Friends! Have you planned your 2019 travel yet?
Where you goin? Oh… wait, you haven’t decided yet? Alright I’m gonna help you out here.
While January usually is a month for intention setting, getting back on track after the holidays and some strange thing called #dryjanuary (who knows what that is…) I also think January is a fantastic time to map out your travel plans for the year.
Bonus: SkyScanner says January 2019 is the cheapest month to buy flights this year, so...better get on that! BUT WAIT WAIT WAIT! Before you jump off here to snag some great flight deals, let’s talk about 19 places you need to have on your travel radar this year.
This is a list of places I’ve been to and I think you should visit + some places that I’m hoping to visit this year too! Hey, maybe we’ll bump into each other!
Drum roll for the first destination….
I mean, are you surprised? People this country needs to be at the TOP of your travel list. India is wonderfully colorful, culturally rich, insanely stimulating, deliciously diverse and unlike ANY place in the world. What I loved most about visiting this country is the hospitality of the Indian Culture. There's a saying in India, "Athithi Devo Bhava", it means "The guest is God”. And you honestly feel like that.
Plus this country FORCES you to get out of your comfort zone. I left India feeling as if I only scratched its surface in the two weeks I was there, yet grateful to have seen the things I saw and spoke to the people I crossed paths with. It’s a country that reminds you of how fortunate you are and gives you a glimpse into one of the most ancient civilizations in the world.
I mean if my photos, videos or posts aren't enough to inspire you to go, how about the essentially royal wedding that took place last year? I’m of course talking about Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra’s extravagant wedding week in India. Yeah… that’s wedding goals.
I’ll finish by saying this. I loved India SO MUCH, I’m going back again this year!
Listen, Eastern Europe is the new Western Europe people. If you want to check out new countries and not be SWALLOWED UP by selfie stick wielding grandparents on your next vacay, head to Romania. Admittedly when my mom and I went this past year we got a few quizzical looks. But when you combine gracious hospitality, stunning forests, epic castles and mysterious folklore (cough cough Dracula) you’ve got a recipe for a great trip in my book.
What I loved most about Romania, aside from the lack of obnoxious tourists, was how REAL it felt. Driving through the countryside of Transylvania (wait that’s a sentence I never thought I’d say) you look right and left and see old school water wells and shepherds with their flock of sheep. It honestly felt as if I stepped back in time. And I mean, a visit to Dracula’s castle is an absolute must!
Side note: truly if you’re looking for a great affordable European adventure, Romania is a solid option.
And hey don’t take my word for it. Refinery29 had it as their #1 most exciting place to travel in 2019.
This country has been at the top of my travel list ever since 3rd grade (not joking). It’s place at the top of that list was even more firmly solidified after watching the terrible but addicting Mummy movies. I’ve always been entranced by Egypt and I know I’m not the only one.
2018 was a HUGE year for tourism in Egypt now that the country finally is bouncing back from the 2011 revolution that quickly halted tourism. According to Forbes Egypt is finally seeing a steady increase in tourism. While some might be skeptical, I look at these periods of rebuilding as an incredible opportunity. Travelers who have visited Egypt recently are saying that it’s much less crowded. Which means less people at the main attractions. And that means you get your bomb pyramid shot sans jumbo tourist busses. SCORE!
Wine lovers, listen up. I know Napa and Sonoma are cool and I love them too, but I want to tell you about this little place called Paso Robles. It’s just about 30 minutes north of San Luis Obispo on California’s Central Coast. Around 250 wineries are spread across the central coast wine region and Paso Robles is in the heart of it.
If you’re on a mission to drink some wine (which you should be) you can work your way along the winding Highway 46 and sample wines from some FANTASTIC vintners.
My favorites are:
And if you’re looking to stay somewhere kitschy and FULL OF COLOR. Check out the Madonna Inn.
Outlander...DUH. But on the off chance you don’t happen to stumble back in time through magical stones, you can travel back in time another way. How about traveling by way of a luxurious sleeper train on your journey to the Highlands (cue Outlander soundtrack)? Caledonian Sleeper just announced it will be rolling out its brand new fleet of trains this summer. SCORE! New sheets! It’s basically the glamour of the Orient Express with all the modern conveniences (aka wifi).
Reasons to go to Scotland:
you love a good castle
you’re a history nerd
you want to see where Outlander films
you’re down for an epic road trip with killer views
While I can’t say I’ve been here yet, this city has always been at the top of my list ever since the 3rd season of American Horror Story. Anyone else? It’s such a melting pot of cultures, people and history. New Orleans has such a distinct and unique personality and I really would love to experience it first hand. Plus the city just celebrated its 300th birthday! Pretty cool huh?
Oh and PS, the New York Times named New Orleans it’s NUMBER 1 destination in 2018. So I always figure it’s good to let the dust and the hype settle before planning my trip.
South America people! Have you heard of it? I often feel that Americans overlook South America when planning their overseas trips. I’m not sure why as there are so many stunning and diversely rich countries to explore.
