Booking Strategy

The Best Travel Destinations for Every Month

“When is the best time to go?” It’s usually the first question—and probably the most important question—we ask when planning a trip to a place we’ve been dreaming about. We want to know what the weather will be like, the cost of transportation and accommodations during our anticipated travel dates, which local events will take place, and more. Let this guide be an easy answer to all of those questions and a piece of vacation inspiration, too. Read on to discover the best places to travel by month.

Where to Go in January: Thailand

January is high season in Thailand—and with good reason. The weather is warm and consistently sunny in all regions of the country. In January, Chiang Mai hosts the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, a three-day celebration of colorful parasols (with fantastic photo ops galore). You might also consider going south to Ko Lipe, a small island with beaches and picturesque bungalows.

Additional Suggestions: Costa Rica, for green foliage and clear skies; Oman, for temperate weather and the Muscat Festival, a month-long celebration of culture and history that starts in mid-January.

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Where to Go in February: Colombia

As a tropical country, Colombia only has two seasons—dry and rainy—and February is part of the warm, sunny dry season in most of the country. Colombia’s average temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with even cooler temperatures in high-altitude cities such as Medellin and Bogata. In February (sometimes early March) you can celebrate Carnaval de Barranquilla in Atlantico.

Additional Suggestions: Trinidad and Tobago, for Carnival celebrations; Belize, for balmy weather and little chance of rain.

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[st_related]10 Best Things to Do in Colombia[/st_related]

Where to Go in March: Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands beckon outdoor enthusiasts no matter the time of year, but the month of March offers a few special reasons to visit. During this time, visitors have the chance to see several species nesting, including sea turtles, iguanas (both marine and land), tortoises, and even penguins. Sure, the sun is intense, but nothing beats an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and prime underwater visibility for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Additional Suggestions: New Zealand, for pleasant autumn weather; Washington, D.C., for the National Cherry Blossom Festival (late March into April).

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Where to Go in April: Morocco

Summers in Morocco can be unbearably hot, and winters quite cold. That’s why April is a prime time to plan a trip. You’ll enjoy comfortable temperatures coupled with magnificent scenery—particularly the fruit trees that blossom in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

Additional Suggestions: Spain, to avoid the summer heat and crowds; Paris, for the flowers at Luxembourg Gardens; Amsterdam, to see Keukenhof in full bloom.

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[st_related]10 Best Things to Do in Morocco[/st_related]

Where to Go in May: Peru

Winter in Peru starts in May, but it’s likely not the kind of winter you’re used to. During this time the climate is dry, and temperatures—which can climb into the 80s—are especially enjoyable in the highlands. This is the best time to visit famed Machu Picchu, where you won’t find as many crowds.

Additional Suggestions: South Africa, for warm, dry weather and good game viewing; Western Australia, for whale shark season.

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Where to Go in June: Iceland

Iceland is a no-brainer during the month of June (specifically late June) when travelers can take advantage of long days—commonly known as the midnight sun. Plan to be there on June 21, when the sun sets just after midnight and then rises again around 3:00 a.m. in Reykjavik. The highland roads in the mountains are also open during this time (they are closed over the colder months).

Additional Suggestions: Norway, for mild weather and long hours of sunlight; Malaysia, for prime snorkeling conditions; Hungary, for summer festivals galore.

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[st_related]Iceland with a Twist: What It’s Like to Explore the Land of Fire and Ice[/st_related]

Where to Go in July: French Polynesia

There are just two seasons in French Polynesia: winter and summer. The best time to visit is actually winter, which takes place between May and October. July, smack dab in the middle of the season, is an ideal time to visit, with low humidity and temperatures topping out in the 80s. Divers also enjoy excellent visibility. It’s expensive to visit in July (or any time, really), but many resorts—overwater bungalows included—offer package deals.

Additional Suggestions: Botswana, for dry weather and prime wildlife sightings; Barbados, for sugar cane harvest celebrations.

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Where to Go in August: Indonesia

If you’re looking for perfect weather just about anywhere in Indonesia, consider a visit in August. Head to the coast of Bali for temperatures in the 70s, or climb up to the volcanoes (just wear a jacket—the highlands and mountains are chilly in August).

Additional Suggestions: Edinburgh, for summer festivals; Slovenia, for hiking in the Julian Alps and swimming in turquoise lakes.

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Where to Go in September: Alaska

A bucket-list destination for many, Alaska sees the majority of its visitors—many of them families—in June, July, and August. Wait until school is back in session and plan a visit in September. The weather is pleasant, and the still-long days are perfect for exploring the fall foliage in Denali National Park, fishing for salmon, and even trying to spot the aurora borealis.

Additional Suggestions: Argentina, for hiking in the spring sunshine; Nova Scotia, for off-peak crowds and fresh lobster.

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Where to Go in October: Italy

Italy is mobbed with tourists throughout the year, but October is considered shoulder season, and a visit then means you’ll see slightly smaller crowds than you would in the busy summer months. You’ll also enjoy beautiful fall foliage in places like Tuscany, and cool weather on the beaches along the Amalfi Coast. Alba’s International White Truffle Fair starts in October—visit to sample the aromatic tuber and other delicacies, including wine.

Additional Suggestions: South Korea, for pleasant temperatures and colorful fall foliage; Greece, for moderate weather and smaller crowds.

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[st_related]7 Great Things to Do in Tuscany with Kids[/st_related]

Where to Go in November: Vietnam

November is an ideal time to visit both the northern and southern parts of Vietnam. You’ll find history and culture in the north, and plenty of opportunities to relax on the beach in the south.

Additional Suggestions: Japan, for colorful fall foliage; Mexico, for Day of the Dead celebrations.

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Where to Go in December: Germany

Yes, it’s cliche, but you have to visit Germany in December at least once in your lifetime. There’s a reason so many countries mimic its famed Christmas markets (weihnachtsmarkts). The pop-up events feature beautiful light displays, music, handmade gifts, and mulled wine to sip as you shop. Most German cities offer markets, but the mother of them all is Nuremberg’s—one of the country’s oldest.

Additional Suggestions: Austria, for its own impressive holiday markets; the U.S. Virgin Islands, for prime weather and water sports; New York City, for holiday displays and ice skating at Rockefeller Center.

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What to Pack

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.


Active Travel Arts & Culture Beach Budget Travel Cities Island Outdoors Weekend Getaways

10 Cheap Labor Day Weekend Getaways for 2019

Shorter days, cooler weather, and back-to-school sales are right around the corner—but don’t let summer come to an end without enjoying one last vacation. Book one of these cheap Labor Day weekend getaways to take advantage of low airfares, affordable hotel rates, and special events in a variety of U.S. and international locations.

Cheap Labor Day Weekend Getaways for 2019

[st_content_ad]Below are the 10 best places to go for Labor Day weekend this year. One tip to keep in mind: For travelers whose dates are flexible, the experts at booking site recommend flying out on Saturday, August 31, and returning Tuesday, September 3, for the best prices. Thursday, August 29, is the most expensive day to depart before the long weekend.

Editor’s note: All featured hotels had availability for Labor Day weekend at the time of publication. Thanks to Airfarewatchdog,,, and CheapOair for data and insight.

Chicago, Illinois

downtown chicago river and skyscrapers.

With a median fare of $204 round-trip (per Cheapflights data) and a central location that’s easily reached from most parts of the U.S., Chicago is one of the best Labor Day getaways for travelers looking for an urban escape. There’s a diverse slate of events in the city that weekend, from the Jazz Festival and the African Festival of the Arts to the Great American Lobster Fest at Navy Pier.

Want to catch a game? The Cubs are in town that weekend, playing at historic Wrigley Field. You can also tour the recently restored Robie House, designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. For more ideas, see SmarterTravel’s Chicago travel guide.

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Puerto Rico

flamenco beach puerto rico.

There are two affordable gateways for flights into Puerto Rico—Aguadilla (the median round-trip fare, according to Cheapflights, is $280) and San Juan ($314). Either one gives you access to the island’s beautiful beaches and unique culture. Ricky Radka, Senior Content and Deal Strategist at Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site, notes that you’ll find particularly reasonable fares from JetBlue strongholds such as Boston, New York, and Fort Lauderdale.

As the island continues to recover from Hurricane Maria, it’s welcoming visitors back to key sites such as El Yunque National Forest, Old San Juan, and the stunning Flamenco Beach. Eating at locally owned restaurants is one way you can support the island’s ongoing recovery—as well as enjoy a fantastic meal. Popular spots include Santaella (for upscale Caribbean cuisine), Caldera Cafe (coffee and light fare), and Cafe El Punto (Latin American dishes).

