Glancing through the list of top 10 countries most open to travel as determined by an international forum, Europe ranks well with 6 of the top 10, along with the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan. Spain is was named the best vacation spot in the world for the first time in the history of the research group.
The World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index released a biennial report using 14 different criteria surrounding “sustainable economic and societal benefits through their travel and tourism sector.”
All 141 countries received a ranking on their competitiveness in travel and tourism factors. From that list, the 10 best vacation spots in the world emerged.
At TravelingMom, we promise to tell you what you need to know before you go because “we’ve been there.”
It’s true! We’ve been to all 10 of these countries that were names the best vacation spots in the world.
Read on to learn what we love about each one.
What’s best, according to Carissa Rogers, GoodNCrazy TravelingMom
Exploring the surprisingly walkable neighborhoods in the older parts of Madrid is my favorite! I loved photographing the plazas, locating the San Gines Café for world famous Chocolate Y Churros, and walking from The Palacio Real to the San Geronimo Church, weaving in and out of narrow cobblestone scooter-lined streets.
I speak very little Spanish yet on my trips to Madrid and Barcelona, the locals were kind and willing to help even if they couldn’t understand me. Renting a boat at Retiro Park is inexpensive and relaxing. Shopping in the nearby upscale 5th Avenue-esque Salamanca District is such a European experience.
Schedule evening time to visit my favorite modern art museum, the Sophia Reina. It’s free from 7 to 9PM. The main draw is the house-sized and grotesque Picasso painting of Guernica.
Spend a photo-walking day in historic Toledo (about a half hour train ride from Madrid) and your camera will thank you! If a longer stay is in your plans, take the 3-hour train ride to Barcelona. While there… if you do nothing else make sure you visit Segrada Familia, a wacky and weird church, gorgeous in a cartoon-like concoction!
What’s best, according to Angela Tiffin, History Buff TravelingMom
Can I first say: I think France should be ranked number one on the list of best vacation spots in the world! France is a geographic paradise with its rugged northern coastline, southern tropical beach resorts, alpine mountains in the east and a gorgeous countryside throughout. To experience France at its best you have to get out there and see it in all of its glorious diversity. While known for its culture, food and history, a little exploring beyond the popular destinations will reveal some of the most spectacular scenery and natural beauty you will ever experience. Just when I think I’ve seen the most beautiful vista, voilà! It’s surpassed by another.
The turquoise water at Les Gorges du Verdun and nearby Lake St. Croix in the southeastern region of France is one such destination. Though stunning to see, it is actually a very laid back and fun family-friendly destination. This can be said for much of France. While France does have its share of opulence, high culture and a reputation for haughtiness, if you travel there extensively you will see that it, along with its people, are very accessible.
What’s best according to Silvana Clark, RV TravelingMom
Having seen sights around the world including 49 states, Kenya, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, France, Spain, and many others, my all-time favorite destination is….Germany! Yes, the land of lederhosen and giant dumplings satisfies my desire to experience a different culture with varying experiences. Sobering tours of Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camp create a life-changing attitude about the dignity of human beliefs, in contrast to major festival events such as Oktoberfest.
The posters you see of Germany are not PhotoShopped. Chalets with geranium-filled flower boxes are everywhere, along with cafes with gingham tablecloths. I enjoy the orderliness of seeing woodpiles stacked according to the size of the wood, and recycling bins that differentiate between different colors of bottles. Large cities such as Munich and Hamburg offer first class museums and restaurants, while areas such as the Baden-Wurttemberg area offer cycling, hiking, castles and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Germans emphasize outdoor activities ranging from skiing to simply walking to school rather than taking a bus. And let’s not forget the apple strudel!
What’s best according to Meagan Shamy, Miltary TravelingMom
Germany literally has it all. Down in the Bavarian Alps you find fairytale-like castles built by a madman, including the most famous castle in the world: Neuschwanstein. Some of the world’s greatest hiking is found near Garmish-Partenkirchen. Alpine slides kids love and the most excessive spas you’ve ever seen to please mom. Plus, Munich is one of the most incredible cities in the world. Rebuilt after WWII to maintain the original authentic look, it is home to one-of- a-kind museums and sprawling beer gardens.
The rest of the country is pretty great too. Roman ruins in Trier, the medieval city of Rothenburg, historic Berlin and Hamburg considered to be the “Venice of the North.”
