2020 Travel Hacker Guide: The year’s top destinations

It’s that time of year again…. We’re releasing our guide to some of the hottest destinations of the year. Because there’s no better way to start a new decade off than by planning an epic trip.

Our 2020 guide is your go-to resource for planning your year in travel. This year, we’ve said goodbye to our “Most Popular” list, and instead added a round-up of top Under-the-Radar Destinations, alongside our Trending Destinations and Wallet-Friendly Trips lists. Here are some of the top takeaways:

  • Stay local to save money. For those looking to save in 2020, domestic destinations are the way to go. Edmonton, Abbotsford, Winnipeg and Calgary have all made this year’s Wallet-Friendly list with median prices ranging from $297 to $406 and prices 38% to 48% less than average trip cost within North America.
  • Head south for a more affordable vacation. Canadians can flex their passports and try out top US destinations like Orlando, Las Vegas, Phoenix or Fort Myers, with median flight prices around $430 roundtrip.
  • Mexico is hot and inexpensive. White sand beaches and crystal clear waters are closer than you think with trip costs to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta lower than the average cost for a getaway within North America.
  • The possibilities are endless for under-the-radar excursions. While Dubrovnik has long been a popular choice for exploring Croatia, 2020 is the year Zadar should hit your radar. And while Cartagena has long been a go-to pick for a Colombian getaway, Santa Marta with its natural beauty and Lost City (Teyuna) deserves your attention this year. Our new Under-the-Radar list has even more off-the-beaten-path ideas for an unforgettable 2020 trip.

Read on for the when, where and how to travel in 2020, and start planning your next getaway with the tips and tools you need to get started.

Top Wallet-Friendly Trips in North America
Top Trending Destinations
Top Under-the-Radar Destinations

Top Wallet-Friendly Trips in North America

Make 2020 the year you travel more (and spend less). We rounded up 10 places where flight prices are significantly lower than the average trip cost in North America (round-trip flight + 3 night hotel stay). With a mix of Canadian favourites, sunny US cities and tropical beach spots, you’ll have your pick.

Edmonton, Alberta

Median price: $297
% savings: 48% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: While Edmonton is most often a stopover for travellers heading to Jasper National Park 4 hours west, it’s worth a longer visit. Stay in Old Strathcona, a neighbourhood known for its arts and culture. Shop the area’s local boutiques, vintage shops and antique stores, including Old Strathcona Antique Mall, which offers over 100 vendors as well as a cozy cafe.

Abbotsford, British Columbia

Median price: $279
% savings: 47% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: Head to Abbotsford in spring for Bloom, the city’s annual tulip festival. It’s best experienced in April or May when the flowers will be at their fullest bloom. We suggest buying tickets online in advance since it’s a popular event. If your schedule allows, head early on a weekday for thinner crowds.

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Median price: $343
% savings: 43% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: Spend time at The Forks, located at the junction of the Assiniboine and Red rivers, The abandoned rail yard that was once a trading post for European fur traders, Scottish settlers and pioneers is now a meeting place for travellers and locals alike. Today, you’ll find dining options, local artists, entertainment and attractions. And it’s open year-round with warming huts designed by global architects installed each winter.

Calgary, Alberta

Median price: $406
% savings: 38% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: While it’s often used as a jumping-off point for Banff-bound travellers or for those who come to see the iconic Calgary Stampede, there are plenty of other reasons to visit. While Prince’s Island Park is the most popular in the city, we also like Fish Creek Provincial Park, which is also along the Bow River.

Cancun, Mexico

Median price: $502
% savings: 36% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: While spending time at the beach is a given, for a bit of an off-the-beaten-path experience, head to the Cancun Underwater Museum, where you can snorkel or scuba to take in eye-catching underwater works of art.

Orlando, Florida

Median price: $432
% savings: 35% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: If you’re looking for something to do outside of the area’s iconic theme parks, head to Wekiwa Springs State Park just minutes from downtown to hike, picnic and swim in 22-degree water year-round. Bring your own float and enjoy a relaxing day in the sun.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Median price: $432
% savings: 35% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: When it comes to the Strip, hotels may be farther than they appear. While they can all appear quite close, you’ll learn the hard way if you try to walk from MGM Grand to the Venetian. Instead, take the monorail – you’ll find stops along the Strip.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Median price: $590
% savings: 34% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: Head to El Malecon, a photogenic seaside boardwalk that’s closed to vehicle traffic. Wander by sculptures, shops, galleries and restaurants. If you come later in the day, you’ll also find plenty of nightlife options.

Phoenix, Arizona

Median price: $424
% savings: 32% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: With close to 300 days of sunshine, Phoenix is perfect for travellers looking to spend time outdoors. Hike Camelback Mountain, a popular trail that’s a quick trip from downtown and provides pretty views of the city from its summit.

Ft. Myers, Florida

Median price: $429
% savings: 31% lower than the average airfare for NA
Hacker tip: If you like shellfish, visit Ft. Myers during stone crab season (mid-October to mid-May). It’s the only time of year these local favourites can be harvested. Grab a table at Blue Point Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill and dig in.

