Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Home Vacation In The U.S. And Abroad – Forbes Advisor

In The U.S. And Abroad – Forbes Advisor

by Staff

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

Key Highlights

The urge to travel is ubiquitous and easy to catch, but choosing where to go can be a much more complex task. Do you want beaches? Big cities? Maybe delicious food is your top priority; or maybe you’re looking for specific activities like surfing or yoga retreats. With a nearly inexhaustible list of places to visit, how do you begin to narrow down the choices and find that perfect spot?

Worry not, because the experts at Forbes Advisor have compiled our list of the 50 best places to travel in 2024. This list is designed to highlight a large variety of destinations which will, hopefully, appeal to many types of travelers. So no matter what you want out of your next vacation, you can likely find it on this list. Or maybe, you’ll find a hidden gem that you’d never considered—sometimes that’s the best kind of trip to take.

The experts at Forbes Advisor have compiled our list of the 50 best places to travel in 2024—and the best credit cards and rewards you can use to make your travels even more unforgettable.

Top 18 Places To Travel in the U.S.

There’s a bit of everything in the U.S., from mountains and deserts to world-class cities and hidden gems—and so much more.

Find the Best Travel Credit Cards for 2024

Find the best travel credit card for your travel needs.

Top Places To Travel in the West

Aptos, California

Finding a quiet slice of the California coast isn’t always easy. Aptos offers the peace and amenities laid-back travelers seek, with quick access to Santa Cruz’s buzzier food and drink scene.

Enjoy the famous drive along California’s Highway One to reach Aptos. Then, pack a cooler, chair and umbrella for a day at Seacliff State Beach, where a nearly two-mile long, commercial-free promenade beckons for scenic walks or bike rides. Escape the sun for the comforting shade of old-growth redwoods in the nearby Forest of Nisene Marks State Park.

For a morning latte fix, coffee lovers will make a habit of local roaster Cat & Cloud. After a day at the beach, freshen up for a visit to BAD ANIMAL in Santa Cruz, where you can enjoy a creative Thai menu, a natural wine selection and browse for rare books. Or, keep it casual with the area’s best fish tacos at Steamer Lane. Take a short walk to the overlook, where you might catch a glimpse of the famous otter 841, who gained her notoriety for repeatedly stealing surfboards.

Rewards spotlight: Hilton Honors members and Hilton cardholders can cash in their hotel points at the Seacliff Inn Aptos, a Tapestry Collection property.

By Emily Jane Moore, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The U.S. Southwest is smattered with national parks, but a handful always get overlooked—Canyonlands being one of them. If you want to avoid the crowds and get off the beaten track (like, you’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle remote), consider a trip to Canyonlands. The park is Utah’s largest at 527 square miles and includes three districts, each with unique geography. To beat the heat, head down to the confluence where two major rivers, the Green River and the Colorado River, meet and see the landscape from below. Not only does it provide a unique perspective, but you’ll also gain access to monuments that are close to impossible to reach by land.

Rewards spotlight: Fortunately, Canyonlands is located just a short distance from Moab, Utah, so you can rough it all day but relax and enjoy a cozy bed and delicious meal in the evening. Check out the Hyatt Place, Moab. You’ll have to fork over the points for an award night, as the property is a Category 5, but the outdoor pool, free breakfast and amazing location make up for it.

By Toni Perkins-Southam, Forbes Advisor Staff

Kodiak, Alaska

When you think of Kodiak, Alaska, you might picture commercial fishing boats or giant brown bears. And you’re not wrong. But, did you know that Kodiak also has dramatic beaches right off the road, mountains carpeted in the sumptuous green of tundra and trees, some of the best seafood you can buy and lovely waterside walks? If you want a taste of small-town Alaska without entirely giving up big city comforts, this is the place for an unforgettable vacation.

Kodiak is so many things at once: gritty fishing town, lush oasis of land in the middle of the sea and home to the biggest land predators on Earth. But don’t overlook its beaches—they’re starkly beautiful.

– Lisa Maloney, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Rewards spotlight: You can’t fly directly to Kodiak from the continental U.S., and the cash fare for tickets within Alaska is often surprisingly high. But if you plan ahead you can get a flight to Kodiak from Anchorage for as few as 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles each way, or book award travel through Alaska’s partnership in the Oneworld alliance. Once on Kodiak the chain hotel options tend toward the rustic end of the scale, but you can book an award stay with the Quality Inn (Choice Privileges Rewards) near the airport or at the Best Western in downtown Kodiak.

By Lisa Maloney, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Willamette Valley, Oregon

If you’re an avid domestic traveler, chances are you’ve visited Portland, Oregon at least once. But, even the most well-traveled may not be familiar with the surrounding area. Just under an hour outside of the beloved foodie destination is the sprawling Willamette (emphasis on the “am”) Valley.

The list of activities to enjoy in Willamette Valley is long, but the area is a must-visit for oenophiles. The region, which encompasses Eugene and Salem, is home to 11 distinct wine growing regions and over 700 wineries. If the great outdoors are more your speed, try whitewater rafting on the Santiam River, gold-level mountain biking in the West Cascades or soaking in the Breitenbush Hot Springs.

Rewards spotlight: Willamette’s wineries are spread out, so you’ll need to plan ahead for transportation. Sip safely by using a rideshare service in between wineries. As an added bonus, you can earn big if you use a credit card with Lyft rewards. Wine lovers may also want to book their airfare with Alaska Airlines, since they can check a box of wine for free at Portland International Airport (PDX).

By Sarah Brady, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Wyoming

Yellowstone and the Tetons need no introduction, but few visitors spend time in the rest of the state. Outdoor enthusiasts should make the effort to explore deeper, with options for fishing, hiking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and so much more easily accessible—and without the crowds of neighboring states.

Top-tier destinations include Cody, a base for wildlife watching outside of Yellowstone itself, Saratoga for skiing and hot springs and the tiny town of Ten Sleep which is a mecca for rock climbing. Backcountry campers would need months to explore all of the Wind River Range, an area with epic scenery that requires sweat equity to reach. As you road trip through the state, leave space in your itinerary for unexpected finds. Panoramic views and scenic drives are everywhere, even when they’re not officially designated as such.

Rewards spotlight: Half the appeal of a Wyoming vacation is leaving its cities behind. In small towns, the vast majority of properties are independently owned and operated. Flexible points, like Chase Ultimate Rewards® or Capital One Rewards, can help you cover the cost of hotels without worrying about sticking to a brand or hotel chain.

By Becky Pokora, Forbes Advisor Staff

Top Travel Places in the South

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana and is just a short drive (or a $20 bus ride) away from New Orleans. The city has grown quite a bit since Hurricane Katrina pushed many people to move farther up the Mississippi River and packs a surprising amount of attractions. There’s a walkable downtown area along the riverfront and the stunning Louisiana State University campus area nearby.

You can admire the tallest capitol building in the U.S. or visit the USS Kidd museum. There’s also great Southern food: Go to Louie’s Cafe for a classic breakfast diner experience or Coffee Call for beignet fingers. Two restaurants that are now popular nationwide hail from Baton Rouge: Raising Cane’s (some of the best fast-food chicken fingers you’ll find) and Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux (the fried alligator is a must-try).

Rewards spotlight: The WATERMARK Baton Rouge, Autograph Collection is a historic luxury hotel with a unique theme: banks and money. The iconic downtown property has beautiful Art Deco architecture and delightful murals and marble touches. It occupies one of Baton Rouge’s first skyscrapers, which was originally a bank. You can even visit the restored 1920s vault that is now a unique events space. On many dates, the cash rates are very reasonable and a better deal than redemptions, but 35,000-point certificates can be used with a slight top-off when needed.

By Andrew D’Amours, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Fredericksburg, Texas

Located just one hour from San Antonio and 90 minutes from Austin, Fredericksburg is a burgeoning wine region in Texas Hill Country. Fredericksburg has more than 60 wineries, vineyards and wine-tasting rooms where you can learn about and sample Texas-produced wines. You can drive a personal vehicle along what’s known as the Fredericksburg Wine Road 290 (don’t forget a designated driver), go from winery to winery using rideshare apps, sign up for any number of wine-tasting tours or take the hop-on, hop-off 290 Wine Shuttle to choose-your-own stops on its designated route.