4. United States
What’s best according to Tonya Prater, Ohio TravelingMom
I love traveling in the US! As an avid road tripper, I can drive from my home state of Ohio across the country in days. I can travel through forests, across rivers and through deserts before stopping at the coast to breathe in the ocean air. My favorite US road trip took my family along parts of historic Route 66. It’s a roadside attraction lover’s dream come true. We drove past mom and pop hotels, small town restaurants, and iconic displays of roadside quirk. The World’s Largest Rocking Chair, crooked water towers, gigantic crosses, painted Cadillacs, and quaint wigwams became our playground on the way to the Santa Monica Pier.
Roadside attractions provide a distraction from endless hours of driving. A free place to stretch our legs, take a fun photo, and create memories as a family. I don’t miss an opportunity to stop and check out a fun attraction but my older teens haven’t quite learned to appreciate the roadside attractions the way I do. I’m sure at some point, they’ll thank me for detours that have lead us past some of our most memorable travel experiences. At the very least, we have great photos to show for my efforts!
5. United Kingdom
What’s best according to Diana Rowe, Traveling Grandmom
What else is there to love about the U.K.? The classics…Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte hail from Great Britain, follow in their footsteps on literary tours.
Take time for a traditional afternoon tea in England and attend a “football” match in Manchester, cheer for United Manchester! Scotland is where golf was founded (hello St. Andrews!) and a wee sip of their whisky is worth the trip. In Dublin, Ireland, literally get lost in hundreds of pubs, if you’ve met an Irish man, you know they’re great storytellers. Wales is the most overlooked of the 4, and my favorite because the less-crowded, beautiful farm country reminds me of my Iowa farm. Plus it’s often slightly less expensive!
What’s best according to Anuja De Silva, Cosmopolitan TravelingMom
With its relatively small size and diverse experiences Switzerland is one of my top choices for a family vacation. If you’re looking for a city escape, Zurich, Basel, Bern and Geneva are easy to navigate. You can also make trips to the lake (Lucerne, Interlaken) region or explore the Swiss Alps within a few hours from each of the cities.
Spending time in any region of Switzerland will be a good mix of slowing down and enjoying nature while experiencing luxuries such as chocolates, cheese and high end designer shopping. Traveling by train is the best way to experience the pristine beauty with sweeping views of pastoral villages.
Visit the idyllic village of Zermatt at the base of Matterhorn. With its cobbled streets and horse drawn carriages, this mountain resort where no automobiles are allowed, takes you back in time and connects you with locals through your shared appreciation of nature. Depending on whether you’re in regions closer to Germany or France, you will experience both languages and cultural similarities to each of those countries. Landlocked and surrounded by five countries, a visit to Switzerland can easily include a day trip to another country..
What’s best according to TravelingDad Paul Eisenberg
From a hotel balcony, as well as from the ground, there’s a strip of Australia’s Gold Coast that looks exactly like coastal Fort Lauderdale at its prettiest. That’s neither a compliment nor a dig, just a fact that made me wonder why I needed to fly from New York to the Southern Hemisphere to see something Florida-like. So I already had it in my head that my experiences snorkeling in Florida would serve as a frame of reference for the Great Barrier Reef.
When you see the mysterious waters of the Reef from the deck of a boat, such as the Calypso, you begin to suspect something unusual is down there. But it’s not until you smack your mask-clad face in the water that you know for sure that you’ve been blessed with a peek into another world, you’re not in Florida anymore.
What’s best according to Estelle Erasmus, Tres Chic TravelingMom
For a cosmopolitan city with all the culture of New York, the diverse cuisine of Seattle, plus beautiful architecture, great shopping and tree-lined boulevards look no further than Melbourne, Australia. My family and I stayed in the Westin Melbourne hotel, which offers beautiful balconies, lush accommodations and delicious dining. For the ultimate in tea time, the gals in our family had high tea at the Windsor Melbourne, Victoriana decor, table settings and sky-high piled sandwiches, pastries and treats rivaled any spot in England.