Americans don’t need to change money or bring a passport because Puerto Rico is part of the U.S.; however, you might want to buy hurricane travel insurance just in case.

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Las Vegas, Nevada

aerial view of las vegas fountains.

There’s never a bad time to visit Las Vegas, and Labor Day weekend is no exception. “Fierce competition amongst low-cost carriers like Sun Country, Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier in this top leisure market means there are often deals to be had,” notes Radka. “In some instances, you might be able to hit the jackpot with a traditional legacy carrier price matching with one of the no-frills airlines on head-to-head routes. As an example on Sun Country, flights from PDX to LAS on Friday to Monday are tallying in at $222, and from the carrier’s hub in MSP, trips to Vegas are $150 for a Friday to Tuesday itinerary.”

CheapOair lists the city as one of its most affordable Labor Day getaways, with average round-trip fares around $298. A quick search of hotels on TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) turns up numerous options under $150 a night for the holiday weekend, especially if you’re willing to stay off the Strip. also has Labor Day hotel deals, starting at $22 a night.

Yes, the weather will likely be hot this time of year, but there are lots of hotel pools where you can cool off—not to mention all the city’s indoor attractions such as shows, shopping, and celebrity chef restaurants. You’ll barely have to leave the air-conditioning.

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Ottawa, Canada

ottawa parliament buildings overlooking the river.

Cheapflights lists Ottawa as its most affordable international Labor Day vacation destination, with a median round-trip flight costing just $220. The strength of the U.S. dollar against the Canadian dollar means that Americans will get more for their money when it comes to hotel rates, restaurants, and shopping in the Canadian capital.

You can browse Ottawa’s numerous farmers’ markets, visit museums such as the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian War Museum, and tour the landmark Parliament buildings. Festivals happening near Ottawa over Labor Day weekend include Joy Fest and Festival de Montgolfieres de Gatineau, which features live music and hot air balloon rides.

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Orlando, Florida

universal studios ride orlando.

You don’t need to pay a fortune to enjoy one last family trip before the kids head back to school. The median Labor Day airfare to Orlando is just $177 round-trip, according to Cheapflights, and has gathered special hotel deals for the long weekend.

In addition to the city’s usual Disney attractions, Epcot’s 2019 International Food & Wine Festival starts August 29 and features global cuisine, chef demonstrations, family activities, and concerts. Access to the festival is included with theme park admission.

Want to spend part of your weekend outside of the Disney empire? There’s plenty to see in Orlando beyond the theme parks, including the Orlando Museum of Art and the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens.

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[st_related]What to Pack for Orlando[/st_related]

Mexico City, Mexico

chapultepec castle mexico city.

Labor Day weekend may be part of the wet season in Mexico City, but in an urban area with more than 150 museums, you’ll have no problem filling a rainy afternoon. Cheapflights pegs the median round-trip airfare to Mexico City at $308, and the city is bustling with affordable hotel and restaurant options. Radka recommends checking fares on low-cost carrier Interjet, which is offering nonstop Labor Day weekend flights from Dallas, Houston, Miami, Orlando, and Las Vegas from $250 – $320 round-trip. Don’t-miss sites include the 18th-century Chapultepec Castle, the Frida Kahlo Museum, and the Zocalo, one of the world’s largest public squares.

Nervous about traveling to Mexico? Although the U.S. State Department recommends against travel to certain parts of the country, Mexico City is currently rated as a Level 2 for safety—the same rating as France and Italy.

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[st_related]The 13 Safest Places in Mexico for Travelers[/st_related]

Los Angeles, California

los angeles palm trees and skyline at sunset.

If you want to combine arts, culture, and beach time during your Labor Day getaway, Los Angeles is the place to be—and with a median airfare of $211 round-trip, according to Cheapflights, it won’t break the bank. has gathered special Labor Day deals on Los Angeles hotels.

Must-see Los Angeles attractions include everything from the world-class art collection at the Getty Center to the glitzy shops of Rodeo Drive. You can also check out Labor Day weekend events such as the LA County Fair and the Pasadena Daydream Festival, headlined by the Pixies and the Deftones.

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St. Lucia

st lucia colorful houses and harbor with boats.

According to Cheapflights data, airfares to St. Lucia have dropped 28 percent since last year, to a current median price of $558 round-trip. Although St. Lucia has numerous high-end resorts, you’ll also find plenty of budget-friendly properties scattered around the island.

St. Lucia is a nature lover’s paradise, with hiking trails, botanical gardens, and even sulfur springs to explore. Or, if you like, you can spend your long weekend simply relaxing on stretches of sand like Anse Chastanet or Anse Cochon. As with Puerto Rico, you might want to buy travel insurance to protect yourself during hurricane season.

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[st_related]9 Fun Things to Do in St. Lucia[/st_related]

Denver, Colorado

people crossing the street in downtown denver.

Enjoy a Labor Day vacation full of outdoor adventures and mountain views in Denver. The median round-trip flight costs just $206, according to Cheapflights, and there are plenty of cheap or even free things to do in the area, from hiking scenic trails to browsing art galleries and studios in the Golden Triangle Creative District.

There’s a lot going on in Denver over Labor Day, including a beer festival, a music festival, and a fireworks display. The Rockies are also in town if you want to catch a baseball game at Coors Field.

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Vancouver, Canada

roller blader and bikers in stanley park vancouver.

The cost of living may be a little higher in Vancouver than in the other Canadian city on this list, but it’s still an affordable Labor Day weekend getaway, especially for Americans on the West Coast. (The median round-trip airfare is $317, according to Cheapflights.) Some of the city’s most popular places to visit are inexpensive or free, including Stanley Park and Granville Island Public Market.

Consider making a day trip to nearby Richmond to experience the Richmond World Festival, featuring live music, food trucks, a culinary stage, and cultural workshops.

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What to Wear on Your Labor Day Getaway

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Beach Fashion & Beauty

The Best Travel Swimsuits for Any Type of Vacation

Swimsuits. The mere word evokes either fear or excitement in your heart, depending on just how confident you are. But if you have an ocean, lake, or pool in your vacation future, you’re going to need one (unless you’re headed to a more risqué destination). Here are some of this season’s best swimsuits for every type of body to help you find something that will flatter you, whether you’re more of a lounger or a hardcore adventurer.

Affordable Swimsuits Under $50

Adore Me


Adore Me is a subscription-based clothing brand with most swimsuit styles available for less than $25. This style has removable pads and fully adjustable straps and comes in sizes XS to XL.


Cupshe swimsuits are available on Amazon, with many styles under $30. Styles range from this trendy two-piece to fuller coverage one-pieces.

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Target is my personal favorite for finding affordable swimsuits. The brand carries hundreds of styles available each season for men, women, and kids, all under $50.

Best Active Swimsuits

One-Piece Active Swimsuits

Sometimes a simple one-piece is all you need to double as your stylish and active swimsuit. Seafolly’s Active Deep-V Maillot One-Piece features sturdy support straps, removable cups, and simple cutout details in the front and back that make it a unique active option. It’s a little pricier, but worth the splurge since you’ll be able to wear it everywhere.

Active Swimsuit Rash Guards

Long-sleeve rash guards are a must-have for hours of surfing or swimming around unknown terrain. Invest in a long-sleeve swim top like UV Skinz 50 UPF water shirts and jackets. The Women’s Water Jacket is quick-drying and resistant to chlorine and salt, and it zips completely open in the front.

For men, the pullover Long Sleeve Sun & Swim Shirt has additional neck coverage, plus the same sun protection and water resistance.

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Hybrid Swimwear-Activewear

Want activewear that can double as swimwear? Men can rely on board shorts, and for women, some active swimsuits will do the trick. Volcom’s Racerback Sporty Tankini is essentially a water-friendly active top, and CharmLeak’s Fitness Swim Shorts are perfect for hikes or bike trips that turn into kayaking or swimming stops.

Swimsuits with Extra Coverage

Extra protection from sun, bugs, and other elements is possible with the right active swimsuit. Volcom’s Long Sleeve Bodysuit is ideal for surfing and kayaking in breezy or sunny conditions—it’ll keep your upper body protected and your legs free.

For men, surf brand O’Neill offers a lot more than just wetsuits: Try a UV-protection top that’s lightweight and quick-drying, like the Basic Skins Sun Shirt.

