Where to Travel in 2018 According to NY Times, Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, AFAR, and Me

Many people get excited about the end of the year because of the holidays, the time off, the food, and seeing family and friends. Don’t get me wrong, all of that is awesome (duh), but another tradition I get excited about around this time is seeing the next year’s “where to travel” lists, the pinnacle, of course, being the NY Times’ “52 Places to Go in 2018.” Yes, I was one of the 9,000 people to apply for the job of visiting and writing about each of the 52 places over the upcoming year. I didn’t get it.

For travelers, the lists are so fun to pore over, whether they’re actually used for planning future travel (like when my family and I went to the Guadeloupe Islands after seeing them on the NY Times’ list of 2016) or whether it’s all pure fantasy. I also get a kick out of seeing spots I’ve visited on the lists. That’s what this post is about. The following destinations were recommended for 2018 by some of the best travel publications in the world, and I can vouch for them first-hand.

USA

New Orleans, Louisiana

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New Orleans, one of my favorite cities, was chosen by Frommer’s, Fodor’s, and earned the number 1 spot on the NY Times’ list because of its 300th birthday and the associated celebrations. Of course, there is always a celebration in New Orleans, not only during Mardi Gras, but every day, with a parade or festival of some sort. Upbeat jazz music, brass bands, and drunk frat boys flood the streets.

One of the best things about NOLA, as the NY Times states, is that, “Influences from Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and indigenous peoples have made it the ultimate melting pot. And that diversity expresses itself in a multitude of ways that define New Orleans in the American imagination: music, food, language, and on and on.” New hotels, restaurants, bars, and a cocktail museum are opening, Bourbon Street is undergoing a makeover, and the streetcar service is being expanded.

I say, go for the food – OMG, the food. I can still taste it today if I think hard enough – the muffaletta sandwiches, the chargrilled oysters, the shrimp po’ boys, the beignets – need I go on? I went to NOLA on a basically perfect trip with a gentleman who I also thought was perfect a few years back on a January MLK weekend. There were not enough meals to eat everything we wanted to, though if you spend enough time imbibing on Bourbon Street, you’ll fit in a few extra meals late-night.

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Charleston, South Carolina

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The year after I went to New Orleans for MLK weekend, I met my sister and three of our cousins in Charleston. This southern staple made it onto Fodor’s list for its dining scene, which is exactly what I would recommend about as well. (I promise this won’t be my reason for every place, but food is a big part of traveling for me!) Though I never got around to doing a full round-up of where we ate, we had some memorable meals at Husk (make your reservation far in advance!), Martha Lou’s Kitchen (with hand-written menus on 8 1/2 x 11 paper), and Hominy Grill (more like Humina Humina Grill), to name a few. Try the fried green tomatoes if you’ve never had them. Fodor’s recommends 16 courses at McCrady’s, brews at Edmund’s Oast Brewing Company, and the Charleston Wine+Food Festival in March.

While you’re in town, visit a former plantation, walk along the water, and explore the historic neighborhoods. We had an exciting evening touring the Old Charleston Jail, said to be haunted, where I clutched my cousins’ arms for dear life.

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Arizona

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Arizona made it onto Lonely Planet’s “Best Value of 2018” list. The best way in my mind is to do Arizona as a roadtrip and you can find cheap spots to stay along the way since you won’t be staying long. You can also purchase a National Park pass to really get your money’s worth.

My family and I had a fantastic trip to Arizona (+ Nevada and Utah) in the fall of 2016. We visited Sedona for three nights and the Grand Canyon for one. Lonely Planet was right to recommend September and October as one of the seasons to go. We had awesome weather and way fewer crowds than I’ve seen in others’ photos from the Grand Canyon.

Lonely Planet also recommends Saguaro National Park and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. There’s no better time to support our National Park system and enjoy the outdoor wonders our country has to offer.

