Finding the best places to visit in 2018 is hugely dependent on what kind of travelling you are into. A beach holiday is not the same as venturing into an unknown city; and I am not even touching on winter- or water sports here, as these are highly susceptible to personal preferences. But for some great travel ideas, the article below should be perfect for someone looking to find some travel inspiration.
1. Portland, why not?
As a non-American, Portland may not sound like much and definitely doesn’t rate high on the list of cities to visit for many travellers. But that makes those lists wrong and incomplete and I consider Portland one of the best vacation spots in the US, and most certainly one of the best vacation spots for couples. Portland, or “The City of Roses” has an unofficial slogan that insists it is important to “Keep Portland Weird”, and as a couple, it is great to take in all the “weirdness” while enjoying the beauty of the city.
As a result, Portland has spawned unique phenomena like Yarn Bombing, the famous “Naked Bike Ride”, the 24-hour Church of Elvis or the Portland Ukelele Association.
With all this creativity caught up in Oregon, its capital features numerous micro-breweries, hipster coffeehouses and a thriving music- and art scene.
Famous residents include Matt Groening, Chuck Palahniuk, Courtney Love and Esperanza Spalding (Google her – seriously!).
The best time to visit Portland depends on what it is that you are looking for. If you have rose-dependency issues, June is probably your best bet, as the annual Portland Rose Festival takes over the city and the International Rose Test Garden will be at its very best. For ski- and snowboarders, winter is probably best, as Mount Hood is truly legendary in their circles. For snowboards especially, Mt. Hood is one of those places to travel in the US.
Make sure to check out the Portland Saturday Market , regardless of the season. its proximity to the Waterfront Park makes it a great combination day trip, and with several performances and events occupying the market, you are bound to find something interesting for everyone. Alternatively, try to make some time to visit Washington Park. It houses the previously mentioned International Rose Test Garden and features a Japanese Garden as well, along with numerous monuments and playgrounds.
As mentioned in one of our earlier articles, Rome is definitely one of the best places to visit in 2018. “The Eternal City” is a shining example of antique and baroque architecture and for anyone with a fascination for Christian history, Rome is a must-see.
And even if you decide to skip Vatican city, the city offers numerous attractions like the Coliseum, the different antique ruins, and then of course there is the Italian food.
For a quick overview, Rome is best visited outside the timeframe of May until September. During that period, the city is incredibly hot and doesn’t lend itself as well for walking tours as it really should. You see, almost everything in the city is in walking distance, and the parks and “vicolos” tend to go uphill and downhill. I find sightseeing already tends to wear one down and in the very hot Mediterranean summer you may be tempted to stay indoors at times.
Another reason to avoid the summer season is the prices; with the influx of tourists from all over the world, the amount of people crowding the different attractions can really diminish the experience. Exploring the Spanish Stairs or seeing the famous Trevi Fountain just isn’t as interesting when you are battling droves of camera hungry travellers.
Plus, these people drive up the prices in the hotels and it is not uncommon to see restaurants adapt their pricelist to the high season as well. In short, it is simply best to travel to Rome outside of the high season. And when you do, “”The Eternal City”” can be majestic.
With 2017 being a difficult year for Thailand due to the passing of its beloved King, 2018 is bound to be better. The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the country as a whole continues to focus on foreign tourists as a very welcome industry, so whatever you heard about Thailand being amazing – it is absolutely and completely true.
Located right in that sweet spot where affordable prices and 1st world luxuries meet, Thailand seems to represent the best of both these worlds. The service level is unlike anywhere else in South-East Asia, and it is going to take at least another decade or two before pricing truly catches up with the rest of the developed world. On top of that, it is one of the best tropical vacation spots in the world.
As such, a traveller coming into Asia through Thailand can enjoy five-star hotels at a fraction of the price that this would cost anywhere else, and enjoy luxurious amenities wherever they choose to go.
For those travellers with a penchant for exploring, there are countless areas in the Kingdom that have seen very little development, and areas like Umphang (on the Thai-Burmese border) are breathtakingly beautiful and impressively savage.
Beachgoers will flock to the Southern part of the Kingdom to relax in paradise-like conditions (“The Beach” was shot in the Andaman Sea after all), while adventurers and trekkers travel to Northern Thailand and enjoy crossing borders over land instead of by plane.
Concerning the best time to visit Thailand, I would have to say that Thailand is great all-year round. However, there are regional aspects that should be taken into account. The monsoon season (July to October) has been erratic the last few years, but I would not recommend traveling to the Southern islands during that period as there are less rainy alternatives.
The North occasionally has to deal with the so-called “haze” or “”burning season”” and while it doesn’t affect me personally, I hear people with asthma and other allergies are concerned. During January and December this seems to be a thing. Checking a local calendar before you travel is always a good idea in general and like anywhere in the world, this applies to Thailand as well.
