The Fodor's Travel Awards: The Top Picks for the Best Trips

  • The Fodor's Travel Awards: The Top Picks for the Best Trips

    This weird and wonderful world doesn’t want for award ceremonies. There’s already an award for just about everything—movies, books, dogs, magicians, even idiots have numerous awards. And, of course, so, too, does travel. There are myriad travel awards, both by competitors and this very publication—we already give annual awards to hotels and destinations, after all. So why is this necessary? Why are we creating yet another award for something that doesn’t need yet another award? First, and apologies for the humblebrag, but we’re well traveled. The Fodor’s editorial team spends an unusual amount of time wandering this globe—we’re a fortunate bunch. It allows us to see and experience the world and test out the best (and sometimes worst) of travel. Second, we’re damn opinionated. There are no shrinking violets in our offices. We loudly, and sometimes proudly, declare our loves and loathes. We fight among ourselves and debate the most pedantic of travel topics, and we're thrilled to share them with you. Lastly, we wanted to establish these awards to answer questions that we had posed to ourselves. What’s the best airline for plus-sized passengers? Which is the best airport to grab a good meal? What’s the best cruise to snag a date? Who are the Instagram Influencers who aren’t obnoxiously awful, but genuinely inspirational? We wanted to answer useful questions, but also keep it light. Travel is fun, after all. And so often, travel awards are weirdly stiff and dull. The Fodor’s Travel Awards are not meant to be the Peabody of Perambulating, the Academy Awards of Aviation, or the Grammys of Going Places. This is not a black-tie award. Rather, it’s a list of companies and individuals that we—a passionate group of well-traveled individuals—believe in. And we think these winners will make your own travels a little bit better.

    Eibner Saliba/Unsplash

  • Airlines: The Best U.S. Airline

    Winner: Delta Air Lines

    We love Delta because their planes are some of the newest in the skies, and they fly everywhere. Not only does Delta itself fly passengers to over 325 destinations around the world, but it also partners with SkyTeam and their 1,150 worldwide destinations (and 19 partner airlines) so there’s basically nowhere in the world that they don’t go (plus, you can take two carry-ons to every one of those destinations, even if you're flying Basic Economy).

    And, wherever you're going, you'll likely get there on time. Delta is the most punctual of all of America's major airlines, and that’s according to official stats from the Department of Transportation.

    Runner-Up: Southwest Airlines

    There’s a lot to “luv” about America’s favorite low-cost carrier. Southwest Airlines consistently ranks among frequent flyer’s favorites because of a host of reasons: the crew is famously friendly, you can change or cancel your tickets without paying a fee, and you can even check two bags for free. Fly them frequently enough, and you can even earn a “buy one, get one free (plus taxes and fees)” Companion Pass ticket that flies two for the price of one. And this year, Southwest is flying farther than ever. They’ve just expanded their network to fly to some of the world’s favorite vacation destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Hawaii.

    Delta Air Lines

  • Airlines: The Best International Airline

    Winner: Emirates

    Honestly, Emirates won Best International Airline because no matter where you go in the world, you’ll find international travelers raving about the Dubai-based airline, and for good reason. Whether you’re in coach, lie-flat business class beds, or a private suite in its first-class cabin, Emirates offers one of the comfiest flights in the sky.

    And, because every Emirates cabin crew member undergoes seven-and-a-half weeks of training in service and safety, the service on this airline is unparalleled. Even if you never speak to a crew member at all, you’ll still enjoy yourself in-flight. That’s because Emirates has won Skytrax’s World’s Best Inflight Entertainment award for 14 years running by having one of the biggest programming selections in the sky. Currently, you’ll find more than 850 films of world cinema and more than 3,500 television channels, including live sports and news on more than 70 percent of Emirates aircraft. And that’s hard to beat.

    Runner-Up: Cathay Pacific

    Cathay Pacific comes in second place in our Best International Airline race, but just by a hair. While Cathay Pacific doesn’t have private first-class seats, it does have great economy seats, lie-flat business-class seats, and premium sparkling wine in first class. Plus, Cathay Pacific has great range. It flies to 77 destinations and is a great option for passengers flying from U.S. cities to connect to the rest of Asia via Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific also comes in at number two on our list because they have great sales that make this luxury flying experience a great deal.

    Watch Cathay Pacific closely for deals and you might be one of those lucky flyers who nab a sweet deal like the New Year’s Eve bonanza when round-trip economy seats went for as little as $347 and business class seats for $846. It’s our favorite airline to watch and one of the best deals in the sky.

    Courtesy of Emirates

  • Airlines: The Best Airline for Plus-Sized Passengers

    Winner: JetBlue Airways

    JetBlue recently became the airline with the most room in the sky. This year, they overhauled their planes, widening their seats and increasing leg room. Each seat is 18.25” wide, which is around one inch wider than most airlines, meaning there's not only more room to sit, but you now are far less likely to have to share armrest space with your neighbor. They also have the most seat pitch—the distance between your headrest and the headrest in front of you—which will give you more room to stretch your legs.

    Runner-Up: Delta Air Lines

    While Delta does have some of the widest seats in the sky, they’re not on all of their airplanes. If you want to get more room—18 inches of width and 31 to 32 inches of legroom in economy—you have to fly on Delta’s Airbus planes (you can see what type of plane you’ll be flying when you book your ticket). There you’ll find plenty of room plus complimentary seat belt extenders and a fleet-wide policy that does not require that passengers who need more room book another seat. Instead, they’ll either help reseat you next to an empty seat or allow you to pay to upgrade to first or business class.

    Courtesy of JetBlue Airways

  • Airlines: The Best Budget Bougie Experience

    Winner: Norwegian Air

    Lounge access, up to 46 inches seat pitch, a deep reclining seat that comes with a built-in footrest—you might forget that you’re flying on a low-cost carrier. You won’t, though, because as you sit back and sip your complimentary welcome drink, all you’ll be able to think about is how affordable flying in Norwegian Air’s Premium cabin is. Even Norwegian’s regular economy is simply a cut above its competitors. You still have to pay extra for food, drink, and checked baggage but you’ll still be getting a much more comfortable experience than can be had on just about any other low-cost carrier.

    Runner-Up: La Compagnie

    Looking to fly business class to France but could do without the business-class pricing? Look no further than La Compagnie. This boutique airline offers all-business class flights between New York City and Paris every day of the week. Each of its planes is outfitted with 74 shell-style seats that are set up in a 2x2 configuration and recline at a 175-degree angle. In other words, it’s the rare flying experience where there’s truly not a bad seat to be found. And, to top it all off, their fares are 30 to 50 percent lower than what you’d pay to fly in the same class on a legacy carrier. C’est magnifique!