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Baltimore, Maryland

10milesbehindme_where-to-go-2018_baltimoreI’ve been to Baltimore a few times, including visiting the Inner Harbor and the National Aquarium with my family when I was in elementary school, visiting the bars with my cousins after college (above), and visiting for work a few times in recent years. I have two friends who moved down there who I should visit at some point in 2018. At this point, I can vouch for the Maryland crabcakes at both Obrycki’s and City Cafe.

Baltimore made it to number 15 on the NY Times’ list for the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass for which the city will celebrate with events like museum exhibits and biography signings. There is also a light festival in April throughout 14 of Baltimore’s neighborhoods.

Buffalo, New York

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Buffalo is another place, like Baltimore, that I’ve visited for work. I flew in one morning and flew out in the afternoon. Going to the airport with just a purse and a notebook makes the whole process so much easier. While I can only recommend a restaurant I visited with a coworker where we ordered three meals between us, the NY Times recommends the city because of its resurgence from a not-so-distant somewhat murky past. Travelers are excited about Buffalo’s bustling downtown, brewpubs, luxury hotels, brand-new children’s museum, renovated Frank Lloyd Wright houses, and of course, its proximity to Niagara Falls. It’s not a place I’d visit in the winter, but some people enjoy being cold.

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The Caribbean & Mexico

The Caribbean

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I was happy to see the Caribbean region on both the Frommer’s and NY Times’ list. According to the NY Times, only about 30% of the region was affected by hurricanes Irma and Marie and many of the areas that were hit hard are recovering. The region’s economy is highly dependent on tourism and let’s be honest, we’re all in need of some sun. Right now you’ll find lower prices and smaller crowds. Take the opportunity to interact with the local community while you’re there instead of staying within the confined gates of your all-inclusive resort. Some accommodations are arranging volunteer opportunities to provide hands-on assistance to those still in need.

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

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In the same spirit of helping a community with our tourism dollars, Lonely Planet specifically recommends San Juan in 2018.

Puerto Rico was my family’s final trip when I was in high school until we realized we could travel together as adults and kicked a spree off with Italy in 2014. We definitely spent a lot of time at the resort, eating, soaking up the sun, and floating down the lazy river, but we also went snorkeling and explored the town and fort of Old San Juan, something Lonely Planet recommends as well. San Juan has changed in the last ahem, 17 years, with its flourishing culinary scene, muraled walls, and a ton of nightlife options.

Thank you for the pic, Katie! (She’s been there much more recently than I have!)

Baja California & East Cape, Los Cabos, Mexico

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Speaking of nightlife options, on my most regretted trip ever, I visited Cabo San Lucas, Mexico during my junior year of college. I regretted it because it was stupid expensive for a week-long trip, where you were supposed to be with 20+ other schools on spring break. My school had a weird spring break schedule and we were the only school there, which meant I was trapped at pre-planned all-you-can-drink events with two sororities and two fraternities from my school who…were not my type of people, aside from the three I was staying with.

I mean, it was fun. After all, I did hang out with Enrique Iglesias for a night, but my favorite part was the nature, when we could drag ourselves out of bed and spend the day at the beach. I remember taking a boat to “Lover’s Beach” which was not full of the vendors selling necklaces, ice cream, and blankets who bothered you (no joke) every 30 seconds on the other beaches. Now, this was, ahem, 14 years ago, so perhaps that practice has changed.

While Lonely Planet recommends Baja California as one of its “Best Values for 2018”, the NY Times recommends specifically the East Cape of Cabo, which used to be small fishing villages, now studded with resorts and water sports. If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a treehouse (like, hi, all of us) this might be your chance.

South America

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is another destination I visited in college. I studied abroad there the winter of my sophomore year. BA meant so much to me and I credit my time there with my need to live in a city now. I didn’t quite yet travel in the way that I do today, so I would definitely have done a few things differently. I would’ve eaten more steak, purchased less clothing that shrunk immediately, met more locals, practiced my Spanish more, spent more time in the more vibrant neighborhoods like La Boca, and remembered what I learned in my tango lessons. The number one thing I would have done more of? Drink the Malbec. 19-year-old Erin’s palate was too unrefined to appreciate the local red wine of Argentina that everyone buzzes about today.