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Stylish Swimsuits for Vacation Trendsetters


prAna’s line of swimwear includes shorts, rash guards, cover-ups, and bathing suits (that even fit up to DD-cup coverage) for women, as well as select men’s swim trunks. The brand also has a handy swim finder to help you find the perfect style to fit your swimsuit needs.

Fair Harbor

Fair Harbor is a stylish and sustainably produced swimsuit brand that makes styles for women and men, as well as T-shirts, hats, and bags.


SummerSalt’s swimsuits are made of recycled material and have UPF 50+ protection. The brand makes stylish swimsuits for women and kids in a variety of trendy styles and bright colors.


Aerie by American Eagle Outfitters makes trendy and affordable swimsuits for all body types. The Bikini Mix & Match finder lets you see what style of bikini top works with a standard bikini bottom.

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Plus-Sized Swimsuits

Stylish Swimsuits for Plus-Sized Travelers 

Target offers a variety of two-piece styles for plus-size travelers, like this short-sleeve top style and solid-colored halter top.

Active Swimsuits for Plus-Sized Travelers

Plus-size active swimsuits can be secure one-pieces or versatile two-piece outfits. Always For Me’s Charlie Surplice Racerback Tankini Top looks like a workout outfit but is water-friendly. For a true suit sans shorts, Krinkle’s Chlorine-Resistant High Neck Tank has comfortable, wide straps and is perfect for the pool or outdoors.

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Specialty Swimsuits for Plus-Sized Travelers


The appropriately named website Swimsuits for All offers plus-size bikinis, one-pieces, swim dresses, and more for sizes 8 to 34. You’ll find fashionable travel swimwear here, including a line designed by plus-size model Ashley Graham.

More from SmarterTravel:

Beach Accessories

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Ashley Rossi, Caroline Morse, and Shannon McMahon contributed to this article.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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Beach Health & Wellness

Shark Safety Tips: Everything You Need to Know to Prevent or Survive a Shark Attack

There have been multiple headline-grabbing shark attacks this year, including some fatal ones. Along the coasts of the U.S., shark sightings are increasing at alarming rates. If you’re planning on a beach vacation this summer, here’s what you need to know about shark safety before you get in the water.

Shark Attack Facts

Although it may seem to be the opposite, there was actually a surprising decline in shark attacks in 2018, according to the International Shark Attack File. This database is maintained by scientists at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida and measures shark attacks over the years, dividing them into unprovoked and provoked incidents, broken down by country and fatal vs. non-fatal. Keep in mind that your risk of being killed in a shark attack is miniscule—approximately 1 in 3,749,067.

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Shark Safety Tips: How to Avoid Attacks

Sharks aren’t out to get you—in fact, they aren’t really interested in humans at all. Most attacks occur when a shark mistakes a human for a seal or other food source, so you want to avoid looking like a snack in the ocean. To avoid attacks, follow these shark safety tips:

  • Swim, surf, or paddle in groups, as most shark attacks target a solo person.
  • Stay close to shore in case you need help, but also know that sharks often hunt in shallow water.
  • Avoid being in the water at dusk or dawn, as these times are when sharks are more active and visibility is low.
  • Don’t make yourself ultra-visable: Sharks are attracted to contrasts. The International Shark Attack File scientists discourage wearing shiny jewelry (which can resemble fish scales), entering murky water, wearing bright-colored clothing, or showing off tan lines.
  • Do not enter the water near fishermen, as the sharks may be attracted to the bait.
  • Keep dogs out of the water.
  • Avoid areas near sandbars or steep drop-offs, which are where sharks tend to congregate.
  • Do not swim near seals or large schools of fish.
  • Try to avoid erratic movements, flailing, or splashing in the water.
  • Always listen to lifeguards and heed all signs and warning flags at a beach.
  • Check shark activity in your area before entering the water.

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Do Shark Deterrents Work?

There’s no shortage of products out there that claim to be able to protect you from a shark attack. You can purchase bracelets, chemical pouches, and electric devices if you want to feel safer in the water. But according to Tyler Bowling, Manager of the Florida Program for Shark Research at the Florida Museum of Natural History, these products are not effective 100 percent of the time: “Many of the shark deterrent devices on the market have been shown to have an effect on larger species such as white and tiger sharks. Additionally, these products are not tested on a large number of species. So what deters a tiger shark might not deter a cookiecutter shark and so on.”

How to Survive a Shark Attack

Most shark bites are accidental—the shark has mistaken a human for food and will let the victim go after the first bite. If the shark continues to attack, here’s what to do:

  • Fight back by hitting the shark in its most sensitive areas (the eyes, snout, or gills).
  • Get out of the water as soon as possible, as a shark may return for a second attack.
  • When swimming away, keep your movements as smooth and calm as possible to avoid attracting the shark’s attention again.

More from SmarterTravel


Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.

Beach Cities Family Travel Historical Travel Outdoors Road Trip

The One Thing You Should Do in Every U.S. State

If you could only choose one attraction to visit in each U.S. state, what would it be? I rounded up the top-rated cities, towns, and iconic sights in all 50 states (plus Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Washington, D.C.) and asked you to decide. Here’s what you told us.

(Click to enlarge)

50 states one thing to do

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Arts & Culture Beach

15 Great Summer Books to Read at the Beach in 2019

It’s not summer vacation without something good to read. If you’re looking for the best beach reads for those long days on the sand, check out this list of recent and upcoming releases to find the best summer books for 2019 in a variety of genres, from literary fiction to spine-tingling thrillers.

Disappearing Earth, Julia Phillips

Disappearing earth, julia phillip.s

Set on Russia’s remote Kamchatka peninsula, Disappearing Earth begins with the mysterious disappearance of two little girls. The novel explores how the community responds, with insights into the local culture set against a backdrop of the region’s natural beauty.

What People Are Saying: “Phillips, a Brooklyn resident and Montclair, N.J., native who lived in Kamchatka for two years, immerses readers in this region. It’s in the rich, humane characterizations; the plot’s gentle surprises; the reminders of the past; the rendering of the landscape.” – Entertainment Weekly

Recursion, Blake Crouch

Recursion blake crouch.

If you enjoy summer books with lots of twists and turns, slip Recursion into your beach bag. Neuroscientist Helena Smith is working to create a way for humans to retain their most precious memories, even in the face of dementia—but things go awry when people start being driven mad by false memories.

What People Are Saying: “Crouch effortlessly integrates sophisticated philosophical concepts—such as the relationship of human perceptions of what is real to actual reality—into a complex and engrossing plot. Michael Crichton’s fans won’t want to miss this one.” – Publishers Weekly

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, Anissa Gray

The care and feeding of ravenously hungry girls anissa gray.

In The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, the lives of three sisters are thrown into turmoil when the oldest sister and her husband are arrested. This family saga will keep you glued to the page.

What People Are Saying: “Anissa Gray’s debut novel … examines … cracks in the familial glass, giving readers a gripping and sharp story about what it takes to hold a family together when everything is falling apart.” – USA Today

Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault, Cathy Guisewite

Fifty things that aren't my fault cathy guisewite.

The cartoonist behind the classic comic strip Cathy has just released a collection of essays, Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault, that capture the ups and downs of womanhood and aging. Guisewite’s warm and humorous collection touches on everything from caring for parents in their 90s to dealing with mixed feelings about her own body.

What People Are Saying: “It’s a collection that isn’t likely to appeal to readers who were never ‘Cathy’ fans (Ack!), but the author offers a new way to savor the humor of her classic comic-strip character. ” – Kirkus Reviews

The Old Drift, Namwali Serpell

The old drift namwali serpell.

Weighing in at nearly 600 pages, this sprawling, genre-bending novel will keep you engrossed for your entire summer vacation. The Old Drift spans more than a century in the intertwined lives of three families in Zambia.

What People Are Saying: “Namwali Serpell’s vibrant, intellectually rich debut novel … is a multigenerational saga, stretching from the late 19th century to the near future, but the family tree gets so knotted that it complicates matters of legacy and inheritance. It is a story particular to Zambia, but also fiercely concerned with how all our lives will be remade by technology, which Serpell suggests is just old colonialist wine in new bottles.” – The Washington Post

Ayesha at Last, Uzma Jaluddin

Ayesha at last uzma jaluddin.

Ayesha at Last is hardly the first modern-day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, but it feels fresh thanks to its charming characters and unique setting in a Muslim-Canadian community. Romance brews between Ayesha, a schoolteacher who’s not interested in an arranged marriage, and Khalid, who expects his mother to find him a bride but can’t seem to stop thinking about Ayesha.

