Where Canadians Should Travel Next: Travelzoo Best Bets 2020

Where Canadians Should Travel Next: Travelzoo Best Bets 2020
Jan 2, 2020

This time of year, many publications compile lists of the hottest place to visit in 2020 — but for Canadians, the destinations on traditional must-see lists can feel impractical or out of reach. After all, we have a weak currency to consider, and far fewer flight options than our neighbours to the south.  

That's why Travelzoo took a different approach. We started by canvassing our Deal Experts in Canada, who have visited a collective 435 different countries. Our shortlist went to a panel of six Travelzoo specialists, who evaluated and debated each destination against a stringent set of six criteria. 

We considered transportation routes, vacancy rates, world events, availability of deals and more to develop the Travelzoo Best Bets2020 list: a forecast of the top six destinations that will offer the best experience for the best value to Canadians in 2020. (See for yourself: we've sourced deals to each Travelzoo Best Bets 2020 destination, with new vacation deals coming in all the time.)

Each destination on our list received a Travelzoo Deal Index Ranking, which took the six criteria into consideration. Scores over 100 represent exceptional value; you'll find each ranking below. 

Whether you’re interested in an exotic trip-of-a-lifetime or a quick holiday close to home, these are the destinations (listed in alphabetical order) that should be on your radar.  

1. Belize 

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Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America and boasts the second-largest barrier reef in the world, with world-class snorkelling and diving off its 400 islands and cayes. Other highlights include the world's only jaguar sanctuary, exceptional Mayan ruins and that oh-so-photogenic Great Blue Hole. Canadians, take note:  Belize is in the same time zone as Calgary and Edmonton and is less than five hours' flight from TorontoAirfare to Belize from either Vancouver or Toronto can cost the same or less than flying between those two Canadian cities (think $400 with a great sale, and under $600 most of the year). Both Air Canada and WestJet offer nonstop routes.  

With a raft of luxury hotels opening this year and next (including Leonardo DiCaprio’s eco-resort, Blackadore Caye), the 2020 impetus is to either be among the first to experience these luxury hotels, or to visit before Belize becomes pricier for tourists overall, with prices driven up by what's sure to be an influx of upmarket travellers. At the moment, guesthouse accommodations in cities like San Ignacio and Placencia can be had for $75 and up, but a proper hotel will be two to three times that.  

Getting around is cheap, however, whether you opt for buses or interior flights that let you enjoy the cities, beaches and jungles in one trip. Belize is a world leader in protecting the ocean, with stable fish stocks and ever-improving reef health, so pack your biodegradable sunscreen and get ready to have your mind blown! 

Travelzoo Deal Index Ranking: 160

 See Travelzoo's deals in Belize

2. Dubai  

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Dubai is a city of superlatives: one of the world’s busiest airports and home to the world’s largest shopping center, largest dancing fountain, tallest building and most luxurious hotel. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, though, especially this year.  

The World Expo 2020 is coming to Dubai in October 2020 and the Ministry of Tourism is going all-in to promote the emirate. New hotels are opening to accommodate the influx of visitors — and if you can visit earlier in the year, you’ll miss the crowds and benefit from all those extra rooms at a lower rate. (Oversupply has been cited as a reason for a drop in average room rates in Dubai; in mid-2019, costs hovered around $175/night compared to $196 a year earlier.) 

There’ll be plenty to see once you’re there; in addition to famous highlights like the man-made Palm Islands and Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, a raft of new projects have been built for the Expo. These include the Museum of the Future (shaped like a giant eye and packed with the world’s latest innovations) and a set of three theme parks — Bollywood, Motiongate and Legoland. You can also make the 90-minute drive to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and a tourist destination in its own right. 

Direct flights from Canada take more than 14 hours, but luckily many of the airlines that service this route (such as Emirates) are known for their comfort. Book in advance to score tickets in the $1,000 range.  

