Add these top destinations to your travel bucket list for 2018

If you’ve been exposed to the travel bug, you know that one of the most exciting parts of a new year is new opportunities to plan trips. That means new credit card bonuses offering enough miles to fly to Japan. Top destinations finding new ways to attract avid travelers to return to their country. Most importantly, that means up and coming cities are ready to unseat traditional top destinations.

It’s an exciting time to travel. With technology advancing as rapidly as it is, there has never been a better time to be a consumer in this industry. You have all the resources at your fingertips to research if you’re getting a good deal or not. And, the competition is fierce as hotels fight to attract tourists away from AirBNB.

As consumers gain the leverage to demand more, the sky is the limit for the number of experiences you can have at home and abroad.  There are more opportunities to eat a certain diet in a foreign country. The tourism industry is accommodating for demands for eco-friendly travel.  Because traditional destinations are less flexible to change, up-and-coming destinations are attracting thousands of visitors looking for something new.

While these destinations are in no particular order, I tried to include destinations for all sorts of travelers on all sorts of budgets. As you scroll through this list, I encourage you to comment any destinations that are on your radar for 2018. As you’re planning your New Year’s resolution, I hope that you include one of these destinations to your 2018 bucket list!

Seoul, South Korea:

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As the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, South Korea is about to gain a great deal of international attention. Seoul is the perfect destination for someone that wants to experience it all. Enjoy the contrasting views of traditional Buddhist temples against the cosmopolitan skyline. Wander through the marketplace and enjoy some of world’s best street food. Feeling brave? Try eating live octopus like the Vagabrothers. Want something more traditional (and less alive)? You’ll never go hungry with the amount of Korean barbecue around.

And, if you’re still feeling brave after you try live octopus, you can take a tour of the DMZ. The DMZ is the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and allows you to tour the tunnels of the invading north. You can even stand on the other side of the boarder (don’t worry- you’re still protected by the South Korean guards in the DMZ).

Santiago, Chile:

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You will surely fall in love with Santiago before the plane’s wheels are fully extended from the plane. As you fly into Santiago, enjoy a breathtaking view of the Andes mountains as you descend into the most interesting cities in the world. If you enjoy eating, Chile will be your kind of trip. Fresh produce in marketplaces, flavor-rich cuisine expressing the rich culture of Chile, and wineries on the outskirts of town are just a few aspects of Santiago that you can look forward to.

If you enjoy the great outdoors, you will simply love Santiago. There are an endless number of hiking trails, parks and activities to pass the time. The juxtaposition of the modern city and the snow capped mountains is stunning. Combine this with the intriguing history and modernization of the city create an environment that makes Santiago a top destination for 2018.

Lisbon, Portugal:

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Lisbon has rapidly become a hot spot for travelers, and 2018 will be no exception. With budget flights on Star Alliance’s TAP Portugal, you can visit on the smallest of travel budgets.

The colorful streets and variety of ceramic tiled walls make for some pretty Instagram-worthy photos. Not to mention the food. Public transit is easy to navigate throughout Lisbon, and you must ride Tram 28 if you make the trip. Enjoy the most scenic route as you ride on Lisbon’s iconic form of public transit. Portugal has an extremely interesting history that expands far beyond Christopher Columbus, which makes for a great trip for the culture seeker.

Houston, Texas, United States:

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If you’ve been paying attention to the news (or the weather), you watched Houston rise above one of the most tragic and devastating hurricanes in recorded US history. The people of Houston are resilient and kind, and the city is bursting with entertainment and delicious food.

Pay a visit to the space center, or road trip to Galveston for a view of the gulf coast. Houston is the #1 city in the United States for immigrants (yes, that statistic shocked me as well), and you can look forward to eating genuine international cuisine on your trip. Combine good food with a plethora of art museums, outdoorsy activities, and an economy that is rebuilding from a natural disaster, there is no reason to not book your ticket immediately.

 

Norway:

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You’ve probably seen literally everybody and their mother posting pictures in Iceland. The massive influx of tourism to Iceland is largely due to cheap flights on airlines such as WOW Airlines and Icelandic Airlines, and it’s extremely easy to plan a stopover to Iceland for no additional cost.

The problem with visiting Iceland is that 1. it’s extremely expensive, 2. the tourism hot spots are way too overcrowded to enjoy your trip, and 3. the tourism boom is slowly ruining Iceland. Reports of tourists knocking on locals doors asking for free lodging and defecating in public populate headlines about Icelandic tourism.

Norway, on the other hand, is one of the most underrated destinations on the map and offers just as much, if not more, of the beautiful scenery that Iceland does. I recommend taking to the water to sail the Norwegian fjords. Enjoy mountains, fjords, dog sledding, and the northern lights without the priciness of Iceland. You’ll be welcomed with open arms, and will be grateful to be in a less tourist saturated destination. (Not to mention, you can buy very affordable flights year round).

Seattle, Washington, United States:

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As a devoted Grey’s Anatomy fan, Seattle has been on my bucket list for awhile and tends to fly beneath the radar on most American destinations. After you visit some of the city’s more popular Instagram spots such as Pike Place Market and the Space Needle, dive into the many nature and food related attractions in this city.

Take to the water in any sort of boat you can get your hands on. There’s literally hundreds of ways to experience the scenery in Seattle. Whether you’re renting a kayak, or simply enjoying a ferry ride through the harbor, Seattle is a great city for travelers that love the water.

Rent a car and drive a few hours in either direction to two of the most popular national parks. To the west, Olympic National Park is home to 4 ecosystems and the city of Forks for you twilight fans. To the east, Mt. Rainier National Park is home to mountains decorated with beautiful flowers. I recommend taking your time through Olympic National Park to truly get the full experience, but Mt. Rainier can be done in a day if you put your mind to it.