Fodor’s recommends BA for its “edgy blend of Latin and European cultures”, its art and design scene (having just been named the first “Art Basel City” in the world), the tango, the barbecue, and of course, the Malbec.

Africa

South Africa

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Lonely Planet recommends South Africa for the “beaches and mountains, wildlife and wine…vibrant culture and cosmopolitan Cape Town”. In 2018 specifically, events for a year of honoring Nelson Mandela are in play, as well as a favorable exchange rate.

Cape Town is like your favorite block in Brooklyn times 100 (with the most creative and well-curated boutiques, cafes, and restaurants), surrounded by beautiful flat Jersey Shore beaches but also beautiful rocky Portuguese beaches and beautiful colorful Caribbean beaches and mountains from the Andes but also penguins in the wild as if you’re in a warm Antarctica. Yes, I have looked at real estate there.

While I can’t personally recommend it as I was in Cape Town and wine country, Fodor’s specifically recommends Durban, South Africa for this year.

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Asia

Singapore

Though I’d planned on three days in Singapore after Myanmar, I ended up loving Myanmar too much to leave it so all I did was see it from a taxi at night and in the morning and eat the national dish of Hainanese chicken rice. I don’t count it on my country list yet because one meal does not a visit make. When I return, I will take Fodor’s recommendations into account.

Fodor’s is into Singapore for its “eco hotels and meticulously renovated heritage buildings” (from the National Museum to the Raffles Hotel – famous for inventing the Singapore Sling to new restaurants in restored Chinese shophouses), new hotel openings, and the famed street food.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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AFAR praises Kuala Lumpur for its multiculturalism, something I definitely experienced while I was there. I enjoyed Indian, Malay, and Chinese food, visited the Batu Caves (an incredible natural phenomenon with Hindu temples and many monkeys), and experienced Islamic culture in both the national mosque and the art museum. While AFAR is excited about the constant construction as it’s a sign of things to come, I actually found it incredibly frustrating. My driver couldn’t drop me off anywhere near my hotel, for example. And, as in other large cities, sometimes you’ll find questionable people willing to comment on your looks hanging out under scaffolding.

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Europe

County Clare & Dublin, Ireland

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It felt like in my circles that 2017 was really the year to visit Ireland – old coworkers, neighbors, fellow bloggers, and my family and I of course traveled around Ireland quite a bit. Luckily, you don’t tire of seeing Ireland photos because it’s so gosh-darn beautiful everywhere you look, so 2018 is also a fine year to visit.

Frommer’s strangely recommends County Clare because of it being the background for a recent Star Wars film, which is basically the dumbest reason imaginable. Of course, film locations are typically chosen for their beauty, but the beauty is there whether Star Wars was or not. Specifically in County Clare, you’ll find the famed Cliffs of Moher (in the picture above), the Burren (a cool stone-covered landscape that includes megalithic tombs like Poulnabrone, from 3800 B.C.), the town Doolin where you should listen to traditional Irish music, and Bunratty Castle from the 15th century.

Fodor’s specifically recommends Dublin for a 2018 visit for its “great restaurants, a blossoming art scene, and more hotel openings than ever”. You know this already, but the majority of what I did in Dublin was consume Guinness and it was So. Much. Fun. I also met up with a college friend and his group at the Fodor’s-recommended Jameson Distillery. Mr. Jameson himself once told my great-great-grandfather, “Matthew, you’re the finest horseman we’ve ever had”, so it was a meaningful experience even though I cannot consume whiskey like an Irishwoman should be able to. While you should definitely drink at least a pint of Guinness in Ireland yourself, Fodor’s also recommends the craft breweries of Porterhouse, Trouble Brewing, and Eight Degrees.