    Courtesy of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA

  • Airlines: The Best Airline for Blowing Your Budget

    Winner: Etihad Airways

    When you’re looking for the most luxurious experience you can have in the sky, you cannot go wrong with Etihad Airways. This opulent, over-the-top experience starts in Etihad’s exclusive airport lounge for ultra-VIPs. On the plane, you’ll fly in a three-room personal suite and be tended by a personal butler with their own private entrance to your in-flight lounge—that is, if you have $20,000 to spare on a flight.

    If you don’t have a budget for something quite so bougie, there’s still plenty of ways Etihad Airways will give you the best experience that money can buy. For example, you can split the cost of an Etihad Apartment and make it a two-person experience complete with a sofa, full-size entertainment center, and touchscreen controls to customize the seat and lighting.

    Runner-Up: Emirates

    Have you ever dreamed of taking a shower at 30,000 feet above the Earth? Emirates can check that off your bucket list—if you’re flying in first class aboard the Dubai-based carrier’s Airbus A380. Even if that’s not your favorite part of the trip, a first-class flight with Emirates is full of luxurious experiences. Menus are designed with a global inspiration and can be ordered to be served in your personal suite or with others in the First Class bar in the sky. Pro tip: skip the Champagne for Dalmore King Alexander III single malt whiskey.

    Courtesy of Etihad Aviation Group

  • Airlines: The Best Airline for Pets

    Winner: American Airlines

    Two words put American Airlines on the top of our list: Cuddle Class. Launched just a few years ago, it’s changed the way pet owners travel with their furry friends. Book a first-class ticket on the non-stop routes between Los Angeles or San Francisco and New York City and your pet can have its own special cabin cubicle in the front of the plane for just $125, American Airlines’ regular carry-on pet fee. Service animals fly for free.

    Runner-Up: Delta Air Lines

    Delta won runner-up for the Best Airline for Pets because they’re welcoming to a wide variety of pets. Not only dogs and cats but also household birds can fly as your carry-on as long as their kennel is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you (and your pet is at least 10 weeks old). And, their fees are reasonable at $125 on domestic flights to $200 on international flights. And if your pet is lucky enough to travel with you to Brazil, their ticket is only $75.

    Courtesy of American Airlines

  • Airlines: The Tiny Airline You Should Try

    Winner: Air Dolomiti

    Air Dolomiti connects Italy with Munich and Frankfurt, with planes that take you to Italy’s smaller cities like Turin, Bari, and Verona. With three separate class fares, prices are accessible—most trips are well under €100. Even though the flights are short (most are under 90 minutes), there are snacks (even for the cheap seats!) and drinks (served in actual glassware!). The best part of this airline is that it lets you access Italy’s off-the-beaten-path destinations from some of Europe’s busiest international airports.

    Runner-Up: Safarilink

    Headquartered at Nairobi’s tiny and charming Wilson Airport, Safarilink brings you to some of Kenya’s greatest destinations via dirt airstrips in remote locations. Hop on a 13-passenger Cessna for a quick 45-minute flight to the Maasai Mara, the beaches of Lamu, or Mt. Kilimanjaro. What makes this airline special is that it makes you feel like you’re venturing somewhere undiscovered, where only a lucky few will ever set foot. The tiny planes are thrilling and adventurous, but the pilots make you feel like you’re flying with friends. No boarding passes, no assigned seats, no flight attendants—it’s just you and the open skies. (Insider Tip: The small airline carries the Travel Africa magazine onboard, which is well worth a skim for African travel inspiration that you won’t find stateside.)

    Route66/Shutterstock

  • Airlines: The Best Airline for Foodies

    Winner: Japan Airlines

    On a first-class trip with Japan Airlines, you can treat yourself to several courses created by accomplished chefs from Japan. Memorable meals include an asparagus-wrapped prosciutto amuse bouche, a caviar appetizer, a filet mignon entree with scalloped potatoes and Béarnaise sauce, plus a cheese course (!). Breakfast features lobster eggs Benedict (cooked to perfection), roast duck, and apple chutney. Business-class offers excellent cuisine as well, but it’s no match for the delicacies and presentation you’ll find in first class.

    Runner-Up: Hawaiian Airlines

    Whether it’s the themed entrance music when you board, the food, or the cocktail (it’s the cocktail), Hawaiian Airlines is certainly the most festive way to island hop in Hawaii, and for flights to and from the mainland. While many domestic airlines skimp on the meals, Hawaiian still offers complimentary hot meals for both first-class and economy passengers. Don’t expect your typical airline cuisine, either: the dishes are created by Executive Chef Lee Anne Wong, who has been featured on shows like Iron Chef America. The airline is also known to take more unconventional approaches to spice up their menus. Take, for example, the Chef Series which the airline rolled out in summer of 2018, featuring up and coming culinary talent and native-to-Hawaii flavors and cuisine. Passengers can also cure in-flight jitters with signature cocktails like Mai Tais and the Moloka’i Mule.

    EQRoy/Shutterstock

  • Airlines: The Best Airline for Wine & Cocktail Connoisseurs

    Winner: Japan Airlines

    Japan Airlines is known for their impeccable service—and rightly so—but the quality of their inflight beverage choices may be their greatest strength. If you are lucky enough to experience JAL’s First Class, you will be treated to Cristal Champagne (yes, that Cristal), wine selections chosen by a certified “Master of Wine,” and an assortment of cocktails that always includes a rotating original creation (the current one, called the “Aviation,” is a refreshing gin-based cocktail flavored with cherry, lemon, and violet). But the true jewel on their wine list, not surprisingly, is their sake. Whether you’re a sake aficionado or a rank amateur, no JAL experience would be complete without sampling their wonderful selections.

    Runner-Up: KLM

    KLM is one of our favorite airlines not only because they have friendly staff, impeccable service, and lots of extra room in business class, but they also serve one of the most exclusive beverages in the sky. Every passenger in a business-class seat on KLM is gifted a small Delft Blue house with genever—a delicious Dutch gin—inside. And a KLM flight is the only place you can find them. Fun fact: each of KLM’s Delft Blue houses is modeled after a real house in the Netherlands, and currently there are 99 house types. Frequent flyers who can afford to will collect a different one each time they fly for one of the world’s most exclusive version of Gotta Catch ‘em All.

    Luke Lai (CC BY-NC 2.0)/Flickr

  • Airlines: The Best Airline for Getting Sleep

    Winner: JetBlue: Mint

    Catching Z’s in-flight is one of our favorite pastimes. And for great sleep, no matter what class you’re flying, JetBlue is at the top of our list because these guys believe in giving good room. At 6-feet-8-inches long, JetBlue Mint class offers the longest lie-flat seats in a domestic cabin, and some of those cabins even come with doors for better privacy for nodding off. And because the best sleep is food-coma related, we’re just going to go ahead and also mention that JetBlue’s Mint class has delicious artisanal dining (that includes trendy dishes like mushroom risotto and citrus-braised pork) and great drink options like a killer rose and a signature cocktail called Honey Infused Lime-Aid.

