I love reading the "Where to go in 2018" lists from all the top travel magazines. It always gives me great inspiration for ideas of where I want to travel in the coming year. But a word of caution, no two lists are the same. Honestly, while these lists are great for pushing your thinking, an "it" destination is relative and dependent on a number of factors. Instead of settling for someone else's list, use the following questions to create your own.
1. What time of year can you get away?
This is stating the obvious, but best location for a vacation is highly dependent on when you plan to go. For instance, Morocco could be a great destination for Spring Break, but not so great for mid-to-late summer. On the other hand, while most want to see cherry blossoms in Japan in April, you can make a great trip happen with a smaller budget almost any other time of year. Chile has been on a lot of "destinations for 2018” lists, but unless you want to ski, it is best to avoid summer. And, try and think about an entire year of travel. Many bucket list trips need to be planned far in advance if you want that special property, best guide or perfect room with a view. December festive trips are already being planned, so make sure you give yourself enough time to create your ideal experience.
2. Where have you traveled previously?
If you and your family have been to nearly every continent, then sure, look at the latest obscure destinations on all of the "Where to go" lists - Ethiopia anyone? Unfortunately, most people have not had the luxury of traveling as much as the editors of these magazines. It is hard to argue why Paris or London should not make the list each year, but they don't because they are not new. While there are areas of the world that become more open to tourism and therefore truly emerge as new destinations, most articles are just trying to find something different from what was said last year. Many of the classics are classics for a reason. If Italy is new to you, it should be on your "where to go” list. On the other hand, if you have been to Europe every summer for the past few years, it might make sense to try something new.
3. What kind of experience are you looking for?
When work is hectic and kids schedules crazy, usually during Spring Break, all my family wants to do is find something relaxing with no planning required. A resort in the Cayman Islands or an Alaska Cruise might be perfect. This Christmas, however, we were eager for an adventure and knew we had a bit more time. We decided Japan was the right answer and immersed ourselves in Japanese culture for two weeks. The type of experience you are looking for is an essential element. Just because everyone thinks Croatia is the "it" destination this year, it doesn’t mean it will be your "it" place if you envision exploring art museums and history. Also consider how much structure you want or need. Any destination may work, but it is good to be honest with what you want.
4. What has inspired you recently?
Rather than spend too much time contemplating the lists of “it" destinations from a magazine, look for inspiration closer to home. Have the remarkable filming locations of the "Game of Thrones" made you really want to see Iceland or Croatia? Has your oldest child just finished reading "The Diary of Anne Frank" making Amsterdam a good starting point for a summer trip to Europe? If your family has a new year's resolution around fitness, planning for a multi-sport adventure with Backroads or Mountain Travel Sobek might be great inspiration to keep it up. I just read "Leonardo Da Vinci" by Walter Isaacson, so Florence is on my list for summer. Travel is so much more enriching when we can make connections to our own passions.
6. What is most important to you?
If drinking great wine each evening is your key to a great vacation, Asia can be hard. If you really do not like traveling great distances, Patagonia might be a tough ask. If you want to disconnect from the world, Rome may not be the best place to go. Make a list of things you absolutely must have (or must avoid) and compromises you are willing to make, and use it as a cross reference to the answers from the other questions.
Make it Happen!
Obviously I'm biased, but getting help from a travel advisor can make all the difference. Vacations are a huge investment of time and money. I know so many people that want to try something new, but don't want to risk it when their favorite destination is a guaranteed hit. The perfect scenario is when you share what you are looking for and someone helps you uncover a destination that fits perfectly, but is not familiar. It adds an element of adventure that is so hard to find in day-to-day reality.
Advisors today are not the travel agent of yesterday. We are well-traveled and experienced at crafting itineraries, knowing the best properties and leveraging the best contacts. At Brownell, I have a group of peers that can provide first hand insight on any destination, anywhere in the world. I also have access to upgrades, room credits and amenities that you do not. With a nominal planning fee, it is such a smart investment for a hassle-free, value driven, memorable trip.
Here are some of my favorite family trips to consider for 2018. Again, many depend on what you want from a vacation and what time of year you plan to travel.
Thailand has it all - the bustling city of Bangkok, the elephants in Chaing Mai, temples in Chaing Rai, night markets and spectacular beaches.
Japan is one of the most sophisticated places I have visited. It has the exotic unfamiliar of some off-the-beaten path destinations, but with the complete safety, organization and infrastructure that is often lacking in those exotic locals. And the food is to die for.
Chile is one of the most physically beautiful places you will ever see. If you can manage a 15-day trip, a combination of the Northern Desert, Santiago and Patagonia will enrich your soul from just the physical beauty. And, although it is an overnight flight, you will have no jet lag issues to manage.
I love Spain. For me, it is the perfect combination of history, culture, food, laid back vibes and affordability. San Sebastian may be one of my all-time favorite summer destinations, even if the weather isn't always perfect.
Yes, the World Cup is in Russia this year, but planning a trip before or after might yield some great deals and let you take advantage of the great infrastructure improvements. If you are a lover of art and history, a combination of St. Petersburg and Moscow is hard to beat.
A two week itinerary can take you from the fine dining of Lima, to the belly of the Amazon to Machu Picchu. It is a marvelous family adventure that can be as rustic or sophisticated as your tastes desire. I know the most fantastic lodge with a sustainable approach to tourism and unbelievable animal sightings.