When the World Economic Forum released its 2015 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index naming Spain, France, Germany, the United States, Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Japan and Canada as the top 10 travel destinations, the TravelingMoms starting buzzing. We love the top 10, but we have other favorites that we think should be on the list of the best travel destinations in the world. These ten international destinations are favorites of TravelingMoms. We’ve been there and we think you should go too.
Our Picks for Best Vacation Spots
Traveling Moms have visited amazing destinations all over the world. When the World Economic Forum released its 2015 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index naming its 10 best vacation spots in the world, we told you what we thought was best about each.
Then we came up with 10 more that we think should have been on the list of best vacation spots in the world.
Here, in no particular order, is the TravelingMom List of the 10 Best Vacation Spots in the World and what we think is best about each.
What’s best, according to Terri Marshall, Globetrotting TravelingGrandmom
Consistently ranked as one of the happiest places on earth, Norway is my No. 1 destination. Renowned for its majestic mountains, fabulous fjords and rugged beauty, Norway has attracted adventure lovers for years. While the country’s landscape is truly a treasure, the cities of Norway are equally intriguing. It’s hard to pick a favorite place in Norway, but here are a few highlights:
Trondheim is the cultural center of the Trøndelag region. This picturesque city with its timber built fisherman warehouses of red, gold, brown and green flanking the sides of the Nidelva River is a fascinating contrast of old and new. Here I climbed the medieval steps to the top of the majestic Nidaros Cathedral. I even became a rock star for a day at Rockheim.
After a devastating fire in 1906, Ålesund was rebuilt in the Art Nouveau style that was prevalent at the time. Strolling through the charming yellow, salmon, blue and rose buildings ornamented with a myriad of turrets, spires, medieval ornaments and dragons, it’s easy to see why Ålesund was recently voted the most beautiful town in Norway.
And then there is Røros where I attended the ancient festival, Rørosmartnan. For over 150 years traders from all over Norway have harnessed their horses to sleighs and traveled across frozen lakes and rivers through snow blanketed forests to arrive for opening day – and I was there for that day. Pure magic.
2. The Philippines
What’s best, according to Katrina Jakola, Southeast Asia TravelingMom
The Philippines consists of more than 7,000 islands, about 2,000 of which are inhabited. So many islands…so little time! From world class beaches to scuba and snorkeling sites to surfing spots, the Philippines has it all! And it’s all easily accessible via the inexpensive Philippines Airlines.
White Beach on the small island of Boracay exemplifies pristine beauty and offers perfect conditions to give kite surfing a go. On the island of Palawan, explore Honda Bay, El Nido or the UNESCO World Heritage Site, 8.2 KM Subterranean River.
There is a genuine kindness and friendliness among locals. Even those trying to sell goods are happy to chat and give helpful advice if you’re not interested in what they’re selling. And with English widely spoken, it’s easy to enjoy these exchanges and communicate in most every situation.
Tourism is serious business here, but it has a more laid back feel than some other Asian countries. Food and services tend to be less expensive too, and tipping is unnecessary–although, you’ll probably want to tip since you paid so little. With such beautiful surroundings, a variety of adventures to be had and friendly people, it really is more fun in the Philippines!
What’s best, according to Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family TravelingMom
Icons are obvious for family travel to Peru, with Machu Picchu on the top of the list for evidence of ancient cultures. Delving further opens doors to communities today: children in their schools, mothers weaving cloths of many colors, farmers in high altitudes raising potatoes of 400 colors.
This I accessed through a guesthouse in the Sacred Valley named Willka T’ika—means sacred flower and everything is imbued with a sort of sacredness. I traveled with 13 girlfriends, didn’t take the kids or grandkids, but talked with them at length about how the Peruvian children approach life. This trip would work with tweens and teens, probably not the little ones.
These are Quechua people, descended from families in the Andes before the Inca. They hold dear the principle of reciprocity, always helping one another. They call it ayni and they really mean it. Be intentional when you go, seeing ayni in practice and absorbing that reflex yourself.
Big difference seeing the sights or truly meeting the people. Getting to know folks matters when they live next door, and it really counts when home is another hemisphere. Here’s how to do this.
- Stay a week in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with access to the bustling beautiful city Cusco and the fabled Machu Picchu. Allow a few days in each.