    And you can get that good sleep when headed to a ton of destinations in the United States, but also to destinations like Aruba, St. Lucia, Barbados, and St. Maarten that have the kind of party vibe that you need to rest up for.

    Runner-Up: Virgin Australia: The Business

    Virgin Australia means business when it comes to counting sheep in The Business class. If you’re flying long haul, you can stretch out a full 80 inches (6 feet 7 inches) in their lie-flat suite which comes withJulie Grbac designed pajamas and turndown service with plush pillows and a deluxe duvet. And while it doesn’t take two to get a great night’s sleep, if you’re in The Business with a companion, you can pull back the partition between the two center suites to hear each other snore. For abetting a good food-coma, The Business also features on-demand fine dining, wine pairings, and a glass of Champagne as soon as you sit down.

    Courtesy of JetBlue Airways

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  • Airlines: The Best Airline for Flying With Kids

    Winner: Qatar Airways

    Qatar Airways flies to over 160 destinations within the U.S., Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and more, giving them a broad appeal for cosmopolitan families who travel the world in style. But they really stand out when it comes to travel for children, starting with their arrival at the Hamad International Airport in Doha. The airline’s Oryx Kid’s Club promises to keep children engaged and entertained, and nutritious kid-friendly meals that come in lunch pails decorated with Hasbro games and characters are served onboard select aircraft. Families with infants receive priority boarding and a special amenity kit with diapers, baby food, a bottle, and soft toys, as well as the option to reserve a bassinet seat. Qatar Airways even offers family escort services for unaccompanied minors traveling alone.

    Runner-Up: Southwest Airlines

    Southwest Airlines is an ideal family airline for a variety of reasons, but it all starts with their affordable fares. The airline offers frequent sales with flights that cost as little as $49 one-way, and everyone who flies Southwest gets two checked bags for free. Southwest Airlines transports families around the U.S. and now to Hawaii, but they also offer affordable airfare to select Caribbean destinations such as Aruba, Turks and Caicos, Grand Cayman, and Jamaica. They also feature a generous cancellation/rebooking policy, and the airline lets families with kids ages 6 and under board the plane early. Finally, Southwest has one of the most lucrative loyalty programs available today—Southwest Rapid Rewards—as well as a companion pass offer that lets anyone—including kids—fly free with a paid companion. This combination of perks makes Southwest the total package.

    Qatar Airways/Facebook

  • Airlines: The Airline With the Friendliest Staff

    Winner: Southwest Airlines

    Southwest isn’t a regular airline, it’s a cool airline. This is the airline to fly if you’re looking to make the hell that is flying just a little less painful, and that is mostly thanks to the staff. They’re known to tell jokes both in the terminal and on the plane, and let’s face it: we could all use a laugh after being herded like cattle through security lines and left gasping for air after running through the terminal (you know who you are: me). Southwest is great for families, too, as they are especially warm toward kids and groups. They play trivia games at the gate, and often the prizes are drink tickets that you can redeem on your next flight. And if your group looks like it’s celebrating, they might just offer you a free drink on the plane, no ticket necessary.

    Runner-Up: Hawaiian Airlines

    Hawaiian Airlines feels like a genuine extension of your vacation—it begins when you board, and doesn’t end until you’re off the plane back home. One of the best-regarded airlines for traveling to and from Hawaii and throughout the islands, their good reputation is owed in large part to the staff, who is known for being attentive and personable. You won’t have to wonder if it’s time to hit the call button to get some water while you’re parched after breathing in frigid, recycled air—the flight attendants are excellent at anticipating passengers’ needs. Beyond the authentic Hawaiian hospitality, the attendants’ Hawaiian shirts and hibiscus flowers tucked behind their ears add some brightness to the service.

    Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

  • Airports: The Best U.S. Airport

    Winner: Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR)

    Hear us out: it’s not flashy or even state-of-the-art. In fact, we love Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR) for everything it's not. Burbank is an airport free of most of the hassles that take the fun out of travel plans. It’s an agreeable airport in a perfect location, which is why it’s at the top of our list of airports to love.

    When you fly to a city like New York or D.C., you choose an airport based on location, quality, and the amount of added time airport shenanigans add to your travel plans. In Los Angeles, you also have a choice: between the behemoth time-suck that is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or the straightforward, shenanigan-free experience that is Burbank airport.

    There’s plenty of affordable parking (as low as $10 per day!) with easy, quick shuttle access to the airport; only two, easily navigable terminals that are a short walk from airport security, and a Metrolink Station within walking distance of the terminals (in contrast to LAX’s nightmare of shuttles and transfers that will eventually take you into the city).

    There’s also great food here. With food and drink venue names like “Bar” and “Lunchbox,” consumers are free from the super-gimmicky overpriced airport standards and ubiquitous fast food chains—but if you do insist on standard sub-par airport cuisine, Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint resides in Terminal A. But at Burbank, you don’t really need to rely on available food options. The airport is so hassle-free, so there’s no need to arrive hours before your flight takes off.

    Burbank also has an added bonus. If you’re visiting the L.A. region, you’re probably in closer proximity to the stuff you actually want to see. Downtown L.A., Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Universal Studios, and more of the city's best attractions are all easier to reach from Burbank than its neighbor LAX.

    Runner-Up: Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

    A delightful extension of the city itself, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) keeps it weird. Restaurants are mostly local offshoots (not national chains) and include iconic Austin foodie favorites such as East Side Pies, Saxon’s Pub, Salt Lick Barbeque, as well as various local taco and coffee kiosks, in case you didn’t get to try everything while you were in town. Live music plays at different “stages” throughout the airport in the afternoons—check out the lineup of local musicians here —and the airport's Changing Exhibits program features a rotating schedule of art, history, and culture displays, in case you aren’t in the mood for shopping. And with a city that just keeps expanding and getting cooler, the airport's 2040 plan to add up to 32 more gates should keep its low-key, easy to navigate, quick-through-security cool vibes in check with even more options for flights.

    Burbank Airport

  • Airports: The Best International Airport

    Winner: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)

    If you’ve ever visited Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), this victory should come as no surprise to you. Consistently reigning as the world’s top airport, Changi features an incredible array of amenities and is constantly developing, improving, and innovating. Not only does Changi offer a world-class shopping experience and a delectable selection of international cuisine, this year the airport has a new high-concept addition that has put this airport on the top of everyone’s list.

    Created out of the necessity of expanding Terminal 1, Jewel Changi includes walk-through gardens, interactive exhibits, sky nets, and the two best kinds of mazes: hedge and mirror. Select flights are available for early check-in so that passengers have even more time to spend exploring Jewel, which is always open. As far as airport standards go, Changi has exceeded them time and again.

