The Rough Guide to 7 unmissable 2023 travel trends

written by Joanne Owen
updated 12/2/2022
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2023 travel trends — what will they be? To find out, we quizzed our editors and local travel experts around the world. And we also asked you, our travel-savvy readers, to share your 2023 travel dreams and plans. After crunching the numbers, we now bring you seven unmissable 2023 travel trends, along with ways to make your travel dreams a reality.

1. Embrace the new — the number one 2023 travel trend

If you believe travel means trying new things in new places, you're in excellent company — over 70% of you plan to do exactly that in 2023.

In fact, the overall theme of our 2023 travel trends survey can be summed up in one word: new.

So much for bumming around on the beach. You think travel should be meaningful. You want to meet new people. You long for authentic, immersive travel experiences that stir your soul and expand your horizons.

Talking of immersive, many of you intend to take culture-packed city breaks centred on your interests. Think food tours, wine tastings, fun festivals, and cool art shows.

Rough Guides says

  • "Travellers who book trips with Rough Guides want authentic experiences. This means boutique hotels, local cooking classes, walking tours led by local guides. People are venturing into the unknown more and more," says Franziska Wirth, our wise Director of Sales and Partnerships.
  • "Due to demand, 2023 will see us publish new editions of guidebooks to help readers explore lesser-visited city destinations like Naples, Bologna and Reykjavik," says Agnieszka Mizak, Managing Director of Rough Guides guidebooks.

How to make this happen

Trang An (Ninh Binh, Vietnam) — a World Heritage Site © AdobeStock

2. Antarctica, Bhutan and the South Pacific – surprising new entries on your 2023 bucket list

While your top dream destinations aren't new to this survey (New Zealand and Japan bagged first and second place), some exceptional hot (and cold) spots have jumped onto your wish list. Antarctica, Bhutan, and the South Pacific — we're looking at you.

In addition, a bunch of you expressed a desire to visit Australia and Argentina, with cool, cultured Cordoba cropping up as an excellent alternative to capital Buenos Aires.

Costa Rica also loomed large, thanks to its astounding diversity: incredible beaches, rewarding hikes, awe-inspiring waterfalls, and wildlife-rich national parks.

Rough Guides says

  • “Costa Rica remains our top destination for honeymooners and families. It's one of the pioneering countries in responsible wildlife and nature observation," points out Franziska.

How to make this happen

Paro Tsechu festival, Bhutan © mbrand85/Shutterstock

3. You can't get enough of Scotland and family staycations

When it came to our UK staycations survey, we were blown away by how much you adore Scotland.

Almost half of you can't wait to explore the Scottish Highlands, while a quarter of you are keen to visit the Scottish islands.

Edinburgh and Glasgow — one of the world's friendliest cities, according to you — also rated high when we asked which UK city you'd most like to visit.

After Scotland's highlands and islands, Cornwall and Yorkshire are your next favoured UK regions.

Overall, London is the UK city you most want to visit, with return visitors keen to see its alternative attractions. And in good news for those on a budget (more on that later), there's plenty of fun free things to do in London.

The capital was closely followed by Manchester, which is gaining massive traction as a major cultural hotspot.

While 40% of you are planning a family beach break in a British seaside town, plenty of you want adventure from your UK staycation. Active types will be pleased to know that the UK isn't short of incredible day hikes.

Fancy taking to the open road? You're not alone. Almost of quarter of Rough Guides' readers plan to enjoy UK road trips in 2023.

Rough Guides says

  • "While many of our UK-based readers have returned to visiting further-flung destinations, staycations are still hugely popular. So, we've expanded our guidebook coverage of UK regions, with the North Coast 500, Scottish Highlands, Lake District, Isle of Wight, and Isle of Skye proving particularly popular," says Vanessa Clarke, Rough Guides' Head of Sales.

How to make this happen

Sunrise over one of Scotland's most iconic viewpoint — The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye © Daniel Kay/Shutterstock

4. Japan, Thailand, the USA and South America are where it's at

While we can't deny the continued popularity of Italy, France, Spain and Greece, we saw significent upturns in your plans to travel to pastures new in 2023. There's just no getting away from that theme.