What People Are Saying: “Scheming aunties, headstrong cousins, sweet grandparents, Pakistani-Canadian masala, and good old-fashioned romance are just the right ingredients for a delicious and entertaining novel.” – Kirkus Reviews

My Lovely Wife, Samantha Downing

My lovely wife samantha downing.

The two main characters in My Lovely Wife live a seemingly ordinary life in the suburbs, complete with good jobs and a couple of kids, but there’s a dark secret at the heart of their marriage: their predilection for murder. You won’t be able to put this disturbing thriller down.

What People Are Saying: “In Downing’s skillful hands, My Lovely Wife takes several wild turns, each bleaker than the last, and its sturdy construction (strong characters, deliberate pacing) bolsters the insanity.” – Entertainment Weekly

Biloxi, Mary Miller

Biloxi mary miller.

In Biloxi, 63-year-old Louis McDonald finds himself in a rut after his wife leaves him and his father passes away—but things start to change after he adopts a mutt named Layla. This insightful and gently funny tale is one of the year’s best summer books for dog lovers.

What People Are Saying: “Miller’s charming and funny novel grows complicated in a hilarious sort of way, a way that you don’t want to examine too closely, with con men and drunkards, minor story lines that go nowhere, and all kinds of implausible twists and turns. But the ride is so much fun that you’d be a spoilsport for demanding that it all add up.” – Star Tribune

Out East: Memoir of a Montauk Summer, John Glynn

Out east: memoir of a montauk summer john glynn.

The memoir Out East captures a summer in the Hamptons as told by a young man struggling with loneliness. Glynn writes movingly about the friends who share a rental house in Montauk and the evolution of his own sexual identity.

What People Are Saying: “This group of friends receive each other in all the Montauk messiness, from early morning runs for coffee to long conversations on the roof. They drink together, philosophize together, go to the beach together, admire each other and watch each other make terrible decisions. While reading this book, you are ultimately grateful that they have each other and are reminded of the precariousness of the emotional inner life that undulates just beneath the surface, even for people who look as though they have it all.” – BookPage

The Island of Sea Women, Lisa See

The island of sea women lisa see.

Looking to “dive” into a fascinating historical novel? Try The Island of Sea Women, which follows two best friends living on Korea’s Jeju Island as they learn to work in the ocean as part of a group of all-female divers. Their lives are upended by World War II, the Korean War, and everything after.

What People Are Saying: “A stupendous multigenerational family saga, See’s … latest also provides an enthralling cultural anthropology highlighting the soon-to-be-lost, matriarchal haenyeo phenomenon and an engrossing history of violently tumultuous twentieth-century Korea.” – Booklist Online

The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive Fungus, Ryan Jacobs

The truffle underground ryan jacobs.

Truffles are one of the world’s most sought-after luxury ingredients, but most foodies have no idea just how much effort and intrigue go into getting those delicious fungi onto their plates. In The Truffle Underground, an investigative journalist digs into the surprising crimes and corruption at the heart of the truffle industry.

What People Are Saying: “This deeply researched and eye-opening account of the lengths people will go for wealth, gratification, and a taste of the prized fungus will captivate readers.” – Publishers Weekly

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, Kelly Harms

The overdue life of amy byler kelly harms.

After three exhausting years as a single mom, Amy Byler jumps at the chance to spend the summer in New York City when her estranged husband asks to spend some time reconnecting with their kids. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler provides a fun, vicarious getaway for overworked moms everywhere.

What People Are Saying: “A laugh-out-loud funny, pitch-perfect novel that will have readers rooting for this unlikely, relatable and totally lovable heroine, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is the ultimate escape—and will leave moms everywhere questioning whether it isn’t time for a #momspringa of their own.” – New York Journal of Books

Lot, Bryan Washington

Lot bryan washington.

Many of the interconnected short stories in Lot, the debut collection from a promising young writer, are told from the point of view of a biracial young man who’s keeping his sexuality a secret from the rest of his family. Other stories capture a panoply of diverse characters across the city of Houston.

What People Are Saying: “Perhaps the most important character in Lot is Houston itself, and Washington does a brilliant job making the city come to life in all its imperfect glory. His book is an instant classic of Texas literature, but it’s more than that—it’s a stunning work of art from a young writer with immense talent and a rare sense of compassion, and one of the strongest literary debuts in several years.” – NPR

The Au Pair, Emma Rous

The au pair emma rous.

As she’s going through her late father’s belongings, Seraphine Mayes finds a mysterious family photo, taken on the day she and her twin brother were born: her mother, holding only one baby. Where was the other twin, why did their mother kill herself later that day, and why did their older brother’s au pair flee the scene? The Au Pair takes the reader on a twisting, turning journey to find the answers.

What People Are Saying: “The ambiance of Summerbourne and the family that inhabits it, from the folly to the gardens to the old gardener who speaks of fairies, adds that gothic touch to what might otherwise have been a generic family-mystery thriller. A modern gothic suspense novel done right.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Farm, Joanne Ramos

The farm joanne ramos.

The Farm, one of the year’s most buzzed-about books, tackles the idea of surrogate pregnancy taken to a chilling extreme. The “farm” of the title is a retreat where wealthy clients pay to house the women carrying their unborn children. Though the surrogate mothers are paid generously, they’re also strictly monitored and unable to leave the retreat. The book has drawn comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale.

What People Are Saying: “Some novels are born with book club DNA, great narratives that can also spur energetic discussions. Debate will rage around the treatment of the young women at the Farm, but the novel’s complex melange of personalities brings a somewhat improbable story stirringly to life.” – NPR

How to Style Yourself on the Beach this Summer

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Adventure Travel Booking Strategy Cities Family Travel

The Busiest Summer Travel Destinations for 2019, According to AAA

Summer, also known as high season for travel, is almost here. And according to AAA just about everyone is poised to hit the road. The organization predicts two-thirds of what it categorizes as “leisure travelers” plan to take vacations this summer, meaning millions of Americans will be hitting the road.

But where are they going? Glad you asked. Here are the destinations that are bound to be busy.

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According to AAA, these are the top-booked destinations for summer 2019, defined as June 1 through August 15. Last year’s ranking is in parentheses, to show which are the same and which have moved up (or down).

Busiest Summer Travel Destinations 2019

  1. Orlando, Florida (1)
  2. London, England (5)
  3. Rome, Italy (2)
  4. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (3)
  5. Dublin, Ireland (4)
  6. Paris, France (7)
  7. Seattle, Washington (9)
  8. Anchorage, Alaska (8)
  9. Honolulu, Hawaii (6)
  10. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (12)

It’s likely no surprise that Orlando dominates the list, as always drawing masses of enchanted, sweating families to its fantastical parks and attractions. AAA notes that Europe remains a popular destination as well, with London gaining popularity alongside mainstays like Paris and Rome.

Seattle makes the list not only on its own merit but as part of the ever-popular Alaskan cruise circuit, along with Vancouver and Anchorage.

For travelers who prefer to avoid the crowds at these top destinations, AAA offers some suggestions: “Other destinations to watch this year that didn’t quite make the top 10 list include Montego Bay, Jamaica; Calgary, Canada; Amsterdam, Netherlands; and Anaheim, California,” said Paula Twidale, vice president of AAA Travel.

Readers, are you planning to travel this summer? Will you be hitting one of these top destinations? Comment below.

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10 Fun Things to Do in Wildwood, New Jersey

There’s nothing like summer at the Jersey Shore, where you can spend your days relaxing on the beach and your evenings playing mini golf, riding roller coasters, and eating ice cream on the boardwalk. But while the beach and the boardwalk are the main draws, there are many other fun things to do in Wildwood, New Jersey—one of the most popular family resorts on the state’s southern coast.

The Best Things to Do in Wildwood, NJ

[st_content_ad]If you get restless sitting on the beach, active options in Wildwood, New Jersey, include biking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. History buffs will appreciate Wildwood’s collection of 1950s and ’60s architecture. And there are plenty of day trip possibilities if you want to add a change of scene to your Wildwood vacation.

A note on geography: What many people think of as Wildwood, NJ, is actually three municipalities that share an island: Wildwood Crest, Wildwood (also known as Wildwood by the Sea), and North Wildwood. Cresse Avenue divides Wildwood from Wildwood Crest, and 26th Avenue marks the boundary between Wildwood and North Wildwood.

[viator_tour destination=”22324″ type=”3-mod” tours=”14138P3,61661P6,45557P115″]

Each municipality has a slightly different vibe—Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood have a quieter, more residential feel than lively Wildwood itself, where you’ll find the big amusement parks and the bulk of the boardwalk. But each town runs seamlessly into the next, so you can take advantage of all the fun things to do in New Jersey’s Wildwoods, regardless of where you stay.