I found the most gorgeous sequined pumps on Collins street, and enjoyed impromptu street performances along chic Federation Square (one guy chopped wood with his bare hands). We gawked at the mural-covered streets of Hosier and Rutledge Lane, opposite Federation Square. Street-art that isn’t graffiti or tagging is legally allowed on approved outdoor spots in Melbourne as a form of artistic expression. We trekked the Melbourne Zoo, enjoying one on one time with baby kangaroos. Later we ended my daughter’s birthday celebration with a hibachi dinner at Benihana, which goes to show what works well in the U.S. is also a hit on the other side of the world!
What’s best, according to Sarah Ricks, Philadelphia Traveling Mom
An ancient farmhouse in Tuscany was perfect for sharing with another family. Sharing saved money and our young kids had daily playmates as we explored Tuscany’s hill towns. We alternated babysitting so parents got date nights. Later, when our kids were 10 and 13, we prepped for Rome by diving into movies and kids’ books about Rome. Then spent our days alternating historical sites, napping, and eating gelato. Our son turned every empty water bottle into a gladiator’s sword.
We especially enjoyed Sardinia in the off season.Yes, Venice is crawling with tourists. But every turn reveals a perfect juxtaposition of canal, bridge, boat, or piazza, illuminated by a saturated yellow light that softens the edges. Restaurants are expensive, so we often ate gelato for dinner – no objections from our kids, as tweens or teens!
What’s best, according to Kirsten Maxwell, Teaching TravelingMom
With almost 5,000 miles of coastline, visitors to Italy are never far from a beach. One of our favorite towns for a stunning view is Sorrento where you can enjoy fresh calamari, sip limoncello in the piazza, grab a gelato and head to the cliff to watch the boats that sail to and from Capri. If small towns are more your speed, why not try wandering the cobblestone streets of Volterra and sipping coffee with the locals? Want to tour a vineyard? Head to Chianti or Umbria. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the welcome you receive from the locals. Speaking of locals, Italians operate at a slower pace, they love children, they love the land, and they love to make friends with the tourists. Take time to get to know them, discover their passion for their homeland, and you will embrace it too.
What’s best, according to Dana Zucker, Triathlon TravelingMom
Hard for me to believe that Japan is the only Country in Asia to make the Top 10! First (for my husband) one of the most beautiful triathlons in the world is Ironman Japan! After the race we visit the Jigokudani Monkey Park and dream of soaking with them.
For me, food is a ritual, it’s how I learn about the people, the culture and the land. Like many other Asian countries Japan is rich in history of food and tea rituals. I am in love with the Kaiseki and Okonomiyaki. Two totally different styles of eating. Kaiseki is a work of art and began centuries ago in Kyoto with the tea ceremony. Only fresh ingredients are used and they are served as a series of small plates, no ordering, just eating! Okonomiyaki is totally opposite, more like comfort food you cook at your table. It’s like a pancake filled with goodness loaded with more goodness on top!
Trust me: stick to real beer or Nama Biiru — fresh beer — SKIP anything that isn’t! Don’t forget to try Sake, but ask for Nihonshu. My next trip to Japan I have planned with Mandarin Journeys, looking forward to experiencing white water rafting, beautiful cranes and of course the monkeys!
What’s best, according to Kymri Wilt
From coast to coast, I’ve never met a part of Canada that I didn’t love, and Canada has lots of parts. Alberta’s Canadian Rockies, Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, Manitoba’s Polar Bears, and Toronto’s amazing global culinary scene – each province is a destination worthy of a dedicated trip in itself. Trust me, anywhere you choose to travel in Canada will exceed expectations.
Don’t even think Canada is not foreign enough. You can be assured of getting your “oh so British” fix in Victoria, British Columbia, where you can enjoy afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel and a pint at the pub later. But did you know you can also discover the culture of the First Peoples? Or camp across Vancouver Island, and even go island hopping by ferry or floatplane to explore the Canadian Inside Passage, watching for bears and whales?
So you want a French fix? Pas de problème! Head to Quebec! From the fabulous Montreal museums and restaurants to the magical ice hotels and frozen festivals in Quebec City, this province will serve it all up in a big French way. Can you say “poutine?”
Whether you plan to spend a winter skiing in Banff, or a day viewing Niagara Falls from the other side, you’ll find yourself wanting to cross that border more often!
Have you been to one of these countries? Are you planning an international family vacation? We would love to hear where! Share with us in the comment section below.
Terri Marshall thought a few countries were missing from this list… so she asked around for the TravelingMom vote of their top 10 countries to visit. Get out your planner… where would YOU like to travel in the near future?