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The World’s Most Popular Travel Experiences, According to TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) recently released its 2018 Travel Trends Report, naming the most popular travel experiences, tours, and activities booked by its users last year. The data points to a shift toward non-traditional and experiential activities as travelers look to expand their options.

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That doesn’t mean travelers are neglecting the old standbys, however. The most-booked experiences include a skip-the-line pass for the Vatican Museums, St. Peters, and Sistine Chapel; the Chicago River Architecture Cruise; and admission to iconic sites including the Sagrada Familia and Eiffel Tower. Here are the rankings:

TripAdvisor’s Most Popular Travel Experiences, Globally

  • Skip the line: Vatican Museums, St Peter’s, Sistine Chapel
  • Chicago Architecture River Cruise
  • Skip the line: Ancient Rome and Colosseum Half-Day Walking Tour
  • Rome Hop-On, Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour
  • Priority Access: Barcelona Sagrada Familia Tour
  • Eiffel Tower Summit: Priority access with host
  • Warner Bros Studio: The Making of Harry Potter with Luxury Round-Trip Transport from London
  • Empire State Building Tickets
  • Murano, Burano, and Torcello half-day sightseeing tour
  • Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour

TripAdvisor’s Most Popular Travel Experiences in the U.S.

  • Chicago Architecture River Cruise
  • Empire State Building Tickets
  • NYC One World Observatory: Skip the line
  • USS Midway Museum: Skip the line (San Diego)
  • New York City PASS
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Guided Tour
  • Skydeck Chicago: Admission
  • Big Bus New York Hop-on, Hop-off
  • 9/11 Memorial Museum Admission
  • Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Tour

According to TripAdvisor, “historic and heritage experiences saw the most growth (+125 percent in bookings), and culinary travel is an up swinging trend: cooking classes and food tours both appeared among the top five categories, each with 57 percent bookings’ growth. By gross booking value, food tours saw the most growth in 2017.”

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U.S. travelers book more aquatic adventures as well. “Sunset cruises (+89 percent in bookings), snorkeling (+64 percent), sailing trips (+55 percent), catamaran cruises (+51 percent), and kayaking and canoeing experiences (+49 percent) all ranked in the year’s fastest-growing categories.”

It’s important to remember that these numbers reflect bookings made on TripAdvisor, as opposed to trends observed across booking sites. Still, the insight of a popular booking site can help travelers during the planning process. These activities are in higher demand and may be worth booking well in advance of your trip. Lists like this can also help travelers avoid overcrowded activities, if you’re not into crowds.

It’s also a good idea to shop around and read reviews to make sure you select a good provider. You don’t want to end up with random fly-by-night outfit capitalizing on a trend.

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the Boston travel guide.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "It's not revolutionary, but a small Moleskine notebook is my one travel must-have. It's great for noting things you want to remember and it takes up hardly any space in your bag."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Japan. I'd love to take a month off and visit the cities, temples, and countryside. I'm fascinated by the country's juxtaposition of ancient traditions and modern ambitions."

Travel Motto: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” –Terry Pratchett

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window."

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