Outdoor enthusiasts visiting Fredericksburg can enjoy a quick, but moderately challenging, 425-foot climb up the summit trail to the top of Enchanted Rock. From the top of this giant pink granite dome, you’ll see scenic views of the Hill Country. Be warned that there’s no shade on the climb, so if you’re visiting during the warmer months, complete your climb early in the day to limit your exposure to the hot sun. Or, head out at night to one of the stargazing events at this International Dark Sky Park. On April 8, 2024, Enchanted Rock will be in the path of totality for the total eclipse, so make your day pass or camping reservations if interested in this event.

Rewards spotlight: You can redeem 15,000 Wyndham Rewards points per bedroom, per night for a Vacasa home rental in Fredericksburg. Many are located in the historic downtown area within walking distance from shops, restaurants and wineries. Alternatively, you can stay slightly outside of downtown at a cozy cabin or cottage with Hill Country views—and maybe even see some deer roaming about in the woods. For hotels, you can redeem Hilton Honors points at the Hampton Inn & Suites, Marriott Bonvoy points at the Fairfield Inn & Suites or IHG One Rewards points at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.

By Senitra Horbrook, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Hot Springs, Arkansas

It’s a little out of the way, but that’s part of the charm. Bring your walking shoes, swimsuit and appetite: Hot Springs will keep you moving, relaxing and eating. You can do any (or all) of these to your heart’s content.

Downtown Hot Springs is actually surrounded by Hot Springs National Park, which has 26 miles of hiking among mountain views, forests, interesting geology and creeks that flow throughout the area. The centerpiece is Bathhouse Row—nine historic Victorian-style bathhouses constructed over Hot Springs Creek in the late 1880s, which is part of the national park.

You can still relax in the healing thermal waters in downtown Hot Springs. When you’re done, there are dozens of restaurants within walking distance serving everything from Mexican food to pizza joints to old-fashioned Southern fare, including shrimp and grits, black-eyed peas and cornbread with a glass of ice-cold sweet tea to stay cool. Visit in fall if you can—the leaves changing color on the Ouachita Mountains are a gorgeous sight.

While you’re downtown, visit the surprisingly well-curated Gangster Museum of America. Hot Springs has extensive history as a mobster vacation spot for infamous gangsters like Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. I had no idea this unassuming little town had such a sordid background. It’s worth a stop.

– Harlan Vaughn, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rewards spotlight: Hot Springs is well-served by nearly all popular hotel chains. If you have Hilton Honors points, you can stay at The Waters Hot Springs, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, which is directly across from Bathhouse Row on the main downtown strip. Even better, get your fifth night free on an award stay to take advantage of all the hiking and dining in the area.

By Harlan Vaughn, Forbes Advisor Staff

Hutchinson Island, Florida

Hutchinson Island is a trip back in time to old Florida, before the coastline was filled with mega-mansions and upscale beach clubs. This laid-back barrier island about an hour north of West Palm Beach is the kind of place where you can come with sandy feet and flip-flops to dinner and every menu has a catch of the day.

The area is one of the largest loggerhead turtle nesting areas and the development on the island is minimal, with the oceanfront housing mostly low-rise condos or undeveloped nature set way back from the shoreline. It’s also one of the only places in the state of Florida where you can horseback ride on the beach, making it a unique don’t-miss activity.

Rewards spotlight: Hutchinson Island generally doesn’t have a lot of chain-anything, which is part of its charm. At the southernmost tip of the island, however, is the sprawling Marriott Hutchinson Island Beach Resort, Golf & Marina, where rooms start at 32,000 Marriott Bonvoy points a night. You can also use flexible rewards like those found with cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points or American Express Membership Rewards to book a small handful of boutique properties on the island.

By Adam Frankel, Forbes Advisor Contributor

New Braunfels/Gruene, Texas

Deep in the heart of the Texas Hill Country just north of San Antonio, Texas, German immigrants settled the area and left an impression still prevalent today. Gruene (pronounced Green) is a historical district within the city of New Braunfels, but it’s famous on its own, partly for being home to the oldest dance hall in Texas, Gruene Hall. Pack your boots and grab a partner to join the lively dance floor where live music acts play daily. Music legends like George Strait, Willie Nelson and Garth Brooks have graced the stage at Gruene Hall, and you never know if you might be listening to the next up-and-coming star.

Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy time on either of the two rivers that flow through New Braunfels. Towering cypress trees line the river banks creating a perfect canopy to rent a tube and float down the Guadalupe River or the more gentle Comal River during the spring and summer months. The latter is fed by the Comal Springs, the largest natural freshwater spring in Texas, making the water crystal clear and cool. With a temperate climate for much of the year, anglers can try their luck fly fishing along the Guadalupe River. Also situated along the Comal River is Schlitterbahn (or “slippery road” in German)—voted Best Waterpark in the World for a staggering 25 years in a row.

An homage to its German roots, the city hosts Wurstfest every year, a celebration of German culture with a touch of Texas flair. Partake in Alpine and Bavarian entertainment, dance to polka music and enjoy German and Texas beer along with other themed food and events at this 10-day festival held near the headwaters of the Comal River.

Rewards spotlight: If you can’t make it to Europe for Oktoberfest or are simply looking for an encore, getting to New Braunfels shouldn’t be too difficult, with major airports in both San Antonio and Austin, Texas. Vacation rentals are available right on the river and can be booked using Wyndham Rewards points via Vacasa. Get Wyndham points with one of its co-branded cards or through a transfer partner like Capital One or Citi.

By Jerod Morales, Forbes Advisor Staff

Pine Mountain, Georgia

Pine Mountain is a picturesque town in southwest Georgia that can provide a literal breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta which is just over an hour away. It’s best known as the location of Callaway Resort & Gardens which offers a variety of attractions and experiences year-round to enjoy the area’s natural beauty.

In summer, Callaway Gardens guests can relax at Robin Lake Beach or jump and climb around on Aqua Island, its giant floating obstacle course. Winter visitors, meanwhile, flock to see Fantasy in Lights—a seven-mile drive-through experience that’s oft-named as one of the best holiday light displays in the U.S.

We’ve toured Fantasy in Lights twice and enjoyed it thoroughly both times. During our last visit, we were surprised to learn that our tickets included one-day regular admission to Callaway Gardens. This meant we were able to come back a second day to see other onsite attractions such as the Birds of Prey show, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center and the Callaway Discovery Center—each of which my kids loved.

– Clint Proctor, Forbes Advisor Staff

Outside of Callaway Gardens, visitors can hike miles of trails at F.D. Roosevelt State Park or stop by Roosevelt Stables at FDR State Park to ride them on horseback. History buffs can venture to Roosevelt’s Little White House. And families can take a Wild Animal Safari tour or pay a visit to the Great Wolf Lodge in nearby LaGrange which offers a bevy of kid-friendly attractions such as an indoor water park, MagiQuest, mini golf, a ropes course and more.

Rewards spotlight: While Callaway doesn’t have a rewards program, you may still be able to use your credit card points to book a room there by using a travel portal such as Chase Ultimate Rewards or Amex Travel. The neighboring city of LaGrange also has a variety of hotels that can be reserved with points including the stylish Courtyard Lagrange located in historic downtown. Rooms start at 15,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.

By Clint Proctor, Forbes Advisor Staff

Great Places To Travel in the East

Buffalo, New York

If you haven’t been to Buffalo in the last decade—or two—you may be surprised to find that the city has transformed. Neighborhoods have been reinvigorated with culinary offerings that match the growing diversity of its people. Colorful public art is found throughout the city, which is in sharp contrast to restored architectural landmarks by Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Hobson Richardson. Even the waterfront, which was once strictly industrial, has seen a significant revitalization. Visitors can now rock climb, zip line and catch a concert in the former grain silos.

The arts and culture scene in Buffalo has also expanded. To get a lay of the land, check out The Buffalo History Museum, a National Historic Landmark dating back to the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. The interactive exhibits show where this remarkable city has been—and where it’s heading next. Then there’s the Buffalo AKG Art Museum. After a nearly $200 million expansion, it has now become one of the top centers for contemporary art in the world.

