How do travel trends originate? They just seem to percolate out of an inscrutable blend of world-of-mouth, coincidence, economics, news, and the perpetual swing of the pendulum that takes a place or a travel theme into style and back out again. If you’re an avid traveler, you have to admit that it’s nice to be ahead of the pack – to claim bragging rights for having been there/done that before everybody else.
At my travel company, Classic Journeys, we’re well into the reservation cycle for the 2018 travel season. Here are five of the themes that we’ve already identified for the year ahead. Pick the one that sounds like you, and start packing.
1. Old Europe Is New Again
Aided and abetted by a strong U.S. dollar and attractive airfares, countries that were once key stops on the Grand Tour are exerting magnetic force in 2018. There’s a bit of the retro to this trend. “I haven’t been to Spain since my semester abroad in college. Time to go back as an adult with actual money.” Travel to Italy – always strong – is seeing a particular bump for the year ahead. Portugal is having a heyday. Even the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, captured in a journey from Prague to Vienna to Budapest, is going strong. There’s also less of an urge to just zig from monument to museum to mausoleum and to really experience the cultures of these countries the way travelers of old didn’t.
2. Curated Travel Cures the DIY Blues
You may bless and curse the Internet in the same breath. The plethora of information once seemed like a dream come true. Now the sheer weight of reviews and booking sites and so-called advice can suck the fun right out of do-it-yourself travel planning. We’re seeing a lot of interest – and hearing sighs of relief – from travelers who are opting for curated vacations this year. Find a resource that carefully researches and handcrafts an itinerary that offers the kind of experiences you’d plan for yourself if you had the time and patience. Let somebody else figure out how long it will take to get to that chateau-hotel in Normandy. As our guests plan for 2018, they’re consistently saying, “This time I want to spend my energy on the fun of the trip and not using it all up trying to put it together.”
3. Solo Travel Is Soaring
Kudos to the growing cadre of travelers who can’t or don’t want to leave home with a travel companion in tow. This liberated approach to travel has been building for years. For instance, at Classic Journeys a full third of our guests are solo travelers. It’s hard to argue with any individual who wants to satisfy a yen for Morocco or Machu Picchu or Apulia. But it’s also easy to imagine a worst-case scenario with everything that could go wrong if you just bought a ticket and headed out on your own. This trend is being fueled by the rich assortment of small-group trips that welcome parties of one. The buyer-beware warning here is to carefully study the single supplement policies to be sure you’re not unnecessarily penalized for your solo status.
4. Farm-to-Kitchen-to-Table Getaways
If there’s one cliché of travel that I absolutely believe it is that food is the failsafe way into the heart of just about any culture. Our burgeoning food culture here at home is translating into more growth in 2018 for culinary-based travel. You can make spring rolls on a luxury junk in Vietnam’s Halong Bay. You can go truffle-hunting in Croatia. You can roll up your sleeves in professional kitchens from the Amalfi Coast to Tokyo for lessons from master chefs. Because this emphasis on the stomach can take you to shepherds’ pastures and olive presses and into local markets to rub shoulders with everyday shoppers, you see sides of other places that typical tourists never see. Pair that with the opportunity to eat great meals in Michelin-starred restaurants and mom-and-pop cafés, and it’s easy enough to see why this style of travel is on the upswing.
5. Travel as Sport
“Multisport” may qualify as adjective-of-the-year for 2018. Trips that build in a healthy dose of exertion and adrenaline are booming. I hasten to say that I’m not talking about extreme sports like helicopter skiing or rock-climbing. Think more in terms of sea-kayaking, glacier walking, zip lining, dune surfing, whitewater rafting and mountain biking – all mixed in with a variety of natural history and cultural activities as well. Such trips are super for families with lots of energy that needs to be expended. A well-paced program of sporty options adds a layer of pure fun on top of the typical vacation routine. So many of us lead very active lives at home that it only makes sense to search out a vacation that’s anything but sedentary.