And since you’re already going all that way, consider combining a stopover in Dubai with a visit to a bucket-list destination. Depending on which airline you use, you can easily and affordably tack on a trip to Sri Lanka, Nepal, Thailand or the Philippines 

Travelzoo Deal Index Ranking: 147

See Travelzoo's deals in Dubai

3. Ecuador 

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Home to rainforests, beaches, mountains and wildlife, this tiny country offers a huge array of experiences and is more accessible than ever. Earlier this year, Air Canada Rouge announced the launch of their first-ever direct Toronto-Quito route, which will operate three times per week from December to May. (We found round-trip fares in January 2020 for as low as $565 from Toronto and $632 from Vancouver.) What’s more, Canada and Ecuador recently signed a new air transport agreement which allows designated airlines to serve any city in the other country's territory. This makes it likely travel options will increase — and become cheaper — as more airlines start to take advantage of it. 

As the gateway to the Amazon rainforest and Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is a nature lover's dream. In the Galapagos, you'll get up close and personal with sea lions, giant tortoises, mountains of iguanas and blue- and red-footed boobies, among other colourful characters. The landscape itself is also stunningly varied, with sugary beaches, brooding cliffs, black lava formations and water in every imaginable shade of blue. Over-tourism is a concern in the Galapagos, so if you do want to go, travel with an eco-conscious guide and respect all local rules.  

Don't miss a stop in Quito, Ecuador’s Andean capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site — especially gorgeous after a years-long, $200 million facelift. The city is built on Incan remains and rife with Baroque churches and monasteries. Keep your energy up with maracuya (passion fruit) juice and addictive empanadas de viento (fluffy cheese empanadas dusted with sugar). Hotel prices vary dramatically; you can find four-stars for $100-$200; more luxurious places for $400 (we like this hotel that encourages you to go local), or bargain accommodation for $50 and less. 

Travelzoo Deal Index Ranking: 160

See Travelzoo’s deals in Ecuador 

4. Florida

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In a way, Florida was a “best bet” for Canadians long before we added it to our list. An estimated 3.5 million of us visited last year alone — that’s nearly 10% of Canada’s entire population. So why did we add it now?

For one, there’s the Florida you know and the Florida you don’t know. This may be the state that gave us Walt Disney World and South Beach, but as travellers increasingly seek out places that offer fewer crowds, authentic experiences and lower prices, Florida is stepping up to the plate. In 2020, expect to hear more talk of travel trends you may not already know about, such as shipwreck diving, nighttime eco-walks and a burgeoning craft beer circuit. Regions you may not be familiar with, such as the Treasure Coast, are likely to rise further up your bucket list. Want to know more? We wrote a whole article about it.

Secondly, for many Canadians, Florida is even easier to get to than previously. New nonstop flight routes and increased airline competition mean that travellers from places such as Edmonton, Moncton, Southwestern Ontario and Vancouver have faster and cheaper ways to get to the Sunshine State. New players include Swoop Airlines, which offers flights from Hamilton to Ft. Lauderdale for as little as $150 return. And Air Canada Vacations has announced they will be expanding their Sun Collection to Florida, offering new packages to Canadian snowbirds, and expanding their Play Program, with 140 hotels where kids aged 12 and under eat, play and stay for free. 

Travelzoo Deal Index Ranking: 160

 See Travelzoo's deals in Florida

5. Philippines

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Why now? You’ve probably heard people rhapsodize about how wonderful, affordable and peaceful Thailand is — those beaches! Those welcoming people! Those low prices! In a few years, they’ll be saying the same thing about the Philippines. Get the jump on the country now by planning a trip to the Philippines in 2020.  