Rewards spotlight: Some of the more popular downtown hotels include The Westin Buffalo and Aloft Buffalo Downtown. They can be booked for as low as 31,000 and 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, respectively, per night. While a bit dated, the Residence Inn Buffalo Galleria Mall offers great value since it can be booked for as little as 15,500 Marriott Bonvoy points per night and is just a 12-minute drive to downtown.

By Barry Choi, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Rangeley, Maine

Venture deep into Maine’s interior to reach Rangeley, where you can get your fill of outdoor adventure and escape the coastal crowds of summer. The mountains, lakes and ponds of Appalachian Maine were formed by slowly shifting ice sheets in the Pleistocene Epoch. Curious observers can find evidence of glacial migrations along the trails that summit Saddleback Mountain, a ski resort by winter and classic hiking destination in the summer and fall. More casual nature enthusiasts can canoe Rangeley’s waterways, go moose watching (from a safe distance!) and make friends with Appalachian Trail thru-hikers taking a rest at a local watering hole, such as Furbish Brew House & Eats.

Whatever your adventure style, make sure to stop by the Pine Tree Frosty for a hearty scoop of ice cream, then watch the sunset over Mooselookmeguntic Lake’s spectacular horizon. And if you visit between May and September, don’t forget the bug spray.

Rewards spotlight: You’ll need a car to make the most of your visit to Appalachian Maine. Enjoy the assurance of excellent rental car insurance provided by the right credit card.

By Emily Jane Moore, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Virginia Wine Country

If you’re looking for a getaway in the Mid-Atlantic or to add on a couple of days to a Washington, D.C. vacation, Virginia Wine Country might be just the place. Loudoun County boasts over three-dozen wineries just an hour from the Capitol, but you’ll find 300 wineries and vineyards all over the state. Of course, standard wines such as Chardonnay and Cabernet are available, but Virginia really shines in more unique varietals such as Chambourcin and Albariño.

From Middleburg, you can easily make a day of wine tasting, including a stop at Terra Nebulo where the Chambourcin is a personal favorite.

– Dia Adams, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rewards spotlight: If you have Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts or Capital One Travel credit to burn, the Salamander Resort near Middleburg participates in both the FHR and Capital One Premier Collection programs, offering you upgrades, late checkout, free breakfast and other benefits.

By Dia Adams, Forbes Advisor Staff

Nicest Places To Visit in the Midwest

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan, often described as a quintessential college town, is a vibrant blend of academic rigor and artistic flair, nestled in the heart of the Midwest. Home to the prestigious University of Michigan—and its Big House, the largest stadium in the Western Hemisphere—Ann Arbor buzzes with intellectual energy and youthful dynamism. During the summer, the Ann Arbor Art Fair transforms the city into a bustling open-air gallery, showcasing artists from all over the country.

Beyond its cultural and educational landmarks, Ann Arbor is also a haven for foodies. The city’s culinary scene is a delightful surprise, featuring an array of dining options that range from gourmet restaurants to quirky food trucks. You won’t want to miss Zingerman’s Deli, famous for its Reuben Sandwich, or Frita Batidos’ Cuban-inspired street food. Coffee shops and breweries dot the city, offering cozy nooks for students, professionals and visitors to unwind and socialize.

Nature mixes perfectly with urban life in Ann Arbor. The Huron River running through the city offers kayaking and canoeing opportunities, while numerous parks and gardens provide serene escapes for picnics, jogs and leisurely strolls. The University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum, colloquially referred to as “The Arb,” is a favorite spot for many on a sunny day.

Rewards spotlight: If you’re going to visit Ann Arbor, stay downtown. It’s a wonderfully walkable city. The Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown is bookable from 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night—meaning you can even use your Marriott free night award certificates granted by various Marriott credit cards.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Cleveland, Ohio

“Cleveland Rocks,” might not be a phrase at the tip of your tongue when thinking about the city. But you might just change your mind after exploring the city, which is also the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. You’ll get more than just an education in the history of rock-n-roll in Cleveland. Admire memorabilia like handwritten song drafts and instruments played by some of the most legendary rock musicians. You can even show off your skills in “The Garage,” where fans can pick up real instruments for an impromptu jam.

Sports fans may find themselves rooting for the home team beside Cleveland’s passionate fans attending a game of one of the three professional sports teams in town: the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, the MLB’s Cleveland Guardians or the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.

If you’re a foodie or have simply worked up an appetite, spend some time taking in the sights, smells and flavors of the West Side Market. It’s Cleveland’s oldest public market, with origins dating back to 1840. Here, over 100 ethnically diverse vendors set up shop selling everything from fresh vegetables and quality meats, to ready-to-eat food and even flowers. Tall ceilings give it the feel of an open-air European market, but its enclosed walls and roof make it accessible year-round.

Don’t miss Vault at The 9, made up of century-old bank vaults beneath the Cleveland Trust Rotunda that have been converted into an upscale cocktail lounge.

– Jerod Morales, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rewards spotlight: Check out The Metropolitan at The 9, part of the Marriott Bonvoy program, for a quintessential downtown experience. Hyatt loyalists will appreciate the convenience of the Hyatt Regency at The Arcade as well as the architectural history of the building constructed in 1890.

By Jerod Morales, Forbes Advisor Staff

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa is experiencing a renaissance, and for now, it’s a hidden gem ready to be explored. The compact downtown is dotted with eclectic restaurants, bars and shops—and there are many family-friendly destinations in the area.

Check out Gathering Place, a 66-acre riverfront park with spaces for people of all ages and abilities and Discovery Lab, a children’s science museum just five minutes away. That should keep you busy for a day or more, but don’t miss the Oklahoma Aquarium teeming with marine life a short drive over the Arkansas River in nearby Jenks. The 300-pound sea turtle and shark tunnel featuring the world’s largest collection of bull sharks are of particular note.

Tulsa has 135 parks around the city. If you can, visit when the weather’s nice to take full advantage of these outdoor urban spaces. They’re especially worthwhile for kids and families.

– Harlan Vaughn, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rewards spotlight: Not only is Tulsa filled with popular chain hotels for easy award stays, but the big-city prices haven’t quite caught up yet. Translation? You can get an epic hotel stay at steep discounts—in points or cash, making it one of the most affordable family vacation destinations in the U.S. The Hyatt Regency Tulsa Downtown only costs 5,000 World of Hyatt points per night and you’ll be in the middle of the action.

By Harlan Vaughn, Forbes Advisor Staff

Yellow Springs, Ohio

The charming village of Yellow Springs, Ohio is just 30 minutes outside of Dayton but feels like another planet—a colorful, inclusive, artistic planet, where barefoot buskers and crystal enthusiasts share the sidewalks of the vibrant downtown (in the small town sense of the word) and seemingly everyone’s smiling. With a rich history of activism and a supportive arts scene, the village embraces the eclectic and welcomes all things indie.

Named after the nearby iron-rich natural springs in the woods of the 1,000-acre Glen Helen Nature Preserve, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities in and around Yellow Springs—you can hike or bike the Little Miami trail or kayak multiple rivers. And if you’d prefer a more indulgent activity, grab some homemade ice cream from Young’s Dairy, a working dairy farm loved by locals and visitors alike.

Local lore holds that if you drink from the Yellow Spring, you’ll always come back.

– Tamara Aydinyan, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Rewards spotlight: Use your airline miles to fly into Dayton International Airport (DAY) on American Airlines, United or Delta Air Lines or a little farther into John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH), and consider renting a car. Be sure to book the car rental with a credit card that offers primary car insurance like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.

By Tamara Aydinyan, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Best Places To Travel Internationally

When the urge to travel abroad hits, explore one of these destinations. Read with your passport nearby.

Find The Best Credit Cards For International Travel For 2024

Best Island Vacation Destinations

Dominica

Proving that not all Caribbean islands are created equal, Dominica is the epitome of a hidden gem in the region. With American Airlines currently being the only carrier to offer nonstop flights from mainland U.S. three times a week out of Miami, Dominica is an untouched sliver of paradise for the most curious of travelers. Deemed the “Nature Island,” Dominica is a lush oasis with an abundance of waterfalls, black sand beaches thanks to the island’s volcanic makeup and natural hot springs to soak away the stress of the hustle and bustle.