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Enjoy the Beach

Wildwood new jersey beach

During peak season at some New Jersey beaches, it can feel like you’re elbow to elbow with the family under the next umbrella. That’s not a problem in the Wildwoods, home to the state’s widest beaches. Here, it’s easy to find your own personal stretch of sand for sunbathing, reading, building sandcastles, or playing cornhole.

Wildwood Beach has recently started allowing beachgoers to park right on the beach, for a fee that starts at $10 per day (it goes higher during special events). And if you’re not up for the long walk to the water across the hot sand, you can hire a beach taxi to cart you and your boogie board to the waves. Or you can head to North Wildwood, where the beaches are significantly narrower than those in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.

Bonus: Access to Wildwood beaches is free all year long.

Hit the Boardwalk


Wildwood Boardwalk stretches about two miles from Cresse Avenue in the south to 15th Avenue in the north. During summer, it’s a kaleidoscope of activity: Kids scream from the tops of roller coasters, bright yellow Sightseer trams trundle by with their perpetual refrain (“Watch the tram car, please.”), seagulls wheel overhead, and the air is redolent with the sweet smells of funnel cake and cotton candy.

The boardwalk’s shops, arcades, amusement parks, golf courses, and eateries can easily keep you entertained all day long. If you get tired, hop aboard one of the eco-friendly electric tram cars, which run the length of the boardwalk, typically from 11:00 a.m. until whenever the amusement parks close that day. You can pay per ride ($3.50), purchase a hop-on-hop-off daily wristband ($7), or buy a book of single-ride tickets ($15 for 5; $29 for 10; $60 for 25). These iconic tram cars have been shuttling beachgoers and up and down Wildwood’s boardwalk since the summer of 1949.

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Ride the Rides and Slide the Slides

Three massive piers stretch from Wildwood’s boardwalk across the beach, featuring roller coasters, water slides, and other rides of all sizes—including a giant Ferris wheel that provides panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean and Wildwood, NJ. Families will never run out of things to do at Morey’s Piers, encompassing three amusement park areas and two water parks.

Offerings for little ones include an old-timey carousel and kid-sized trains and boats. Thrill seekers should head to Adventure Pier for a heart-pounding ride on the Skycoaster, which hurtles you more than 100 feet into the air above Wildwood Beach.

Take a Morning Bike Ride

wildwood jersey bikers

Biking is one of the most popular things to do in Wildwood, thanks to the island’s many miles of dedicated bike paths. You can pedal the entire length of the island from the Wildwood Crest Dunes Bike Path up onto the boardwalk and then along the Mulberry Bike Path and seawall in North Wildwood, for a 12-mile round trip. (Note that bikes are not permitted on the boardwalk after 11:00 a.m. on weekdays or 10:30 a.m. on weekends.)

Bring your own wheels, or rent bicycles or surreys from local operators like Zippy’s Bikes, Crest Bike Rental, and D R Bradley Bike Rentals.

[st_related]Are E-Bikes the Best or Worst Thing to Happen to Bicycle Tours?[/st_related]

Behold a Blast from the Past


What sets the Wildwoods apart from just about any other Jersey Shore community is its collection of motels, diners, and other historical buildings from the 1950s and early ’60s. Neon signs, plastic palm trees, bright colors, and angular roofs are hallmarks of this retro architectural style, dubbed “Googie architecture,” or “Doo Wop architecture,” after the music of the era.

You can learn more at the Doo Wop Preservation League Museum, housed in a former 1960s diner. This small, colorful museum features a collection of signs, furniture, and memorabilia from the Doo Wop era. The museum also runs “Back to the ’50s” trolley tours on select summer nights to show visitors the best Doo Wop architecture around town. Call (609) 729-4000 for information and reservations.

Can’t get enough Doo Wop? Stay in one of the Wildwoods’ dozens of midcentury-style motels, including the Starlux Boutique Hotel in Wildwood, Caribbean Motel in Wildwood Crest, or Lollipop Motel in North Wildwood.

Savor a Great Meal


Think “Jersey Shore food,” and you’ll probably think pizza and ice cream. Of course, you can find plenty of both in Wildwood, NJ: Try Sam’s Pizza Palace, which has been serving up great slices since 1957, or Cool Scoops for sweet treats in a ’50s-style ice cream parlor. But Wildwood also has plenty of other options for hungry travelers.

One favorite fine-dining option in Wildwood, NJ, is Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grill, where you can enjoy seafood and steak on a deck overlooking the bay; come at sunset for great views. Pacific Grill Wildwood, for its part, offers a reasonably priced three-course prix-fixe menu nightly, along with à la carte dishes such as crabcakes and braised short ribs.

For more casual fare in Wildwood, NJ, head to Maui’s Doghouse, where you can choose from more than 30 hot dog toppings, like beer-cooked sauerkraut, homemade chili, spicy brown mustard, and spinach sauteed in garlic and white wine. The final product comes to you in a plastic dog bowl. Also in North Wildwood is The Surfing Pig, serving up burgers, barbecue, and seafood with a side of lovely bay views.

Get on the Water


In the Wildwoods, the ocean and bay offer more than just pretty views. Fun things to do in Wildwood, NJ, on the water include fishing, kayaking, surfing, and wildlife watching. You can even take a swashbuckling “pirate cruise.”

The Starlight Fleet offers fishing trips as well as whale- and dolphin-watching excursions. At Lakeview Docks, you can rent WaveRunners, kayaks, fishing boats, swan-shaped pedal boats, and standup paddleboards. And Ocean Outfitters offers surfing lessons and board rentals.

Play a Round of Golf


There are several golf courses within an easy drive of Wildwood, NJ. In Cape May Court House, about a 15-minute drive from downtown Wildwood, Laguna Oaks offers 10 holes spread across 200 acres. And the beautiful 18-hole course at Cape May National Golf Club was built around a private bird sanctuary.

If mini-golf is more your thing, you don’t have to look far. Popular courses in Wildwood, NJ, include Island Miniature Golf, which also has a rock-climbing wall; Dragon’s Lair Mini Golf, a medieval-themed indoor blacklight course; and Harbor Light Golf, which also sells ice cream.

Check Out Special Events in Wildwood, NJ


Some of the best things to do in Wildwood, NJ, only happen once a year. Wildwoods International Kite Festival kicks off summer on Memorial Day weekend, followed by other annual events like the National Marbles Tournament in June, the New Jersey State Barbecue Championship in July, and the Wildwoods Baby Parade in August. Autumn brings the Wildwoods Food & Music Festival and the Fabulous ’50s & Beyond Weekend, both held in October.

For more information about what’s on during your trip, refer to the Wildwoods’ events calendar.

Take a Day Trip from Wildwood, NJ


The Victorian charms of Cape May are just a 20-minute drive from Wildwood, NJ. Here, you can bike through the historic district, take a carriage ride, or visit the Cape May Lighthouse. The Cape May County Park & Zoo makes a fun—and free—day trip with children.

If casinos and big-name entertainment are more your things, Atlantic City is less than an hour’s drive from Wildwood, NJ.

Ready to hit the beach? See What to Pack for a Jersey Shore Vacation: 28 Essentials from SmarterTravel’s sister site, What to Pack.

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Sarah Schlichter traveled to the Wildwoods as a guest of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Adventure Travel Beach Experiential Travel Island Luxury Travel Outdoors Romantic Travel

10 Gorgeous Beaches You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

[st_content_ad]South Beach, Bondi, Myrtle, Copacabana: World-famous beaches that have become a household name are revered for good reason—but they’re sure to pack in the crowds, too.

The Best Hidden Beaches You’ve Never Heard Of

If you want a jaw-dropping shoreline without the sunburned tourists and splashing masses, head for one of these lesser-known gems that are just as dazzling—even if you’ve never heard of them.

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Playa Negra: Vieques, Puerto Rico

Palm trees black sand beach vieques puerto rico

The idyllic beaches of San Juan are enough of a getaway for most people, but the more remote beaches on the smaller islands off Puerto Rico are well worth the trip. Vieques, known for calm snorkeling coves and the enchanting wild horses that roam the island, is also home to a hidden black sand beach, Playa Negra. The soft, dark sand makes this beach as nice a spot for horseback riding as it is for lounging in the sun.

Where to Stay: El Blok Hotel is one of Vieques’ few waterfront hotels, and just a five-minute taxi ride from Playa Negra.