The country has goals of hitting 12 million annual tourists by 2022, and they're on their way, with 7.1 million reported in 2018 and good year-over-year growth reported for 2019.  At the same time, with all this investment, actual tourism numbers are pretty low (to put the 7.1 million visitors in perspective, in 2018 Thailand saw 38 million tourists) — just one of the reasons why Canadians should visit this country now, before the rest of the world catches on. Here are some of the other reasons: 

  • Islands & Beaches: Whether your taste runs to surfing or diving; lounging or sailing, one of the Philippines’ 7,000 islands will be right for you. Conde Nast Traveller named Siargao to their 2020 Destinations to Watch, while Travel + Leisure singled out Palawan, Cebu and Boracay islands in their 2019's World Best awards. You’ll find plenty of online guides to help you pick the right islands for you. Flights within the country are relatively inexpensive, so don’t limit yourself to one. 
  • Friendly, English-speaking culture: Once a Spanish colony, the Philippines was occupied by the U.S. in the early 20th century, and English is a second language of sorts, taught in public schools and spoken across the nation. And without generalizing, tourists haven’t outworn their welcome here; many visitors say their best memories stem from the warmth of the Filipino people they encountered on their trips 
  • Getting there is easier than ever. Philippine Airlines runs nonstop flights from both Vancouver and Toronto, and last spring, they upped the Manila-Toronto flight frequency from five times a week to seven. If you bypass nonstop flights, flights can dip as low as $629 for roundtrip flights from Vancouver. 

Travelzoo Deal Index Ranking: 187

See Travelzoo's deals in the Philippines. 

6. Rwanda 

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Forget what you thought you knew about Rwanda. 

The Central Africa country has been rebuilding since its civil war ended in 1994 — and in 2017, the World Economic Forum not only rated it the safest country to travel to in Africa, but the ninth safest place to travel to in the world. It’s also considered one of the greenest countries in the world, with comprehensive policies to protect wildlife and the environment — and in 2018 it ranked as one of the top five countries in the world for gender equality.   

What’s the biggest draw in 2020?  The Land of a Thousand Hills” is one of only two places on Earth to see mountain gorillas up close – what talk show host Ellen Degeneres calls "indescribable" and "the experience of a lifetime." Rwanda is quickly becoming the hot place to go on safari, with freshly built infrastructure and fewer crowds than you’d find in Kenya or South Africa.  

Currently, well-reviewed 4-star hotels go for about $90-$150 throughout the year in Kigali, the colourful capital city. Prices for gorilla tours and hotels are expected to see a substantial and permanent bump in 2021, when Rwanda hosts 2021 AfroBasket, the cornerstone African basketball finals for the new Obama-backed African Basketball League. Degeneres' new Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund will open in early 2021, and multiple wildlife resorts have opened up in anticipation, meaning that brand new hotels, hungry for bookings in 2020, will be offering special soft launch prices. These include Magashi and Bisate, Rwanda's first luxury eco-safari resorts, and the Singita Kwitonda Lodge in Volcanoes National Park. These properties can be pricey, but for more affordable trips, check out the beautiful Serena Hotel, where stays start at $185 a night, or go “glamping” at the relaxed Ruzizi luxury tented lodges for about $115 per night.  

While it's not a short trip from Canada to Rwanda (typically involving at least one stopover in Europe), there are still deals to be had. Flights from Toronto typically run $990-1100, and from Vancouver, $1,100-1,200, if you book in advance. For the biggest savings, travel in March to May during rainy season, where prices have on occasion dipped to as low as about $600 for departures from Toronto, with a stopover in Amsterdam (Tip: Some KLM/Air France flights have a double stopover in Paris and Nairobi - extend your trip and spend a few extra days in the city of lights, as well as one of the biggest capital cities in Africa.) Package tours from Canada are also becoming more common and can represent great value for travellers. 

Travelzoo Deal Index Ranking: 147

See Travelzoo's deals in Rwanda 

7. Southern Italy 

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Want to experience Italian sunshine, food, wine and culture without paying too much or contributing to over-tourism? Head down the boot towards Basilicata, Campania, Abruzzo, Salerno and other southern regions like the Sorrento Coast, where "Italians go when the Amalfi Coast gets too busy" (Conde Nast Traveller). Now is the time to visit these hidden gems — especially since they’re bound to get busier after the new James Bond movie (filmed in the south of Italy), showcases the region with its Matera premiere late in 2020. 

