These Are the Places Top Travel Agents Say You Absolutely Must Visit
Experts share their recommendations for every type of traveller.
Published Oct 5, 2018 5:00 AM
Desperate for a fun vacation but don’t have a clue where to go? Fret not, my jet-setting friends—we’re here to help. We hit up a handful of top travel agents for their suggestions on the prime destinations worth seeing around the world, and of course, they had lots to share.
From the best places to visit on a limited budget to the next big hotspots, read ahead for the expert-approved destinations you need on your radar.
On a Limited Budget
Believe it or not, according to our experts, there are still plenty of amazing international destinations you can visit when you’re on a tight budget.
“Bali, Indonesia is a great place to visit on a limited budget,” says CIRE Travel agent Katy Rebrovich. “Good value for the money and one of the few places on the planet you can get an affordable private plunge pool villa.”
“If you can find a cheap flight (or get one on points) go to Cambodia,” adds CIRE Travel president Eric Hrubant. “You can spend several days exploring the Temples at Angkor, visit the bustling cities (such as Siem Reap and Phnom Penh) and then chill on the beach for a few days! Lots of good, reasonably priced hotel options and you can take a bus from place to place if you don’t want to spend money on flights within the country.”
On an Unlimited Budget
Naturally, if you’re working with a bigger budget, you can plan a trip to a pricier location—with a lot of high-end amenities to boot.
“If you’re looking for adventure, food, wine, and amazing interactions with animals (and have an unlimited budget), you can’t beat a Southern African safari.” Says CIRE Travel agent Esther Klijn, “You can even take an excursion from Cape Town to the Antarctic via a private jet—no kidding, it’s now possible!”
Looking for something a little more relaxing? No problem. Rebrovich recommends Fiji, an island country in the South Pacific, known for its gorgeous beaches and tropical climate. “Fiji is culturally exciting, breathtakingly beautiful, and relaxing all at once,” she says. “It’s a wonderful combination destination—relaxing and exciting at the same time.”
On a Honeymoon
Searching for the perfect romantic getaway spot for your honeymoon? Our travel experts say there’s no shortage of dreamy international destinations to visit to indulge in all your newlywed bliss.
“St. Lucia, an Eastern Caribbean island with a mix of French and British influences, is one of the best honeymoon destinations in the world,” says Sally Jane Smith founder of TravelSmiths. “There’s a mix of all-inclusive resorts and boutique European hotels nestled throughout the island. Plus it’s rich with eco-tourism, so you and your spouse can enjoy everything from scuba diving to zip lining and mud baths in the rainforests, all on one beautiful island.”
And if you’re looking for something a little different than the traditional honeymoon spots, there are plenty of places you can visit for some unconventionally romantic fun, too.
“We love to suggest contrasting honeymoons for couples,” says CIRE Travel agent Amy Brueckner. “Then they feel like they are getting two vacations in one! Buenos Aires and Machu Picchu are a great pair in South America—the perfect combination of cosmopolitan city and adventurous trek.”
On a Solo Trip
“Believe it or not, I always tell people to go to Italy if they’re traveling alone,” Brueckner says. “It’s easy to get around and Florence, Rome, and Venice are all bustling cities so you never feel like you stand-out as a solo traveler.”
And if you’re traveling alone on a budget, don’t forget all of the spectacular stateside destinations you can visit without depleting your bank account.
“Arizona is the perfect place for an easy 3-4 day solo trip,” says TravelSmiths agent Brittany Bridgewater. “You can explore Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, and Antelope Canyon, as well as numerous stunning hiking spots. It’s a great destination for self-exploration.”
Whether it’s with ocean views or delicious food, nothing makes a vacation destination better than having the ability to sit back and relax.
“It’s hard not to relax when visiting the French Polynesian island of Bora Bora in Tahiti,” Klijn says. “You’re surrounded by Tahitian blue waters and sweeping views of Mount Otemanu—and room service helps, too.”
“This private island retreat is a celeb haven for a reason,” she explains, “The food is heavenly and the spa services feel like an out-of-body experience.”
If you consider yourself a true thrill-seeker, Bridgewater swears that Iceland is the vacation destination for you. “Grab a rental car and travel the whole country in just seven days,” she says. “You can go whale watching in Husavik, horseback riding on a black sand beach, embark on a boat ride in the Glacier lagoon with the seals, and of course take in the breathtaking Northern Lights.”
And if you’re looking for a place with say, a milder climate, then try heading south of the equator for some fun.
