guides, I prefer to lose myself in a fictional tale. Exploring different times, places, and people. I become part of the character's story, where they travel, I come along, and for a moment it feels like I’m there. These books are my escape when I can’t travel or dream of a new adventure. Plus, these are some of the best books for vacation too, when I can get away!
Below you’ll find my list of books to read to make you feel like you’re traveling.
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1. People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
Where: Sanibel Island, FL; Palm Springs; New Orleans; Vancouver Island, British Columbia; Tuscany, Italy; San Francisco; Vail, CO; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Nashville
This rom-com is the perfect combination of wanderlust and friends-to-lovers romance. What starts as a creative twist on when Harry Met Sally quickly evolves into a beautiful and gut-wrenching story set in a variety of beautiful destinations.
Poppy and Alex are opposites in every way. Yet, they kindle a surprising friendship in college after a road trip home. Ever since then, they’ve traveled together on new adventures each year. That is until things fall apart during their last trip, breaking their years-long friendship. After two years apart, Poppy hopes to repair their relationship with a trip to Palm Springs and return things to what they once were. Of course, it’s not quite that simple when confusing feelings emerge.
In People We Meet on Vacation, you’ll travel along with Poppy and Alex to a myriad of incredible locations, while you laugh, cry, and feel inspired to visit all the places in this heartwarming story.
2. The Paid Bridesmaid, by Sariah Wilson
Both hilarious and romantic, The Paid Bridesmaid will keep you entertained and swooning until the last page. If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the beautiful Hawaiian islands or returning to them, then you’ll love this book.
Rachel is a professional bridesmaid who’s landed a huge influencer client for a destination wedding. The situation quickly unravels with multiple hiccups as many weddings tend to do but this time the world is watching. While Rachel should be focused on her job, she’s distracted by meeting her dream man. Follow Rachel to Hawaii and discover how she tries to manage it all in this funny rom-com set in paradise.
3. The Spanish Love Deception, by Elena Armas
This internet sensation has everything anyone could want in a rom-com, all the best tropes packed into one amazing story. Enemies-to-lovers, fake dating, slow-burn romance, and a trip to Spain. The banter and bickering between the two leads are delightful, and the tension simmers as their relationship blooms. The Spanish Love Deception is a joyful book filled with complex characters and vivid descriptions of Spain to make you feel like you’re there and part of the family.
Catalina Martín is desperate to find a date for her sister's wedding. She’s led her family to believe she has an American boyfriend with a lie and worse than that, the best man is her ex, and he’s happily engaged. She has only option as a date, her condescending and handsome office rival, Aaron Blackford. Yet, what begins as a fake relationship to fool her family and her ever-present ex soon evolves into real feelings. Travel to Spain with Catalina and fall in love with this stunning country and with Aaron.
4. The Unhoneymooners, by Christina Lauren
The Unhoneymooners is another wonderful rom-com set in Hawaii. This book delivers the perfect combination of humor with an enemies-to-lovers romance. The pages are filled with detailed descriptions of Maui’s gorgeous beaches, adventurous excursions, and dreamy attractions. With the Hawaiian backdrop, compelling family dynamic, and witty dialogue, it’s a love story that captures the heart.
Olive Torres is perpetually unlucky. As if being recently laid off wasn’t bad enough, she's attending her twin sister's wedding, where she‘ll have to spend the day with Ethan, aka her nemesis and the best man. In an unusual turn of events, the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, except for Olive and Ethan. With a free honeymoon on the line, they form a truce and set off to Maui as a fake happy couple. Yet, In this faraway paradise, what started as pretend, begins to feel very real. You’ll be swept away in this unlikely duos romance in Maui.
5. Beach Read, by Emily Henry
Where: Beach towns of Western Michigan
Beach Read is a contemporary romance set in a picturesque beach town that will have you dreaming of summer sunsets and admiring the ocean as you walk along the beach. With endless funny banter between the main characters and gripping scenes of raw emotional vulnerability, this story can bring out laughter and tears. Although the town in the book is fictional, it’s based on real Western Michigan beach towns. Expect steamy love scenes, lovely prose, and a charming beach destination all in one book.
January Andrews is a bestselling romance writer known for her stories ending in happily ever after. Augustus Everett is a renowned literary fiction writer who kills his characters in the end. These once college rivals are now beach house neighbors for the next three months. When they realize they’re both in the same position: broke and suffering from writer's block, they decide to make an arrangement to help each other break free from their ruts. Go along with January and Augustus on their funny, beautiful, and at times heartbreaking journey on the Michigan coast.
6. It Happened One Summer, by Tessa Bailey
Where: Westport, Washington State
Humor, heart, and a surprising amount of spice all wrapped up into one fun story set in the state of Washington. Don’t let the sweet cartoon cover fool you, this book has plenty of toe-curling scenes. It Happened One Summer is a delightful spin on Schitt's Creek. It’s packed with laughter and love that delivers from page one.
Party girl Los Angeles wild child, Piper Bellinger has lived a life of luxury and influence. But when one of her infamous parties lands her in jail, she finds herself suddenly cut off from her stepfather and sent to the small beach town in the Pacific Northwest where her Mother grew up. When Piper arrives in the humble town and meets sea captain Brendan, she’s determined to prove to her stepfather that she’s changed so she can return to her life in LA. Over time the quaint town, the family history, and Brendan both captivate and confuse her. You can’t help but fall in love with this charming beach town and story.
7. Island Affair, by Priscilla Oliveras
Where: Key West
This sweet fake-dating romance reminiscent of The Wedding Date will transport you to the lovely Florida Keys. The food, atmosphere, and places are described in vivid detail. Key West is known for its incredible food and vibrant colors, and Island Affair does an exceptional job of bringing that to life. Add that to a smoldering love story between characters with a surprising amount of depth and you’ll find yourself pressed to put this beach read down.
Trigger Warning: Eating Disorder
Sarah Vance is a rising influencer, in recovery from an eating disorder. Things have been looking up in life lately, until her boyfriend flakes on an upcoming family vacation. Hoping to avoid a conflict with her family, Sarah enlists firefighter and Key West native Luis to pretend to be her fiancé for the trip. Join Sarah and Luis in their fake relationship on this Key West adventure, where they’ll discover all that the Keys can offer and maybe find real love in the process.
8. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
One of the most famous books included on the list, this acclaimed historical romance series has inspired countless trips to Scotland. Myself included! These already widely popular books then skyrocketed to fame when the television show based on them premiered. With nine books and six aired seasons, you’ll be sure to fall in love with the intense romance, history of the Scottish Highlands, and beautiful backdrop of Scotland.
When Claire time travels from post-war 1945 to 18th century Scotland during a second honeymoon, she must navigate a war-torn land. All in a place and time she doesn’t know or understand. Unintentionally, she becomes connected to Jamie Fraser of a Highlander clan where romance emerges. Outlander is a thrilling tale, and with the beautiful background of Scotland, it’s no wonder this series has captivated audiences for years.
There are plenty of fictional books out there that will inspire a yearning wanderlust, these are just a few of my favorites. Let me know in the comments if you have a favorite book that makes you feel like you’re traveling!