Navagio Beach: Zakynthos, Greece

Navagio beach zakynthos greece

You’ve probably seen this little-known but much-photographed beach before, but might not know its name. With its turquoise water, sweeping white cliffs, and a rusted-over shipwreck plopped on the sand, Navagio (meaning shipwreck) Beach is a popular spot for visitors to the Greek Isles. But, it’s difficult to reach: A lookout point above it is more accessible than the cove itself, which you’ll need to sail into if you want to swim or peer into the shipwreck.

Where to Stay: Since you’ll need to sail there in order to reach it, Navagio Beach is isolated from most Zakynthos hotels. But Zakynthos Town, where most visitors arrive, has plenty to choose from, including the affordable Hotel Strada Marina, for waterfront views and a central location.

Shell Beach: Denham, Western Australia

Shell beach denha western australia

Sandy beaches sound ideal until you’ve seen one that’s covered entirely in tiny white shells. Bring your flip flops to Denham, Australia’s famed Shell Beach, for a unique beach walk on the western coast’s Shark Bay. The sparkling cockles that cover this area can be as much as 29 feet deep in some places, and at low tide the flat beach is a vast expanse of white shoreline and shallow tide pools.

Where to Stay: The RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort offers comfortable digs on sprawling surroundings where you can spot wildlife like dolphins and emus.

Cox Bay Beach: Vancouver Island, Canada

Cox bay beach vancouver island canada

Flanked by the wild natural scenery of Pacific Rim National Park, Cox Bay Beach’s position on the west coast of Canada’s Vancouver Island makes for ideal surfing conditions year-round (hence its other name, Surf Beach). Take a forest path to one of the beach’s narrow cliff paths for access to the flat, wide Tofino coastline, and keep an eye out for giant drift logs and sand dollars.

Where to Stay: The Meares Vista Inn lives up the name with sweeping mountain and water views.

Mirissa Beach, Sri Lanka

Boats on a tropical beach mirissa south sri lanka

For a tropical beach getaway that’s as scenic as Thailand without the overwhelming crowds, Sri Lanka’s beaches will make you feel like you dove into a postcard. Mirissa Beach on the tear-drop-shaped island’s south coast faces the expansive Indian Ocean for surf-worthy waves and uninterrupted sunset views. Post up with an umbrella or in a palm-tree hammock by day for warm sun and sand. At night, head to the beach’s many open-air, tiki-style bars to watch the tide roll in.

Where to Stay: The boutique Triple O Six Hotel’s rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows, and you can go luxe for less thanks to Sri Lanka’s favorable exchange rate.

Camilo Beach: Lagos, Portugal

Camilo beach lagos portugal

Some of Europe’s best beaches are in Portugal’s Algarve Region, where white-sand beaches, rocky cliffs, and brightly colored fishing towns echo Italy’s Amalfi Coast. In the beach town of Lagos, descend the wooden steps to Camilo Beach (or Praia Camilo) for a day of lounging on soft sand and exploring stone arches in the sea cliffs. Switch into adventure mode by booking a boat tour of the bay that can bring you into the nearby grottoes and sea caves that drain at low tide.

Where to Stay: The Carvi Beach Hotel Algarve is a short walk from Praia Camilo and overlooks Praia Dona Ana, a rocky cove worth exploring by boat.

Nungwi Beach: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Nungwi beach zanzibar tanzania

Beach getaways don’t get much more exotic than Zanzibar, the archipelago of Tanzania, home to famously idyllic beaches and the cultural trading hub of Stone Town. Spend an afternoon at Nungwi Beach on Zanzibar Island’s northern point for tidepool starfish, fisherman watching, waterfront dining options, and to spot the occasional farm cow wandering by. Most importantly, don’t miss the pink-hued beach sunset.

Where to Stay: The DoubleTree by Hilton Resort Zanzibar is situated on Nungwi Beach, so you’ll never have to part with the view of this idyllic secret beach.

Dry Tortugas National Park: Florida

Fort at dry tortugas national park florida

A bucket list spot you’ll want to see before it disappears, Dry Tortugas National Park sits 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, and is a piece of military history floating in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico’s rising sea waters—but 19th-century Fort Jefferson’s brick interior can still be toured today. The white sand beaches of Dry Tortugas are a popular spot for snorkeling, camping, and scuba diving. You can also walk the seawalls of the fort, which will put you right over the shallow turquoise waters.

Where to Stay: Dry Tortugas is remote, but a good choice among Key West hotels is the stylish Havana Cuba at Key West for its massive pools, outdoor hammocks, and colorful decor.

Tulum National Park: Quintana Roo, Mexico

Tulum el castillo quintana roo mexico

Don’t want to settle for views from a cabana? Head to this national park on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Outside of tourist-addled Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo’s Tulum National Park boasts beachfront fun, protected sea turtles, and Mayan ruins at an archaeological site you can explore. That is if the sea cliffs and white sand aren’t enough.

Where to Stay: One of the closest hotels to Tulum’s archaeological site is the beach-nestled Diamante K, which has open-air villas, authentic Mexican food, and luxe amenities, all on a private stretch of shoreline.

Anse Source d’Argent: La Digue, Seychelles

sunset anse source d'argent la digue seychelles

On one of the world’s most remote island chains lies one of the world’s most photographed beaches. Anse Source d’Argent’s smooth rock formations, turquoise waters, and colorful fish make it feel a world away—which, at the center of the Indian Ocean, it is for many travelers.

Where to Stay: Closest to Anse Source d’Argent is Le Repaire Boutique Hotel’s central, cozy beachfront digs–complete with free breakfast.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel and is always looking for a new secret beach to visit. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.


Booking Strategy Cities

10 American Summer Destinations to Visit Before They Get Too Expensive

Summer may be in full swing, but it isn’t too late to plan a getaway or snag a travel deal. New analysis from financial servicer First Data highlights some cities that are growing in popularity as summer destinations (and some that aren’t) to help you find the best deals.

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First off, when we say “up-and-coming,” we aren’t talking about cities you’ve never heard of. The data shows where people are spending more money year-over-year, which indicates an fast increase in popularity and, in all likelihood, stronger consumer confidence. So don’t be surprised by the well-known locales included.

The Fastest-Growing Summer Destinations

The large-market summer travel destinations that are growing the fastest are:

  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Seattle, WA

The small-market summer travel destinations that are growing the fastest are:

  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Providence, RI
  • Salisbury, MD
  • Virginia Beach, VA

Some Familiar Faces

Among large cities, Boston spending grew the most at almost 10 percent, led by a 14.7 percent jump in restaurant spending. Boston is already a popular destination, especially in the summer, but this data suggests an increase in people coming for the city’s great dining scene in addition to the history and other attractions.

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Other big cities with significant spending increases include Los Angeles (4.5 percent), Seattle (4 percent), San Diego (3.2 percent), and Chicago (2.7 percent).

Among small cities, Providence, Rhode Island, saw a 12.1 percent increase in spending, while Salisbury, Maryland and Myrtle Beach also made the list. Providence, surprisingly, is the fastest growing market for international travelers.

Most Popular Activities

Overall, restaurants and “leisure” activities like golf, amusement parks, and museums drove the most growth in spending. That’s likely the result of increased foot traffic and rising costs, so travelers should be thoughtful when planning a vacation budget.

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This data also suggests that competition could be high for sought-after restaurants and attractions. In a city like Boston, for example, which has built a reputation for being a food destination, you might want to make reservations well ahead of time for popular spots, and keep an eye out for deals. Same goes for L.A. and its popular tourist attractions, some of which may have limited or timed entry only.

The other main spending driver was simply travel, indicating an increase year-over-year in the costs of getting to and around certain cities. According to FirstData, spending on both gas and “travel” increased, the latter of which includes travel to the destination and on-the-ground costs like taxis and public transportation.

Are these cities on your summer travel list? Comment below.

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Beach Fashion & Beauty Packing

Ultimate Sun Protection That’s Good for the Environment (and Still Stylish)

Recent studies prove chemicals in many sunscreens are damaging the environment, especially our coral reefs. And while sun protection is a must for almost every type of vacation, there are environmentally friendly ways to do it. But how do you decode the claims? Many brands that claim to be “environmentally-friendly” without earning the claim, and terms like UPF can be confusing (read more here). I’ve done the research so you can confidently trust these brands and products for true sun protection.

So, toss any sunscreen with oxybenzone in it (Hawaii even recently banned sunscreens with the chemical) and instead pack some of these products to help protect yourself from the sun.