    Runner-Up: Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN)

    If Changi didn’t exist, Incheon would probably be the most mind-blowing airport in the industry. For travelers with serious layovers, Incheon provides some of the best relaxation and time-killing options out there. Not only are there shops, cafes, and even a couple of medical clinics to visit if necessary, Incheon features seven relaxing indoor gardens as well as a landside ice-skating rink. If you’re headed landside anyway, you could also check out the nearby associated golf course for a round between flights. For travelers with only a few hours to kill, head to the numerous energizing or relaxation centers; these lounges were designed to help effectively pass time, whether it’s getting your blood pumping or catching some shut-eye.

    Singapore Changi Airport

  • Airports: The Best Airport for Shopping

    Winner: London Heathrow Airport (LHR)

    Hustling through Heathrow is a bit like power-walking through a busy shopping mall. It’s obvious why Heathrow comes out on top for airport shoppers: the sheer number of shops on site is staggering. On top of that, the variety is great. There’s a shopping experience for every passenger on every budget. Heathrow spans the spectrum from corner shop convenience to trendy designer products, including British brands like Mulberry and Paul Smith. As an added bonus, passengers can reserve products online before their flight for quick pick-up en route. Heathrow is enticing for a good window shop if you’ve got the time, but if not, it’s easy to grab and go.

    Runner-Up: Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND)

    Located just south of downtown Tokyo, Haneda services Greater Tokyo alongside its sister airport, Narita. It has 30+ diverse shops and an impressive array of products making it a world-class shopping mecca. However, the real draw of Haneda is the selection of Japan-specific shops. Pop into Hello Kitty Japan or the Character Shop to stock up on products featuring the world’s most beloved animated characters, play with slot cars at the impressive circuit course inside the Hakuhinkan Toy Park, or enhance your aesthetic with products from Kiri, the Japanese design store. With its wide range of shopping options, Haneda is popular with all ages and styles.

    Heathrow Airports Limited

  • Airports: The Best Airport for Foodies

    Winner: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

    If you haven’t traveled through Newark Airport in a while, it may come as a surprise that we've named this as the best airport for food lovers. But dining here has come a long, long way. Today, all of Newark’s terminals have world-class cuisine. But, terminal C has become one of the best pre-flight places to eat bar-none. Here you’ll find restaurants starring dishes from some of the best chefs serving New York City, including Alain Ducasse and Dale Talde.

    Runner-Up: Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)

    Hong Kong has some incredible street food, and that vibe doesn’t end when you get to the airport. First of all, no matter when you arrive, you can chow down. One of the best parts about Hong Kong airport is that some of the restaurants are open 24 hours, so no matter what time you get there, amazing food is waiting. If you have a long layover, you can sample some of the region’s best food without ever stepping foot out of the airport. We recommend starting with the roasted pork belly—a Cantonese favorite—at the famous Tai Hing. Then, if you still have room for a snack (or four or five), head to Street Food MIC by Alvin Leung located in Terminal 1.

    Songquan Deng

  • Airports: The Best Tiny Airport

    Winner: Jackson Hole Airport (JAC)

    Jackson Hole Airport may be small—boasting a grand total of nine gates—but the impression it makes sure is mighty. Being the only commercial airport located inside a national park (Grand Teton) certainly helps. When you arrive, you’ll be greeted by breathtaking views of the Teton Range. And when it’s time to go home, you’ll be sent off by the same gorgeous mountainscape, but this time you’ll be taking them in from the gate area while you’re hunkered down in deep, leather chairs and basking in the glow of a roaring fireplace. Whether you’re en route to the rodeo or the slopes, Jackson Hole’s airport is sure to be one of the highlights of your journey.

    Runner-Up: Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN)

    If you’re wondering why Montana’s nicknamed “The Treasure State,” allow Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport to show you. This little airport is all about giving you that big sky Montana feeling. The fireplaces and natural wood designs lend (literal and figurative) warmth to the terminal. Throughout the airport, you’ll find artwork by local artists that beautifully renders the rustic beauty of the state via landscape watercolors, wildlife photographs, and striking sculptures. And is there a bolder aesthetic statement than mounting a bronze replica of a tyrannosaurus rex skull (courtesy of Museum of the Rockies) over a baggage carousel? Well, maybe one. The jaw-dropping view of the mountains you get through the terminal’s expansive windows.

    Jackson Hole Airport

  • Airports: The Worst Airport in the World

    Winner: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

    There are uglier airports and airports with fewer amenities; there are airports that are older and airports that are more rundown; there are airports with ruder staff and airports with cruder passengers. There are, without doubt, by almost all measures, worse airports in this world. Except by one measure—an exceedingly crucial measure. In fact, behind safety, it’s almost certainly the most important measure: getting in and getting out.

    Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the fourth busiest airport in the world—87.5 million people flew through it in 2018—but for the poor souls who aren’t merely killing time in a layover, those who woefully call this their point of dis- or embarkation, they are forced to endure the purgatorial nightmare of traffic that leads to and from each of LAX’s nine terminals (as many terminals as Dante’s hell has circles). Thanks to the improbably stupid design of its catastrophic horseshoe motor-loop, it regularly requires 30 minutes to travel the short mile from the outskirts of the airport to most of its terminals. And because Los Angeles was built as a city beholden to the automobile, there is no other way to arrive or depart from this maddening complex of suffering but through the interminable traffic.

    And don’t forget the never-ending construction which has not only caused further traffic delays but often upends logic: Delta, for instance, operates at both terminals 2 and the repugnantly vile terminal 3. Because of the construction separating the two terminals, Delta passengers show up at terminal 3, Delta’s original terminal, only to there be told to head to terminal 2 to check their bags, then rush back to terminal 3 to go through security. Confused? Join the club.

    There is good news. One day the construction will end. And, one day, there will be a people-mover that will connect the yet-to-be-open (and delayed) Crenshaw Metro Line to the airport. But until then, LAX has earned a spot at the top of our Worst Airports list and we’re loathing it.

    zstock/Shutterstock

  • Influencers: The Visibility Award

    Winner: @fatgirlstraveling

    Started by travel enthusiast and influencer Annette Richmond, Fat Girls Traveling is an Instagram community that showcases a diverse array of women having the times of their lives abroad. Not only is it fun to scroll through, it gives an underrepresented group of travelers a voice. It helps everyone say a little louder, “No one should be afraid to travel, or to look good doing it.”

    @fatgirlstraveling

  • Influencers: The Intrepid Traveler Award

    Winner: @themagdalenaexperience

    Tasteful nudes aren't something we ever thought we’d love about an Instagram travel account. But The Magdalena Experience has proved that once in a while, even your favorite travel site can be wrong. Her images showcase beautiful, bucket-list worthy corners of the world that seem that much cooler because they were visited by someone with the cojones to travel in the buff.

