Curious about which new travel trends might dominate your Instagram feed this year? They’re shaping up to be more than just fleeting food trends or hyper-futuristic travel technology—some could change the way you travel for good.
Editor’s Note: For the latest version of this story, see 4 Key Travel Trends for 2019.
2018 Travel Trends to Watch
Here are the travel trends that have been turning heads, and how they might impact you in 2018 and beyond.
South Korea on the Rise
The 2018 Winter Olympics are sure to put South Korea on the map when Pyeongchang takes the world stage in February, and there are plenty of other reasons for travelers to start flocking to South Korea. Temples, palaces, cherry blossoms, and street food (read: kimchi) are just the beginning.
The “K beauty” trend, focused on skincare products originating in Korea, has recently taken social media and the beauty-blogosphere by storm, but ultra-moisturizing skincare treatments and sheet masks have long been a cornerstone of South Korean beauty culture. Intriguing natural ingredients like snail slime, bee venom, salmon eggs, seaweed, mushrooms, and more might be the travel trend to inspire many to skip the skincare aisle and book a luxe spa getaway in Seoul instead.
Last year saw a major spike in solo travel trends and an increase in solo-tour availability, and now 2018 is shaping up to be the year of women’s travel. In the wake of the #MeToo movement the focus on women’s experiences has extended to travel, with many providers touting their women-only tours and pointing to a recent rise in female-only bookings .
REI small-group tours are now about 60 percent female on average. REI Women’s Adventures head everywhere from New Zealand and Machu Picchu for hiking, to Puerto Rico and Baja for sea kayaking. The company has expanded its female-only tours (which are also led by women) to 19 offerings after seeing three times the interest it had forecasted for the tours in 2017. Women with a passion for the outdoors are looking to stick together in bucket-list destinations.
One of the newest culinary travel trends requires working a little for your meal. Connecting ecotourism and cooking classes, travelers are lining up to forage for local ingredients with an expert before heading into the kitchen. Hunting down truffles or herbs in forests and plucking scallops and seaweed from shorelines have become popular across the globe, from England and Portugal to Australia, Cape Town, and Abu Dhabi.
Think you’re not a cruise person? Uniworld Cruises shook up cruise travel trends recently when it announced a new millennial-only river cruising option: U by Uniworld for ages 21 to 45. DJ lounges, restaurants, and shore excursions will dominate experiences on the Rhine, Seine, and Danube—but with a much younger crowd than your typical cruise ship, and with about 120 passengers onboard each sailing. The first of its kind, the idea of millennial-only cruises might have legs and expand once U by Uniworld starts sailing in 2018.
Alternative Safari Destinations
Over-tourism concerns went from murmurs to resounding protests in destinations like Barcelona in 2017, and the push for sustainable travel trends is likely to intensify this year, even outside of Europe.
Wildlife-famous Cape Town is now suffering from a water shortage that could make travelers instead consider unsung safari destinations like Zambia for leopards, Rwanda for endangered mountain gorillas, and Botswana for an abundant elephant population.
New Fitness Trips
Active travel isn’t among the travel trends that are going away any time soon: Fitness trips are rapidly expanding their options. Intensifying adventure-tour offerings have evolved from trekking and hiking to cycling, marathon running, and rafting, kayaking, and sailing options from the likes of Intrepid Travel, REI Adventures, and G Adventures. It’s never been easier to find an active vacation that suits you while also crossing a destination off your bucket list.
Hyperloop Train Travel
“Hyperloop” travel, a near-supersonic-speed train tube network, has seemed like nothing more than a sci-fi novel idea since Tesla CEO Elon Musk floated the idea years ago—until recently. In late 2017 Musk expressed interest in finally executing the idea, and the project seems to have backers’ interest for development in 2018. Details are few, but industry experts seem excited by the prospect, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for any hyperloop travel trends that could make train travel glamorous again.
Climate change is becoming a more important travel trend with every passing year, and some destinations seeing major ecological changes like extreme temperatures and frequent flooding are beginning to feel as though they could soon be off-limits—making way for last-chance travel. From melting icefields and glaciers to Australia’s bleached and dying Great Barrier reef, travelers are setting out in droves to see things that may soon no longer be.
“Smart” Hotel Rooms
Have an Alexa at home? Welcome to the future: Hotel rooms are following suit ever since Aloft hotels incorporated voice-commanded rooms. “Smart” hotels may go even further than rooms you can ask to “close the blinds” or “turn off the lights.” Robot room service has become available in some hotels, and tech-focused brands like Yotel are expanding to the United States.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 8 Unexpectedly Affordable Vacations to Take in 2018
- Most Intriguing Places to Visit in 2018
- Winter Olympics 2018: What Travelers Need to Know