Want to travel more in 2020? Here are tips on where and when to go


Sunset over the Grand Canyon.

Erik Avent | Getty Images

If traveling to charming and culturally diverse destinations is on your to-do list for the new year and the fresh decade, then keep this list handy.

CNBC reviewed a handful of the many “best places to go” lists issued around this time of year and asked travel industry experts for advice on the best times and reasons to visit certain cities.

If you do hit the road, you’re unlikely to be alone. A recent AAA Travel Survey found that one-quarter of Americans plan to take an international vacation over the next 18 months to popular European destinations such as Rome, London, Dublin and Paris and to warm-weather locales in Mexico and the Caribbean.

Been there, done that? Here are some other destinations to consider.

When to go

Your vacations may be ruled by school vacations and crunch times at work, but “if budget is your number one priority for travel in 2020, it behooves you to consider flying in winter months as nearly all major US cities boast their lowest median booking price in either January or February,” said Kelly Sunderland, travel trends expert for travel site Hipmunk.

Where to go

Salzburg, Austria

Manchan | DigitalVision | Getty Images

On its Best in Travel 2020 list, Lonely Planet picked Salzburg, Austria as the number-one city to visit next year, ranking Washington, D.C. second and Cairo, Egypt third.

“The Salzburg Festival [July 18 – August 30] is turning 100, and this heart-stealer of an Alpine city is singing about it at the top of its voice,” said Lonely Planet writer Kerry Walker, “One of the world’s greatest classical music shindigs, the festival is always a riotous feast of opera, classical music and drama–and never more so than in 2020.”

Taktshang Goemba or Tiger Nest Monastery was blessed and sanctified as one of the most sacred religious sites in Bhutan.

Kelly Cheng | Moment | Getty Images

Bhutan topped Lonely Planet’s list of countries to visit in 2020, with England in second place and North Macedonia in third.

“A dozen nations vie for the title of real-life Shangri-La, but Bhutan’s claim has more clout than most,” said Lonely Planet writer Joe Bindloss, “This tiny piece of Himalayan paradise operates a strict ‘high-value, low-impact’ tourism policy, compelling travelers to pay a high daily fee [$250] just to set foot in its pine-scented, monastery-crowned hills.”

Bhutan also topped the Rough Guides list of the 4 Best Countries to visit in 2020, followed by Ethiopia, Austria (where Vienna will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven) and Montenegro.

Luxury travel

Emperor penguins from Antartica.

Raimund Linke | The Image Bank | Getty Images

In its 2020 Luxe Report, global luxury travel network Virtuoso shares trends already influencing bookings for next year.

“Italy continues its reign as the global favorite, as well as the top spot for solo travelers,” the report notes, “while Croatia heads the list of emerging destinations, attracting buzz due to the Game of Thrones effect as well as its rich history and convenience to other major European hubs.”

In Virtuoso’s survey Antarctica takes the top spot for adventure travel in 2020, with Greece showing up as the top destinations for millennials as well as second on the global destinations list and a third place for honeymoons.

2020 also marks the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower voyage and the founding of the Plymouth Colony in present day Massachusetts. Events are planned in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States.

In Plymouth, MA, “Plimoth Plantation is actually a really fun experience, with or without kids,” said Lindsay Taylor-Lauer of Tafari Travel, a Virtuoso Agency. “And in New England there is something for everyone to do and explore, from the Azorean Restaurant in Gloucester, MA to the gilded mansions in Newport, Rhode Island and minke [whales] popping from the water as you ferry from Dennis Port to Martha’s Vineyard on Cape Cod.”

52 more options to consider


Photo: National Geographic

Fodor’s Travel put together a Go List for 2020 that includes 52 places.

Destinations topping the list in the United States and Canada are Athens, Georgia; Baltimore, Maryland; and Newfoundland, Canada. Sicily’s Aeolian Islands top the list for destinations to head for in Europe, followed by Albania and Andalusia, in the southern part of Spain.

Destinations are broken down by region (Africa/Middle East, Asia, South America, etc.) and, as a nice bonus, there is also a Go List 2020 playlist on Spotify to help you get in the travel-planning mood.

For its Best Trips 2020 list, National Geographic picked 25 must-see destinations and travel experiences.

On the list: Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, which celebrated its centennial in 2019, and Philadelphia, described as “an American classic” reinventing itself for a new generation in much the same way Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati have been doing, “but better.” National Geographic’s Best Trips list also suggests Tasmania, Australia and Southern Africa’s Kalahari Desert, one of the world’s few International Dark Sky Sanctuaries.

Events to travel for — and to watch out for.

Benjamin Bartlett’s Jim Beam statue sits outside the Jim Beam American Stillhouse on December 30, 2015 in Clermont, Kentucky.

Raymond Boyd | Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images

January 16 marks the 100th anniversary of the start of prohibition in the United States, so 2020 may be a good time to visit the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown, Kentucky and travel along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

And if a trip to Japan has been on your list for a while, keep in the mind that the 2020 Summer Olympics take place in Tokyo this year from July 24 through August 9, and there will be packages and tours heading that way.

While vacations are supposed to be all about fun, they are not always totally carefree.

“The number one potential risk for travelers in 2020 will be civil unrest caused by geopolitical shifts,” said Matthew Bradley, regional security director at International SOS, a medical and security travel risk services company.

Bradley says a few key geopolitical shifts to consider when making travel plans in 2020 include continued popular uprisings in Latin America, the changing nature of United States involvement in the Middle East and the United States presidential election.

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