A new carrier, Air Italy came into the Canadian market in 2019, and return flights to these regions can be had for around $700. While direct flights from Canada to airports in Bari and Brindisi are uncommon, both airports connect from Europe on low-cost carriers. Another good option from Canada is to fly to Rome and take the train; you’ll save money and see some stunning scenery from your window. 

You’ll find many vacation rental options in southern Italy; stunning multi-room homes with pools (a must for the summer months) can cost as little as $30-$50 per night, per person. This is a great option for a large group that wants to spread out(My family stayed in a breathtaking villa in Pisciotta in 2018 for less than it would have cost to stay in Muskoka.) Couples and solo travellers can find affordable hotel options; costs range from $100 to $300 per night during high season – about half of what you’d pay on the Amalfi coast. 

Travelzoo Deal Index Ranking: 133

 See Travelzoo's deals in Italy

8. Vancouver Island 

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You don’t have to leave Canada to find yourself on a stunning archipelago packed with seashore, rainforests, wildlife and friendly communities. Vancouver Island is one of the world’s most beautiful places to visit; when its champions say Vancouver Island has something for everyone, they’re not just uttering a soundbite. 

With accommodations ranging from low-budget hostels to boutique country inns to ultra-luxury stays on the tip of the island -- like the world-class Wickaninnish Inn — there are plenty of bargains to be found year-round. The low seasons from November through April are especially good value; the Island is still very comfortable with its mild temperate climate, and accommodations can drop to as low as $80-90 a night for a 4-star stay.   

And of course, you’ll be paying in Canadian dollars — no small thing in the economic climate of 2020. 

There’s a sizable airport near Victoria, so you can fly direct from many cities, plus float planes departing from downtown Vancouver multiple times a day also make it an easy 15-minute hop from the mainland. (These flights may become cheaper in 2020, as the largest operator, Harbour Air, switches over to electric aircraft.) Or take the BC Ferries like the locals (about $30) and enjoy about two hours of world-class views from the boat.  

Vancouver Island (just called “The Island — but never “Van. Island” or Vancouver Isle” — by locals) contains five distinct regions, each with its own draw and personality. Unless you’ve got weeks to spare, plan to visit just one or two regions on a given trip 

  • North Island: The most remote, desolate region of the island. Known for fishing, whale watching and grizzly bear sightings. San Josef Bay and Cape Scott Provincial Park are popular with nature lovers. 
  • Central Island: Beach towns of Parksville and Qualicum Beach make for a fun, family-friendly weekend getaway. Qualicum Beach is also a popular retirement community. Goats on a Roof market is a popular place to stop, shop, get ice cream and spot some goats on a grass roof. Nanaimo is one of the two major cities on the island – and where you get on and off the ferry if travelling to the central and north island or to the Pacific Rim.    
  • South Island: The South Island contains the popular Cowichan Valley wine region in its north, and loads of natural scenery, isolated beaches, lighthouses and a magical waterfall near Sooke in the south.   
  • Greater Victoria: Victoria is a small but lovely city containing many stately buildings including the BC Legislature and the Fairmont Empress. This eminently walkable city has historic Chinatown — a fun outing could be to meander through the many unique narrow alleys in the city, including the famous Fan Tan Alley as well as Trounce Alley and Dragon Alley. 
  • Pacific Rim: You’ll feel like you’re at the edge of the world as you walk Tofino’s expansive beaches in this wild region. This is one of the best places to learn to surf; the surf vibe is felt throughout the area and influences the culture and dining scene of the small town. There’s nowhere else on Vancouver Island that makes you feel like you’ve got away from it all like Tofino. 
  • Travelzoo Deal Index Ranking: 187

See Travelzoo’s deals on Vancouver Island 

Ready to plan your trip? We've sourced deals to all our Travelzoo Best Bets 2020 destinations.

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