In their 29 year run, the Simpson family has visited many countries in special travel episodes. They’ve been to Australia, Egypt, England, Israel, Spain, France, France again, France a third time. Seriously, someone on the Simpsons staff is a real francophile. But no visited is as well remembered as the Simpsons’ trip to Tokyo on the season 10 finale. The episode brought the cartoon family to Japan where they were able to make fun of everything Japan has to offer to a western family – A talking toilet, A sumo match, crazy seizure inducing kids cartoons, and of course a terrible game show that no American can fully understand. It even gets better when you realize the episode was originally titled “Fat Man and Little Boy”, referencing the atomic bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but can also describe Homer and Bart.
The season 4 finale of Friends brought the gang (minus Phoebe) to Ross’s wedding in London. This episode is well remembered, and even serves as a re-ignition to the show, kicking off the relationship of Chandler and Monica that gave the show a whole new boost after 4 seasons. This UK trip was so memorable that it was often referenced in the show’s later episodes, including a full revisit to it in seasons 7’s “The One With The Truth About London”. Although the episode still mainly took place on set and didn’t show too much of the England location, it has some very fun british moments with Joey meeting Sarah Ferguson and Hugh Laurie popping up as his most memorable career role as gentleman on the plane.
The Bundys were the most American family on television, and it was never more apparent than when they took a 3 episode long trip to England. On the season 6 finale’, the family took an ancestral trip to Lower Uncton, a fictional English town where every Bundy descendant had been murdered to lift a curse that causes the town to be surrounded in darkness when a Bundy is present. It was a great trilogy that got this disastrous American family that already wreaked havoc on the US to ruin the rest of the world, too. And it didn’t forget, along the way, to pull the classic trope of trying to distract the queen’s guards, this time by having them smell Al’s shoe.
The Malcolm family (as they would be referred to since a last name has never officially been given) would have never been able to afford a real vacation abroad, so their travel episode took them only as far as a water park. But it was still a well crafted location episode that showed us this particular family should never really leave the house. With the boys practically destroying the park with their ongoing fight, a true Malcolm vacation is one that everyone would regret going to in the first place. It also features one of Lois’s most memorable lines about how rich people can just take another vacation if one is ruined, but for them – this is it. And no Malcolm vacation is complete without a second episode chronicling the way back home – where a huge traffic jam drives everyone crazy, making them regret traveling even more.
Like the Simpsons, Modern Family also had its fair share of vacation episodes. But none was as good as its very first one, where the family traveled to a dude ranch in Wyoming. Coming up fresh after a mass of Emmy wins, the show was at its finest in this episode. Tackling simple, yet universal travel issues that everyone can relate to, like Gloria’s ears getting clogged during the flight, or just a fight that every family would have during a vacation. This show was never meant to have a shock value, but it definitely knew how to make the familiar seem fresh and new.
In it’s 5th season premiere, the show about this very Italian American family was wise to take them to actual Italy, to see just how American they are. It was a lovely use of the location, showing us beautiful parts of the country and not being confined to the set like Friends did in London. Moreover, it cleverly flipped the tables on the family, having Raymond’s constantly disappointed brother Robert have an amazing trip, while Raymond is the one who suffers. Apparently in Europe, Robert is the successful one.
The reason this vacation episode worked so well was that it truly felt like the creators were saying “Fuck it, the show’s ending, lets at least get a trip to the Bahamas out of it”. The episode had the hospital gang travel with the stupid excuse of the janitor’s wedding. Whatever, it’s the last season, we’ll do whatever we want, right? It was a very nice use of location, and made a fun episode to watch. It felt right for Scrubs, which was always a very romantic show, to pull the ultimate romantic gesture of a beautiful location wedding. And it gave us a great island cover of Outcast’s “Hey Ya” by Ted. It really felt like a fitting ending, if only the show hadn’t done another crappy season with med students.
The city was obviously a big part of Sex and the City, so things definitely felt special when the girls took a trip to Sunny Los Angeles in Season 3. Ofcourse Carrie took some meetings about a potential movie based on her columns, because what else is there to do in L.A but take general meetings? But the whole episode allowed itself to a make a little fun of the New York-L.A rivalry. None more apparent than the obvious Matthew McConaughey cameo.
Nothing seems more fitting than sending Rory Gilmore on vacation and having her spend most of her time reading a book. In this episode, Rory and her college friends took to spring break. It was nice to see how a vacation would look like to someone who is more shy and not party-prone like Rory. She eventually opened up though, and we even got to see a Rory-Paris kiss, as was the style at the time with every show having to have a girl on girl kissing scene. Also, The Shins dropped by to do a song, since I guess they are the kind of band to perform a college spring break party?
Of all the shows that convinced networks to send them on a location shoot abroad, none felt they took advantage of it more than Parks and Recreation. The season 6 premiere brought Leslie Knope and the Parks gang to London for an international Women in Government ceremony, but it used this trip in a way no other show did. First, they used it as an excuse for actor Chris Pratt to depart the show for a while to shoot ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. Later, they used their European adventure to go to a few other places close by. Ron Swanson was sent to Scotland by himself, where he sat by the cliffs and read poems, and a few episodes later, Leslie and Ben got to Paris, a scene that was probably shot during the crew’s trip to Europe. Hey, if the network’s paying, why not at least drag it out? With Parks and Rec being the emotional show that it is, it didn’t forget to leave a souvenir for fans to find by putting up a “Leslie and Ben” lock on the Paris love lock bridge. Ofcourse it was stolen days later, because people suck.