2018 is half over, and we are fully shook. If there was ever a time to check on your year's #TravelGoals and personal bucket list, this is it.
Millions of people have visited their dream destinations in the past few months, and millions more will travel even further before 2018 is done. From bungee jumping off cliffs in Panama to winning big in Las Vegas to finding love in the south of France, young travelers are making it all happen. Have you gone where you've wanted to go? Do you have any more vacay days to squeeze out of your salary? Now's the time to consider where you've been and where you're headed, and we've got some expert insight on what those places might be.
Top travel agents have been keeping their eyes on the scene and noticing some major travel trends this year. There are even credit card companies that keep a solid track record of where their clients visit for overnight stays. Using info from these companies, individual travel agents, and World Economic Forum data, we've compiled a list of the 22 most traveled places of 2018.
Check them out and tag a friend if you find a spot that's special to your squad. Maybe you've made amazing memories there or maybe you want to. Get going! The year is passing quick, and the next six months might be gone faster than you can say wanderlust.
22 Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is on track to receive more than 8 million international travelers this year, according to Euromonitor International projections. If you've never been to Spain, Barcelona is the perfect introduction for you to plan. It's got absolutely every piece of authentic Spanish culture, flavor, and atmosphere you could ask for.
Picture yourself sipping Sangria on a hot restaurant patio along a cobblestone street, delicate Spanish guitar echoing down the alleyways. Romance, history, and local charm abound! We're not surprised that this city is one of the world's most visited, but we will be surprised if it's not already an item on your bucket list.
21 Miami, USA
Miami is the second most visited city in the States this year, probably due to its location right in the middle of the tropics. Travel data suggests that the city hosts millions of international tourists who are on layovers as they travel to other destinations or as they await cruises that depart from Miami ports. It's a modern meeting place for travelistas heading anywhere South or East of central USA.
Of course, Miami is a worthwhile destination all on its own! We love all the sunny beaches and Latin spice Miami has to offer. With so many gourmet restaurants and cultural hotspots, there's really no excuse for you to miss out on a Miami trip in 2018. Vaminos!
20 Mecca, Saudi Arabia
For Muslims, Mecca is a critically important sacred destination. It's said to be the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, their holy leader and teacher of peace, wisdom, and all other facets of Islam. Millions of international travelers arrive in Islam's holiest city each year for decades upon decades, and 2018 has been no different. Even though the sacred space is only open to Muslim travelers, it is projected to receive more than 8.7 million international visitors this year.
If you're Muslim, it's likely that you've already been to Mecca in your lifetime or that you're planning to in the near future. If you're not, pour over pictures of this spectacular worship site and appreciate it for all its ancient beauty.
19 Mumbai, India
Mumbai is India's biggest city and the center of its Bollywood film industry. Last year, it drew about 8.8 million international travelers and is projected to exceed that amount by the time 2018 is done. If you've ever wanted to ride an elephant, participate in a colorful Holi festival, or practice yoga in the actual birthplace of yoga, start saving for your ticket to Mumbai.
This is yet another international city with centuries of rich history and culture to explore. Far deeper than saris, samosas, and sitars, discover the unique traditions and spiritual celebrations of authentic Indian culture. Bollywood awaits!
18 Prague, Czech Republic
Have you been to Prague this year? Millions have! Inbound tourism in Prague is growing at so fast a rate that the country expects up to 9.5 million annual international visitors by 2020. If you haven't visited it yet, go soon to avoid the crowds!
Prague is always a must-see because of its historic art and architecture scene. Every block of the city is filled with history and feels quintessentially European, with museums and galleries galore. Book yourself into a luxury hotel near the famous Old Town Square for easy access to the downtown core of this unmissable cosmopolitan city.
17 Delhi, India
Delhi is about 900 miles northeast of Mumbai, and it's just as rich in culture. It's becoming more and more popular too. In 2017, the city hosted over 10 million travelers. Will it continue to boom in popularity this year? Projections say yes. Euromonitor International projects that the rate of international visitors to Delhi is rising at a rate of about 37%, which is huge.
The city's population is booming, bringing innovation and exciting new luxury attractions. But you won't want to visit without spending time seeing its older sites. The bazaars of old Delhi are unmissable! Practice your bartering skills and shop 'til you drop.
16 Seoul, South Korea
K-pop, Korean dramas, makeup trends, and self-care routines—South Korea is at the very center of Asia's recent worldwide cultural domination. It's now one of the few countries in the world that's leading the way on fashion, film, and more. Cute and healthy face masks? South Korean. Sportswear as street style? South Korean. Whether you're into K-beauty or Olympic sports, South Korea's capital city has offered it all to you in 2018.