Okay now let’s talk about Argentina. Let’s just say this country has got it all. Glaciers, check. Volcanos, check, mountains, check, killer wine region, check. Stunning coastline, check. See a theme here? It literally has everything! I am PUMPED to visit this country for the first time this spring and I hope you consider it for your travel plans.
Reasons to visit Argentina:
See one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World aka Iguazu Falls
You like wine (a lot of wine, red in particular)
You’re in the mood to Tango
You’re an adventure seeker
This is where half of Patagonia is (scroll down to see why you need to see Patagonia)
No joke book your fall leaf peeping trip RN (that’s short for right now for the over 50 crowd reading this). I cannot think of a better place to bask in the glories of fall then on the east coast. It’s honestly heavenly. And if there’s any part of you that gets excited over pumpkin flavored pastries or colorful leaves floating down from trees, I HIGHLY recommend you get your booty to the the Hudson Valley.
But if you’re thinking of making the trip, I’m not kidding when I say book your hotel/AIRBNB NOW. I mean come on, you think you’re the only genius to think of going east to look at some leaves! Sorry Charlie, that ain’t the case.
Towns to check out:
South of France
It’s fair to say that the South of France has a COMPLETELY different vibe than Paris. So if you’ve already visited the city of lights, it’s time to explore the south. From Saint-Tropez to Marseille and everywhere in between the south of France is FILLED with charming villages and cities that will win you over in a heartbeat. Ideally, you should visit from March - May and September - October when the temps are moderate (and even more importantly, so are the crowds).
Cities to consider:
I think Asheville has been on a lot of people’s radars but this year is the year I’m planning to check it off my list. It’s basically the hipster capital of the south. And while I myself am not a hipster, nor do I like craft beer (another thing the city is known for) I want to see the Biltmore Estate. Which if you didn’t know, Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in the US. Basically it’s our version of the Downton Abbey home.
I’m planning to spend a month or two this summer in the south (more on that later) and I figured why not cross a few southern hot spots off my list while I’m there.
Reasons to visit Asheville:
Did I mention craft beer?
You like extravagant estates
You’d also like to visit the Smoky Mountains
You’re looking to find your hipster husband
It’s honestly hard to find a bad thing about Palm Springs. From the practically pristine weather to the old Hollywood vibes, this SoCal city hits all the marks as a GREAT vacation spot. Full disclosure, I’m a local, so my opinion is a bit biased. BUT on the flip side of things, I like to think I’m a Palm Springs expert. And if you haven’t visited this fabulous town, 2019 is your year.
Palm Springs is only a short drive from LA, San Diego and Vegas. And if you’re flying in, Palm Springs International is hands down one of the most stunning and stress free airports to fly into. I’m going to assume that when you’re reading this, you might live in a somewhat colder city….So tell me, how good does sunshine, palm trees and poolside cocktails sound to you?
Fun fact: there’s more than 300 days of sunshine in Palm Springs.
Check out my Palm Springs Destination Guide to inspire you to book your flight! And if you’re local and looking for a quick weekend trip, I’ve put together a weekend itinerary of all my favorite things to do around town.
It’s hard to forget the devastating impact Hurricane Maria had on this island a year and a half ago. But the good news is, Puerto Rico is on the up and up. In my opinion, if you want to help this country get back on its feet, put your tourism dollars there. I mean technically by you booking your vacation there, you’re giving back to people of Puerto Rico and helping to strengthen the local economy.
And while you’re there, why not see Lin-Manuel Miranda reprise his role in “Hamilton”?. Funds from the tickets will go towards art organizations on the island. Oh and when you visit you have to check out Vieques Island. It’s a Caribbean island off Puerto Rico's eastern coast that’s known for Bioluminescent Bay, where microorganisms give the water a blue-green glow.
Bet you didn’t expect that one lol. But hear me out. First if you’re wondering where it is here’s a map. So the reason I included this was because one of the travel journalist’s I really admire visited Uzbekistan last year. Her feed was full of jaw dropping backdrops and walls covered in ocean blue tiles. I think what’s really cool about going to a place like this is that it’s VERY outside the norm, meaning it’s not your typical vacation spot.
Even better, it’s becoming easier to get to. As of July 15, Americans and 100 other nationalities are now allowed to visit, visa free, for up to 5 days. And if you want to stay longer you can take advantage of their online visa system that costs $20.
Uzbekistan also is home to 3 of the most important cities along the Silk Road. So if you don’t have the time or the $$$ to travel the full length of the Silk Route from Turkey to China, Uzbekistan might not be a bad option to consider. Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand are the cities I’m talking about, each one a key stopping point for traders. The cities have been restored to their former glory and have everything you were hoping to see: stunning mosaics, massive domes, and minarets sprinkles all over the place.
Want to know more? Here’s some other reasons why this obscure country needs to be on your list.