    @themagdalenaexperience

  • Influencers: The Storyteller Award

    Winner: @_nomadicmom

    Nomadic Mom’s surreal, ethereal travel photography is our favorite way to dream about the places we’ll go. Each photo is like a love letter to the magical moments you can have at your next destination. We gave photographer Corinne Rice our Storyteller award for creating dreamy landscapes that showcase the beautiful moments that inspire her followers to hit the road.

  • Influencers: The Ambassador Award

    Winner: @sara_

    The best travel advice comes from someone who’s been there before. And we love Sara White’s Instagram @sara_ because she’s a Canadian transplant in Rome, Italy, with big wanderlust and expat industry. She wins this year’s Ambassador award for giving us a traveler’s view of everything mesmerizing about seeing a new country from a visitor’s vantage point.

    @sara

  • Influencers: The Advanced Degree Award

    Winner: @hownottotravellikeabasicbitch

    How Not to Travel Like A Basic Bitch educates her audience and helps us all be a little less basic while we're out there exploring. We all need guidance checking our privilege and traveling on a deeper level, and Dr. Kiona is always here to keep us woke.

    @hownottotravellikeabasicbitch

  • Influencers: The Squad Goals Award

    Winner: @companerachronicles

    Companera Chronicles, made up of travel buddies Marissa and Courtney, reminds us that with a good friend by your side, seeing the world is a lot more fun.

    @companerachronicles

  • Influencers: The Family Fun Award

    Winner: @travelbabbo

    The world has fallen in love Travel Babbo, the Instagram account starring dad Eric Stoen on the road with his three kids in tow. His photos are breathtaking, the kids are adorable, and he’s putting adventuring with little ones on the map which is Family Fun we can get behind.

    @travelbabbo

  • Influencers: The Travel Romance Award

    Winner: @theworldpursuit

    Frankly, there’s just something super adorable about a photogenic couple who travels the world together taking amazing photos. And these guys do it on a budget, occasionally dropping hints on how their followers can do the same. So if you like to get your #couplegoals off the Gram, The World Pursuit makes it fun to follow Cameron and Natasha on their adventures.

    @theworldpursuit

  • Influencers: The Itinerant Artist Award

    Winner: @eatsketchgo

    Eat Sketch Go wins our Itinerant Artist award because we love how he depicts everywhere he goes. In a sea of similar Instagram photos, it's refreshing to get another, more watercolor view of the world.

    @eatsketchgo

  • Influencers: The Style Award

    Winner: @spiritedpursuit

    Scrolling through Spirited Pursuit gives us fashion, destination and hair goals all at the same time. This Style award is in honor of all the places curator Lee Litumbe has inspired her followers to (fabulously) go.

    @spiritedpursuit

  • Influencers: The Travel Buddy Award

    Winner: @sukiicat

    This year, Suki Cat wins our Travel Buddy award for not only being adorably photogenic but for showing her human Marti Gutfreund some of the most beautiful corners of the world.

    @sukiicat

  • Influencers: The Pioneer Award

    Winner: @pattiegonia

    Instagram influencer Pattie Gonia is an Eagle Scout, LGBTQ+ advocate, able to scale a mountain in 6-inch heels, and the world’s first backpacking queen, which made it impossible not to give Pattie Gonia our first annual Pioneer Award.

    @pattiegonia

  • Influencers: Best LOL

    Winner: @stefdies

    Stefdies travels all over the world and “dies” hilariously in every photo. And if that doesn’t deserve an award, we don’t know what does.

    @stefdies

  • Influencers: In Memoriam

    Winner: @mr.pokee

    There comes a moment in every awards ceremony when we take a moment to remember those that have passed on. This year, our In Memoriam award goes to the hedgehog Mr. Pokee who brought pure joy to our hearts with adorable photos from his travels around the world. And although he has gone to the great hamster wheel in the sky, he will always live on in our memories. There is a light though: his successor, Herbee the rescue hedgehog, looks to be following in Mr. Pokee's joyful wanderlusting steps.

    @mr.pokee

  • Travel Tech & Gear: The Best Suitcase

    Winner: Away

    If you’ve spent one minute in an airport over the last year, you’ve no doubt spotted those hard-shelled, wheeled suitcases with the horizontal grooves in a riot of different colors. That’s the Away bag. The female-owned online brand has a cult following that includes millennials and celebs. Away has managed to disrupt the snoozy luggage market by finding the sweet spot between cheap suitcases that fall apart and expensive bags that function perfectly but are perfectly unaffordable. The mid-priced Away suitcase is durable enough to come with a lifetime guarantee, looks sharp, and solves multiple travel problems: TSA-approved combination lock? Check. 360-degree spinner wheels? Check. Built-in charger with an ejectable battery? Check. Hidden laundry bag? Check. With all that functionality packed into a streamlined minimal design, Away is far and away the winner of Fodor’s Best Suitcase award.

    Runner-Up: Arlo Skye

    If you still have PTSD from that time your unmentionables got scattered across the luggage conveyor belt because your bag’s zipper broke, we recommend the zipperless Arlo Skye suitcase. No temperamental zippers on this model; instead, the bag clamps completely shut with an aluminum frame and two TSA-friendly locks. The founders of the direct-to-consumer luggage brand are alumni of Louis Vuitton and Tumi, so it’s no coincidence their product is the perfect combo of luxury and functionality. The wheels are stunningly silent, and if you’ve been known to leave your damp bathing suit in your suitcase much longer than is hygienic, the antimicrobial interior lining is a godsend.

    Courtesy of Away

  • Travel Tech & Gear: The Best Carry-On

    Winner: Away

    Everyone you know with an Away loves their suitcase and there’s a reason why: It’s simply the best bag on the market in its price range. Sleek, stylish, and so smooth that doormen, taxi drivers, and luggage handlers will all comment on how nicely it rolls, this bag is batting way out of its league. If you don’t already own an Away Bigger Carry-On, it’s time to jump on the bandwagon with the bag that’s big enough to let you overpack and small enough to make it into most overhead compartments. Just don’t let them weigh your bag, or else they’ll find out just how much you’ve been able to cram inside.

    Runner-Up: Herschel

    This cheap and chic carry-on fits enough for a short trip but still fits into even the tiniest of overhead compartments. In a playful range of colors and patterns like Ash Rose, Woodland Camo, Royal Hoffman (a blue background with a colorful spray of tulips) and even a Fodor’s Orange (actually called “Vermillion”), this case is a stylish statement. Interior zips and bungees keep everything together, and paired with Herschel’s organizers, this bag will turn you into somebody who loves the art of packing a suitcase.