Top Trending Destinations

KAYAK found the hottest destinations to visit this year – these 10 cities saw the biggest spike in travel interest for 2020. If these bucket-list-worthy destinations are on your radar, you’re not alone. Make 2020 the year you visit, before the rest of the world catches on.

Osaka, Japan

% search increase: 145%
Hacker tip: Wander the Dotonbori area in the evening to take in the bright neon lights. For a different perspective, take a river cruise through the heart of the area for around $11. When you’re done sightseeing, head to Daruma to try Kushikatsu, an Osaka staple of deep-fried meat or veggies on a skewer.

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

% search increase: 89%
Hacker tip: Visit Kealakekua Bay for one of the area’s best snorkelling spots full of colourful fish and a pretty spectacular coral reef. You can also kayak, surf or stand-up paddleboard in Kealakekua Bay, but if you do so on your own, you’ll need a permit, so it’s smart to double-check requirements before you set out.

Rome, Italy

% search increase: 23%
Hacker tip: While there are plenty of historic sites to visit and plenty of pasta to eat, when the weather’s nice you may want to jump on the local commuter train that will take you to Ostia Lido, Rome’s local beach, for around $2. There you relax your feet after days spent sightseeing – and enjoy some fresh seafood.

Milan, Italy

% search increase: 19%
Hacker tip: If you know museums are high on your travel to-do list, plan your trip to include the first Sunday of the month, when you’ll find free admission to many of Milan’s museums including the Sforza Castle museums, Casa Museo Boschi di Stefano, MUDEC and the Galleria d’Arte Moderna.

Athens, Greece

% search increase: 19%
Hacker tip: While there are so many temples worth your time, the Temple of Poseidon is often less busy than some of the others. It also boasts one of the best sunset views in the country, so be sure to plan your trip accordingly.

Istanbul, Turkey

% search increase: 15%
Hacker tip: After exploring all the must-see historic sights like Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and the Grand Bazaar, you’ll definitely need a break. We suggest indulging in a little rest and relaxation in a traditional hamam, or Turkish bath.

Miami, Florida

% search increase: 13%
Hacker tip: While you might think Miami is all about the party scene (and you’re not wrong), there’s plenty more to this beach city than clubs and cocktails. See the artsy side to the city by exploring world-class street art at the Wynwood Walls or duck out of the heat and into the city’s Perez Art Museum.

Mexico City, Mexico

% search increase: 13%
Hacker tip: Each Sunday just 10 blocks from the city center, you’ll find La Lagunilla Market, a traditional market where you can browse antiques, clothing, jewelry and anything else you can imagine. Grab a michelada (Mexican beer mixed with fresh lime, Tobasco and Worcestershire) and browse the winding stalls for the perfect souvenir.

Tokyo, Japan

% search increase: 12%
Hacker tip: With the summer games happening here in 2020, it’s no surprise that interest in the city is up. While the games will take place in the Tokyo Bay area, head to Ebisu to escape some of the hustle and bustle. The boasts a laid-back vibe and plenty of cozy restaurants. Check out the Yebisu Garden Place, known as a “city within a city” and built on the site of a former brewery.

Hanoi, Vietnam

% search increase: 11%
Hacker tip: Head to Bia Hoi Corner in the Old Quarter (at the intersection of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen) and you’ll find establishments selling local beer for less than 50 cents a glass. It’s open throughout the day and into the evening, and it’s a great spot to meet locals and fellow travellers alike.

Top Under-the-Radar Destinations

These destinations might not be on your list yet, but they will be. See the under-the-radar spots you should consider visiting this year. With more people exploring less-travelled spots, they won’t stay under-the-radar for long.

Zadar, Croatia

Why you’ll love it: Zadar is a quirky and intriguing city on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. It’s known for its beaches, cafes and museums, but it also boasts a charming historic old town with Roman ruins and medieval architecture. Convenient ferry connections to surrounding islands make it the perfect jumping-off point for visiting other nearby islands.

Hacker tip: Visit the sea organ, a musical instrument formed by tubes set beneath marble steps that’s played by the sea waves. Walk 3 minutes from there and you’ll reach the Monument to the Sun, another installation in the form of a solar-panelled floor that lights up the end of the boardwalk and is the perfect spot to catch a sunset.

Verona, Italy

Why you’ll love it: This northern Italian city is a less-frequented alternative to the more touristy destinations like Rome or Venice. It offers up a charming medieval old town on the Adige River and is most famous as the setting for “Romeo and Juliet.”

Hacker tip: Shakespeare fans may want to visit the balcony of a 14th-century home that’s dubbed “Juliet’s House”. Leave a letter for Juliet in the old fashioned mailbox, or for an extra fee, you can snap photos on the balcony. While it’s one of the more crowded sites in the city, it’s not far from the center of town.

Santa Marta, Colombia

Why you’ll love it: This Colombian city is a mix of colonial architecture and opportunities to get in touch with nature. Plus all the Caribbean street food you can eat.

