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AMERICANS VISITING ABROAD “are asking for a more authentic, immersive experience,” says Misty Belles of Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies offering special services to Merrill Lynch clients. Luckily, authenticity can also be affordable. Belles points to the top five destinations on Virtuoso’s “Hot 10” list of 2018, based on the biggest increases in bookings since last year. Here’s what’s contributing to each place’s spot on the list, along with ideas on reducing the cost of your trip:
1. Greece: Tourism took a dip during its financial crisis, but visitors are finding they can’t stay away. Greece offers sensual overload in the best way, whether you’re enjoying a soul-satisfying meal at a taverna or escaping onto a secluded island with just you, the sun and the crystal-clear sea. “The food is gorgeous, the scenery is gorgeous,” Belles says. To save, search out the more off-the-beaten-path spots and book for the fall and spring.
2. Poland: While less popular than many of its fellow European nations, Poland has a historical and cultural depth that equals virtually any spot on the continent. Krakow, for instance, is home to the splendid Wawel Castle, a 16th Century renaissance palace turned art museum. Your dollar goes a very long way here—plus, as Belles says, you get “that Old World experience, without the feeling that you’re going to run into your next-door neighbor.”
3. Dominican Republic: The DR, as it’s known, has become one of the most convenient Caribbean destinations from most American cities, providing visitors with excellent resorts, first-rate golf and astonishing beaches, all at more-than-reasonable prices. Says Belles, “I had one of the best meals of my life there, for maybe a quarter of what I would have paid for it in the U.S.” Another plus: the DR was largely untouched by recent hurricanes.
4. New Zealand: It used to be that “people went to Australia, and then to New Zealand if they had the time,” Belles notes. That’s no longer the case. The terrain is “green, lush, a little bit wild, and a little bit tame—all at the same time,” she says. A New Zealand trademark: the idiosyncratic luxury lodges tucked into corners of its other-worldly landscape. Vacationing there is a splurge, but if you go during their winters (or, as they’re known in the Northern Hemisphere, summers), you can still enjoy temperatures generally in the 50s and 60s, along with significant savings.
5. Zambia: Victoria Falls, Zambia’s best-known attraction, has always drawn its share of awed tourists. But the recent uptick in visitors is due to something else: the country’s growing reputation as a different kind of safari destination. “You can canoe the Zambezi and be right on the water where the animals live,” Belles says. In the low season for safaris, primarily May and June, the price difference can be substantial.
No matter where in the world you travel, you can benefit from having the right mobile apps to keep your finances within close reach. Also, ask your advisor how the partnership between Merrill Lynch and the Virtuoso travel network could help you plan your next vacation—and how to find the right credit card to enhance your travel experience.