With summer behind us and the holidays approaching, it’s easy to get caught in the seasonal slog where the hours are too long and the days are too short. What better way to fend off that malaise than to start planning next year’s vacation. 2019 will arrive before you know it, and then it will be time to pack your bags and enjoy a vacation that makes all your hard work worth the effort. Instead of daydreaming about a nice day on the beach, let’s skip right to the planning stage and look at 10 spots to put on your destination wishlist.
Some locations are blessed with superb geographical placement, and these islands in the Indian Ocean are among the most fortunately situated. Hundreds of miles from the nearest landmass, the Maldives feature white-sand beaches and spectacularly vibrant water in every direction you look.
People head here for pretty much one reason: to luxuriate. Glass-bottom houses stand over the calm seas, underwater restaurants serve fresh, local fare, and every amenity is taken care of. It’s the kind of place where you can do nothing for an entire day and feel like you made excellent use of every second.
Dozens of small islands and reefs make up the quaint, tropical nation, allowing thousands of tourists to visit without cramping each other’s style. Snorkeling and boat tours offer family-friendly activities, while the lodging, resorts and restaurants make this a top-tier romantic destination. Essentially, if you can get yourself to the Maldives, you’ll be really glad you did.
Drive a couple hours south of Naples and you’ll feel like you’ve made great use of a time machine. Italy’s Amalfi Coast is a collection of beautiful towns and beaches, sandwiched between the Tyrrhenian Sea and an awesome mountain range. Those pictures you’ve seen of colorful buildings stacked up a hillside overlooking the ocean? That’s Amalfi.
This region provides an incredible mix of old-school Italy and upscale resorts. For travelers in search of Italian cuisine, you’ll be mere miles away from the birthplace of pizza and surrounded by some of the world’s best seafood. For adventurous types, there are extraordinary hiking trails in every direction. And, of course, the classic Italian beaches, cliffside vineyards and classic lemon groves.
From the northern end of the coast, you can also take a ferry ride to Capri and visit the famed island. A slightly longer boat ride takes you to the island of Ischia, known for natural hot springs and an ancient castle that you can swim right up to.
A visit to Amalfi can be contained to one amazing seaside resort or take you to nearby islands and the ruins of Pompeii. Scratch that historical European itch and the spend the rest of your time eating pizza on the beach.
When July and August roll around, most of Europe heads this way for vacation; sneaking off in June is a good plan if you can make it work.
Costa Rica may be relatively small, but the diverse landscapes will make you feel like you’re visiting several countries at once.
You’ll find beautiful beaches on either side of this Central American country, with the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Caribbean to the east. The serene seaside rentals offer plenty of excitement for one vacation, but it might be hard to ignore the sprawling rainforests and towering volcanoes nearby. Hang out with iguanas and monkeys, then sip tropical drinks made with fruit that’s just been plucked.
The size of Costa Rica ensures you’re always a few minutes away from something fun to do or fascinating to look at. The only trick is timing your vacation since the area starts getting heavy rain after April. If you’re thinking about a Spring Break getaway, make sure to put Costa Rica on the 2019 travel list.
Some people don’t need beaches when they travel. Sometimes scenery and cultural experience are what make the trip. If you want a getaway without all the sand, Prague is calling your name.
One of Europe’s most scenic cities, Prague features 600-year-old architecture and numerous lodging options for every type of traveler. The capital of the Czech Republic offers all the modern amenities you might want while still presenting a slice of life taken straight from the old world. For the knowledge-seeking traveler, Prague provides a walk through history, as the city has been a major European hub for centuries.
While places like the Maldives can’t be visited on the cheap, a person can eat, sleep and drink their way through Prague on a relatively small budget. With free attractions and such a variety of hotels and rentals, this destination stays amenable to people from all walks of life.
The Old Town Square can keep you busy for multiple days, with museums, tours and excellent food. A modern public transportation system makes it easy to get from one spot to the next so novice travelers can move about without getting lost or overwhelmed.
Europe has a lot to offer, but a vast number of people will tell you this is the place to visit.
I hesitate to put Hong Kong on this list, but only because it’s so hard to describe. In a word, Hong Kong is… everything.
As an autonomous territory, the city plays into its unique cultural and global standing. You’ll walk through the streets at any hour of the day and feel like your senses are on overdrive. At night you can experience clubs and restaurants that will have you out until the wee hours, and during the day you can walk through the blissfully peaceful Lantau Island.
Hong Kong serves as a cultural hub to the rest of China as well as most of the world, meaning you’ll find a uniquely Hong-Kong take on just about every type of entertainment and food. The city is something of a choose-your-own-adventure destination, allowing you to be as active or relaxed as you’d like.
If you visit between June and September, expect it to be hot and humid, though A/C and swimming options are readily available. You may also have to contend with a brief monsoon, but that should only slow you down for a day or so and could be an interesting thing to witness.
Can’t think of where to vacation? Head to Hong Kong and piece together a trip that suits you.
It takes a long time to list all the great things about Australia. Fortunately, a trip to Sydney will show you just about all of them.
