3 Unexpected Trending Destinations (and Why You Should Go)

Paris, you’re pretty and London is fun– but the world is looking for adventure beyond the famous sites. Like Oita’s hot springs and the beaches at Kappa– sound exotic? Smaller, lesser-known locals are the new norm.

These are the trending destinations you need on your bucket list.

Red shrine on a beach in Japan


Japan is a top trending destination by every metric. Kayak, a travel search and booking engine, reported a 34% increase in Kayak searches for Tokyo in 2017. Airbnb reported Tokyo as the most booked city in 2017 and Osaka as the third most booked city of the same year. But it’s not just the major Japanese cities that are seeing an upswing in interest.

Oita, Japan, a small city in southern Japan had a booking increase for 2018 of 190% over bookings for 2017 according to Airbnb. Meaning Oita had almost triple the bookings at the beginning of 2018 than it did in all of 2017. Ishigaki, Japan, a far southern island that looks more like the Philippians than Japan, was Tripadvisor’s number one pick for destinations on the rise. And when American Express Essentials asked travel bloggers to give their picks for the top travel destinations of 2018, blogger Marc Brauer of The One Hit Wander had this to say:

“It’s not just the big cities that foreign tourists to Japan flock to; exploring the countryside is becoming more and more popular. As a result, there are more low-cost flights, for instance to Takachiho. Takachiho Gorge in the lush Miyazaki Prefecture of Kyushu is home to the most captivating cascades you’ll see in Japan. They’re associated with the legends of the god and goddess that founded the nation.”

Take away: Japan is a bigger travel destination than ever before– and it’s not the well-known cities that travelers are seeking out. The unknown, surprising, small local hotspots are the center of action.

American architecture

Small Town USA

Forget the big apple, vacationers in the U.S. are heading to smaller cities. Indianapolis, Indiana and Columbus, Ohio had double the AirBnb reservations at the beginning of 2018 as they did for all of 2017.

Travel bloggers are also noticing the trend. Boise, Idaho; Cincinnati, Ohio and Park City, Utah, have garnered attention as travel destinations. TripAdvisor choose Kapaa, Hawaii as a destination on the rise. Hawaii is popular, no doubt, but Kapaa is a small Hawaiian town on the northernmost island. Its lesser-known status continues the trend of hyperlocal travel.

Take away: Mid-sized cities are having a moment. They’re affordable and, thanks to revitalization projects, they tend to be walkable and full of local flair.

Hạ Long Bay, Vietnam

Country-hopping in Asia

Intra-Asia travel is huge. The annual ARC Air Travel Outlook Report by Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Corporation analyzed air flow data to find the cheapest times to fly and traveler flow insights. They don’t share the specific numbers, but the volume of travel within Asia was enough that the report makes a point of it several times.

Hong Kong, Seol and Taipei are powerhouses with high volumes of flight traffic according to the report. Bangkok and Singapore are also flight hubs in Asia and flights between Asian countries are increasing. Global flight traffic is increasing overall, but flight traffic within Asia is booming.

Take away: In one respect, this isn’t a surprise, Asia is the largest region of the world by population and geography– so it follows that the volume of flights is crazy. But the growth in volume of flights between Asian countries signals a boom in business as well as travelers exploring off the main tourist path.


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