2018’s Top Google Searches Say a Lot About Where People Traveled (and Why)

Dec 14, 2018

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The people have spoken, er, typed, and Google has listened. (Yes, Google can see what you do online.)

This week, the search engine released its data on the top trending searches of 2018, based on the terms that had the highest spike this year compared to last.

The list sheds some light on the places people most want to travel. Start typing, “trip to” into Google, for example, and a few places are likely to automatically populate. The No. 1 destination people were Googling in 2018? Italy.

Italy remains the most popular web-search on Google. (Photo by Dorian Mongel via Unsplash)
Italy is the most popular trip-related search on Google in the US. (Photo by Dorian Mongel via Unsplash)

Italy has long been a stalwart favorite among travelers, but these weren’t just aspirational trip inspiration searches. Italy was also named the No. 1 travel destination overall in Virtuoso’s Luxe Report this year. According to Virtuoso-affiliated travel advisors, Italy was also the No. 1 honeymoon destination, family travel destination and the No. 2 millennial travel destination in 2018.

It seems that, despite issues with overtourism, Americans still travel to Italy in droves.

Google reported that the second most popular place people searched for was Paris, followed by Iceland, the Bahamas, Ireland, Vegas, Bora Bora, New York, New Orleans and Spain. So if you’re thinking about planning a trip to any of these places, you’re hardly alone.

According to Mastercard’s 2018 Global Destination Cities Index, Paris was the third most popular city in the world to visit in 2018, drawing an estimated 17.44 million international visitors. Meanwhile, Iceland continues to capture the imaginations (and flood the Instagram feeds) of travelers, and its popularity is only increasing. It, too, ranked in a number of categories in Virtuoso’s Luxe Report, including No. 1 emerging destination — all though it feels like Iceland has fully, well, emerged.

And this year, the Bahamas became one of the most talked-about destinations when the massive Baha Mar megaresort debuted in Nassau. The complex comprises three hotels: the SLS Baha Mar, Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and the Rosewood Baha Mar, not to mention around 30 restaurants and bars, several pools, shops, an art gallery and a golf course.

If you were among those searching for a “trip to…” this year, but never made the next step to booking travel, consult one of our thorough guides to exploring these popular destinations using points and miles. (Hello, Eternal City and Land of Fire and Ice!)

As for the places that had people most puzzled, the No. 1 place people Googled when searching “Where is…” was Villanova University, followed by Croatia. The country also appeared in the top 10 Spanish language searches: “Donde esta Croacia en el mapa?”

Croatia’s popularity with travelers has skyrocketed thanks largely to its presence in “Game of Thrones.” For many, it’s a less crowded, less expensive alternative to Italy. And if you don’t know where it is, well, it’s just east of Italy on the other side of the Adriatic Sea. For most of the year, Croatia enjoys warm weather.

The scene at sunset in Hvar, Croatia. (Photo by Cody Black via Unsplash)
The scene at sunset in Hvar, Croatia. (Photo by Cody Black via Unsplash)

Aside from the destinations people searched for, we also noticed that two of the most Googled news terms were indicative of travel trends, too.

Taking the No. 8 spot was the Royal Wedding, which gave London’s Heathrow airport its busiest May ever. And the No. 1 most popular news search was for the World Cup, which attracted more than 5 million tourists to Russia in June. “World Cup” was also the No. 1 most Googled search term in 2018 overall.

And few people have inspired more intrepid travelers than Anthony Bourdain, whose shocking death was felt across the globe this year, and reflected by Google’s search year in review. Despite the devastating loss, Bourdain will remain one of the most influential and powerful personalities the world has ever known.

Featured image by Pawel Czerwinski via Unsplash.

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