With Pyeongchang 2018 behind us and peaceful relations with North Korea seemingly ahead, Seoul's tourism rates are set to keep rising in the months to come. Make like a Hadid sister and hit up Seoul's top fashion districts as soon as you can!
15 Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul has been a major international destination for centuries. One step into this historic city and you'll be able to tell. Every street corner comes to life with friendly locals, noisy merchants, and impressive ancient architecture. If you've never been to Istanbul, 2018 might be the perfect time.
Since breaking the 9 million mark with 9.1 international visitors in 2016, the city has improved its capacity to host foreign travelers by building an expanded airport and upping its urban security presence to keep tourists safe. Drop by on your way through Turkey to visit Sultanahmet Square and bask in the beauty of the Blue Mosque.
14 Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei welcomed more than 9.3 million visitors in 2017, and the travelers just keep coming. Lots of people choose to spend time in Taipei for its world-famous street food culture, where they can spend very few Taiwanese dollars for a whole lot of flavor.
Street vendors line the central roads to make a foodie's paradise! Picture seafood served like you've never imagined, like oyster omelettes, braised pork vermicelli, and anything fried on a stick. Wash it all down with a cheap and delicious bubble tea! Yum. Flavorful and endlessly photogenic, don't miss out on exploring the streets of Taipei.
13 Tokyo, Japan
If you've been looking for an excuse to visit Tokyo, here it is. Tokyo is getting all polished up as it prepares to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, making the city as traveler-friendly as possible. Don't wait until it's flooded with Olympians and sports fans. Go now!
Tokyo always draws an impressive amount of foreign visitors (9.7 million last year), and it's easy to see why. Even without Olympic fever, the city is unbelievably colorful and fun. Westerners just keep coming back to Tokyo for excitement and creative inspiration.
“It's a 180 degrees different first-world destination from the USA, with rich history and culture,” explains Washington-based travel agent Sean McClinton. Get culture-shocked in a GOOD way in Tokyo.
12 Rome, Italy
Nowhere is more romantic than Rome! It's impossible not to be charmed by thousands of years of accumulated arts and culture. International travelers visit Rome in the tens of millions to embrace the city's unique historic vibes.
This is one of the rare destinations that you can enjoy with your bae, your best friends, or your whole family. From the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain to the wine and the nightlife and beyond, there's really something for everyone. If your perfect date involves cruising on a Vespa and enjoying a nice cup of Nutella gelato, get thee to the Eternal City.
11 Phuket, Thailand
Phuket is pushing right up against our top ten most traveled cities in 2018, with about 12 million international travelers visiting in the past year. It didn't use to be so popular, but now, the secret's out. If you're looking for the kind of beachy paradise you see in your wildest daydreams, you'll find it in Phuket.
This haven of luxury is home to beach after beach of gorgeous soft sands and crystal blue seas. It's also got fairly affordable resorts. If you can find enough cash to get you all the way to Thailand, save some for a five-star Phuket resort and luxuriate in the kinds of spectacular seaside spaces that celebrities escape to.
10 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur is one of those rare destinations offering lush rainforests, beachy heat, and state-of-the-art innovations and accommodations. It's a bustling city with a glamorously hazy tropical vibe that's beginning to attract major players in the tourism market. According to Euromonitor International, it's projected to welcome more than 20 million international travelers by 2025.
Major photo ops abound in Kuala Lumpur. Its skyline is dominated by the (Expecto!) Petronas Towers, overlooking cultural landmarks like the busy and historic Central Market. The shopping in the city center is just as good as the nature outside of it, which is saying something. Visit for the best of both worlds.
9 Shenzhen, China
Have you heard of Shenzhen? It's starting to make its mark on the world with dozens of unique amusement parks, themed cafes, and creative spa resorts. Whether you're looking for a vacation that thrills you out of your mind or relaxes you deeply into it (why not both?), Shenzhen is the place to go.
This Chinese metropolis is less crowded than Hong Kong or Beijing but still capable of hosting more than 13 million visitors annually and giving them that trademark Chinese hospitality.
"It absolutely blew my mind," shares Vancouver travel agent Jord Ana. "The hospitality, kindness, landscapes, history...such a contrast from the ultra-modern cities like Shanghai that look like they belong on another planet!”
8 New York City, USA
Start spreading the news! New York, New York is the most visited city in the USA and the 8th most visited city in the world this year. The city has attracted loads of tourists for decades, but its 12.6 million in 2016 and 13.1 million in 2017 have primed it for a landmark year of international travelers in 2018.