There’s the iconic Sydney Opera House, spectacular from the inside and out; there’s an awesome aquarium at the harbor, full of sea creatures you didn’t know existed; a small zoo is accessible by ferry and you can go see a Tasmanian Devil up close; Bondi and Coogee Beaches offer fantastic surfing and snorkeling for a day by the water.
Beyond what there is to do, Sydney presents a modern city with a laid-back, relaxed sensibility. The people are outwardly friendly and happy to help you along. The restaurants have local charm and international options, so you don’t have to worry about finding food you’ll be able to eat. Wherever you’re from, you can spend a day in Sydney and feel completely at ease.
With Australia being in the Southern Hemisphere, everything is a bit turned around. Keep in mind that your American summer corresponds with Australia’s winter months; this doesn’t work if you want hot beaches in June, but it can make for a very interesting Christmas destination, where the Aussies are accustomed to Santa wearing swimming trunks.
Back to the beaches. If sand, waves and warmth top your list of vacation necessities, the fairytale landscapes of Thailand don’t leave much room for competition.
Go ahead and search some pictures of the Phuket province. The more you research, the more it seems like it was created through CGI for some movie about a fictional utopia. The beaches, crystalline waters and awesome cliffs just don’t seem like they could be real.
Alas, they are, and a trip to Phuket will have your head on a swivel as you travel between the swimming holes and go for a private tour of the amazing reefs. Naturally, with scenery this inspired, many a high-end resort has popped up over the years. At the end of a day of exploring, you can retreat to some ridiculous cottage surrounded by tropical forest and ocean.
You’ll also find an impressive culinary scene, with traditional Thai dishes coming from upscale restaurants and street vendors alike. A trip to Phuket can be as adventurous or reserved as you choose to make it, with large urban areas offering more local customs and experiences than you’ll find in the comfort of your resort.
It’s a long journey to get to Thailand, which might be the only reason Phuket isn’t constantly overrun by American tourists. If you have the time, it’s certainly worth making the trip.
Like Prague, you don’t visit Amsterdam so you can lay in the sun and drink a Mai Tai. Instead, you spend your days walking along a striking canal, looking at historic buildings and eating the best pancakes you’ve ever tasted.
While so many people know Amsterdam for its infamous Red Light District, that’s a tiny subset of what is a truly gorgeous city. The majority of residents ride bikes throughout the streets as funky tour boats take visitors through the canals and highlight some of the city’s fascinating history. The people are friendly, the food is delicious and, if you’re there in the summer, the daylight lasts for 16 hours or more.
A trip here is geared more toward experiences than poolside relaxation, as you’ll want to visit the museums and historic locations. The architecture is charming as can be and the layout of the city makes life easy and enjoyable for pedestrian sightseers.
You won’t spend much time sunbathing, but you’ll definitely want to go back to Amsterdam after you visit.
Malta is as fascinating as it is splendid. A unique blend of cultures concentrated within a small island, you might have a hard time figuring out what you like most about this destination.
The islands of Malta and Gozo rest between Sicily and Tunisia, and the land has seen various owners throughout the centuries, including the Romans, French and British. You can walk the capital city of Valletta and look get one of the most unique crash courses on history found anywhere in the world.
After the educational touring is done, you have no shortage of traditional vacation options. Malta’s beaches have the appeal of Italian and African resorts mixed together. The warm waters create exquisite beaches up and down the island, with seaside resorts and restaurants offering various forms of luxury. As more cruise ships make stops here, the infrastructure and tourism options continue to improve.
One of the best attractions of Malta is the food, with fusion restaurants and eateries offering tasty dishes from numerous cultures. The built-in diversity of the archipelago has created a culture that can’t be found anywhere else.
Tourism in Malta continues to rise, so start your vacation prep sooner than later to ensure the best spots and experiences aren’t all booked.
North Carolina might feel like a bit of stretch when compared to the other 2019 destinations on this list, but I’m confident it belongs in the conversation.
People have gone to Asheville for years to visit the Biltmore Estate, and if you haven’t checked that box off your travel to-dos, it’s 100% worth it. As the tourists kept coming to this remote, mountainous area to visit a singular piece of property, the town of Asheville upped its game to ensure it wasn’t just a one-trick pony.
For starters, the food scene has exploded with the farm-to-table movement. Local agriculture sends fresh food straight to the local restaurants, and a combination of good Southern cooking and culinary innovation has made Asheville a foodie’s paradise. In addition, an impressive brewery scene continues to add more restaurants and tap rooms, bringing craft beer fanatics from across the country for festivals and events.
Beautiful mountains and landscapes make for the cherry on top, as Asheville would be a fine place to visit even without all the exciting places to eat and visit. The French Broad River running through the center of town adds a scenic touch to everything along its banks.
You probably won’t find yourself deciding between Bali and Western North Carolina, but if you’re looking for a U.S. city worthy of a planned vacation, Asheville has you covered.
And with that, I leave you to start your 2019 vacation planning. Buckle down and work through the winter days, then spend your nights dreaming about the amazing places you can visit next summer. Life is too short not to vacation, and I hope some of you are able to make it to more than one of the places on this list. Bon Voyage!