Coolibar UPF 50+ Women’s Printed Beach Shawl

Coolibar beach shawl


[st_content_ad]All of Coolibar’s products have a UPF rating of at least 50+, so you know you’re protected. The brand also was the first clothing company to receive The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation for sun-protective clothing. The Beach Shawl is a great multi-functional piece of sun protection to throw in your beach bag (or to keep warm on the plane).

[st_related]8 Sun Safety Tips You Need to Know When Traveling[/st_related] 

Mad Hippie Facial SPF

Mad hippie facial spf

This 100 percent natural skin care line makes an award-winning and popular facial sunscreen, Mad Hippie Facial SPF. The main ingredient is zinc oxide, which is a safe and effective broad-spectrum, physical blocking agent. Other ingredients include red raspberry seed oil, avocado oil, carrot seed oil, vitamins C and E, and ferulic acid. 

Shihreen UV Protective Full Brim Hat

Shihreen brim hat

A hat is a must for face and scalp sun protection, but can be challenging to pack. Shireen’s UV Protective Full Brim Hat (available on the socially-conscious brand The Grommet) is made of a cotton blend fabric that bounces back when stuffed in a bag.

[st_related]Essential Multipurpose Tools for Travelers[/st_related] 

Zanni Dresses

Zanni dress

I recently tested out these dresses and discovered the technical fabric is a dream to wear for travel. Zanni’s fabric actively shields against UV rays and is sourced from a sustainable mill in Italy. Overall these dresses are stylish, minimalist, and trans-seasonal. 

BoomBoom Athletica Bubble Mesh Hoodie

BoomBoom mesh hoodie

Founded as an alternative to big name athletic brands by ultra-marathoner Ann Johansson, BoomBoom Athletica uses UV-protective fabrics from specialized factories in the E.U.. Select styles are available with Nordstrom and I love this versatile hoodie—it’s cool enough to wear in the heat and stylish enough to wear outside of the gym.

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SmartWool Men’s Everyday Exploration Short Sleeve Henley & Women’s Merino 150 Baselayer Top

SmartWool shirts

Believe it or not, merino wool is actually a cooling fabric in the summer as it has moisture management, breathability, and odor resistance. Merino wool is also naturally UV-blocking, and SmartWool stands behind its “sheep to shop” supply chain partners.

While the brand is known for socks, many of its tops are great for travel and outdoor activities. This short sleeve Henley from SmartWool for guys is quick-drying, versatile, and moisture-wicking (in addition to offering UV-blocking sun protection). Ladies, check out the Merino 150 Baselayer short sleeve top, available in stylish patterns and colors.

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Sunski Seacliff Polarized Sunglasses

Sunski sunglasses

Eco-conscious brand Sunski delivers affordable, lightweight, and environmentally-friendly sun protection for your eyes. The frames are made from recycled plastic and the brand donates one percent of sales to environmental non-profits. All Sunski shades are polarized and prices start at just $55. The Seacliff unisex style is versatile in its look and function. 

DYLN Living Water Bottle

DYLN water bottle

Reduce plastic waste and protect yourself from the dehydrating effects of the sun with a reusable water bottle . The DYLN Living Water Bottle alkalizes water via a diffuser. Drinking alkalized water helps to maintain your body’s acid-alkaline homeostasis and has health benefits like improving memory, promoting cardiovascular health, aiding with digestion, and boosting the immune system. It also “micro-clusters” the water to help with greater hydration. The replaceable diffuser lasts for 400 refills and the bottle is stainless steel, free of BPA and plastic.

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Playa Natural Endless Summer Spray

Playa haircare

Protect your hair and scalp with a natural UV filter shield. Playa’s Endless Summer Spray gives you “beach hair” while filtering out harmful rays. Playa’s products are all paraben-, sulfate-, and cruelty-free, so you can feel good about your purchase. 

Aella Ankle Skinny Pant

Aella pant

The Matte Skin fabric on Aella’s pants and blazers is UPF/UV-protective, as well as stretchy, wrinkle-resistant, breathable, and even machine-washable. Aella makes comfortable and sun protective work wear, so you can head to a rooftop happy hour after the office with no worries. I tested out the Ankle Skinny Pant, which have the comfort of leggings but the look of trousers.

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Thanaka Powder

Thankaka powder

If you’ve seen photos of people in Burma wearing matte-yellow patterns or designs on their cheeks, foreheads, or noses, you’ve seen thanaka. The powder, which is made of pulverized bark, is revered for its sun protection and antibacterial qualities. Since thanaka powder naturally filters harmful UV light, it can be used as an organic and natural sunscreen when mixed with water. On Etsy you can buy it as a pure powder with no preservatives. Since it’s made from bark, it’s naturally vegan and cruelty-free.

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10 Perfect Boutique Hotels in New England for Your Summer Vacation

From glamping in Maine to a Boston stay-cation, here are the best boutique hotel experiences in New England to have this summer.

AWOL, Provincetown, MA


[st_content_ad]AWOL is the latest boutique hotel in New England from Lark Hotels. Located in gay-friendly and always-lively Provincetown, this renovated inn (formerly Inn at the Moors) is in the perfect spot in town. The West End is a quick walk to downtown excitement but you’ll find seclusion overlooking the town’s moors. With typical stylish Lark designs and amenities, AWOL is the ideal home base for a trip with friends, family, or your partner. Slated to open at the end of June, you can find deals on grand opening bookings.

Don’t Miss: The outdoor area with a pool, bar, and lounge area.

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Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina, RI


While Gurney’s has reached resort-status, it still maintains the values of a boutique hotel and its roots as a 1920s inn in Montauk. Gurney’s Newport is the sister property of the Montauk location, and the new resort is located on Goat’s Island in Newport Harbor. The waterfront property is home to an outdoor saltwater pool, spa, event space, and of course, views of the town and water. You’ll enjoy the seclusion of the resort, but Newport’s shops, restaurants, and bars are just a water taxi ride away. 

Don’t Miss: The Seawater Spa is one of the best in New England.

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Nobnocket Boutique Inn, Martha’s Vineyard, MA


Escape to the sleepy side of the island to Vineyard Haven at the Nobnocket. Well-designed rooms and complimentary breakfast make it hard to leave; but if you do, take one of the free bikes along the bike path to Oak Bluffs or a nearby beach.

Don’t Miss: The large sunroom area for lounging, reading, or enjoying a cup of coffee.

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Castle Hill Inn, Newport, RI

castle hill inn 

If you’re looking for a vacation fit for royalty, then the extravagant experience at Castle Hill Inn is the perfect boutique hotel in New England for your summer vacation. Castle Hill Inn offers Newport’s only private beach accommodations, which were luxurious enough for Grace Kelly during the summer of 1956.

Don’t Miss: The famous onsite restaurant, The Lawn for the Sunday jazz brunch.

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Sandy Pines Campground, Kennebunkport, ME

sandy pines glamping

For an alternative boutique hotel experience, check out Sandy Pines campground glamping rentals near Kennebunkport. Choose from a glamping tent, a-frame, or camp carriages to rent for a more comfortable, but still outdoor-immersed vacation. The camping site is home to a heated saltwater pool, five (brand new) bath houses, a general store, lawn games, kayak and paddleboard rentals—and is only one mile away from Goose Rocks Beach.

Don’t Miss: Order a steamed Maine lobster dinner from the snack bar and enjoy a meal from a local lobster pound.

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Hidden Pond, Kennebunkport, ME

hidden pond

Transport yourself to a birch forest nestled in one of Maine’s charming towns. Onsite, you’ll find nature trails, a farm (that supplies ingredients for the resort’s restaurant, Earth), morning yoga, nightly bonfires, two pools, and beachside service at its sister property, The Tides Beach Club. It’s the perfect secluded getaway when you want it, but still close to town and a beach. 

Don’t Miss: The Tree Spa … featuring treetop spa rooms eight feet above ground and connected by a catwalk.

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Kimpton Nine Zero Hotel, Boston, MA


If you’re looking for an urban vacation this summer but still want the experience of a boutique hotel in New England, book a stay at one of the three Kimpton properties in the area. My favorite is the Nine Zero Hotel, located next to the Boston Common. You’ll get city views, free breakfast, in-room spa services, and typical Kimpton amenities like complimentary wine hour, loaner bikes, and of course, pet-friendly rooms. 

Don’t Miss: The late-night hot spot, High Ball Lounge, that’s attached to the hotel. With nostalgic games and playful drinks, it’s the perfect complement to the Theatre District location.