Water enthusiasts will certainly find paradise here. Dominica is home to the unique Champagne Reef, which garnered its name due to the rising bubbles from the nearby volcanic thermal springs. For water viewing you can’t quite flip your fins in, check out the Boiling Lake, which, as the name suggests, is a ferociously bubbling lake located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. For one of the most unique wellness experiences, head to Ti Kwen Glo Cho, a hot spring in Wotten Waven that has a bathtub in the midst of nature, with nonstop flowing thermal water.

Rewards spotlight: There are fewer hotels on the island as luxurious as the newly opened InterContinental Dominica Cabrits Resort & Spa located within Cabrits National Park. Use the no annual fee IHG One Rewards Traveler Credit Card to reap the highest benefits, like getting a fourth night free after a three-night stay booked with points.

By Kaitlyn Rosati, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Saba

A Caribbean island without beaches might sound like it’s missing the point, but such is not the case with Dutch territory, Saba. With fewer than 10,000 tourists a year and a population of approximately 2,000 residents, Saba is an adventure-seeker’s dream destination.

Despite the island only covering a total of five square miles, there is indeed an airport. Juancho E. Irausquin Airport happens to be the home to the world’s shortest commercial runway at a harrowing 400 meters. The only way to get to Saba is by transferring through St. Martin via a 90-minute ferry or a twelve-minute flight. For a real thrill, take the flight, and commemorate your unique experience with an “I Survived the Saba Flight” magnet, a popular souvenir on the island.

Upon arrival, you’ll be treated to unspoiled scenery that won’t resemble any cliche Caribbean imagery. You won’t be sipping a piña colada on a white sand beach here because, in Saba, they don’t exist. However, you could find yourself hiking to the Netherlands’ highest point, Mount Scenery, an 887-meter summit. For a less strenuous trek, go for Mas’Cohones. After about twenty minutes uphill, you’ll be treated to the many colors of Saba, from the green terrain to the signature white houses with red shutters and the deep vibrant blues of the Caribbean. The landscape isn’t the only thing that’s green in Saba—here, sustainability is key. The island is powered by solar panels from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Rewards spotlight: With limited flights both in and out of the island, there’s little room for error in travel plans when it comes to visiting Saba. To err on the safe side, book your trip using a Chase Sapphire Reserve®, where you’ll be covered for meals, lodging and other nonrefundable expenses should your flight be delayed by more than six hours.

By Kaitlyn Rosati, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Best Places To Visit in Europe

Basel, Switzerland

If you’re interested in knocking several countries in a short period of time, Basel may be the perfect base for your travels. Colmar, France and its “Little Venice” neighborhood look straight out of Grimm’s fairy tales, while Freiburg, Germany, lies right in the middle of the Black Forest. Both are easy day trips from Basel, as are the Swiss cities of Lucerne, Bern and Zurich.

But you’re missing out if you don’t spend some time in Basel itself. From the world’s oldest publicly owned art collection at the Kunstmuseum to the Basler Munster cathedral that’s been in place for over a millennium, you’ll have plenty to see. If your interests don’t lean quite so cultural, in the summer you can also don your bathing suit and float along the Rhine with stops for beer and brats as you wish.

The Swiss Rail Pass can be a great deal as it covers not only train travel but all forms of public transport including ferries and buses.

Dia Adams, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rewards spotlight: Basel-Mulhouse EuroAirport (BSL) actually is located in France but border-entry straddles both Switzerland and France. Flying in from most major European cities should be a breeze, with Air France/KLM (SkyTeam), SWISS (Star Alliance) and British Airways (Oneworld) all operating regular flights. Basel is also well-served by EasyJet if you’re on a budget. If you are renting a car, you may get better rates renting from the French side, but a car isn’t really necessary if you have the Swiss Rail Pass.

By Dia Adams, Forbes Advisor Staff

Dorset, England

The Southwestern corner of England isn’t a secret to most Europeans, but Americans tend to head straight to London and, by doing so, miss this gem of a region. Jurassic fossils along a pristine coast? Check. Fish and chips with a view of today’s catch? Check. A high street featuring the original Lush store that winds down to the Quay? Check.

Poole is a thrifter’s dream as a dozen “charity shops” line the high street.

– Dia Adams, Forbes Advisor Staff

But it’s not all beaches, bargains and bath bombs. Venture a bit inland for lush (see what I did there?) greenery and bucolic scenes straight out of a story book. We kept Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” on repeat during our drives because we kept viewing—you guessed it—hilltop ruins that seemed to spring out of the ground and cottages where Rumpelstiltskin might have resided.

Rewards spotlight: London is your best gateway to the region and you’ll need a rental car to properly explore Dorset’s beauty. Use a credit card that offers primary rental car insurance for the windy and narrow countryside lanes. Even better, use a card that offers you premium status for complimentary upgrades and less likelihood of there not being a car for you.

By Dia Adams, Forbes Advisor Staff

Durbuy, Belgium

Durbuy, often fondly referred to as the “smallest city in the world,” seems to have leapt straight out of a fable. Durbuy’s history is palpable in every alleyway and square, with the grand Castle of Durbuy overlooking the town, adding an air of timeless majesty. Despite its small size, Durbuy is bursting with character, offering a unique blend of historical richness, gastronomic delights and natural beauty.

The culinary scene in Durbuy is a delightful surprise for any food lover. Renowned for its exquisite cuisine, the town boasts a variety of eateries ranging from traditional Belgian taverns to upscale Michelin-starred restaurants. Here, the local cuisine is celebrated, and visitors can indulge in regional specialties such as Ardennes ham, game dishes and the famous Belgian chocolates and waffles. The town is also a gateway to exploring the local breweries, where the art of Belgian beer brewing can be witnessed firsthand, accompanied by tastings of rich, artisanal brews.

The town is surrounded by rolling hills and dense forests, offering a playground for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers. Activities such as kayaking on the Ourthe River, hiking through verdant trails and exploring the mysterious caves of Hotton are within striking distance of the town.

Rewards spotlight: If you plan on dining at Durbuy’s higher-end restaurants, you’ll want to have one of the best credit cards for dining in your wallet to earn rewards toward your next trip.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Lucca, Italy

If you want to experience Tuscany at a slower pace, this city is an ideal stop. Unlike many places in the region, Lucca is relatively flat so it’s easy to explore by bike or on foot. The walled city, dating back to the mid-16th century, offers charming narrow streets with nearly no vehicles. You can also walk the tree-lined path around the top of the city walls.

Although it’s only a short day trip from Florence and Pisa, spending a night or two is definitely worth your time. While countless day tours stop in Lucca, the streets are quiet in the morning and the evening. Enjoy an aperitivo in Lucca’s oval Piazza dell’Anfiteatro. Climb Guinigi Tower or the bell tower of St. Ferdiano Basilica for a panoramic view. And enjoy some of the best comfort food Italy has to offer. Each October, Lucca hosts the largest comics festival in Europe in conjunction with All Saints Day.

Trattoria Canuleia takes the intimacy of Lucca to the next level with its backyard patio, upscale comfort food and mouth-watering desserts. You’ll feel like the busyness of Italy has melted away.

– Jenn Underwood, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Rewards spotlight: If you’re a Marriott Bonvoy member, the Grand Universe is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection Hotels. This luxury hotel within the city walls can be booked with 23,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. Or use your Best Western Rewards at the Grand Hotel Guinigi, just a short distance from the walled city.

By Jenn Underwood, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Luxembourg

Luxembourg, a small but dynamic country—sandwiched between Belgium, France and Germany—stands out for its medieval old town perched on high cliffs. It’s not just about its past, though; it’s also a prominent financial center. Luxembourg City is a UNESCO World Heritage site with old fortresses and cobblestone streets sharing space with a bustling business district.

One of the most surprising aspects of Luxembourg? Its diversity. The country not only has three official languages—Luxembourgish, French and German—but its culinary scene varies from traditional Luxembourgish bites to fine dining experiences. Make sure to visit La Villa de Camille & Julien for its stand-out dishes and heartwarming backstory.

Luxembourg is also committed to sustainability, which is evident in its well-maintained cycling paths and free public transportation systems, giving visitors an easy and eco-friendly way to explore.