    Courtesy of Away

  • Travel Tech & Gear: The Best Personal Item

    Winner: Everlane

    The sole personal item you get to take on the plane with you is your most important travel buddy. That one little bag that has to fit under the seat in front of you has to pull a lot of weight while not weighing you down. Like that one friend you can take anywhere, Everlane’s Modern Snap Backpack is as comfortable in the office as it is on a hike or anywhere in between. The generously padded interior compartment shields your laptop from shocks, and the pair of open slot side pockets make it easy to find those grab-and-go items you need constant access to. This tailored-looking bag looks better than most backpacks because the straps–rather than the usual dorky padded black ones–match the twill exterior, giving it a sophistication that ensures you won’t be mistaken for an eighth-grader when you wear it.

    Runner-Up: Paravel

    It’s hard to argue with a backpack that folds up into basically, nothing. This full-size bag somehow fits everything you need and then stores flat into a teeny-tiny pouch when you don’t need it anymore. Use the Fold-Up Backpack by Paravel as your personal item on the plane, or pack it in your luggage to use on day-trips once you’re on the ground. It’s also handy as a back-up bag to lug home your dirty laundry or the extra booty you bought on that shopping expedition. Ultra lightweight and roomy, it’s even got a trolley sleeve so you can slide it over your wheelie bag handle.

    Courtesy of Everlane

  • Travel Tech & Gear: The Best Travel App

    Winner: PackPoint

    At Fodor’s Travel, we get most excited about traveling far off the beaten path where there are no Starbucks, few influencers, and nowhere to buy an extra pair of hiking shoes in case you leave yours behind. That’s why we awarded PackPoint our Best Travel App award. Because it can predict what you’ll need based not only on your destination but the weather report; whether you’re headed for business, pleasure, or adventure; popular local activities; and other smart information, it can save your packing bacon before you leave the house.

    Runner-Up: App in the Air

    “Do the Most” is one of our favorite travel mottos. And one of our favorite apps for doing the most when you finally hit the road is App in the Air. Whether you’re traveling once a month over a gap year, or traveling all over Europe on a two-week vacation, this app keeps track of all of your itineraries, boarding passes, frequent-flier miles, and even check-in and security waits to help lower the chance that you’ll miss a flight. While other apps (and even some phones) can keep some of your travel data together, we like App in the Air best because it gathers data from other travelers to let you know insider info like where to charge your phone at a small airport and where you can grab a bite when your flight gets in during the wee hours.

    Courtesy of PackPoint

  • Travel Tech & Gear: The Best Headphones

    Winner: Senheiser

    These headphones win for one supreme reason: comfort. On-ear headphones have a tendency to fatigue a listener’s ears or head, but the Sennheiser HD 4.50 BTNC is made for long listening sessions. Featuring ergonomic(!) ear pads, you won’t feel the pressure of traditional headphones closing in on your brain. And if your long listening sessions just happens to be a transcontinental flight, these headphones have you covered with an active noise cancellation feature to ensure your sound is Sennheiser quality. The battery is outstanding, lasting up to 25 hours for a full day’s listen without a charge. The downside of most on-ear headphones for travelers--the bulk and size--is eliminated as well since these babies are foldable.

    Runner-Up: Jabra

    These two styles of Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones from Jabra offer everything a traveler needs in listening capabilities in two different styles: the Elite 65t as in-ear buds and the Move Style Edition as on-ear. The in-ear Elite 65t battery life lasts around five hours; the docking case is half the size of your phone and also serves as a charger with two additional charges for a total of 15 hours served. The buds fit comfortably inside your ear due to three sizes of silicon EarGels, and operate flawlessly with voice command and fingertip controls. If you prefer a more traditional style of headset (and in our opinion, more comfortable) Move’s on-ear headset is super light and comfortable, with 14 hours of battery time and 12 days of standby time--perfect for any international flight. The best part of Jabra headphones? The price. The earbuds come in under $150 and the on-ear set comes in under $100. Now that is something we can get behind.

    Courtesy of Sennheiser

  • Travel Tech & Gear: The Best Travel Camera

    Winner: Pixel 3

    This year, our favorite travel camera isn’t a DSLR or pricey mirrorless model. It’s the onboard camera on Google’s new Pixel 3 phone. We love this phone for most travelers because it’s one of the best camera phones on the market. Not only does it have a ton of megapixels (12.2 Megapixels with Image Stabilization, just slightly more than the latest iPhone) for startlingly-crisp photos, it has a host of other bells and whistles that help you nab gorgeous photos on the go without lugging around another piece of equipment. One of our favorite features? The camera auto-opens in about 1 second by pressing the volume button on the side of the phone, perfect for whipping it out to capture a once-in-a-lifetime moment before it’s gone. It has a night mode setting that captures club and night scenes better than most stand-alone point and shoots. And if you’re looking to add something extra to your Instagram stories, you’ll love the augmented reality settings which let you do things like make Childish Gambino and Iron Man pose for a photo on the Great Wall of China, which is pretty cool.

    Runner-Up: Light

    The Light L16 is a smartphone-sized, 16-lens, very cool camera straight out of the future. Designed for photo enthusiasts who don’t want to lug a camera around, Light uses its many lenses to capture very high resolution (52 megapixels) images and to offer a lot of zoom (28mm to 150mm) that are all customizable through a touch screen (that’s also great for on-camera editing) in the back. This camera is one of the most fascinating machines that you can get your hands on in 2019, and the perfect tool for better-than-smartphone photography in smartphone size. This camera probably would have won. But, not only is it $2,000 per unit but it's currently sold out. You can still find this tech on the Nokia 9 phone, but Light, if you're listening please bring this camera back.

    Courtesy of Google

  • Travel Tech & Gear: The Best Travel Gadget

    Winner: Spectacles V2

    In our humble opinion, the best travel gadgets do more than make your vacation easier: they add a little fun to it. And Spectacles do a great job of giving you something more to look forward to on your next vacation. Right out of the future, Snapchat’s Spectacles V2 are a pair of sunglasses for uploading vacation moments. They take 360 video (meaning no matter where you move your phone, the uploaded image always looks fullscreen) and photos with a click of a button. You can even wear them underwater to do a little recording under the sea. Whether you already communicate with the world exclusively via Snapchat or are looking for a good reason to use it, Spectacles are a fun way to upgrade your vacation.

    Runner-Up: DJI Mavic Pro 2

    Can you even imagine one billion colors? Even though our brains may have trouble discerning a color profile including that many colors, DJI Mavic Pro 2 has no problem at all. On top of that, this version tops the original Mavic Pro by enhancing image resolution from 12 to 20 Megapixels and widening the maximum ISO from 3200 to 12800. This gadget isn’t just impressive in terms of tech talk; the drone really delivers in practice. The Mavic Pro 2 makes it simple to create crystal clear, target-zoom videos during day or night, both time-lapse and real time. This means that videographers aren’t limited by lighting or moving targets, and can create vivid, high-resolution travel documentaries with ease.

