Already dreaming about where you want to go next year? You’re not alone. Studies show travelers are making their plans earlier than ever—and many are setting a goal of seeing all seven continents.

So, while you ponder where your 2020 travel bucket list will take you, here’s a world of ideas—one for every continent—each with something new for the new year:

Dreaming of breathtaking scenery?

Go to: Milford Sound, New Zealand

During his 18th-century ocean explorations, Captain James Cook bypassed this 10-mile-long fjord, fearing its narrow mouth and steep mountainsides. But today’s cruise ships easily navigate it, floating past sheer cliffs (more than 3,000 feet high), famously stunning Mitre Peak and waterfalls that tumble gracefully into the sound. Penguins and bottlenose dolphins ply the waters, while fur seals laze in the sun on Seal Rock.

Can’t get your fill of fjords? Hop on a cruise that also sails through nearby Dusky Sound and Doubtful Sound, less-visited but also dramatic. Or, take an overnight cruise in Milford Sound—you’ll wake at dawn in the place Rudyard Kipling called “the eighth wonder of the world.”

What’s new: Bird enthusiasts cheered the resurgence of the takahe, New Zealand’s indigenous flightless bird, thought to be extinct. In 2018, 30 of them were released into the wild—and visitors can see others at the bird sanctuary on the shores of Lake Te Anau.

Dreaming of getting away from it all?

Go to: Hawaii

For those who really want to escape the day-to-day, there’s little better than a tropical island. Cue Hawaii. Surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, the Aloha State lies 2,400 miles from California and 4,900 miles from China.

For all its isolation, though, Hawaii is quite accessible: Board a nonstop flight from Chicago or Atlanta, and you’re only about nine hours from paradise. Once there, lose yourself in the islands’ serene moments and natural wonders—more than 100 beaches, spectacular waterfalls and the acrobatic humpback whales that frolic off Maui from January to March.

What’s new: Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii has reopened now that the molten lava is gone following the 2018 eruptions. Take a Kilauea volcano tour of the 2018 flow sites, including a 40-foot wall of black lava, or a boat trip to see the newly formed Kapoho coastline.

Dreaming of escaping to sunny skies?

Go to: Buenos Aires, Argentina

When the weather is gloomy at home, remember that the seasons are opposite in South America—making this a perfect destination to add to your travel bucket list. In March or November, you’re likely to find weather that’s just right for strolling through historic neighborhoods or relaxing at a cafe. Closer (and often less expensive) than cities in Europe, Buenos Aires presents a fascinating melange of architecture, history and cuisine that’s easy to explore—from Plaza de Mayo, the symbolic heart of the city, to the La Boca district, birthplace of the tango. After a late dinner—do as the locals do and dine no earlier than 9 p.m.—see a tango show at La Ventana, known for its spirited dancers.

What’s new: A total solar eclipse will pass over Argentina and Chile on Dec. 14, 2020—with totality occurring over the beautiful Chilean Lake District. (Cruise lines are already planning itineraries to coincide with it.)

Dreaming of a fresh take on history?

Go to: Ireland’s east coast

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Home to cities Dublin and Cork, the ancient east coast has 5,000 years of history to explore—all infused with the buzzy vibe of a nation that boasts one of the youngest populations in Europe. In Dublin, modern buildings stand alongside Georgian row houses and cozy pubs like Bewley’s Grafton Street, a mahogany-and-marble cafe dating to 1927.

In and around Cork, innovative museums include the Titanic Experience Cobh—where you can feel what it was like to be on the fated ship. From the cities, it’s a pleasant day trip to sights in the countryside. English-speaking Ireland is easy to navigate, yet its Irish language is a proud part of the culture. Offer a phrase or two—such as the toast slainte (pronounced SLAWN-chuh)—and you’ll endear yourself to any local.

What’s new: Game of Thrones filming locations abound in Northern Ireland, and in 2020, fans can visit the new Game of Thrones Studio Tour—a 111,000-square-foot interactive exhibition at the TV show’s former studios outside Belfast.

Dreaming of embracing a new culture?

Go to: Japan

This modern country’s ancient roots are thriving—making Japan an alluring spot to add to your travel bucket list if you appreciate local culture and traditions. In the former imperial city Kyoto, for instance, stop at one of the picturesque teahouses to experience this ritualized pleasure. And in Tokyo—host of the summer 2020 Olympic Games—cap off a tour of the Tsukiji Fish Market with a sushi-making class.

Outside major cities, Japan has much to offer, too, including Kenrokuen, revered as one of Japan’s finest gardens. When its 420 cherry trees bloom in April, join in on hanami—the “flower viewing” picnics and parties that are a time-honored ritual throughout Japan, dating back to the eighth century.

What’s new: Cruise lines are adding stops at smaller ports—such as the tiny fishing village of Sakaiminato and Aburatsu, which leads to the ancient shrines of Miyazaki Prefecture.

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Dreaming of stepping back in time?

Go to: Egypt’s pyramids

The power of ancient Egypt is undeniable. Its pyramids alone can cast a spell—looming against the horizon, a silent message from one of history’s most important civilizations. While the Giza pyramids, guarded by the lion-bodied Sphinx, are the most well-known, more than 70 pyramids rise along the Nile River.

A Nile cruise or guided tour is generally the favored way to explore: Imagine floating down the river with the style and luxury of a pharaoh, stopping at such wonders as the immense Temple of Karnak, at its peak the most important religious complex of ancient Egypt; and the Valley of the Kings, used for nearly 500 years as a royal burial place. Some tours give you unique access, such as a field talk with an Egyptologist between the paws of the Sphinx (usually off-limits to visitors).

What’s new: The Grand Egyptian Museum near the Pyramids of Giza is set to open in 2020 with its star attraction—all 5,400 objects excavated from King Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Dreaming of exploring uncharted territory?

Go to: Antarctica

The coldest, the driest, the windiest, the southernmost—the White Continent boasts a host of superlatives. And for those yearning to go where few have gone before, consider this: Antarctica is the least-populated and least-visited continent. There are no tourist facilities in this ice-covered land where penguins outnumber people—simply nature at its most pristine.

Those up for the adventure go by cruise, choosing between small and large ships. Vessels carrying fewer than 200 people are nimble enough for frequent landings. Ships with more than 500 passengers aren’t allowed to land, but their stability may provide additional comfort. However you travel, the splendor of the natural world is ever present—from Lemaire Channel, with its huge ice cliffs, to mountainous Elephant Island, where Ernest Shackleton left 22 of his men to launch one of history’s greatest rescues. Longer cruises stop at South Georgia Island, dubbed the “Galapagos of the Poles” for its throngs of curious, gentle penguins and lounging seals.

What’s new:
Some Antarctica cruises are adding elegant touches to this otherwise rugged adventure. Think spas, outdoor whirlpools, pillow menus and even complimentary caviar.

Explore the Globe

From guided trips and cruises to fully custom itineraries, your AAA Travel Advisor has a range of resources to help you plan a trip from your travel bucket list.

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