Experts Predict The Most Popular Travel Destinations Of 2022

From domestic getaways to new international opportunities, here's where tourists will be flocking this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted our travel plans in countless ways over the past two years, but still we dream of relaxing vacations and adventures around the world.

And if Instagram and TikTok are any indication, plenty of people are making their travel dreams a reality as case counts are once again in decline.

Of course, we always have to consider the state of the pandemic at our chosen destinations and in our home communities before booking a trip. And it’s important to monitor how the situation might evolve in the months and weeks leading up to the departure date.

Still, those of us with pent-up wanderlust remain optimistic about 2022 adventures. Read on for experts’ predictions when it comes to this year’s trending travel destinations.

Beachy U.S. Getaways
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“In general, we expect the bulk of the demand from the U.S. to stay where it has been with an emphasis on domestic destinations,” said Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights. “Cities like Miami, Las Vegas and Honolulu have seen enormous visitor numbers over the last few months, and we expect that to continue.”

In addition to exploring those warm-weather cities, travelers are also continuing to show interest in outdoor relaxation on the beach.

“In 2021, leisure travel to domestic locations, including Florida and Hawaii, were popular, and I would expect these trends to continue in 2022,” said Laurie Garrow, a professor of civil engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology and president of the airline research organization AGIFORS. “Traveling domestically is currently easier than traveling internationally, as you need to provide much more documentation to travel internationally and may be subject to quarantine before returning to the U.S if you test positive for COVID.”

Indeed, Tripadvisor’s annual Travelers’ Choice Awards recently revealed that the Island of Hawaii is the No. 1 trending domestic destination for 2022. Beachy Florida destinations, such as Naples, Clearwater and Fort Myers Beach, also made the top 10.

Ravi Roth, a queer travel expert and host of “The Gaycation Travel Show,” pointed to the increasing popularity of ecotourism among millennial and Gen Z travelers.

“Folks have been eying less-traveled-to islands in Hawaii, like Kauai and the Big Island, for some time,” he said. “Now that Hawaii is open, the locals want it known that giving back, respect and sustainability of the sacred land are a must. Tourists visiting Hawaii will find green hotels, more emphasis on eating and shopping locally, supporting small businesses, and keeping the ecosystems and coral reef healthy and alive by using sunscreen that does not contain oxybenzone.”
The Balkans
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“As more people become comfortable with traveling again, I do believe that the most popular international destinations like Croatia will see more travel,” said Stephanie Be, a travel blogger and founder of Buena.

Croatia boasts stunning landscapes, rich history and relatively affordable prices for travelers. From mountain views to relaxing beaches, there’s something for everyone. And Croatia isn’t the only Balkan state with tourist appeal.

“After visiting Albania last year, I feel this country is poised to break out as a travel destination in the coming years,” said Marek Bron, a travel blogger at Indie Traveller. “Located in Europe between Greece and Croatia, it’s an off-the-beaten-track destination with utterly unspoiled beaches, epic mountain trails and ancient Ottoman-era towns. It’s still developing, so perhaps it’s still a bit more for the adventurous traveler ― but I think one day it might be as well-known as Croatia is today.”
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“I think we will continue to see an increase in popularity in countries with minimal restrictions, like Mexico,” said Ciara Johnson, a travel blogger at Hey Ciara.

The warm weather is an obvious points of appeal, as are the short flights and lax entry requirements.

“We have been seeing strong demand between the U.S. and Mexico as people are looking to take their vacations in beach destinations with many outdoor activities,” Garrow said.

Jessica van Dop DeJesus, a travel media specialist and blogger at The Dining Traveler, touted Mexico’s affordability and proximity to the U.S. The country also contains many different regions and cities with distinct landscapes, cultures and travel experiences.

Van Dop DeJesus predicts “towns like Merida, Tulum, Oaxaca will continue to grow in popularity.”
National Parks
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“While national parks have always been popular tourist destinations, their traffic exploded in 2021 due to the pandemic,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer. “Travelers sought safer, outdoor places to vacation with their family, and many parks, including Glacier National Park and Yellowstone, shattered previous visitor records. With COVID-19 still lingering and restrictions in place in many states, people are going to continue to seek out destinations where they can spend as much time outside as possible.”