    Courtesy of Snap Inc.

  • Travel Tech & Gear: The Most Inclusive Travel Wear

    Winner: Uniqlo

    At Fodor’s we’ve always been proponents of the democratization of not only travel, but travel wear. And Uniqlo has become our favorite travel brand for inclusive outfitting. Their partnership with Hana Tajima’s gorgeous line of modest wear and hijabs, EXTRA SIZES up to XXL, and sizing for the statistically short and tall make this a one-stop shop for a wider range of travelers looking for something comfortable when they hit the road. They even feature cooling, quick-drying garments for hot weather travel, and clothing that turns sweat into heat when you’re visiting colder climes. One of our favorite Uniqlo features? Their steps toward sustainability, which includes a program that takes back used items and gives them to people around the world who are in need.

    Runner-Up: Universal Standard

    In the grand tradition of getting in a little online shopping before heading out on a trip, Universal Standard stands head and shoulders above most retailers. Not only do they feature great basics that are versatile enough for going day to night virtually anywhere in the world, but they are available in inclusive sizes (up to size 32), and models on the site show you what each of those sizes look like on a human for fewer surprises (especially if you’re pre-trip shopping at what could be considered the last minute).

    UNIQLO USA/Facebook

  • Travel Tech & Gear: The Best Travel Pot

    Winner: Lord Jones CBD

    CBD-infused products are everywhere recently, and for good reason. This compound in marijuana helps you relax, get shut-eye even when you’re jet-lagged, and even relieve sore feet when you do too much sightseeing on your first day of vacation--so you can do too much tomorrow too. Our favorite CBD product? Lord Jones’ delightful gummy bears. They’re delicious, all natural, and contain the perfect amount of CBD in each gumdrop (20 mg) to provide a very chill sense of well being that makes airport chaos, coach seating, or even beautiful beach evenings that much better. And, best of all, pure CBD is legal if you’re traveling in the United States, and because it’s derived from select hemp cultivated in the USA, it’s even approved by the TSA.

    Courtesy of Lord Jones CBD

  • Cruises: The Best Luxury Cruise

    Winner: Crystal

    Sailing with Crystal is like being whisked away on an exclusive floating club, where luxury means super personalized service (hello, butler!) and a one-to-one crew to passenger ratio. That means whether you sail to the Seychelles on their 62-person yacht or to Singapore on their 200-passenger expedition ship, you won’t feel lost in the crowd. Champagne and wine are free flowing, and most activities and meals are included, but you can choose to splurge even more on some swoon-worthy extras. Lavish penthouse with a wraparound veranda? Exclusive chef's table with master sommeliers at hand? Yes and yes. And while we wouldn’t recommend sushi on just any cruise ship, we can attest that the ship’s Nobu Matsuhisa restaurants are, in fact, Nobu quality—and that says a lot.

    Runner-Up: Regent Seven Seas Cruises

    When you're looking for luxury, you don't want to hear "no." From the moment you step into your suite (yes, they are all suites on these ships) to the minute you disembark your Regent Seven Seas Cruise, you'll be coddled and comforted as you stroll the marble-clad atrium and teak decks. Want foie gras with every meal? Sure. Would you like Champagne with your hors d'oeuvres? Why not! Can't choose between shore excursions? Do all the trips you can fit in. Want to arrive a day early for your cruise? Definitely (and breakfast is included before you head to the ship). Guests who don't have access to private jets also get business-class airfare on intercontinental flights (sadly, though, only economy on domestic flights).

    Crystal

  • Cruises: The Best Budget Cruise

    Winner: Carnival Cruise Line

    Carnival ships are designed to appeal to the masses, and while the older ships are smaller and less elaborate, the newest Carnival ships are just as full-featured as any others, with an adults-only Serenity Deck (which does not carry an additional charge, unlike most others). Guests on a budget who book the cheapest cabins will have 185 square feet of space (it's as little as 114 square feet on some other lines) in the typical inside cabin, among the largest at sea. And they will be able to eat at Guy's Burger Joint and Blue Iguana Cantina for no extra charge (and on some ships, Guy's Pig & Anchor BBQ, too). Want an all-you-can-drink plan? It's $49.95 on Carnival, the cheapest you'll find.

    Runner-Up: Norwegian Cruise Lines

    Our runner-up for Best Budget Cruise is Norwegian Cruise Lines, specifically, their cruises to the Caribbean. If you're trying to cut down on the cost of a long vacation, you can't do better than their multi-day cruises. We know because we've crunched the numbers. An 11-Day Southern Caribbean cruise from New York costs just $849 per person on average, that's just under $80 dollars a day. And some run cheaper, down to around $50 per day. But despite the low price, you'll find plenty of amenities on Norwegian's Jewel-class ships, great deals for singles with no upcharges, and fantastic destinations including Great Stirrup Cay in the Bahamas, which has the best beaches of all their Caribbean ports.

  • Cruises: The Best River Cruise

    Winner: Aqua Expeditions

    If cruising into the Peruvian Amazon on a sleek-and-sexy riverboat with an Amazon-inspired and derived menu directed by one of Peru’s top chefs; a crew of naturalist guides who really know the Amazon and show genuine joy in sharing it with you; and a captain who only breaks from carefully navigating to play the bongos doesn’t float your boat, then you need to reexamine your flotation criteria. Aqua Expeditions’ Aria Amazon offers a luxurious floating 32-guest boutique hotel experience in one of the world’s most magical environments. Take daily excursions on small skiffs to explore the winding canals and jungles of the Amazon while you look for hawks, howler monkeys, and sloths overhead and rare pink river dolphins, spectacled caiman crocodiles, and anacondas along the river bank. Visit riverside communities, fish for red-bellied piranhas, and lunch on delicious local dishes at a ranger station in the jungle while learning about sustainability efforts. Or just take in the mesmerizing Amazon while you sip a Pisco Sour from the Jacuzzi on the sun-soaked top deck, or watch it glide past the floor-to-ceiling windows in your elegant, air-conditioned suite. As well as river cruises on the Amazon and the Mekong, Aqua Expeditions just launched new cruising experiences in the pristine East Indonesian Archipelago.

    Runner-Up: AmaWaterways

    We admit that river cruise ships can start to seem pretty cookie cutter (they’re all the same shape after all), but AmaWaterways’ family-owned fleet stands out. More luxurious than your average river line, these ships have a chic, boutique-like atmosphere and spacious rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, most with twin balconies. Itineraries span the globe, from classic Rhine Christmas market cruises to sailings in Africa supplemented with safari excursions. Their latest ship, AmaMagna, debuted just this year, so you can sail on a ship that’s still shiny and new (plus, the ship’s godmother and travel TV queen Samantha Brown is joining a Danube sailing this July). The line also has a Disney partnership on select cruises, which means kids are encouraged to join in on an active, family-centric itinerary—a rarity for river cruise lines.