Hacker tip: Visit Tayrona National Park to peep wildlife like birds, monkeys and sloths, coastal lagoons and rainforest. You can also wander the scenic trails to the site of Pueblito ruins. You can take a bus from the city and even rent a tent to camp and spend the night.

Tbilisi, Georgia

Why you’ll love it: One of the oldest cities in Europe, Tbilisi is full of history and culture. While flights may be pricey, everything else is relatively cheap – from delicious Georgian food to city attractions – plus, historic sights are free.
Hacker tip: Wander the Dry Bridge Market around Dedaena Park to shop eclectic wares from antiques to vintage Soviet paraphernalia. While it’s open daily, you’ll get the best selection of vendors on the weekend.

Cordoba, Argentina

Why you’ll love it: Cordoba is Argentina’s second-largest city, with a population of around 1.4 million. It is in the heart of the renowned Pampas and makes a great base for exploration. Surrounded by beautiful plains and mountains, it is also famed for its colonial city center.

Hacker tip: Visit the region’s Capilla del Monte, where you’ll find Uritorco, a hikeable hill surrounded in paranormal lore including tales of UFO sightings. While you’re in town, also check out Pueblo Encanto, a pretty 19th-century mansion.

Cagliari, Sardinia

Why you’ll love it: Cagliari is the capital of the Italian island of Sardinia. Aside from being a charming coastal city, where it’s not out of place to see Vespas zipping through pretty streets, you’ll also find medieval architecture.

Hacker tip: Visit the hilltop Castello, a walled quarter located high above the rest of the town where you’ll wander through 14th-century architecture, passageways and terraces. For the prettiest scenes, visit around sunset.

Varna, Bulgaria

Why you’ll love it: Located on the Black Sea, Varna is a modern city full of history. Pair your trip with a visit to Sophia, a 5-hour drive or short flight from Varna.

Hacker tip: Head 15 km outside of Varna to Golden Sands Natural Park where you’ll find the Aladzha Monastery, the largest cave monastery on the Black Sea coast. Admission is less than $4.

Start planning your next getaway. KAYAK has the tips and tools you need to get started.

Methodology

Trending Destinations: Searches conducted for round-trip economy flights, excluding price outliers based on certain criteria, on the ca.kayak.com between 11/01/2018 – 10/31/2019 for travel from Canada 03/01/2019 – 02/28/2020. To find the change in trend rank, travel dates 03/01/2018 – 02/28/2019 were used. Destinations on the list had the greatest year-over-year percent increase in searches of the top 100 most-searched-for destinations.

Wallet-Friendly Trips: Searches conducted for round-trip economy flights, excluding price outliers based on certain criteria, on the ca.kayak.com between 11/01/2018 – 10/31/2019 for travel from Canada 11/01/2018 -10/31/2019. Top flight destinations, of the 100 most-searched flight destinations, with the lowest overall median trip cost were considered. Percent difference based on comparison to overall trip cost within North America (defined as US, CA, MX) for travel and search dates indicated. KAYAK has defined a “trip” as “a round-trip flight + 3-night hotel stay. Wallet-friendly hotels are based on properties with the lowest median hotel rate. Travel dates and search dates adjusted as needed to generate additional data. Destinations include 3+ star properties based on number of available properties. Excludes airport properties and outliers based on certain price criteria. Those with minimal 3+ star properties or none at all were excluded from the list.

Under-the-Radar Destinations: Searches conducted for round-trip economy flights, excluding price outliers based on certain criteria, on the ca.kayak.com between 11/01/2018 – 10/31/2019 for travel from Canada between 11/01/2018 -10/31/2019. KAYAK looked at the number of hotels for the top 200 most searched destinations in each region. The list includes cities with the highest density of hotels vs searches.

Related
2019 Holiday Travel Hacker Guide

2019 Holiday Travel Hacker Guide

Ho ho holiday travel. Whether you’re heading home or looking for a quick escape, we’ve found the best destinations and when to book for the festive season.
KAYAK
Torontonians travel to party & other insights into Canada’s 2019 travel trends

Torontonians travel to party & other insights into Canada’s 2019 travel trends

Not that we’re taking sides, but when we looked at our data to discover 2019’s top travel trends we noticed...
KAYAK
Canada’s Year in Travel: 2017

Canada’s Year in Travel: 2017

As 2017 comes to an end we wanted to commemorate the travel moments that have shaped our year. Here are 11 events that changed 2017 travel.
KAYAK
KAYAK News See all
New feature alert: Multi-city travel made easy with KAYAK Trip Builder

New feature alert: Multi-city travel made easy with KAYAK Trip Builder

Take the guesswork out of planning a multi-city trip with KAYAK Trip Builder, a new product feature that makes planning multi-city travel more affordable and less time-consuming.
KAYAK
New feature alert: Create and share travel tips with KAYAK Guides

New feature alert: Create and share travel tips with KAYAK Guides

Make a KAYAK Guide and share personalized travel itineraries with friends, family and fellow travellers. Because no two travellers experience the world in exactly the same way.
KAYAK