- Blend day trips to historic sacred sites with community time to stroll neighborhoods, meet people, gaze at Southern hemisphere constellations and muse in gardens.
Peru is not a place to rush through, better to absorb and reflect. Admiration for the ancient ways of the Andean people is easier to develop when you live among the people instead of changing hotels every night or two.
4. New Zealand
What’s best, according to Diana Rowe, Traveling Grandmom
“Kia Ora” is how the locals welcome travelers to New Zealand, and I traveled solo there 3 ½ years ago, fulfilling a bucket list adventure! What I learned is its Māori culture is central to Kiwi life. Throughout the country, travelers are invited to share in those traditions with performances such as Pōwhiri or welcome ceremonies, the Māori language, arts, and museums, such as Wellington’s Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Dramatic landscape and magnificent coastlines are exactly why “Lord of the Rings” movie fans want to visit. Want adventure? Adrenalin junkies of all ages will jump at the thrill of bungee jumping, zip lining, rafting, caving and skydiving. Oh and then there’s the wine and vineyards. Indulge in the world-famous Sauvignon Blancs, visit dozens of vineyards, experience the food and wines, farmers markets, and cooking schools, and you’ll never be the same. Wildlife encounters, stargazing, volcanoes and geothermal encounters round out the many activities in New Zealand.
Whether your Kiwi adventure takes you to the North Island’s Auckland to Wellington or the South Island’s Marlborough or Queenstown, or places in between, one visit to New Zealand and you’ll be hooked.
What’s best, according to Anuja De Silva, Cosmopolitan with Kids Traveling Mom
Want to see the tallest building in the world, shop at the largest mall and dine at the only 7-star restaurant in the world? Then head on over to Dubai, the most well-known, cosmopolitan city in the Middle East. With its central location and being a hub for its national carrier Emirates, Dubai is easily accessible as a stand-alone destination or as a transfer point between East and West. We extended our layover in Dubai by two nights on a journey from New York City to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and got a taste of the city.
The best way to sightsee is by hiring a vehicle with driver to cover the highlights with a local’s guidance. We got to experience more than the opulence of shopping malls and extravagance of fancy hotels by visiting the well preserved heritage neighborhoods and local markets. If you’re visiting in the cooler months between October to February, do make a trip to the family friendly Jumeirah beach or dine al fresco at the Dubai marina.
Taking the monorail is the best way to get an aerial view of Palm Jumeirah, the man-made archipelago in the shape of a Palm tree that was created through land reclamation. With desert adventure tours, amusement parks and day trips to other cities in the United Arab Emirates, there is a lot to do whether you spend one day or plan a multi-day vacation to Dubai.
What’s best, according to Carissa Rogers, GoodNCrazy TravelingMom
Who’s been to Poland? We have! Most of Warsaw is made of grey Communist cinder blocks but the contrast of the market square against the rest of the capitol city is worth experiencing. Old city was rebuilt after the war only from photos and histories! Other not-to-miss sites include the Black Madonna, about a 90-minute train ride from Warsaw, and the Chopin Monument located in the city. Sadly we missed both! (Do as I say people! I regret that!)
Instead we took a train from Warsaw to Krakow and will NEVER regret it. In that short train ride you leave the grey of Warsaw and enter a romantic city that always celebrates Christmas! The old city is breathtaking and all original. I nearly fell over when I realized the tour guide told us the castle was built in 1099 AD— as in a THOUSAND years ago! No question our visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau were the most memorable portion of our trip. Trust me: This is not for under age 12. More like a spiritual and holy feel where I saw and learned more about the horror of the Holocaust than any museum or text book could ever provide.
What’s best, according to Kaamna Bhojwani-Dhawan, International TravelingMom
Portugal is often overshadowed by its more popular neighbor Spain (which ranked No. 1 on the official list of best vacation spots in the world), but those who venture off the beaten path to this small southwestern European country will not be disappointed. Portugal encompasses the best of what the continent has to offer: history, culture, gourmet international cuisines and a gorgeous coastline to boot. As mentioned before, Portugal is often overlooked on lists of European hotspots making it more economical and less crowded than countries like France, Italy and Spain.
Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and a wonderful place to visit with the family, as a couple or even solo. The city boasts gorgeous cathedrals dating back several centuries, as well as the Castelo de Sao Jorge, which occupies a commanding position on top of one of Lisbon’s seven hills. The famous Tram No. 28 runs through the old town, allowing tourists glimpses of all the city’s sights. If you want a private tour of Lisbon, rent a Tuk-Tuk, go-cart, or Segway for a totally different perspective.
Lisbon is Portugal’s busiest city, but most of us will find it quite laid back. For an even slower pace, head to Porto or Madeira (where wines of the same names are produced) or to the stunning beach resorts of Algarve for some serious R & R.
The Portuguese are warm and hospitable people who welcome visitors to their country with pride and generosity. It makes this already wonderful country even more special.
What’s best, according to Diana Rowe, Traveling Grandmom
Thailand has my heart. From beginning to end. My Thai adventure began in the bustling city of Bangkok where I experienced my first intense Thai massage and ended with two massages in the island of Ko Samui with its incredible white sand beaches. In between, I found myself in Chiang Mai, exploring the massive temples and historic places, then venturing to Patera Elephant Farm where an elephant won my heart.
Onwards to Lisu, where the locals were from ancient tribes, and their friendly smiles and welcoming souls crept into my heart. After that, an 8-mile bicycle ride in the searing heat and humidity passing rice paddies where the farmers stop and wave, smiling their often toothless grins, brought a song to my lips — and I can’t sing!
When you travel to Thailand, the rich experiences of history, religion, and cultures mingle with the spicy food and busy streets, deserted beaches, and a long list of other experiences. All who travel to Thailand, including myself, say they come back a different person, more open to experiences and cultures.
What’s best, according to Anuja De Silva, Cosmopolitan with Kids Traveling Mom
With its namesake chocolates, waffles and craft beer, Belgium will be a must-see spot on any foodie’s European itinerary. What Belgium lacks in size it makes up in terms of natural beauty and rich cultural experiences compared to its much larger and more famous neighbors. Brussels, the capital city, is cosmopolitan and easy to navigate. We chose it as our first stop on our European itinerary with baby. What better way to combat jetlag than snacking on waffles in front of Grand Place, one of the most iconic city centers in Europe.
Brussels also pays homage to its famous cartoonists with cartoon-inspired street art in every corner. You can take a self-guided walking tour known as the Brussels Comic Strip Walk that covers murals of famous Belgian comics that adorn building exteriors throughout the city. I recommend combining that with tasting Belgian local eats along the way. If you’re a fan of Tin Tin, make sure to schedule a few hours to visit Musée Hergé, dedicated to its creator, in outskirts of the city.
By basing yourself in Brussels you can easily access other cities within a couple of hours. We loved visiting Ghent, a treat to medieval architecture enthusiasts, and Bruges, a beautiful canal city known as Little Venice.
What’s best, according to Dana Zucker, Triathlon TravelingMom
While I do enjoy spending time on the mainland of Greece, exploring the rich culture and history, it’s the Greek Islands where I find myself returning and where my true passion lies.
There are four main reasons why I love the Greek Islands.
- Mountain to Sea – The beauty is so moving. I love that the Islands are basically self-sustainable and you have all you need while reclining on the beach. Crete has a special place in my heart and here’s why. The driver that True Greece hired for me asked what I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to see the land through his eyes and meet the locals. He took me to the top of Crete; drove down to the beach while stopping at local artist communities; and then took me to his family’s farm. I was in heaven!
- Food – The food is rich in culture, fresh, and seasonal. The daily meal is caught right there in the waters. In Santorini, I took a few cooking classes in wonderful restaurants and learned how the food was grown and harvested on this volcanic island; why they grow what they grow; and the importance of the food for our well-being.
- The People – Simply put, they are amazing! I never feel like a tourist in Greece; people are so welcoming and love to teach you about their country. In fact, I have been invited multiple times to locals’ homes to eat and when dining alone at a restaurant, the owner joins me.
- The History – I am VERY far from a history buff. But in Greece, you are nothing but amazed. The history that started in the 3rd Century BC envelopes you. I was most amazed by the respect and appreciation the people of Greece have for their heritage and how it has shaped all aspects of their current life.
When in Greece, don’t do a resort where you will be around other tourists; get out among the people. Enjoy the cities AND the countryside. You know a place is special when every time you go back, it feels like the first time.