Rewards spotlight: It’s expensive to stay in Luxembourg, but the Park Inn by Radisson Luxembourg City is bookable with Radisson Rewards points—rates depend on the cash price. But, you may be better off staying in nearby Arlon, Belgium, where rates are a lot lower, and you can easily visit Luxembourg City for the day via train.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Maribor, Slovenia

Slovenia’s charming second-largest city, Maribor is a hidden gem nestled along the banks of the River Drava. The city is famous for its wine culture, epitomized by the oldest vine in the world—Žametovka or modra kavčina (Bleu de Cologne)—which still produces grapes. The Old Vine House not only showcases the ancient vine but serves as a museum of wine. This deep-rooted viticulture heritage is celebrated each year in the lively Old Vine Festival.

But Maribor isn’t just about wine–it’s also a gateway to outdoor adventures. In the winter, the nearby Pohorje Mountains become a paradise for skiers and snowboarders, while in the warmer months, it offers picturesque hiking and biking trails. The Drava River itself adds to the city’s allure, with opportunities for rowing or enjoying leisurely walks along its banks. And don’t miss the hike up Piramida Hill for stunning sunset views over the city.

Rewards spotlight: Maribor isn’t the easiest European destination to get to. Consider flying into Vienna (VIE) and then taking the bus to get to Maribor. It’s possible to get to Europe from the U.S. for as few as 25,000 American Airlines miles in economy.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Pogobie Tylne, Poland

For a few nights’ staycation, Pogobie Tylne, Poland is the piece of peace you didn’t know you needed. It’s nestled in the forested district of Gmina Pisz, within Pisz County, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. In other words, it’s somewhere north in the idyllic Polish countryside you’ve never heard of–which is precisely why it’s worth a visit.

The small, rural village exudes tranquility and charm. The nearest town is about six miles away, but there are plenty of cranes and aquatic birds in the river to keep you company and hikes to move your body whenever you can pick yourself up off the cozy couch.

Rewards spotlight: While Pogobie Tylne is off the beaten path, you can use airline miles to get to Poland or use your travel credit card’s rental car perks to make sure you’re insured for your drive from, say, Warsaw, which is about three hours away by car. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card provides protection like primary rental car collision damage waiver to cover the vehicle up to the full cash value. Or the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card offers the same benefit, plus Hertz President’s Circle status.

By AnnaMarie Houlis, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, is renowned for its beautifully preserved Old Town, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visiting Tallinn is like taking a journey back in time with its cobblestone streets, gothic spires and ancient city walls.

In Tallinn’s Old Town, visitors can explore the Toompea Castle, a historic fortress that now houses the Estonian Parliament and the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, an example of Russian Revival architecture. The Town Hall Square with its markets and outdoor cafes is a perfect spot to soak in the medieval atmosphere, especially during the Christmas market season.

Rhubarb is a big thing in Estonia. You can find rhubarb desserts, drinks and other delights to your heart’s content. As an extreme lover of rhubarb, I tried just about everything I could; my top recommendation is the homemade rhubarb schnapps at Lee Restoran, close to the city walls. Their food is worth writing home about, too.

– Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Nature is also never far away in Tallinn. The city is dotted with green spaces like Kadriorg Park, which was originally chosen by Peter the Great to be his summer palace. Just a short drive from Tallinn lies Lahemaa National Park, with its coastal landscapes, ancient forests and peat bogs. For an immersive experience, consider booking a bog shoe tour to delve into the heart of these wetlands.

Rewards spotlight: If you’re flying from the U.S., you can book an award with United Airlines for as few as 77,000 United MileagePlus miles in business class—with various connection options in Europe. Better yet, if you book a round-trip with United miles, you can use the Excursionist Perk to make an extra stop on your trip without paying more miles.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Theth National Park, Albania

If you enjoy hiking but hate the crowds and costs associated with the most popular treks, allow me to introduce the Albanian Alps. Also referred to as the Accursed Mountains, the ancient range is located in northern Albania but traverses into Montenegro and Kosovo. For access to some of the best views and most exciting hikes, make sure to head over to the heart of the Albanian Alps at Theth National Park. Once here, you can choose from many day-hike options, like the popular trail up the Valbonna Pass or over and out to the Blue Eye.

Theth National Park was the place I never knew I needed in my life. The mountains took my breath away (both figuratively and literally). If you’re on the fence with hiking the Theth-Valbona trail, don’t let the numbers scare you; while it’s a bit steep at the beginning, it quickly eases up and the rest of the hike is delightful.

– Toni Perkins-Southam, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rewards spotlight: Theth, the main village in the park, is as remote as a tiny mountain town can get, so you won’t find any chain hotels here. In fact, it’s so off the grid that you won’t find places that take credit cards (so make sure you have cash on hand, even for your hotel). Fortunately, accommodations and food are cheap enough that the need to use points to offset costs won’t even cross your mind. However, you can maximize your rewards when flying into Albania. Check out Avianca LifeMiles to score business-class award flights on Lufthansa from the U.S. to Tirana (the capital of Albania). You’ll pay 63,000 miles, but if you time it right and transfer your miles from a flexible rewards account during a promotion, you can save even more.

By Toni Perkins-Southam, Forbes Advisor Staff

Timisoara, Romania

Travelers looking for off-the-beaten-path destinations will enjoy Timisoara, a city in western Romania. In 1884, it was the first city in Europe to install electric streetlights. In 2023, it became a European Capital of Culture. The city celebrates art and culture by putting on art exhibitions, outdoor concerts and theater plays all year long. Even John Malkovich paid Timisoara a visit, starring in “The Infernal Comedy” at the National Theater.

Timisoara’s charming center is quite walkable and has everything one would expect from a European town of 250,000 inhabitants: gelato shops, umbrella-lined streets and several car-free squares in the city. It also has more parks and green spaces than one could see in a month, even if you visited a new one every day.

If you’re looking for a taste of Romanian cuisine and a homey atmosphere, visit Miorita (Strada Florimund Mercy 7). Make sure to try sarmale (Romanian cabbage rolls), mămăligă (polenta porridge) and the various stews.

Rewards spotlight: This is a great sweet spot for using your Delta SkyMiles. If you’re already in Europe, look into redeeming Delta miles for a flight on TAROM, Romanian national carrier. It should cost 10,000 SkyMiles for a one-way economy flight from any European city serviced by TAROM via its hub in Bucharest, the country’s capital.

By Anya Kartashova, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius is a hub of cultural richness and artistic expression. The city’s thriving contemporary art scene is evident in its numerous galleries and street art, particularly in the Užupis district, which declared itself an independent republic on April 1, 1997. If you visit on Užupis Independence Day, you can even get your passport stamped.

Vilnius is also known for its Baroque architecture, especially in its well-preserved historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city offers winding cobblestone streets—perfect to get lost in the blend of Gothic, Renaissance and Classical architecture. You can’t miss the Vilnius Cathedral and St. Anne’s Church which even Napoleon is rumored to have said he wished to carry back to France “in the palm of his hand.” Gediminas Tower, perched atop a hill, offers panoramic views of the city where you can take in the lush greenery and meandering Neris River.

Vilnius’s culinary scene is a hidden treasure. Dine at Nineteen18, a champion of the farm-to-table movement, serving dishes as fresh as they are inventive. Ertlio Namas offers traditional Lithuanian flavors presented with a modern interpretation and a story of the past. And then there’s Telegrafas, nestled in the Kempinski hotel, you’ll get stunning views of Cathedral Square, which also served as the city’s central telegraph during WWII.

Hotel Pacai’s towering ceilings and the striking green stone in the bathrooms stand as the epitome of interior design in my mind.

– Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rewards spotlight: Hotel Pacai, in Vilnius’s historic center offers guests an exquisite stay in a restored 17th-century Baroque palace. It’s bookable from 20,000 Bonvoy points during the quieter winter months and 35,000 points in the busier summer months.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Travel Destinations in North, Central & South America

Barranquilla, Colombia

Barranquilla is the largest city in Colombia’s Caribbean coast regions, located halfway between the much more popular Cartagena and Santa Marta areas. It’s home to one of the world’s largest carnivals, which starts the Saturday before Ash Wednesday each year. Even if you can’t visit during the carnival itself, the city has a Carnaval Museum—and you might randomly stumble upon dancing and singing in a park in Shakira’s hometown.