“South America, and in particular, the country of Peru, is without a doubt one of the best travel destinations for adventure-seekers,” says Pam Walker of Walker Adventures. “You can hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or trek to the Gocta Waterfall, and visit archeological ruins such as Kuelap.”
For a Short Trip
Quality trumps quantity when it comes to traveling, that’s why several of our experts suggest simply taking a weekend trip when you can’t get away for a whole week.
For a Euro-style weekend stateside, Hrubert says you can’t beat Old Quebec in Canada for a short trip, “It’s like a little slice of Europe,” he explains, “super charming and small enough to cover in just a few days.”
Or for a more exotic vacation in a short span of time, take Erin Logsdon of Luxury Travel Works advice and try going south of the border.
“Mexico City, Mexico is the perfect destination for a long weekend.” She says, “Not only can you get nonstop flights from many US cities, but there are countless museums, beautiful parks, world-class restaurants, and reasonably priced hotels to choose from.”
For a Long Trip
If you’ve been saving up vacation time—and cash—then, by all means, pick an inspiring place to visit that’s as far away as possible.
“From the cultural north to the adventure-strewn south, New Zealand offers something for everyone.” Says Rebrovich, “Take the train through the mountains, or a helicopter to the top of a glacier. Taste the Hangi with the Maori and explore the wineries of the south—two or three weeks still won’t be enough time do everything!”
Of course, you can always opt to visit someplace even further away for a change of pace–and culture.
“If you have the time to spare, do yourself a favor and explore the geographically close (but culturally varied) Southeast Asian countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos,” says Klijn. “Follow a coastal route through Vietnam, cross into Cambodia and visit the incredible temples of Angkor Wat, and finish in Laos for an experience you’ll never forget.”
For the Beach
For those travelers who feel that no vacation would be complete without a sandy beach to lounge on, our experts have you covered, too.
“Located on a private cove, the Banyan Tree Samui resort on Lamai Beach in Thailand is nestled inside a jungle, and naturally, the beaches are breathtakingly beautiful with crystal clear waters,” says Rebrovich. “Even better, you’ll find a restaurant and bar a short stroll away when you can peel yourself away from the glorious beach.”
And if you’re looking for a more popular beach to enjoy, agent Brueckner has the destination for you.
“Portugal is on everyone’s list lately!” She explains, “We love the colorful changing tents on the beach in Nazaré, but really, you can just drive up or down the coast, hopping from beach to beach if you’re up for it.
For a True City Experience
If you thought a trip to New York City was the only way to indulge in a real metropolitan experience, then think again.
“For a true city experience, look no further than Tokyo, Japan.” Says Hrubant, “It’s amazing and huge (you’ll never see it all) and there are surprises around every corner. Secret alleys with great bars and restaurants; hidden gardens that are an oasis in the middle of the bustling city; serene (but enormous) temples with fragrant, burning incense; baseball, sumo, and the Robot Restaurant! And the food, don’t forget the food—and we’re not only talking about sushi!”
And for a city experience with a slightly slower pace, try China’s biggest city instead.
“Shanghai is an enormous cosmopolitan city located right off the Yangtze River, and it’s a great way to experience a blend of big-city cultures,” Klijn says. “Discover the French influence in the boutique shops and restaurants, or spend the day walking along The Bund to feel like you’re stuck in a London time-warp.”
The Next Up-and-Coming Hotspot
“The next big travel destination hotspot has got to be Merida, Mexico,” says Logsdon. “It’s a gorgeous city with a bountiful cultural heritage, both Mayan and colonial. Ride bicycles on the Paseo Montejo, enjoy live music and dancing in Santiago Park, have drinks at a traditional Mexican cantina, dine under the stars at one of the restaurants in Santa Lucia, take a day trip to the stunning Mayan archeological site of Uxmal, or simply relax in the pool at one of the many beautifully restored boutique hotels throughout the city.”
And if you’re searching for an up-and-coming destination outside of North America, you may want to consider traveling to Eastern Europe.
“Croatia has an extraordinary history and culture, along with its breathtaking architecture and national parks, and a coastline with over 1,200 islands on the Adriatic Sea,” explains Smith. “Plus—it’s virtually untouched by US tourists. Eco-tourism is rife on the islands offering everything from sailing, scuba diving, and waterfalls, to sponge farms and the Blue Grotto. And you can sail or motor on a yacht from island-to-island (and city-to-city) at your own pace—and for less money than you’d imagine.”
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