Dengler believes U.S. national park destinations will further increase in popularity in 2022 and beyond, especially because there are more than 60 and each has its own attributes. Plus, after experiencing one national park, many people feel compelled to explore more of them.

Michael Lindsay of the travel content duo Michael & Matt also predicted a continued boom in national park tourism.

“Domestically we see a lot of people wanting to get their national park fixes,” he said. “They get to relax in nature, socially distance and create really amazing memories with family or friends.”
Classic European Hotspots
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“I think 2022 will be the year of Europe,” said Konrad Waliszewski, co-founder and CEO of Tripscout. “Lingering uncertainty on COVID policies and testing requirements will cause people to prioritize the destinations with the least chance of disruption to getting there and getting home. Also, the increase in remote work will have people focusing on places they want to ‘live’ for a month instead of simply visit for a one- to two-week vacation.”

He predicted strong tourism rebounds in European countries like Portugal, Italy and Spain. Majorca, Spain, is in fact the No. 1 trending world destination for 2022 per Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards, and the neighboring island of Ibiza is No. 6. Clearly, there’s pent-up demand for popular international travel destinations.

“While, pre-pandemic, many travelers pined to get off the beaten path, searches on our website indicate that being stuck at home has pushed folks back towards the classics,” Orlando said. “Three of the most searched destinations on our website are regularly London, Paris and Rome, and we expect that trend to continue.”
South America
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“I think, from an American perspective and being from Portland, where it always rains, anywhere that offers warm weather and a beach for a reasonable price is going to be popular,” Lindsay said.

He thinks this demand will extend beyond Mexico and down into South America as travelers seek an alternative to the massive crowds of tourists.

“I think Central America in winter months will continue to be popular, and I think there is a growing interest in expanding south into Colombia, Peru and Ecuador,” Lindsay explained. “They are relatively easy to travel to as they share time zones with the U.S. and typically have reasonable accommodations and experiences vacationers are looking for outside of the U.S. ― beaches, jungles, waterfalls.”
Newly Reopened International Destinations
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“I believe many people are looking forward to going to Asia after two years of limited travel,” van Dop DeJesus said. “I suspect that once travel restrictions are lifted, I see many people wanting to go to Korea with the popularity of K-dramas. I also think Southeast Asia will see travelers return in record numbers.”

Lindsay also predicted interest in Southeast Asia, particularly places like Bali, Thailand and the Philippines. Meanwhile, Orlando is looking a little further east.

“Americans are eagerly awaiting the day when most of the Asian continent starts to open back up to travelers from the U.S., and no Asian destination has a longer queue of American vacationers lined up waiting to get in than Japan,” Orlando said. “We anticipate a mid-2022 reopening for Japan, and when that happens, we can expect both some incredible deals on airfare and a wave of bookings from Americans.”

Still others are yearning to go further south in the Pacific.

“There’s great excitement around places that have been closed to visitors since the pandemic started,” said Laura Ratliff, senior editorial director of TripSavvy. “New Zealand, in particular, is one destination that is set to reopen to visitors in 2022, and with 90% of the country’s eligible population vaccinated and indoor mask mandates in effect, travelers will likely see it as a low-risk destination.”
Other Domestic Exploration
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Beyond beaches and national parks, travelers will likely explore other parts of the U.S. that may have been overlooked in the past.

“We’ve seen a rise in road trips throughout the U.S. and project that this pattern will continue,” Be said. “An outdoor, domestic focus like a Sedona girls trip or a long romantic weekend in San Luis Obispo will continue to be a go-to for people who are cautious about COVID.”

Orlando predicted renewed interest in the Pacific Northwest and Montana (shoutout to “Yellowstone” for making us all want to move to a fabulous ranch out west). Ratliff noted that other domestic destinations are trying to incentivize travelers to visit.

“Closer to home, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding West Virginia,” she said. “The state’s offering an enticing remote-worker program for those interested in staying longer, but new additions, like New River Gorge National Park, the 37-mile forested Elk River Trail and The Schoolhouse, the world’s first fully accessible hotel, make the Mountain State an ideal vacation destination in 2022.”
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