You can discover an authentic Colombian experience in Barranquilla. There are tasty arepas, carimañolas and empanadas to sample. You can enjoy the Caribbean influence on all aspects of life in “Colombia’s Golden Gate.” The city has a lovely riverfront boardwalk and is close enough to the coast for day trips to beautiful and quiet small beach towns.

Rewards spotlight: The beautiful Barranquilla Marriott Hotel is one of the newest properties in Barranquilla. It has a welcoming pool area and a great M Club lounge. The best part? You can stretch your points for a longer stay, as rooms cost as little as 16,000 points per night (64,000 for five nights with Marriott’s “Stay for 5, Pay for 4” benefit).

You can book nonstop flights from Miami to Barranquilla (BAQ) on American Airlines for just 12,000 miles one way if you want to make use of a great sweet spot to South America and land directly at one of the oldest airports on the continent.

By Andrew D’Amours, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Jardín, Colombia

If Colombia is known for anything, it’s coffee, and the lush green hills where it’s produced. Jardín puts both of these things front and center. This quiet, colonial town is just three hours from Medellín, but the vibe could not be more different. While Medellín is a bustling Andean metropolis, Jardín is laid-back. So be sure to slow down while you’re there.

That said, this town has heaps to do. If you like to hike, there are several treks you can take—for example, to the viewpoint at Cristo Rey. There is a rare bird, the Gallitos de Rocas—or the cock-of-the-rock birds—which can be seen at Reserva Natural Jardín de Rocas. You can ride La Garrucha, an old cable car that gives fantastic views of the valley below, visit a coffee plantation or go horseback riding up through the hills to a waterfall. But, really, the best thing to do is grab a coffee in Plaza Principal and take in the people and the views. While all the cafes in town have their own charm—and of course excellent coffee—Café Macanas is known to be exceptional and certainly merits a stop.

Rewards spotlight: Being a small town in the mountains, travel and accommodation options are more limited than in big cities. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to use points. Any trip to Jardín is likely going to involve a stop in Medellín first. This is a good move anyway since Medellín is also worth visiting. JetBlue and American both offer non-stop flights from Florida. So if you collect points in any of those programs, or have a credit card with points that transfer to those programs, you can use your rewards to cover your flights and save your cash for experiences after you arrive.

By Dylan Pearl, Forbes Advisor Staff

Loreto, Mexico

Loreto isn’t exactly off-the-beaten-path, at least not in the winter when snowbirds from the U.S. and Canada flock to this Mexican magical town. But its location—a solid six hours north of Cabo—means that mass tourism is pleasantly absent here.

Loreto makes an excellent long weekend getaway, with easy day trips by boat to reefs and islands in Loreto Bay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Or, stay landside and explore the Sierra de la Giganta mountains with their saguaros, canyons and elusive wildlife. While you can see it “all” in about four days, you’ll want twice as long simply to soak up its tranquil atmosphere around the town square and eat to your hearts delight.

Leave a little extra time in your plans in case tours need to be rearranged or rescheduled. Winds can shut down the Loreto marina and all water-based activities, requiring travelers to be flexible.

– Becky Pokora, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rewards spotlight: The easiest way to reach Loreto is by flying American Airlines through Phoenix or Alaska Airlines through Los Angeles; A few other seasonal routes are also available but run infrequently. From Phoenix, it’s a short flight, which can make redeeming Avios an especially strong value proposition. Just 8,250 British Airways or Iberia Avios will cover the route.

By Becky Pokora, Forbes Advisor Staff

Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza is the quintessential Argentinian wine country, and most of its economy revolves around wineries. If you’re thinking you’ll enjoy an experience like those in Napa or Sonoma, you’d be flat-out wrong. Wine tastings in Mendoza are a serious, hours-long commitment, and you will have to book a reservation in advance of your trip for some of the most desirable wineries. But once you get there you can enjoy gourmet meals to go with your wine tasting, along with the most gorgeous landscapes while you imbibe and partake of local delicacies.

While you’ll most likely be flying into the city of Mendoza’s airport, we recommend spending only one night in town and heading straight to Valle de Uco in Tupungato. It’s on the outskirts of the city, where you can sip wine overlooking the landscape with Andean views and vines stretching as far as the eye can see. If wine isn’t your thing, there are plenty of hiking trails, horseback riding excursions or simply amazing culinary experiences like an authentic Argentinian asado to be had in this laid-back, idyllic place.

Vineyards often pair their wines with a multicourse prix fixe meal, so come hungry as well as thirsty.

– Ben Nickel-D’Andrea, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Rewards spotlight: Spend a night at the Mendoza Park Hyatt, where the nightly rate for this Category 3 property ranges between 9,000 and 15,000 World of Hyatt points per night. The building, a 20th century neoclassical French style palace located in the city center, has a spa, a pool and a bistro to enjoy before you venture out and explore the city.

Once you’ve settled in, head to the Auberge du Vin, a Tribute Portfolio hotel, just an hour outside of town. Surrounded by vineyards in every direction and with a gorgeous outdoor pool and onsite restaurant, each night will cost around 22,000 Marriott Bonvoy points.

By Ben Nickel-D’Andrea, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo gets overlooked compared to other South American capitals, perhaps because it’s small and doesn’t have a hundred must-do activities. The city is built more for laidback travelers who fit right into the local easy-going lifestyle. Allow twice as long as you think you need to swim in the river, sample excellent Tannat wines and eat every cut of beef imaginable.

Day-tripping to Montevideo is popular among those who make it to the city at all, thanks to convenient ferries from Buenos Aires and a handful of cruise ships that include it on their itinerary. However, visiting for the day is like going to the theater and leaving at intermission. City residents rarely eat dinner before 9 p.m. so the streets, restaurants and bars are at their best from late evening until the wee hours, making an overnight stay worth your time.

Rewards spotlight: Choosing which neighborhood to stay in Montevideo is paramount. The SORO Montevideo, a Hilton Curio Collection property, puts you in a safe, walkable neighborhood. You’re only two blocks from the beach and the Rambla (a wide, waterfront sidewalk), a quick stroll from nightlife in Pocitos or a 20-minute taxi from the touristy, historical center. Awards are frequently available for 30,000 to 35,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

By Becky Pokora, Forbes Advisor Staff

Puerto Natales, Chile

Down at the bottom of the world sits Puerto Natales, a charming town in the south of Chile. The real appeal of this place, though, is its proximity to Torres Del Paine National Park, known worldwide for its beautiful Patagonian scenery, massive caves and glaciers. Be aware however that due to the geographical location—very far south—the weather can be unpredictable. The best time to visit is during the Chilean summer (December to February). Visiting in spring or fall can also be nice, but the days are much shorter and the weather is far more variable. Locals like to say you can experience four seasons in one day. But even with a bit of rain, the beautiful mountain landscapes are a must see.

The town of Puerto Natales itself is small but lively. If you eat meat and want to try a Patagonian specialty—lamb—grab dinner at Asador Patagonico. Then, head over to Last Hope Distillery for a cocktail made with local gin before moving on to the scenic waterfront to take in the mountains.

Torres Del Paine is an absolute must-see, even if you’re not a big hiker. My recommendation is to rent a car and explore at your own pace but, if you prefer, you can hire a guide.

– Dylan Pearl, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rewards spotlight: The best way to get to Puerto Natales (other than to road-trip down yourself) is to fly. Depending on the time of year, there are nonstop flights from Santiago (SCL) to Puerto Natales (PNT), though the airport is quite small and only services a few flights every day. You can also fly to Puerto Arenas (PUQ) and take a bus (about 3 hours) to Puerto Natales. In either case, you can book a flight with LATAM, which has a partnership with Delta Air Lines. So if you have Delta SkyMiles, you may be able to use them to cover your flights.

By Dylan Pearl, Forbes Advisor Staff

Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City, a slice of European charm in North America, offers a magical experience, especially during the holiday season. The city, with its cobbled streets, historic architecture and the unmissable Château Frontenac, transforms into a winter wonderland, making it a perfect backdrop for the Quebec Christmas Market. Inspired by the grand Christmas markets of Europe, it’s full of twinkling lights, charming wooden kiosks and the aroma of spiced mulled wine and sweet treats. You can even ice skate on the nearby rink.

For a true taste of traditional Quebecois cuisine, head to La Buche, where the culinary experience is, in my opinion, best enjoyed by sharing dishes family-style.

– Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Not far from the city’s festive hustle lies Montmorency Falls—which is even taller than Niagara Falls. During the winter months, the falls transform into a frosty wonderland, with the cascading waters forming a massive “sugarloaf,” an ice cone at the base, offering a surreal and majestic sight. The falls are accessible via a cable car, a suspension bridge and several viewing platforms, which each provide different perspectives—though be careful because it’s often icy. In the warmer months, the falls are surrounded by lush greenery, making it a popular spot for picnics, hikes and even zip-lining or via ferrata for the more adventurous.

Rewards spotlight: Le Germain Hotel Quebec City, located in the Old Port area, is a great central location from which to explore. Guests can enjoy all-day complimentary coffee, a cozy amenity for even the chilliest days. This hotel is easily booked with flexible rewards points through each eligible card’s dedicated portal. Those preferring to redeem hotel points for a stay should focus on earning Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy points to stay at one of the Hilton or Marriott properties in the city.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

El Zonte, El Salvador

Casually known as “Bitcoin Beach” due to the number of businesses accepting Bitcoin for payment, you might get the idea that El Zonte is a modern, happening place. That couldn’t be further from the truth. On the Pacific coast, El Zonte is a chilled-out town of a few square blocks appealing to surfers and travelers looking for a few days of stress-free sunshine.

Beach-hopping and hitting the waves are favorite activities here. Surf lessons can be booked for about $40 per hour (including your rental equipment) and weeklong camps make it easy to progress. Beginners should visit during the dry season (U.S. winter) while more experienced surfers should wait for the wet season (U.S. summer) when larger waves arrive. When you’re ready for a change in pace, El Zonte also makes a great base for waterfall hikes.

Rewards spotlight: Getting to El Zonte is simple, since it’s only an hour away from El Salvador International Airport by taxi or Uber. There are numerous nonstop flights from U.S. cities, including on low-cost carriers like Spirit Airlines, which keeps cash fares reasonable. If you prefer to redeem miles, look for options on Avianca, a Star Alliance member. Since flights are relatively short, economy awards are likely adequate for most travelers.

By Becky Pokora, Forbes Advisor Staff

Asia

Bhutan

Bhutan, a small kingdom nestled in the eastern Himalayas between India and China, is thrilling from the start: Paro airport’s landing approach is one of the toughest in the world—so much so that special training is required and there are only a handful of pilots certified to land there.

Known as the “Land of the Thunder Dragon,” Bhutan is a place where traditional Buddhist culture intertwines with modern life. This unique country, which measures its success in terms of Gross National Happiness rather than Gross Domestic Product, prioritizes the well-being of its people and the preservation of its natural environment and culture over material wealth.

Bhutan’s approach to tourism is as unique as the country itself, focusing on sustainability and quality over quantity. Visitors to Bhutan are required to pay a daily tariff, called the Sustainable Development Fee. This fee benefits the local communities and the environment while providing visitors with an authentic and immersive experience—festivals with traditional dress and religious practices included.

Rewards spotlight: Bhutan is an expensive place to visit, especially considering that, through September 2027, $100 per night is required solely for the SDF. After that, it will return to $200 per night. On top of that, you’ll have to pay for a guide, accommodation, food and activities. Luckily, the Bhutan Spirit Sanctuary is part of Hyatt’s Small Luxury Hotels partnership and can be booked for 25,000 World of Hyatt points per night.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Mongolia

Mongolia, a land of sprawling steppes and traditions, is one of the last places on Earth where nomadic life is still a tradition. The Mongolian landscape is a montage of mountains, grasslands and the beauty of the Gobi Desert with a touch of bustling life at its capital, Ulaanbaatar.

The heart of Mongolia lies in its cultural heritage, particularly in its legacy of the Mongol Empire under Chinggis Khan (or Genghis Khan), whose legendary conquests in the 13th century reshaped history. The past is still felt in the traditional lifestyle of the Mongolian people, most notably in their practice of moving from place to place with their herds, living in portable, felt-covered gers (yurts) and their horsemanship. With the right Mongolia tour, you can get in on this action and see for yourself the real nomadic Mongolian way of life.

The UNESCO-recognized annual Naadam Festival, or “three manly games” of wrestling, horse racing and archery, is a Mongolian cultural and traditional festival must-see.

Rewards spotlight: No visit to Mongolia would be complete without a few days stop in Ulaanbaatar, and it’s one of the few places in the vast country where you’ll be able to use your rewards points. Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar can regularly be booked for 13,000 to 15,000 IHG One Rewards points per night.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Rishikesh, India

Rishikesh is a smaller city in Northern India at the foot of the Himalayas on the famous Ganges River. It is considered the yoga capital of the world and hosts an annual yoga festival. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a spiritual haven, notably for meditation. There are many temples and ashrams, including the Beatles Ashram (where the band wrote their self-titled album, also known as the “White Album”).

The city is a pilgrimage destination for Hindus. Attending an Aarti ritual ceremony at sunset is a profound experience. It’s the worship of the holy river, where songs and prayers are performed and plates that carry flames are launched into the water. Overall, the vegetarian-only and alcohol-free city is a great change of pace compared to the hectic urban areas of India, and is a good base to explore many surrounding attractions.

Rishikesh was my favorite part of Northern India, with its own distinct vibe that makes it a worthwhile addition to your itinerary even if you aren’t a yoga enthusiast.

– Andrew D’Amours, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Rewards spotlight: The Westin Resort & Spa, Himalayas is arguably among the world’s best Marriott redemptions that don’t require hundreds of thousands of points. The brand-new luxury hotel opened in 2023 and cash prices are typically $2,300 for a five-night stay—or that same stay could cost you just 80,000 points with Marriott’s fifth night free benefit.

The views of the whole valley and surrounding mountains from the luxury hotel are absolutely epic (from every single room, but especially from the infinity pools) and the elite treatment was excellent. The hotel is a 45-minute drive up the mountains from Rishikesh, and the isolated setting makes for a perfect relaxation retreat and embodiment of the Westin brand’s wellness focus.

By Andrew D’Amours, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Shikoku, Japan

The smallest of Japan’s four major islands, Shikoku is an immersive escape from the typical Japan tourist trail. Rarely visited by foreign travelers, it retains the feel of a more traditional Japan with its rural landscapes and slower pace.

Matsuyama’s impressive namesake castle with its original tenshu tower rises above the island’s largest city. Nearby Dogo Onsen is one of the oldest and most iconic bathhouses in Japan. At the heart of Shikoku is secluded Iya Valley, featuring lush, dramatic gorges, creaky vine bridges, hot springs and mist-filled valleys.

Opportunities for hiking, rafting and canyoning abound if you’re in the mood for some adventure. If you’re feeling more pensive, head to Takamatsu in the north and take a stroll through the historic Ritsurin garden. Recharge after with a bowl of Takamatsu’s renowned (and not to be missed) sanuki udon noodles. If time permits, take on the 88 Temple Shikoku Pilgrimage that encircles the entire island, winding its way through isolated beaches and mountain passes.

Rail and bus service is limited so renting a car is a must for touring the island.

– Barbara King, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Rewards spotlight: Award flights from Tokyo to any of Shikoku’s four regional airports cost as few as 5,500 United MileagePlus miles and have great availability, even on short notice. Japanese hotels are your best bet—they’re reasonably priced and some, like the Dormy Inn chain, have onsite onsens to relax in after a day of exploring. Book with your Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card and erase the hotel charges with Capital One miles.

By Barbara King, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste is a secret waiting to be discovered by those yearning for a genuine, off-the-beaten-path experience. Untouched by the footprints of mass tourism, Timor-Leste offers a rare opportunity to explore breathtaking landscapes and natural beauty in peaceful solitude. In Timor-Leste, every path feels like a personal discovery, a chance to connect with a world that retains its charm and unspoiled wilderness. For adventurers looking for a unique journey, Timor-Leste is the place you can’t believe that no one is talking about.

The coastline of Timor-Leste is filled with golden sandy beaches, lapped by turquoise waters. The beauty here coupled with the hospitality of the Timorese people and lack of Wi-Fi and cell reception in much of the country makes for an idyllic break from reality.