    Aqua Expeditions

  • Cruises: The Best All-Inclusive Cruise

    Winner: Regent Seven Seas

    While many cruise lines claim to be all-inclusive, Regent is the only line that truly delivers—and the ships are luxurious to boot. The line folds everything into the fare, from spa treatments and shore excursions to gratuities and Wi-Fi, to alcohol and specialty restaurant dinners to (arguably best of all) airfare. Okay, so the price tag is high, but you won't want for anything, and you’re really getting a great value for your money. If you’ve experienced how nickel-and-dime the cruise industry is, that's a big deal.

    Runner-Up: Viking Ocean Cruises

    Speaking of being nickel-and-dimed, Viking Ocean Cruises was designed for those who despise such practices. Here, you'll find several specialty restaurants but no extra charges. Wine and beer are included at every meal (and if you want an unlimited drinks and premium wine, a Silver Spirits package is available for about half of what you'll pay on most other cruise lines). What else is included? The minibar in your cabin, at least one free shore excursion in every port, Wi-Fi throughout the ship, and use of the extensive thermal suite in the spa. Guest laundries are also found on every deck (and are, of course, also free, including detergent and fabric softener).

    Regent Seven Seas

  • Cruises: The Best Family Cruise

    Winner: Disney Cruise Lines

    It should surprise no one to discover that Disney Cruise Lines won this year’s Fodor’s Award for Best Family Cruise. Disney Cruises feature entertainment from Disney hits from Toy Story to Marvel’s Avengers . And now that Star Wars is part of the Disney family, you can even learn lightsaber techniques from a Jedi Master.

    But what’s also great about a Disney cruise is that, if you’re an older fan, you’ll love that the ships are high-end, with “adult beverage” tasting seminars, a world-class spa, and plenty else to rival the giddy feeling of little ones hanging out with Mickey on a ship for the first time.

    Runner-Up: MSC Seaside

    The MSC Seaside, which currently departs out of Miami, offers families every amenity they could want in a cruise—an outrageous on-board waterpark, a supervised children’s club, expansive pools, kid-friendly activities, and food options around the clock. Many family cabins on the ship also feature couches that turn into bunkbeds and roomy decks that let the whole family enjoy sunrise and sunset views. The ship’s current Caribbean itineraries include stops in family-friendly spots like Ochos Rios, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and even their private Ocean Cay Marine Reserve starting in late 2019. Not only that, but kids ages 11 and under cruise free on select MSC Cruises, including some itineraries on the MSC Seaside. What’s not to love?

    Disney Cruise Line

  • Cruises: The Best Booze Cruise

    Winner: Norwegian Cruise Line

    If your only vacation goal is to see how many frozen drinks with umbrellas you can finish, nobody does it better than Norwegian Cruise Line. Norwegian Sky and Norwegian Sun sail the perfect long weekend itineraries from Miami that are always inexpensive and include—wait for it—a free open bar. Considering most other lines (especially budget lines) charge you an arm and leg for alcohol or make everyone in your party purchase a pricey drink package, that's impressive. The bottoms-up mentality is supplemented by nightlife so great, Pitbull was dubbed the godfather of Norwegian Escape. But don’t let that be the only reason you choose Norwegian: even if unlimited drinks don’t appeal, the line has the best Broadway-style shows at sea, flexible dining schedules, and rare single-supplement cabins for solo cruisers.

    Runner-Up: U River Cruises

    U River Cruises is one of our favorite booze cruises because they offer more than just an inebriated vacation; an educational experience is at hand with regional libation tasting opportunities featuring cocktails, beer, and wine that hail from each port city. Drinking can be a scheduled activity on this cruise, as well. Before you get back to purely recreational drinking, you can enjoy wine and painting classes on-board or cocktail sessions led by the boat’s world-class bartenders.

    Norwegian Cruise Line

  • Cruises: The Best Cruise to Replace Your Dating App

    Winner: Kesha Cruise!

    As icon Kesha says (sings?), “Tik tock on the clock but the party don’t stop...” and these words are truly brought to life on the pop star’s new cruise offering, which first set sail last February to Nassau, Bahamas from Tampa, Florida. Featuring performances by the queen herself and “her friends,” Betty Who, Girl Talk, and Bob the Drag Queen, Kesha’s Weird & Wonderful Rainbow Ride also sees Kesha hosting a lip sync competition on-board called “Lip Sync for Your Life Boat,” alongside such guest judges as Jonathan Van Ness and Thorgy Thor. As for the ship, the Norwegian Pearl, with its massive spa, casino, and multiple dining options, offers plenty of places to mingle with guests.

    Runner-Up: Virgin Voyages

    If you are dating and millennial-ish, Virgin Voyages is your best chance of not only meeting someone but finding something to do in the space between “How you doin’?” and deciding whether or not you’re going to hook up (which is an important part of the process). For dining and dating, there are 20+ restaurants (no buffets on this trip) plus room service. For after-dinner drinks, the mixologists are “creative and theatrical” and schooled in getting you the right amount of tipsy. For anything else, there are DJs, yoga classes, drag shows, and blowout bars—basically, everything you need to stay engaged and entertained.

    WILLBYINGTON

  • Cruises: The Campiest Cruise

    Winner: U River Cruises' Drag Cruise

    If you’re a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race , then you already know that a cruise starring contestants Jiggly Caliente and Phi Phi O’Hara is just about the most fun you can have on the open water. And the U in Drag German river cruise is almost like being on your own episode. You can Lip Sync for Your Life during karaoke night, enjoy your own drag makeup lesson, and maybe even get read for filth at the comedy show. And that’s just on-board. This cruise’s excursions include a bar crawl. Wigs and six-inch stilettos are optional.

    Runner-Up: The "Golden Girls" Themed Cruise

    Blanche, Dorothy, Sophia, and Rose...at sea! That’s right, “The Golden Girls At Sea: A Fan Cruise” is based on the beloved Golden Girls sitcom that chronicles four women who lived together in Miami during their “golden years.” A five-night highs seas adventure departing from the girls’ home—Miami—this treat of a trip to Key West and Cozumel includes multiple Golden Girls -themed drag shows, a panel discussion with original writer Stan Zimmerman, a costume contest, and a karaoke party. While tickets are pricey ($250/cabin or $1,000/suite), the trip should be on the radar of any fan of the show. Unfortunately, the cruise has sold out, but there is a waitlist !

    Jose A Guzman Colon

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