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The World's 10 Best Travel And Tour Experiences -- Ranked By You

The folks at TripAdvisor have made an art form out of ranking all things travel that can be booked online, and by crowd-sourcing feedback data, they have compiled ratings of just about every activity you can do in practically any destination on earth. With a claimed 455 million unique monthly visitors, they capture a very large and statistically reliable data set for most popular destinations. However, I personally find the tour company, attractions and activity rankings - “Things to Do in ____” - much more useful than those for hotels or restaurants, which often skew downscale, chain and mass market.

Attractions, on the other hand, typically cut across all price strata. For instance, let’s say you visit Memphis, and check out food rankings on TripAdvisor. Number One is Flight Restaurant & Wine Bar, and while I’m sure it’s fine, that’s not where I send people visiting Memphis, home to countless Southern culinary standouts like Central BBQ. On the other hand, when it comes to Things to Do, the top rankings are perfect, the city’s can’t miss hot-spots: Graceland, the National Civil Rights Museum and Sun Studio.

TripAdvisor is best at helping you evaluate tours and attractions, which they call Things to Do, and they just released their Top 10 for the entire world based on 2017 data. Not surprisingly, the list includes major tourism landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Ancient Rome, but they also reflect a fast-growing trend towards the kinds of VIP experiences increasingly seen elsewhere in the travel world, from priority airline boarding to fast tracks at theme parks. Two of the planet’s top three experiential travel choices came in the form of line cutting experiences and both are great choices. The World’s Most Popular attraction was “Skip the line: Vatican Museums, St Peter’s, Sistine Chapel.” Number Three was “Skip the line: Ancient Rome and Colosseum Half-Day Walking Tour.” Italy skews high overall - no surprise there, since it is typically the most coveted international travel destination, and four of the top ten represent Rome, Venice and Tuscany, but these two line cutting experiences alone can save a visitor half a day of wasted vacation time and are definitely worth it. Interestingly, both the first and third ranked skip the line tours are operated by the same company, City Wonders.

In this vein, TripAdvisor says it now has more than 1,200 “skip the line” or “priority access” experiences worldwide, a trend they have seen trending upwards with travelers. Two more of these “priority experiences” make the current World Top 10, including visits to Barcelona’s majestic Sagrada Familia and Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower. On the domestic list, skip the line for the observation deck at New York’s One World Trade Center comes in third in the nation. The world’s highest ranked non-VIP experience at Number Two was the Chicago Architecture River Cruise, which I’ve done and highly recommend to anyone visiting the Windy City. Again, this rating is spot on as the best and most unique activity the city has to offer.

The World’s 10 Most Popular Experiences, ranked by 2017 booking totals, were:

1. Skip the line: Vatican Museums, St Peter’s, Sistine Chapel

2. Chicago Architecture River Cruise

3. Skip the line: Ancient Rome and Colosseum Half-Day Walking Tour

4. Rome Hop-On, Hop-Off Sightseeing Tour

5. Priority Access: Barcelona Sagrada Familia Tour

6. Eiffel Tower Summit: Priority access with host

7. Warner Bros Studio: The Making of Harry Potter with Luxury Round-Trip Transport from London

8. Empire State Building Tickets

9. Murano, Burano, and Torcello half-day sightseeing tour

10. Tuscany in One Day Sightseeing Tour

You can see all of TripAdvisor’s data and travel trend analysis here, along with rankings just for the USA and for newly added experiences.