2023 is shaping up to be a very busy year for international travel. Most of the countries that had Covid-related entry restrictions in 2022 have dropped them, which means there will be many more people worldwide making international trips this year than last. Depending on where they go, they may find service shortages, inflation, and the other conditions that apply when a country is trying to ramp back up after a pandemic yet also handle a sudden flood of tourists. So it will be crucial this year to choose your destination wisely and time your trip right. In our WOW Week Travel Talk on January 23rd, Wendy, Brook, and Carolyn shared how.
In a hurry? Start the video at 3:10. No time to watch the whole thing? Here are top takeaways:
This is the year to see Southeast Asia. It was among the last regions to reopen after Covid, and its bounce-back has been softer than Europe’s, so there is still time to see it before the large tour groups return. As for the rest of Asia, Japan has seen a huge surge in demand (and prices) since fully reopening last fall, and China isn’t currently issuing tourist visas to U.S. travelers, but India and Central Asia offer a lot of opportunity to travelers looking to get there before the big tour groups return. Read reviews from travelers just back from Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
Choose Northern Europe over Southern. As happened last year, we predict that in 2023, Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, and their neighbors will see overwhelming numbers of tourists. The city of Venice has begun charging day-trippers a fee to enter, and the Louvre Museum in Paris is now capping the number of visitors daily. If you must travel to Europe in peak season, then instead of Mediterranean locales, focus on more northerly places such as Scandinavia. Read reviews from travelers just back from Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands, Iceland, Norway, and Romania.
Don’t overlook South America. For sun in winter, value for money, and an outstanding diversity of landscapes and experiences, it’s hard to beat South America, especially in 2023: It is home to many of the countries that still have Covid-related entry requirements in place (Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay), so that should keep visitor numbers relatively low. Since WOW List destination specialists can make navigating these requirements a breeze, you can have a hassle-free trip in a place that feels unattainable to many others. South America is warm when Europe is cold, and there’s less jet lag and not nearly as many tour groups. From celeb-magnet beach towns in Brazil to coffee-region haciendas in Colombia to Amazonian lodges in Ecuador to heli-hiking in Chile to top-value wine regions in Argentina—not to mention the Galapagos Islands and Patagonia—South America doesn’t get old. Read reviews from travelers just back from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, and Patagonia. (We’re keeping an eye on the situation in Peru and will keep you updated.)
Think about Australia, New Zealand, and Japan only if you can travel at off-peak times. These countries did not reopen until 2022, so there is enormous demand for them this year. To find availability and affordability, avoid peak periods (e.g., springtime cherry blossom season in Japan, which sold out months ago). Read reviews from travelers just back from Australia and New Zealand.
If you must travel to a place that’s in high demand, choose under-the-radar locations within it. Let’s say it’s your honeymoon in June, and nothing but Italy’s Amalfi Coast will do. WOW List destination specialists know the hidden-gem spots that will give you relief from the crowds—and they often have insider connections that can get you into sites after-hours, and behind-the-scenes access to places not open to the general public.
Traveling to a place during its “shoulder season” is smarter than ever. Shoulder season comes just before or after peak season, when the weather is still good but the crowds aren’t there, and prices are a bit lower.
Europe in low season has gained appeal too. The pandemic lengthened Europe’s tourist seasons: What was once shoulder season (April/May and September/October) is now very popular. What was once low season (November and March) is now a smart time to go, with weather pleasant enough for outdoor dining (unlike last summer’s temps above 100 degrees). Hotels are lengthening their season to accommodate higher travel demand (hotels on Lake Como, for instance, now stay open through December). The pleasures of Rome in January are no longer a best-kept secret. Read Winter is Europe’s Secret Season for more ideas.
Opt for nonstop flights. Every connection creates an opportunity for something to go wrong: a missed flight, lost luggage, an inconvenient delay. As the airlines find their feet post-Covid, there are more and more flights from U.S. cities to interesting international locales. If a stop is essential, choose one of the smartest airports for making connections in. When you are making a domestic connection to an international flight, consider overnighting at the connection point. (For instance, if you’re flying to Africa via JFK, missing your connection could seriously disrupt your safari plans, so consider spending the night in New York.)
The larger your group, the earlier you need to plan. When you only need one hotel room, it’s usually possible to develop the ideal itinerary to suit your interests and trip goals, and then book suitable hotels. But when you need two or more rooms, you may have to patch together hotel availability wherever you can get it and let that dictate your schedule. With a multigenerational trip or other large group, booking early will maximize your options.
If you’re worried about Covid, know that safe trips are possible. Choose warm-weather destinations where all the sightseeing and activities are in the open air, where streets and public spaces are not crowded, and where you can eat every meal outdoors. Here are smart options that we ourselves road-tested during the pandemic (and we never got Covid). For more options, ask us here.
Buy travel insurance and evacuation assistance. It can protect your financial investment, cover any medical expenses, and give you peace of mind. If you’re sick or injured, the right travel insurance policy will cover your care at the nearest appropriate facility; you need a second layer of protection if you want to be treated at home.
Links to Useful Resources
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