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The United Kingdom

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The UK is recommended as a “Best Value of 2018” by Lonely Planet for its current favorable exchange rate due to the uncertainty of how Brexit will affect the economy in the long-term. Specific cities referenced in LP’s review are Devon, Cornwall, Bath, York, and Edinburgh, as they are already less expensive than London, of course. I’ve visited London twice and now that one of my childhood friends lives there, I’m sure it’ll be a place I visit frequently. I enjoy the history (def visit the Tower of London and the Churchill War Rooms), the bridges (Tower Bridge is the prettiest and London Bridge the ugliest), and the food (Borough Market for a salt beef bagel and Whyte and Brown for the fried chicken sandwich).

LP talks about the English and Scottish parts of the UK on this list and lists N. Ireland separately on their regions list, so I’ve done the same below.

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Belfast & the Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland

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Lonely Planet recommends Belfast, a city I did not experience, for its “hip neighborhoods that burst with bars, restaurants and venues to suit all tastes” and the docklands’ “Titanic Quarter”, but also points to the Causeway Coast, one of the most incredible road trips I’ve ever taken. The Northern Ireland coast, aka the Antrim Coast, holds so many hidden gems like Kinbane Castle, without any signs to turn for one of the most beautiful settings ever, a 200-year old swinging bridge, the adorable seaside town of Ballycastle, and Giants Causeway – a natural phenomenon unlike anything I’ve ever seen with the cutest legend (yes, about giants) attached to it.

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The Gotthard Panorama Tunnel & Vierwaldstättersee, Switzerland

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Developments in rail travel and a new funicular railway added parts of Switzerland to both the Frommer’s and the NY Times’ list. The train journey in Switzerland is definitely an experience for the bucket list. My friend and I even paid extra to sit in the front row in the first car of a panoramic train and took in the beautiful mountain views with a glass of wine. The conductor sits above the car so as not to obstruct the views.

Both lists also mention the charming fairy-tale town of Lucerne which I visited from Zurich one day in May a few years ago. Make sure to visit the covered and adorable Chapel Bridge (built in the 14th century, with dozens of 17th-century paintings under the roof), the dying lion carved into rock as a monument to Swiss soldiers who perished during the French Revolution, and gorgeous Lake Lucerne with views of mountains, a dam, and tons of swans (above).

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Portugal

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I truly, madly, deeply love the country of Portugal. I visited Lisbon and Porto in 2015 and visited the Algarve this past August. Each destination has its reasons to visit: the seafaring history and tiled everything of Lisbon, the rivers, port wine culture, and food scene of Porto, and the cliffs, beaches, and colonial beauty of the Algarve.

Though it’s closer than more popular countries of Italy, Spain, and France, it’s still an area that not many of my non-super-traveler friends have visited, which I find curious. The whole country is recommended by Lonely Planet “as a dynamic centre for art, culture and cuisine”, museums, microbreweries, restaurants, and the scenery. It’s also extremely affordable in comparison to other Western European destinations.

Fodor’s specifically recommends Porto but suggests the wrong sandwich. While the francesinha, Porto’s signature sandwich, and the Fodor’s-recommended Casa Guedes’ pulled pork and sheep’s-milk cheese slider might be delicious, YOU MUST TRY the Congregado sandwich with separate pockets for the pork (marinated for 20+ hours and slow-roasted for three) and the smoked ham (aged for 24 months). You’ll find it at Flor dos Congregados, a 160-year-old restaurant basically in a cave.

Since I’m still in a fight with Delta from when they lost my luggage for five days when I was in Croatia, maybe I will take advantage of the new United flights from Newark to Porto starting in May and search in-person for some real estate and the Congregado sandwich because I just drooled all over my keyboard thinking about it.