4. Amsterdam, you can’t forget about Amsterdam
“The best time to visit Amsterdam really depends on what you are looking for, as there is a regular influx of tourists from all over the world who do NOT come to Amsterdam for sightseeing. I will leave it to you imagination what the big fuzz is all about, but lets just say it rhymes with “”eat”” and gives you the munchies.
For travellers looking to see the world famous tulips and flowers, April makes the most sense as it is in the middle of tulip season and the high season hasn’t kicked in yet.
I strongly recommend only venturing into the city on a rental bicycle if you are confident on a bipedal. There are streetcar tracks everywhere, the locals are extremely impatient with their fellow traffic participants and for those people who drive on the left side of the street, there is an added level of difficulty right there.
Also do check out the canals with one of the tour boats, preferably after you spent a few days in the city already, as it will really force your brain to remap the city as a whole. All the streets and alleys follow a complete different pattern than the canals and it messes with your sense of orientation. On top of that, the perspective on the different merchant houses from the 16th century is mesmerizing and it is a great way to unwind for a few hours.
If you have the money, I recommend hiring a private boat with a few friends, as you won’t have to listen to a pre-recorded tape about the dark ages and the differences between the rich and the poor in Amsterdam during the pre-industrial era. It’s all a little depressing and you should simply take in the sights while sipping on that rose you and your friends brought along for the ride.
Another hilarious phenomenon you should look into is Kings day. This proud display of Royalism used to be on the 30th of April, but with the new King this national holiday is now held on the 27th of April, unless this is a Sunday, automatically transferring the holiday to the 26th.
Make sure to wear something ridiculously orange, and if you can’t stand loud music, an abundance of beer and slow-moving crowds, it is probably best to stay away altogether. If it sounds like your type of deal though, make sure you know where the best parties are at and book a hotel nearby. Getting through the city during the festivities is going to be very, very slow.
5. New York
New York is an iconic city, and if you haven’t been there in the last five years, it’s probably time to hit the big apple again if you can. I would not recommend visiting New York during the deep winter months, with January and February being the worst, but then again, this is the time when hotel rooms are the cheapest.
And with the ridiculous pricing in- and around the city, that may be something you should consider. Spring is already much more hospitable, with locals flocking into Central Park, whereas summer can be on the hot side of things. But then at least it is New York, and unlike Rome mentioned earlier, you will be using the mass transit system to get from A to B so walking long distances won’t be that much of an issue.
I prefer New York in the fall, especially since it allows you to head out to Boston through New England, taking in the sights along the way. This is not for everyone though, as most travellers will probably fly in- and out of New York, consistently making it one of the best vacation spots in the US.
There is no single destination where I have done more classic sightseeing than in New York, and I highly recommend most of them. Ellis Island really deserves a visit as it tells the tales of this relatively young country.
After 9/11 Ground Zero gradually morphed into the “World Trade Center Site”, with a dedicated memorial where the twin towers stood. The two gaping holes serve as a strong reminder of just what happened here and if you are in the Tribeca area I recommend checking it out.
Other great areas to visit are Harlem, especially on a Sunday, although it must be said that gentrification is coming on hard these last few years. So for travellers expecting to see a scene straight out of “Barbershop” or “Do the right thing”, this may get a little disappointing.
The brownstone buildings in the area are iconic though, and along with the gentrification in Harlem, soulfood and hair salons are making way for bookstores and art galleries. I think it is safe to say that while the architecture is painstakingly preserved, the area is gradually becoming an extension of Manhattan’s upper east side.
Conclusion – Get off the beaten path
Just this morning I read a Bangkok review by some South-American kid who described Bangkok as “inhalaling ballons” (sic) on Khao San road. While I understand the need for everyone to party, I can’t get my head around why anyone would travel to the complete other side of hte planet, only to spend their precious time their amongst other travellers from all over the world.
In that sense, you may as well go to Spring Break, Coachella or Burning Man. These are all massive events, but have very little to do with their location.
I understand that leaving the familiar tourist infrastructure behind is mildly unsettling, but the rewards are incredible. Even if you don’t speak the language and can’t properly communicate in English or Spanish, certain things are universal. Besides, the further away you move from the usual hotspots, the more patience people seem to have for you and your attempts to communicate. Use your hands, your feet and the pictures on your phone to find that restaurant you read about and locals will praise your persistence, hell, they may even recommend a better place.
Have you noticed that the most interesting travel vloggers tend to stay away from the beaten path and actively try to carve out new destinations and experiences? Next time you travel anywhere, find a local who is not involved in the tourism ecosystem and question him/her about the best places in town. You’re going to be amazed!
More Inspiration: Check out other amazing places you need to visit
Alexander Grootmeester is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.
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