New York City has it all—Broadway, Wall Street, Central Park, Chinatown, 5th Avenue, The Village, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Rockefeller Building, the Apollo, the MET, the MOMA, TV studios, celeb sightings, museums, galleries, cute bodegas. What more could you need? Visit now to make your own Manhattan memories.
7 Paris, France
Paris has been in the top ten most visited tourist destinations worldwide for decades now. The City of Light's popularity has never dimmed. In 2018, it's expected to host more than 14.2 million international travelers, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Paris offers iconic architecture and inimitable class. It's the place to go if 2018 is your year for fashion, love, or culture. Stroll through The Louvre and pose under the Champs d'Elysee. Sip espresso at a boutique cafe and window-shop through the designer district of the Grands Boulevards. A life without a peek into Paris just isn't a life well-traveled. Quel dommage!
6 Dubai, UAE
"Dubai has always been on the radar just to say 'yup, been there done that,'" says agent Mary Lynn from Travelonly travel agency. She's not alone in wanting to check it off her to-see list. Dubai's visitor rate is growing steadily, at over 7 percent per year. That reflects a growth from 14.8 million in 2016 to 16 million in 2017!
People love Dubai for the pure luxury of its hotels and enviable excursion opportunities. It's also a great way to see the Middle East from the vantage point of a cutting-edge city with a high degree of financial and social stability. If it's gotten attention from visitors with Kardashian-level wealth and celebrity status, why not see it for yourself?
5 Macau, China
Macau cracked the top five most-visited cities with nearly 16.5 international visitors in 2017. Euromonitor International projects that by 2025, Macau's foreign tourist count will reach 27.9 million per year! This is massive. So why do people keep rushing into Macau?
This city is known most of all for its hugely popular (and huge in size) casinos and shopping malls. If you love to spend, spend, spend while you travel, spend your time in Macau with the other high-rolling folks of the eastern world. It's known as the 'Vegas of China!' Buy yourself some lucky jade and see where the city takes you. Just take it easy on the baijiu drinks.
Singapore is known for being clean, friendly, and historic. 17.6 million international visitors traveled to Singapore last year, and we think we have a few ideas as to why that is.
It's a smart money move to visit Singapore in 2018. They have tax-free shopping policies for travelers, plenty of affordable accommodations, and popular food markets ('hawkers') where you can find a delicious answer to every meal for under $10. It's also ultra hip, with fast public transit, sleek downtown buildings, and the odd rooftop infinity pool. These elements contrast so neatly with the centuries-old Asian architecture still present around every other corner. For old world meets new at prices that won't completely empty your pockets, give Singapore a try.
3 London, England
More than 19.8 million people said 'cheeri-o' to London in 2017, and the city expects to welcome about the same amount of international travelers this year. The sheer diversity of attractions within the city have made it great at welcoming diverse travelers of all different ages and backgrounds.
Not interested in wandering the dusty-yet-spectacular halls of Westminster Abbey? Go ride the London Eye! Heights not your thing? See a world-class play in London's historic West End! You can stroll the streets looking for Diagon Alley for hours and never get bored. When it comes to food, fashion, and nightlife, London doesn't come up short either. No wonder it managed to break into the top five in 2018.
2 Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is buzzing with international tourists right now! A mix of sacred religious sites and vibrant street life, this Thai capital is almost the most visited city in the world in 2018. If you like busy streets, colorful sites, and a mouth-watering foodie scene, you should have already added Bangkok to your bucket list.
Even if you aren't religious in the same ways as many Thai travelers are, you will be completely awed by the temples and shrines sprinkled around the city center. Be sure to see the Wat Arun/Temple of Dawn and Grand Palace before chowing down at the Floating Market. You'll relax in the sun and natural beauty of Thailand, feeling as happy as Buddha himself. Don't miss.
1 Hong Kong, China
Never been to Hong Kong? The longer you wait, the busier it gets! Euromonitor International projects that by 2020, Hong Kong will see a whopping 31.2 MILLION people spending their vacations here. Good thing the city is equipped for holding millions upon millions at a time!
To be fair, the crowded streets are all part of the fun. Millions visit Hong Kong because it's China's place to be for business and luxury leisure. It's got Dim Sum and Disneyland, China's largest shopping mall, unbelievably lit nightlife in Lan Kwai Fong, and way too much to list here. So, you better go see it for yourself.
References: Euromonitor International, World Economic Forum, CNN, Lonely Planet, Mastercard Newsroom