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Antwerp, Belgium

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Lonely Planet recommends visiting Antwerp as one of northern Europe’s “best-kept secrets”, though once upon a time it was considered the greatest city in the area. In 2018, the city of Antwerp is bringing Baroque back with “parades, concerts, street art, multimedia shows, and workshops”. Even outside of the Baroque revival, Lonely Planet praises Antwerp for its creativity as shown in the city’s many “pop-up bars, farm-to-fork joints, and architectural showstoppers”.

Antwerp was one of the three cities I visited in a span of 36-ish hours in Belgium while I was visiting a friend in Amsterdam. I will say, it was my least favorite of the three, behind Bruges and Brussels, but I wouldn’t mind giving it another shot. Antwerp was where we chose to stay overnight but I didn’t feel well enough after the beer, frites, and chocolates we’d already consumed to enjoy their nightlife and when we woke up to explore, nothing was open yet because people party too late into the evening. There were a few too many chain stores within the beautiful architecture for me to get into it, but maybe I just didn’t take the right paths.

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Split, Croatia

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Fodor’s says it best, “It just needs to be said–Split is weird.” Like many cities I’ve visited in Eastern Central Europe (Croatia does not consider itself Eastern Europe), it screams “Communism”. Let’s face it, Communist Europe wasn’t known for its design. But like those other “Eastern Central Europe” cities (Bratislava, for one), the Old Town is the complete opposite of that–utterly charming and you can feel yourself traveling back in time centuries instead of decades.

But Split’s Old Town is something even more special. It was originally a palace for Roman emperor Diocletian back in the 4th century. The Old Town is self-contained, with huge walls and gates (above), and the modern day world has seamlessly integrated itself into the palace. It almost feels as if you’re in Harry Potter World at Universal except all the stores are modern. You’ll find souvenir shops where swords were maybe once foraged, olive oil samples where bread was maybe once baked, and a coffee shop facing the main forum area where announcements were made and protests were had, complete with columns and stone lions. You can also visit the dungeons where they filmed the dragons in the dungeons in GOT, where they do not check student IDs if you’d like a discount, wink wink.

Prague, Czech Republic

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I loved Prague. Within hours of my arrival, I started to look for jobs there, just out of curiosity. 2018 is a wonderful year to visit according to the NY Times because it is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Czech Republic or Czechia (though a few Czechs have told me they prefer the name Czech Republic, which is why I still use it here) AND it’s the 50th anniversary of the Prague Spring. Prague is celebrating with concerts, events, and museum exhibits (including one at Prague Castle).

While you’re there, drink Czech beer, stroll across the Charles Bridge, explore the castle grounds, and listen to “Imagine” on your phone at the Lennon Wall, a wall which people wrote messages of hope every night which was white-washed by the Communists every morning. The wall isn’t white-washed anymore, but it is constantly changing with modern messages of hope, peace, and love, though when I visited it was monopolized by messages of hatred toward a particular individual from my own country who I was trying to forget about. Take a tour, read a book, and visit a museum to learn about the incredible history of this city and how a few hard-working and persistent people saying “No” and rising up against something they saw as fundamentally wrong made a difference.

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France

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AFAR recommends France to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I (officially on November 11). There are many activities associated with the anniversary, (mainly along the Western Front between France and Belgium) including exhibits at the Franco-American Museum of Blérancourt, Cité du Champagne, and the new American Interpretation Center at Château-Thierry.

Though I haven’t been to any of those particular areas, France is a country I hope to visit time and time again, especially as I continue my studies of the language once I have a more regular schedule again. A few years ago, I spent a day in the gastronomy capital of France, Lyon, with a friend, and last year I spent a few days exploring and falling in amour with Paris all on my own. If you’re going for the first time, I totally recommend it solo.

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While I officially have nothing on my 2018 calendar except for travels associated with friends’ weddings, I know it will be another great year – of travels and of everything else. Remember, you don’t have to go to India to explore something new, you can go to Indiana, or just a few towns over. At least once a year, go somewhere you’ve never been.

You can read the full lists here:

xx

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