For diving enthusiasts, Timor-Leste is a hidden paradise. The country’s waters are part of the Coral Triangle, which boasts the highest diversity of coral and reef fish in the world. Sites around Atauro Island, just a boat ride away from the capital Dili, offer some of the best scuba diving opportunities, with visibility often exceeding 30 meters and you’re likely to find few other divers around.

Rewards spotlight: Few flights are available into Dili (DIL), Timor-Leste’s capital city—you’ll likely fly in from Darwin, Australia (DRW) or Bali, Indonesia (DPS). If you want to redeem miles, your best bet is on the Qantas flight from Darwin. As a 451-mile flight—and if you can find award availability—it’s bookable for between 4,750 and 5,250 British Airways Avios in economy.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Australia

Darwin, Australia

Darwin, Australia’s northernmost capital city, is a gem that sparkles under the tropical sun at the edge of the Timor Sea. Known for its balmy nights, vibrant multicultural community and natural landscapes, Darwin offers an experience that can be laid-back, adventurous and everything in between. Darwin’s close proximity to Asia has influenced its culture and cuisine—you can even blend your own gin at Charlie’s of Darwin.

For nature enthusiasts, Darwin is a gateway to some of Australia’s most inspiring natural wonders. Litchfield National Park (not far from the city), with its stunning waterfalls and crystal-clear swimming holes, provides a refreshing escape from the tropical heat—unless you visit during the rainy season when the swimming holes are filled with crocs (but the waterfalls are even more powerful). For a unique experience, especially if you visit during the rainy season, consider a helicopter viewing of the falls—and you might even be able to land on one.

A bit farther away, the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park offers a variety of wildlife, ancient Indigenous rock art and landscapes that range from marshy wetlands to rugged escarpments.

Rewards spotlight: Depending on what season you visit, you may find the cash prices for accommodations to be reasonable. But if you want to use points, various Hilton properties are located in the city starting from 20,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

By Caroline Lupini, Forbes Advisor Staff

Tasmania

There are more than just devils in Australia’s island state. South of the Australian mainland—just a short flight away from both Sydney and Melbourne—lies Tasmania, a land of around 600,000 people.

This island is a paradise for nature lovers, foodies and adventure seekers alike. To the north you’ll find Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, home to an incredibly diverse landscape. In one national park you can find rainforests, glacial lakes, alpine forests and a wide selection of flora and fauna. Adventure seekers can spend an entire five to six day hike crossing the 80 kilometer Overland Track and cross paths with Tasmanian devils, platypus, wombats and more.

If you’re looking for something more relaxed, try the capital of Hobart. The Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary offers the chance to spend some time up close and personal with kangaroos, echidna and the elusive Tasmanian devil.

While the island is small, drive times can be deceptively long. To get the most out of exploring the island, plan your trip in advance and consider staying the night somewhere along the way.

– Jon Nickel-D’Andrea, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Rewards spotlight: Flying to the capital of Hobart is a breeze from both Sydney and Melbourne, and you can use your British Airways Avios for only 6,000 in economy and 12,500 in business class. If you don’t have Avios, you can transfer points from many major transferable programs like Bilt, Chase, Capital One and American Express.

Once you get there look no further than The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel by Marriott. You’ll be only a few minutes walk from the Hobart city center where you can find the heart of the capital’s nightlife. Rooms start at 35,000 points, making this a fantastic use for your credit card free night certificate from your Marriott cards.

By Jon Nickel-D’Andrea, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Africa

Namibia

If you love the American Southwest, then Namibia will undoubtedly tickle your fancy. The country’s desert climate along with the red, rocky landscapes and the second-largest canyon in the world, the Fish River Canyon, will mentally transport you to the wild west. However, elephants, giraffes and black rhinos in the Etosha National Park will soon remind you that you’re still physically in Africa.

Besides wildlife viewing, Namibia offers plenty of adventure. Hiking Dune 45 at sunrise, riding ATVs Mad Max-style up and down the dunes of Swakopmund and exploring the Skeleton Coast make this country on the southwestern edge of Africa hard to forget.

However, one of the most memorable experiences is walking among the 1,000-year-old dead trees surrounded by the towering orange dunes in the Deadvlei clay pan. It’s truly a spectacle.

Rewards spotlight: One-way economy flights from U.S. cities to Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, start at 49,500 United MileagePlus miles. You’re likely to fly a segment or two on Ethiopian Airlines via Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A business class seat will set you back 88,000 United miles each way.

By Anya Kartashova, Forbes Advisor Contributor

N’gor Island, Senegal

N’gor Island floats just off the coast of Dakar. Accessible by a minutes-long boat ride from Dakar, the island offers a serene respite from city life. While its vibrant fishing community adds to the authentic appeal for culture seekers—with brightly colored boats that pack the shoreline—the island is also increasingly alluring to surfers who come for its fun reef break.

Because the island is so small, visitors can explore the narrow, sandy walking paths from one end to the other in mere minutes. But N’gor Island is nonetheless replete with beachside shacks to snack on seafood and sip some refreshing drinks under the Senegalese sun.

Rewards spotlight: Sure, you can’t fly directly to N’gor Island, but you can certainly fly to Dakar, then make your way to the island by taxi and taxi boat. You can even stay in a surf camp in Dakar like Malika, which runs group trips to N’gor Island when the waves are working. TAP Air Portugal and American Airlines, among others, both fly between the U.S. and Senegal. It costs 40,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles plus taxes to fly from New York to Dakar in economy.

By AnnaMarie Houlis, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Situated less than an hour’s drive outside of Cape Town, Stellenbosch is one of the many wine-producing regions in South Africa. Wine lovers and foodies alike will find a haven here, with some of the top restaurants in the country nestled next to some of the best wineries.

Wine tastings operate a little bit differently in South Africa compared to what you might be used to elsewhere. Expect to sit down and be attended to by one of the winemakers or owners of the vineyard, as many of these wineries are still family-run. It’s no one’s fault but your own if you leave thirsty or hungry, as wine-pour portion sizes are equally generous.

Rewards spotlight: If you’re looking to make your reward points go further, you’re in luck. Marriott shines here with two fantastic hotels as part of their Protea collection. The Protea Hotel Dorpshuis & Spa and Protea Hotel Stellenbosch Conference Centre are located within minutes of dozens of vineyards and wineries. Rooms can be booked for around 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points each. The Dorpshuis Spa is a smaller boutique property offering only 30 rooms and a local restaurant preparing authentic South African Cuisine.

By Jon Nickel-D’Andrea, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Tunisia

Looking for a budget destination with few tourists, well-preserved Roman ruins and beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean Sea? Tunisia is just the place. Located in North Africa, Tunisia has many historical sites from the time it spent as part of the Roman Empire. The most well-known site is Carthage, located about 20 minutes from the country’s capital of Tunis. However, the Amphitheatre of El Jem (about three hours from Tunis) is a well-kept secret. Think of the Colosseum in Rome but minus the huge crowds.

Plus, Tunisia has nearly hassle-free medinas, where you can roam and shop in major cities, including Tunis and Sousse. If you’ve been to the big medinas in Egypt or Morocco, you’ll understand why “hassle-free” is a win. Just don’t forget to bargain. Cap off your visit by spending some time wandering the streets of Sidi Bou Said, a suburb of Tunis filled with gorgeous blue-and-white buildings that reminds many travelers of Santorini, Greece.

Rewards spotlight: Redeeming miles with Flying Blue, the rewards program of Air France and KLM, can be a great option for getting to Tunisia affordably. North Africa is a sweet spot in the program, as Flying Blue prices award flights to some North African countries the same as it does Europe. Flights from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Tunis (TUN) can be found as low as 20,000 miles each way in economy and as low as 55,000 miles in business class each way.

By Senitra Horbrook, Forbes Advisor Contributor

Find the Best Travel Credit Cards for 2024

Find the best travel credit card for your travel needs.

Upon enrollment, accessible through the Capital One website or mobile app, eligible cardholders will remain at upgraded status level through December 31, 2024. Please note, enrolling through the normal Hertz Gold Plus Rewards enrollment process (e.g. at Hertz.com) will not automatically detect a cardholder as being eligible for the program and cardholders will not be automatically upgraded to the applicable status tier. Additional terms apply.
For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.

Leave a Comment

Copyright ©️ All rights reserved. | Tourism Trends