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The Francis, Portland, ME

the francis 

This 15-room boutique hotel in Portland is a historic home that embraces the city’s history and collaborates with the local community through art, craftwork, and even snacks from nearby businesses. The West End hotel is even on the National park Service’s Registry of Historic Places. Enjoy the spa, and the onsite restaurant and lounge featuring seasonal and locally sourced food.

Don’t Miss: Cozy reading nooks scattered throughout the historic property.

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White Elephant Nantucket, MA

white elephant 

You can’t miss Nantucket and its famous hotel, the White Elephant, if you’re looking for a New England summer vacation. The main resort is located on Nantucket Harbor, but the property also has in-town lofts. There are no resort fees here—Wi-Fi, morning coffee and baked goods, afternoon port and cheese, beach and ferry shuttles, bottled water, and beach towels, chairs, and umbrellas are all free. It’s a great boutique experience for a family, group of friends, or couple (tip: book a garden cottage for a more romantic getaway). The property’s onsite restaurant, Brant Point Grill, is a popular spot for visitors and features a raw bar, Sunday brunch buffet, and al-fresco dining.

Don’t Miss: Buck-A-Shuck on Friday afternoons.

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Blue – Inn on the Beach, Plum Island/Newbury, MA

blue plum island      

For a more laid-back (and no Cape-traffic) New England beach town vacation, head to Plum Island beach, located only 10 minutes away from downtown Newburyport and under an hour from Boston. Blue is an oceanfront boutique hotel where you can chose a room, suite, or private cottage. Features like an outdoor lounge, hot tub, wet bars, and fireplaces make this the ideal beach hangout once the sun goes down.

Don’t Miss: The beach, of course.

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The 8 Best New Jersey Beaches to Visit This Summer

Every summer an annual pilgrimage begins: People all over Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York start heading “down the shore.” They’re in search of summer’s simple pleasures—biking on the boardwalk, eating ice cream and funnel cake, and, of course, soaking up the sun. You can do all of the above in dozens of New Jersey beaches up and down the coast, but which one should you choose for your next summer vacation?

Listed in geographical order from south to north, these are the best New Jersey beaches for travelers.

Cape May


[st_content_ad]Visiting Cape May, located at the southern tip of New Jersey, feels like stepping into the past. Founded in the mid-18th century, it’s America’s oldest seaside resort and one of the best beaches in New Jersey for history and architecture buffs. Visitors can rent a bike or hop on a trolley to see its colorful Victorian mansions, many now serving as quaint B&Bs. Or savor the sea views during a jog or stroll along the paved promenade, which stretches for nearly two miles along Cape May’s clean, wide beach.

Where to Stay: The Queen Victoria draws numerous repeat visitors who love its individually decorated rooms (some with fireplaces and whirlpool tubs), sprawling front porches, and daily afternoon tea.

The Wildwoods


This collection of three adjacent beach towns offers a little something for everyone. Wildwood has a classic wooden boardwalk, complete with shops, restaurants, and arcades, plus three separate piers of amusement park rides. It’s flanked by North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest, which offer a quieter, more residential experience. While Cape May is known for its stately Victorians, the Wildwoods are all about the 1950s, with fun retro motels and diners scattered around town. The Wildwoods also boast some of the widest beaches in the state, and access is free—no beach tags required.

Where to Stay: The Starlux Boutique Hotel is in the middle of all the action, just a short walk from the beach and boardwalk. Its decor captures the 1950s “Doo Wop” style Wildwood is famous for, and you can even stay in one of two vintage Airstream trailers.

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Ocean City


Ocean City is one of the best beaches in New Jersey for family fun. It’s been a “dry” town since its founding in 1879 by four Methodist ministers, so it attracts less of a young party crowd than some other New Jersey beaches. Visitors flock to its 2.5-mile boardwalk, which is lined with amusement and water parks, mini-golf courses, pizza places, ice cream shops, and arcades. Some of the prettiest beaches are on the southern end of town, where you can go hiking, fishing, or sunbathing on the quiet grounds of Corson’s Inlet State Park.

Where to Stay: The big pink Port-O-Call Hotel is a local landmark, located right on the boardwalk. Rooms overlook either the Atlantic Ocean or Great Egg Harbor Bay.

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Long Beach Island


This barrier island on the central New Jersey coast stretches from Barnegat Light State Park in the north (with its picturesque lighthouse) to Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in the south, a popular spot for bird watching. In between are a variety of beach towns—some lively, others quiet and laid-back. The heart of the action is Beach Haven, where you’ll find Fantasy Island Amusement Park, the Surflight Theatre, and the Museum of New Jersey Maritime History.

Where to Stay: The 22-room Daddy O Hotel has contemporary rooms and a hip rooftop bar with views of both the ocean and the bay.

Spring Lake


The Jersey Shore isn’t usually associated with genteel elegance, but that’s what you’ll find in the quiet seaside community of Spring Lake, where the streets are lined with gracious Victorian homes. It’s a perfect spot for strolling, from the non-commercial boardwalk along the beach to the downtown shopping district and the leafy park in the center of town.

Where to Stay: Pull up a rocking chair and relax on the front porch of the Spring Lake Inn. Many of the 16 individually decorated guest rooms feature nostalgic touches such as four-poster beds or fireplaces.

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Though it’s just a couple of miles up the coast from Spring Lake, Belmar has a completely different vibe. Popular with college kids and families, Belmar always has something going on during the warmer months, including movies and concerts on the sand. Certain parts of the beach are reserved for boogie boarding, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding. And you can breathe easy: Smoking is prohibited on both the beach and the boardwalk.

Where to Stay: The eight-room Tandem Bike Inn offers a homemade breakfast each morning, as well as free bikes for guest use.

Asbury Park


Asbury Park is best known as the city that launched Bruce Springsteen’s career, and it’s still a great place to catch a show—not just at the legendary Stone Pony but also at the Paramount Theatre and Convention Hall, located right on the boardwalk. But there’s a lot more to do in one of the hipper New Jersey beaches, including biking, surfing, fishing, and strolling the boardwalk. You can even bring Fido to the dedicated dog beach at Eighth Avenue or to Yappy Hour, a happy hour for dogs at Wonder Bar. There’s a diverse range of cuisine in Asbury Park, from typical beach fare like seafood and pizza to Korean tacos and vegan wraps. There’s even a distillery producing vodka and gin.

Where to Stay: The Hotel Tides is a boutique option just a few blocks from the beach and boardwalk. There’s a variety of art on show in the lobby.

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Sandy Hook


Part of Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook offers several miles of clean, quiet beaches with views of the Manhattan skyline in the distance. Pack your bike or rollerblades and hit the Multi-Use Pathway (MUP), which makes a seven-mile loop around Fort Hancock. Hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and bird watching are also popular activities at this New Jersey beach.

Where to Stay: The 14-room Cedars and Beeches is a friendly B&B located in nearby Long Branch.

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Are You Ready for Hurricane Season? Here’s The Forecast for 2018

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and lasts through November 30. Fortunately, this year is predicted to be better than last year’s, which saw an unusually high number of devastating hurricanes. (If you’re planning travel to an area hit during the 2017 season, make sure to read our Caribbean Travel Update).

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast that this year’s hurricane season has a 40 percent chance of being near-normal, a 25 percent chance of below-normal, and 35 percent chance of an above-normal season. The forecasters predict: “A 70-percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (category three, four, or five; with winds of 111 mph or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.”

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Traveling outside the Atlantic area? NOAA predicts an 80 percent chance of a near- or above-normal season for the eastern and central Pacific regions.

If you’re planning a vacation for an area that’s at risk for hurricanes, make sure you buy travel insurance and always read the fine print to be sure that you will be covered due to weather. You won’t be alone–according to travel insurance website Squaremouth, purchases of travel insurance with hurricane and weather-specific coverage increased 14 percent compared to last summer.

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The Best Beaches in America to Travel to This Summer

The esteemed Dr. Beach has released his annual list of America’s top ten beaches, and you’ll want to visit all of them this summer—doctors orders.

Dr. Beach is actually Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University, who does a yearly study evaluating beach quality in America. Dr. Leatherman uses fifty criteria to rank the beaches, with a high priority placed on water and sand quality. He also awards higher ratings to beaches that prohibit smoking.

Here are this year’s winners.

Best Beaches in American According to Dr. Beach

  1. Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii
  2. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina
  3. Grayton Beach State Park, Florida panhandle
  4. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
  5. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
  6. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, Outerbanks of North Carolina
  7. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
  8. Hapuna Beach State Park, Big Island, Hawaii
  9. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California
  10. Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina

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