Antarctica:

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While I will not be venturing to Antarctica in 2018, you absolutely should if you have the means to do so. Plan to depart from Ushuaia, Argentina for the most unbelievable experience of your life- it isn’t just for National Geographic photographers.

Look forward to interacting with animals such as seals and penguins that are unafraid of humans. It is the last pristine place on earth. Look forward to sailing through the Drake Passage (the most dangerous area to sail through on the planet) and slowly watch your scenery change from choppy waters to glaciers.

While the trek to Antarctica will certainly set you back financially (anywhere from $6,000-$20,000 when you include flights and gear), there are several discussions of restricting travel to Antarctica in the name of climate change and rising sea levels. And you do not want to miss the opportunity to check that elusive 7th continent off your bucket list because you waited too long.

Bangkok, Thailand:

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Thailand is a major destination for expats, but very few vacationers consider visiting the land of smiles. The entire country of Thailand is a haven for budget travelers and offers enough culture and landscape to keep you entertained for a lifetime. From the world-renowned white beaches in the south, to the rain forests, cooking schools, and elephant sanctuaries in the north, Thailand needs to be #1 on your bucket list.

If you only have time for one city, Bangkok is your best bet. Visit the floating markets, explore gorgeous temples, and eat street food for next to nothing. Bangkok has some of the finest hotels and shopping, and is a very tourist-friendly destination. Many of the locals speak English, it’s cheap to get around, and it’s relatively cheap to get there. With flights as low as $450 round trip from the United States, there’s no excuse to miss Thailand this year!

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada:

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Victoria is a beautiful city to spend a weekend in. If you’re dreaming of Europe but only have the budget or time for a North American weekend trip, Victoria is the perfect destination for you. Located on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, this city is famous for its friendly locals and local pubs. Not to mention, the landscape is remarkably identical to some of those picturesque European cities that frequent you Instagram feed.

If you have longer than a weekend, take a ferry ride to Vancouver or Port Angeles. These cities are only an hour away, and will allow you to squeeze a few hot destinations into one trip. If you’re in the mood for an outdoorsy adventure, I recommend heading to Port Angeles to visit Olympic National Park. Just outside of Seattle, this massive national park is home to four ecosystems. It was also the setting for the Twilight films. If you’d rather have a more urban adventure, Vancouver is your best bet. Vancouver offers beautiful parks, beaches, and even the opportunity to see the Northern Lights if you time your trip correctly. Plus, the city offers a major airport which means cheaper flights!

Willemstad, Curaçao:

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This Caribbean island was unscathed by the hurricanes that 2017 brought, and is the most underrated island in the region. This beautiful island offers a UNESCO world heritage site and over 35 beaches. Located just off the coast of Venezuela, you’ll find that flights are relatively affordable, especially when paired with a trip to another South American city.

Enjoy museums, European influenced architecture, and charming restaurants and shops. The island’s coral reefs are filled with beautiful marine life, making this destination a haven for snorkelers. Curaçao is the perfect destination for the vacationer that wants to relax while experiencing something new.

Santa Fe, New Mexico:

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With an exploding art culture and food attracting foodies from all over, Santa Fe is a rising US destination. The city’s famous pueblos and desert climate will transform you to a new environment that’s only lived in your imagination. Don’t let the dry desert and sunny climate fool you, Santa Fe is home to some of the finest skiing resorts in the country.

You won’t want to miss the hot air balloon festival and the art scene. Santa Fe is home to miles and miles of art exhibits and is a short drive to several ranches and hiking trails. This city is a great destination for those looking for an affordable, family-friendly vacation.

 

Maui, Hawaii:

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Surely by now you’ve heard that Southwest Airlines will be flying to Hawaii starting in 2018. With Southwest’s dedication to making flying cheap and enjoyable, you’ll see competing airlines create some appealing deals on flights as well. Not to mention, if you’re headed towards Asia, you can plan a stopover to get two destinations for the price of one.

I know that it won’t take much to convince you to go see the beautiful sights that Hawaii offers. As you explore Maui, I recommend you schedule a helicopter tour, as you can only see a small percentage of the island by land. The volcanoes and wildlife that you’ll encounter on the island will make this a trip of a lifetime!

 

Yosemite National Park, California:

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If getting active and enjoying the outdoors is one of your New Years Resolutions, Yosemite is the perfect destination for you. Enjoy the famous and diverse views of this national park that will take your breath away. There isn’t a bad time to visit Yosemite either! Visit in the winter to enjoy activities such as skiing and snow shoeing through the valley. Plan a summer family vacation to enjoy the warm weather and hike to waterfalls and clifftop viewpoints.

You can save some money by camping during the warmer summer months. If you’d prefer some of the fairy tale lodges that the valley is known for, I recommend visiting in the winter months. You may just be greeted with a blanket of snow.

Fez, Morocco:

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As the former capital of Morocco, this Medieval town will transform you into a simpler time. As the cultural capital of Morocco, you can enjoy traditional architecture and immerse yourself in Moroccan culture. Fez is a photographer’s paradise, offering a wide variety of landscapes and a culture unlike anywhere else in the world.

Marvel at some of the world’s oldest (and most beautiful) mosques and visit the oldest university in the world. Don’t forget to see the UNESCO world heritage site, the Fez El Bali. This walled medina offers monuments and palaces that date as far back as the 9th century. Morocco is a very budget-friendly country, with an exchange rate that favors American travelers. Flights into Casablanca and Marrakech go for as low as $400 round trip from the US.

As you ring in the new year, imagine the possibilities for adventure that this upcoming year may hold. Step outside of your comfort zone, and book that plane ticket! Where will you be traveling this year?Danielle Guy