Top Travel Trends of 2018

From luxury vacations to adventures abroad, today’s traveler expects more from their trips than ever before. Exclusive experiences, personally fulfilling moments and, of course, Instagram-worthy shots are just a few motivators for travelers of all ages. Before booking your next trip, check out some of our most travel-savvy members' takes on today’s trends. 

1. Experiential Travel

Savvy travelers are seeking out unique, one-of-a-kind experiences in destinations all over the world--whether that means taking an exclusive tour or diving head first into a new culture.

"We're in an exciting phase in travel where the definition for ‘luxury’ travel is changing so rapidly,” said Alexandra Avila, President, JG Black Book. “The media is helping to shape a traveler's growing appetite to go beyond their five-star accommodation and rather seek an experience that simply can't be replicated, whether that's a luxurious train journey to Machu Picchu, an immersive pop-up tented experience in Bolivia that's available for a limited time only, or a tour operator's unparalleled access to new or unique areas that have the brag factor, such as Revealed America's addition of the intimate 10-person Sheldon Chalet in remotest Alaska. Travel outfitters, properties, train and cruise companies are all playing this exciting role in shaping the memorable moments that the media want to talk about, while determining where the savvy traveler will go next!"

The Sheldon Chalet (Photo: Jeff Shultz)

Jessica Aufiero, founder of Jessica Aufiero Communications (JAC), says many of her travel clients are focusing on providing guests one-of-a-kind authentic experiences, such as Borgo Egnazia in Puglia, Italy. The festival highlights Apulian foods and drinks as well as local artisans and arts and crafts of the Apulian cultural tradition. Borgo Egnazia creates experiences intended to both celebrate authentic Apulian culture while at the same time being transformational for its guests. 

Festa del Borgo

2. Luxury Across (All) Categories
As Elaine Drebot-Hutchins, President, THINK PR told us, “Things are swinging back in the direction of luxury. Younger travelers, while they still want authentic, off-the-grid, get-their-hands-dirty experiences, want to balance those out with fabulous, humblebrag moments that dominate our Instagram feeds. There’s a trend towards more ‘private’ tours, more ‘personalized’ itineraries and injecting luxury where it doesn’t typically exist. For example, W Hotels is about to redefine the (not-so-glam) music festival experience with WAKE UP CALL, a series of music festivals that will take place entirely on the grounds of W Hotels. Guests will get access to a luxury hotel – the suites, the food, the spa – and all the excess of the concert experience.”

And as travelers gravitate towards the more luxurious iterations of their favorite activities, brands follow suit to provide these elite experiences.  

“As many luxury brands like Baccarat, Equinox, Bulgari, LVMH, and Restoration Hardware are breaking into the hotel space to further establish themselves as fully realized lifestyle brands, luxury hotel companies are doing the reverse,” said Matt Levison, Vice President, HL Group. “Beginning in 2015 when Four Seasons launched their Four Seasons Private Jet, luxury hotel companies have continued to expand outside of their core business to myriad pivots including standalone residences, retail, and most recently, Ritz-Carlton’s launch of their Yacht Collection. This is a trend that will continue to grow in both directions across the luxury space, as brands look to capitalize on the luxury consumer across categories.”

Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection

From a PR perspective, Melanie Brandman, founder and CEO of The Brandman Agency, notes how much podcasts and video content have gained importance in the evolving luxury travel landscape.

3. Wellness While Away
Wellness is now top-of-mind for travelers, from workouts to spa sessions.

“Years ago, a vacation was an excuse to get off your diet or skip exercising,” shared Elaine Drebot-Hutchins. “Now fitness can be the goal of a holiday. Travelers are seeking authentic workouts and experiences that are rooted in the destination (zip lining, wind surfing, even iconic running courses in urban markets) – so they get a good workout and an Instagram-worthy moment. W Hotels just launched their own spin on this – FUEL Retreats – where guests at W Punta de Mita worked out with some of the biggest names in fitness by day and then partied by night. It’s that balance of wellness and decadence that travelers are craving.”

Post-workout, travelers seek the best spa treatments in an equally Instagrammable setting. Hotels and resorts are no longer burying their spas in the basement or hiding them out of sight on the roof. The spa itself is becoming the destination, with an increase emphasis on creating a space for guests that is as inspiring as the treatments offered within.

The Iridium Spa at The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort

Properties are also impressing guests with high-design pools perfect for lounging.

Vik Chile

4. Transformative Travel
Transformative travel: traveling with intention motivated by an internal journey. Melanie Brandman points out that today’s traveler seeks personal fulfillment and meaningful connections.

On that note, MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers reveals that travelers want more meaningful vacations in 2018, not just more trips in general. Travelers could take up to six fewer vacations this year than in 2017, marking the shift towards more meaningful, transformative (and even experiential) travel.

5. Going Solo
With more and more people not wanting to rely on friends’ schedules, or not wanting to compromise their own adventure itineraries, Rachel Harrison, co-founder of Lion & Lamb Communications, points out the rise in solo travel.

“I’ve traveled alone three times now--SF, Kenya and Park City. It’s incredible how much you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, only to be rewarded by your efforts,” she shared. “And you are much more likely to meet new friends. I met a guy who worked at the museum in SF and he looks at me and says, ‘You look like fun. I’m about to take my break, why don’t I walk you around.’ I had my own private guide to SFMOMA. It was amazing. In Kenya, I had my own private guide. I got to find hippos and lions, or just hang back and watch an eagle for hours. I got to enjoy my safari exactly as I wanted to. I try to do one solo trip each year these days.”


6. Seeking Adventure
Lia Batkin, co-founder of In the Know Experiences, points to adventure travel as one of today’s biggest trends.

Road trip, anyone? Hotels are getting behind this movement. Marriott International’s new interactive map serves as a tool to help travelers easily book their national park road trips and visits. The interactive map marks national parks and monuments across the United States and conveniently pairs them with a Marriott International hotel to alleviate the stress of finding a hotel near each site.

THE US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego

Rachel Harrison expands on the shift towards a more active vacation. “People no longer want to brag about going someplace and lying on the beach,” she said. “They want to talk about what they learned and the experiences they had. Travel these days is a hybrid of adventure, educational experiences and then some relaxation.”

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