While NOTHING compares to Santorini or Mykonos (two of my favorite Greek islands), there’s something to be said for traveling places where there are not flocks of tourists. This region of mainland Greece is laid back and known for being the go to place for wellness and fitness since Hippocrates days. Luxury hotels are opening in the area and the region is hosting the country's first Iron Man race in April. Oh and did I mention the area has more wineries than any other place in Greece? And if you’re into spas (who isn’t) you gotta check out Greece’s first destination spa: Euphoria Retreat. While you’re in Peloponnese make sure to check out Porto Heli
Imagine islands as beautiful as Mykonos and Santorini, that are not over-crowded with 36,000 tourists each day?
Valle De Guadalupe
So I know it’s hard not to think of Mexico as a destination for all-inclusive resorts and crazy spring break crowds, but the country has SO MUCH more to offer. Don’t get me wrong, I loved partying my face off in Cabo on college spring break...but now I like to believe I’m a bit more refined…Enter Valle De Guadalupe.
This region is being called Mexico’s Napa Valley and the foodie landscape in the area is growing as well. Oh and did I mention the scenery is breathtaking? The aesthetic is very similar to Napa but without the wine train, flocks of tourists and less traffic. My point being - go here before everyone else does.
Side note: it’s a 90 minute drive from the American border.
If you’re reading this and over 40 I’d just skip this section…LOL. But if you’re in your 20s and 30s this suggestion is for you. The Yacht Week. One of the most epic weeks of my life. I can’t say enough about this crazy, fun, over the top experience. Gather your closest friends, rent a yacht, hire a captain and hostess and sail through some of the most perfectly blue waters in the world. At night you party until the sun comes up (literally I’m not just saying that) and during the day you explore the towns along your route.
Two summers ago my friends and I sailed to some of the most stunning Croatian islands I’ve ever seen. The week, while crazy at times, was a great balance of traveling in a way I’d never traveled before and rubbing shoulders (or butts depending on how you like to dance) with people from all over the world on the dance floor. There’s a reason why people come back saying this was the best week of their lives and I couldn’t agree more.
Want to go somewhere and not be bothered? Head to Namibia my friend. It’s one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, after Mongolia. You might feel like you’re on another planet when you see the country's barren landscapes. But just because it’s barren doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful. The country is a mix of sand, sky & sea. The best part is that new hotels are opening and a spotlight is shining on this south African country.
Want to know more about this other worldly country? Check out The Blonde Abroad’s section dedicated to her travels through the country.
In need of some epic landscapes? Then you gotta check out Patagonia. Very few vistas rival those in this part of South America. Many call it the true last escape on earth. Bold statement. This is certainly a destination for hikers, outdoorsy folk and adventurers. The area has very little pollution (imagine that…) and the night skies are so clear you can see the Milky Way.
And even if you don’t own hiking boots or consider yourself “outdoorsy” the region has a fantastic food and wine scene. The region’s MASSIVE coastline boasts fresh and delicious seafood and Patagonia is now rivaling Mendoza for the best Malbec in the region. And don’t worry you don’t have to rough it if you don’t want to -- check out Explora -- a luxury hotel in the Torres del Paine National Park.
In case you’re wondering Patagonia is located in both Chile and Argentina.
I mean you’ve seen Crazy Rich Asians….(If you haven’t honestly stop reading this right now and watch it. Then we can talk). Anyways, as you CLEARLY saw in the movie, it’s a country that likes to show off. And I’m here for that. From designer shopping malls to the iconic Gardens by the Bay there is nothing understated about this country. This island offers just about everything. Enjoy sinfully delicious street food, sky scraping sundowners and famous slings at fancy hotels.
I’ll be honest, I just googled “is Singapore a city or a country” and I felt like the dumbest human ever. But to my surprise, that’s not an uncommon question to ask. In fact it’s both! Singapore is a small island nation located off the southern tip of Malaysia. Good to know if you’re traveling to Thailand, Indonesia or Malaysia, Singapore is often times a midway stopping point on international flights, so, the next time you are heading to Asia, think of stopping over for a few days, it is a perfect way to experience this country.
I can think of hundreds of reasons why you should consider a trip to Norway, but this picture should honestly be reason enough. How stunning is that? There’s something so magical and mysterious about this country filled with mountains, fjords, polar bears and plenty of wide open spaces. And if that’s not enough to entice you, the country was voted the happiest place on earth in 2017. I don’t know about you but I’d like to know what these people are doing to earn that title.
Be aware of conditions when you’re planning your trip. In the summer the days are REALLY long, like the sun barely sets. And in the height of winter the days are extremely short. Oh and most importantly, this is one of the best places to see the northern lights. The best time to see the lights is between late September to late March.
Reasons to visit Norway:
there’s a law that gives EVERYONE the rights and access to all uncultivated land. Meaning you can roam through uncharted territory if that’s your thing
you gotta see a fjord
you want to see a polar bear and don’t want to have to go to the North Pole
So friends, I really only have one question for you. Where are we going this year?
If ANY of these destinations stood out to you or you’re interested in planning a trip for 2019 I highly suggest you contact my mom/travel advisor Linda Pawelski. She would LOVE to help you plan your next getaway. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Never worked with a travel advisor before? Check out my post on why I always consult a travel advisor before I travel anywhere.
Thanks for reading lovelies!