I don’t know about you, but I get almost as much feel good mileage from travel planning as from the trip itself.
A few years ago, a study from the Netherlands found that vacationers were generally happier than non-vacationers – not necessarily after a holiday, but before the holiday, while planning and anticipating their vacation.
So I’ve been looking at travel trends, and dreaming and planning for our next trip. If you haven’t started planning your next vacation, here’s some travel inspiration for 2016 so you can take advantage of this pre-trip happiness.
Travel hot spots “off the beaten path”
Although this is an oxymoron, a lot of people want to go where the other traveling masses haven’t settled in yet.
Visiting Cuba before it changes is on a lot of 2016 must-see lists. For Canadians, Cuba has been a popular sun vacation for years, but we haven’t visited yet. Things won’t change overnight, but since travel and trade with the US is opening up, we would like to go soon.
It’s great that travelers can now safely visit formerly off-limits countries such as Cuba, Myanmar, Columbia, and Nicaragua. I’ve even seen Iran on some recent must-see lists. Through Instagram, I’ve seen how interesting and beautiful that country is, and I would love to visit, but today it’s still too difficult and dangerous for me. During my lifetime, the same would have been said about countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia, and today they are top tourist destinations, so maybe someday.
Getting away from it all, but closer to nature
South Georgia Island
Finding that undiscovered gem means different things to different people, but as people are traveling more than ever, you might have to go further to get “off the beaten path”. Getting closer to nature on a safari in African, elephant sanctuary in Thailand or tiger spotting in India are bucket list kind of adventures. Lately I’ve noticed more travelers are also visiting very remote Arctic or Antarctic locations, such as Greenland or South Georgia Island, where humans are outnumbered by polar bears or penguins.
In case you don’t know about South Georgia Island (which I didn’t), it’s part of the Falkland Islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Visiting South Georgia Island is a bucket-list expedition that looks awesome but is pretty pricey. Maybe someday!
Jasper National Park, Alberta
For spectacular mountains, outdoor adventures and plenty of wildlife, I recommend Jasper, Alberta – and with the current low Canadian dollar it’s a bargain. For the best prices and to avoid crowds, try to travel outside peak times in July/August.
Jasper National Park is also one of the world’s largest accessible Dark Sky Preserves, and one of the best places to view stars and northern lights. The Jasper Dark Sky Festival is held each October. And getting to Jasper…via the the Icefield Parkway from Banff is one of the world’s most unforgettable road trips.
Speaking of road trips…
One of the best ways to put some distance between yourself and the traveling masses is by taking a road trip. A lot of travelers only take road trips locally, but internationally it’s a great option as well. Having a car gives you the freedom to stop at those interesting places not so accessible by public transport. If there are two or more of you, it can also be one of the least expensive ways of getting around.
A Spanish Road Trip
A couple years ago we took a road trip through south and eastern Spain. Along our planned route were a lot of places we had not heard about, and it was wonderful having the freedom to stop and explore.
A Scandinavian Road Trip?
This year we are planning to visit Stockholm, and a road trip might be a great way to see more of Sweden, as well as Denmark and Norway. These are known to be expensive countries, so we’ll have to figure out some ways to stretch our budget.
Alternates to the most popular big cities
One way of stretching your European vacation budget is to visit alternatives to the most popular destinations like Paris or Rome. We might visit Portugal, one of Europe’s least expensive countries, but with great architecture, food and culture. Other options might be the Le Marche region of Italy, or Eastern European countries such as Hungary or Montenegro. While still popular with travelers, some of these options are less busy, and less expensive.
Tokyo is a must-see if you are visiting Japan, but for something completely different, check out the mountainous northern island of Hokkaido. It’s a popular recommendation this year, as the Hokkaido Shinkansen high-speed train from Tokyo will begin service in March. Hokkaido is known for it’s wilderness areas with outdoor activities such as skiing or hiking, and Sapporo’s famous snow festival with enormous ice sculptures. Hokkaido is also a great food destination, with fresh seafood, dairy, produce and delicious local dishes such as soup curry. If you go to Hokkaido, be sure to visit Otaru, a picturesque small harbor city northwest of Sapporo. In addition to the rail link, it’s easy to fly from Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo with more than 80 flights per day.
Travel inspiration 2016 “on the beaten path”
If instead of getting away from it all you would rather join in a big celebration, there are lots of opportunities in 2016. The 2016 Olympics in Brazil tops that list, but here are some other places celebrating in 2016.
Capability Brown’s English garden
If you enjoy beautiful gardens as I do, the UK is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown, the most famous designer of English gardens. The Capability Brown Festival 2016 with be hosting a huge range of events and exhibitions. Also in the UK, 2016 commemorates 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, so this would be a great year to take in a play at Stratford-upon-Avon.
Europe’s 2016 Capital of Culture
Every year Europe chooses a Capital of Culture, and for 2016 San Sebastián, Spain and Wroclaw, Poland are sharing the honours, so will be having lots of cultural events.
US National Park Centennial
Last but not least, the US National Park Service is celebrating its centennial in 2016, so that could also be inspiration for an American road trip to the Grand Canyon, or one of the other parks.
So if you haven’t planned your vacation yet it’s time to start dreaming!
Where would you like to go in 2016?
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