Best Travel Destinations For 2018

As travelers tick off visits across the globe's marquee destinations, a new crop of cities such as Bologna, Kyoto and Slane are poised to become the next go-to spots

Italy—but Modena, not Rome. Japan—but Kyoto, not Tokyo. Ireland—but Slane, not Dublin.

As travelers tick off visits to marquee destinations across the globe, a new crop of cities such as Bologna, Kyoto and Slane are poised to become the next go-to destinations. In other words, this year, more travelers are aiming to get lost—and the travel industry is taking note.


This past May, United Airlines debuted a new direct route from Newark Airport to Porto, Portugal. United, which has offered direct service to Lisbon for 21 years, is now the first U.S. airline to offer daily flights to Portugal's second largest city.

"When we begin new flights, we always look to see if the demand is strong enough to sustain the new route," Patrick Quayle, United's vice president of international route planning, says. "The demand for travel from the U.S. to Portugal has increased by nearly 20 percent every year over the last four years." According to United's research, more U.S. travelers are traveling outside of Lisbon and heading to Porto, as well as to the country's famed Douro wine region.

Amarante is among the can't-miss stops in northern Portugal. It's a storybook town with ornate buildings set on the Tâmega river, about a 45-minute drive from Porto. Amarante boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, Largo do Paço, located inside the Casa da Calçada, a premier Relais & Châteaux hotel that was once a Baroque 16th-century palace.


Airline executives will probably keep an eye on certain regions in northern Italy as well. Last November, Bologna, the capital city of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, opened the doors of the world's biggest food theme park. Eataly FICO is an ambitious, sprawling agriculture-centric park that aims to show how Italy produces its beloved cheese, wine, pasta and more. It has more than five acres of fields and stables housing 200 animals, and more than 45 trattorias, bistros and restaurants. There are also shops, learning centers, working factories and one massive spaghetti-making machine.

In its first five weeks, Eataly FICO clocked 350,000 visitors and rang up more than 7.4 million dollars in sales. Within six months, those numbers grew to 1.5 million park visitors and 30 million spent at the park, according to executives.

Should you happen to find yourself in Bologna, note that you're also a short 20-minute train ride to Modena, home of Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura's lauded Michelin-starred restaurant. Can't book a table at the tiny eatery that's been named the World's Best Restaurant? Try your luck at Alimentari Da Panino, an intimate restaurant located just across the street from Osteria. Owned by Giuseppe Palmieri, Bottura's longtime sommelier, Da Panino also offers exquisite Italian dishes, but in a more casual setting.


Food travelers tend to be spirits fans, and if that's true for you, then you should probably have Slane, Ireland on your radar. Slane is located 30 minutes away from Dublin and has long been a destination for music fans. Since 1981, Slane Castle has hosted concerts on its grounds—including three appearances by U2, who recorded the seminal "Unforgettable Fire" in the castle's drawing room.

Last year, the charming Irish town began making a play at spirits enthusiasts. The Conyngham family, which has owned Slane Castle since 1703, opened its Slane Irish Whiskey distillery on the castle grounds as well as a fine dining restaurant and a casual bar inside the historic building. In addition to the castle, the town boasts several farm-to-table restaurants using local products, pubs straight out of Central Casting and picturesque ruins.


Travelers aren't just flocking to Europe, of course. The Ace Hotel, with locations in New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans, has announced that its newest outpost will be in Kyoto, opening in late 2019. It will the latest among Kyoto's many luxury hotel options, which include the Four Seasons, the Hyatt Regency and the Ritz-Carlton.

Kyoto, located about 200 miles from Tokyo, is home to Uosaboro, a traditional Japanese restaurant that opened in 1764. And Kyoto Prefecture is a 15-minute train ride from Suntory's Yamazaki distillery, which produces some of the most sought-after whiskies in the world.

Next month, Hyatt Regency opens the doors to its new luxury beach resort on Seragaki Island in Okinawa, Japan. Okinawa is fast becoming a popular spot with the cruise ship and destination wedding crowds. According to news reports, over nine million travelers arrived in Okinawa in 2017, up nine percent from the previous year. Naha Airport is currently adding a new runway, which is expected to bring in more travelers.

No matter where you choose to go, make sure you bring your sense of adventure and your appetite.