Not only was Japan cited as a significant dream destination, but lots of you are already arranging your visit. From traditional tea ceremonies and riding ultra-modern sightseeing trains, to discovering Kanazawa's cultural charms, your Japan travel plans are fabulously varied, and 100% thrilling.

The same can be said of your planned trips to Thailand. Though you'll spend time on beautiful beaches, you also plan to trek Thailand's best routes.

A sizeable number of you have the USA in sight, with Florida, California and New Orleans among the most-mentioned US destinations.

Finally, many of you are planning to visit South American destinations, most notably Chile — arguably South America's coolest country — and Mexico, which also isn't short of cool places to visit.

Rough Guides says

  • "We're seeing significant post-COVID interest in long-haul destinations, hence our 2023 focus on Asia, and Australia and the Pacific. Travellers are also looking for authentic experiences in the US, so in 2023 we're publishing guidebooks devoted to Texas, New Orleans, California, Las Vegas, and San Francisco," says Rough Guides guidebooks MD, Agnieszka Mizak.

How to make this happen

Japan loomed large as a dream destination, and as somewhere you actually plan to travel in 2023 © Shuttertock

continued below

5. Forget luxury — 2023 is the year for adventure and bucket list dreams

Perhaps unsurprisingly given your overwhelming desire to embrace new places and experiences in 2023, over a quarter of you are set on fulfilling your bucket list dreams.

You intend to unleash a spirit of adventure, with many of you expressing a desire to hike, bike, trek and climb.    

You also want to get back to nature and walk on the wild side to see some of the world's most incredible animals, with many of you planning a safari in South Africa.

Meanwhile, a mere 4% of you said you're in the market for a luxury holiday.

How to make this happen

A South African safari is one of your 2023 bucket list dreams © 4uphoto_Valeria De Mattei/Shutterstock

6. You’re still in it for the long haul … but budget and the environment are still a concern

While over 60% of you plan to fly long-haul in 2023, almost a quarter of you have ruled it out. 

And the reasons? Over 60% of those who don’t intend to travel long-haul cited budget constraints.

In addition, environmental concerns were a major reason for your rejection of long-haul flights.

As an eco-friendlier alternative, many of you are planning rail trips, from going on UK city breaks by train, to visiting stunning places in Europe by train.

Rough Guides says

  • "Given current cost of living concerns, we've addressed a key question people are asking themselves — can I afford to travel? As a result, 2023 will see us publish The Rough Guide to the A-Z of Travel: Inspirational Destinations for Every Budget," says Rough Guides' Agnieszka.

How to make this happen

Costa Rica is ripe for adventure and ideal for eco-friendly travel © Shutterstock

7. And breathe ... relax, recharge and reconnect in 2023

Planning to put your mental health first in 2023? Almost half of you declared that one of your main reasons for travelling is to relax and recharge. You also said that travel is crucial for your emotional well-being.

That said, only a tiny amount of you (4%) stated an intention to go on a wellness-focussed trip. This suggests your sense of well-being doesn't come from, for example, staying in fancy wellness retreats. 

Rather, it comes from enjoying new experiences in new places, which neatly takes us full circle to the 2023 travel trend we opened with — a desire for the new.

Rough Guides says

  • "Even though the world has reopened, 2022 hasn't been easy – with horrifying war in Europe, a cost of living crisis and other global pressures. More and more people are looking to travel as a means to distance themselves from their daily stresses and look after their mental health. And that includes our hard-working Rough Guides staff, some of whom opt for a complete digital detox when they travel." says Rough Guides Head of Content, Amy Hopkins.

How to make this happen

Sri Lankan stilt fisherman © Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

If you still haven't picked a holiday destination after reading these 2023 travel trends, you'll find more inspiration in our run-down of the most beautiful countries in the world — as voted by you— and our 23 best travel destinations in 2023.

And remember, wherever you end up heading, there's sure to be a Rough Guide to enhance every step of your journey, from planning your trip, to helping you decide what to see and do while you're away.

Not keen on planning? Check-out our tailor-made trip service. 100% customisable, it'll save you time and connect you with a local expert to create your perfect trip.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

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written by Joanne Owen
updated 12/2/2022
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Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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