One of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe, Bruges is the capital of West Flanders and a great romantic destination for newlyweds, as well as couples celebrating milestone wedding anniversaries.
While the year won’t be new much longer, there’s still time to make your resolutions for the next 12 months and to consider your 2023 travel plans. Planning early is an effective way to ensure the best pricing and availability, while avoiding the problems encountered by travelers as the world reopened last year.
From bucket-list Christmas market river cruises in Europe and faith-based pilgrimages to experiences in far-flung exotic locales, clients are eager to travel again. In fact, many leisure travelers are already reserving cruises and land-based vacations well into 2024.
The cruise industry’s annual “Wave Season” is now in full swing with special pricing and family promotions, while many tour operators appear to be offering promotions as well. High demand for international travel should continue this year as major world cities roll back any remaining COVID-19 measures. The typical American traveler today seeks rich personal experiences, new cultures and the cuisine found primarily in larger cities.
For example, a recent study identified Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Tel Aviv among the top ten destinations projected for American travelers in the coming year, along with the usual in-demand destinations of London, Paris and Rome. Meanwhile, the strong U.S. dollar makes countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Hungary, Egypt and many others a real bargain for travelers this year.
While major cities garner most traveler attention, I personally like the overlooked destinations off the beaten path for diving into the local culture and for getting away from the crowds, especially during the high season. Here are a few destinations I highly recommend:
- Paris is on everyone’s bucket list but do not overlook the Rhône River Valley towns of Lyon and Avignon. Regional wines are among the world’s best, and you are more likely to delve into local history in the smaller cities of Southern France. You might also add a few days on the French Riviera to round out a great travel experience.
- World War II historians will love the small towns of Belgium and you will never find a more romantic destination than Bruges, the largest city in West Flanders and one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. And, don’t overlook Belgium chocolate delights.
- You can explore the highlights of Athens easily in two days before hoping on a ferry to the smaller islands of Greece – Paxos, Ios and Naxos, for example. Inter-island ferry service can be as much fun as being there and you won’t miss the summer crowds dominating higher profile islands.
- While Italy remains one of my clients’ preferred destinations (Rome, Florence, Venice), I also like Southern Italy and Sicily for people seeking a different Italian experience.
- I also recommend a self-driving Scotch tour from Glasgow across northern Scotland to Edinburgh, especially if you time your trip to coincide with the British Open golf tournament.
TRAVEL CLOSER TO HOME
Travelers seeking a more meditative experience closer home, might consider any of several scenic trains trips that provide stunning views of America. If you believe the journey is just as important than the destination, you will enjoy any of the follow journeys riding the rails:
- Grand Canyon Railway, offering a great round-trip journey from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon – a terrific way to explore part of the Sonoran Desert as you make your way into the national park.
West Virginia’s Cass Scenic Railroad represents a great destination for an early fall weekend getaway to the Mountain State.
- The Rocky Mountaineer exploring the mountain landscapes of Western Canada and the red rock wonders of Colorado and Southern Utah aboard luxurious trains.
- The Coastal Classic route of the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward trailing along Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.
- Amtrak’s Maple Leaf has resumed service from New York City, following the Hudson River northward, continuing through the Finger Lakes region to Niagara Falls and ending your journey 12-1/2 hours later in Toronto.
- No such list would be complete without mentioning the Cass Scenic Railroad, built in 1901 to transport lumber through the West Virginia mountains. Located about 90 miles south of my hometown, Cass Railroad offers a 4-1/2 hour round-trip up Bald Knob, West Virginia’s highest peak at 4,842 feet. State Park accommodations are available in Cass, and the renowned Greenbrier resort is about an hour away in White Sulphur Springs.
I also anticipate strong interest this year in Caribbean family vacations on both land and sea. Royal Caribbean offers excellent 5- and 7-night itineraries well suited for families. I also like certain all-inclusive resorts along Costa Maya, the Caribbean coast of Mexico, as well as resorts in Puerto Rico, St. Lucia and Antigua. Larger extended families of 10 to 12 people might well consider a private villa on a secluded Caribbean island.
With so many options available today, your biggest problem may be deciding where and how you will travel in 2023.