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Travel is on many people’s lists of New Year resolutions but with endless sources of vacation inspiration on the web, figuring out where to go is the toughest part. National Geographic Traveler Contributing Editor and family travel columnist at The Globe and Mail, Heather Greenwood Davis, shares her picks for the best places to travel in 2018.

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SOUTH AFRICA

There is so much to do here at any time but 2018 is a particularly good year to visit because it marks what would’ve been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. We all know that Mr. Mandela was the Apartheid activist turned prisoner turned President who passed away in 2013. His was an incredible legacy that can be seen across the country and you can expect there will be all kinds of celebrations and events this year to mark the occasion.  A couple of spots you will want to get to if you can: Robben Island (where former prisoners – some who served time with Mandela -  take you through the cells explaining what it was like there) and Soweto township in Johannesburg, where you can tour the home he shared with then wife Winnie Mandela and their kids.

For first time visitors the easiest entry to South Africa is Capetown. It’s a cosmopolitan, diverse city with international ties that will feel comfortable. Late last year the new MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary African Art) opened on the waterfront to rave reviews. And right next door you’ll find the new Silo hotel. This hotel is stunning!  If you can score a peek at the penthouse don’t miss it, but even the rooftop views of neighbouring Table Mountain are swoon worthy.

Most first timers head to Kruger National Park in the north but if you’re headed for Capetown in the South you don’t have to go that far. There are some incredible safaris with Kariega Private Game Reserve. It’s smaller, making the animals easier to spot and in a Malaria-free zone, making it a great choice for families. Plus the newest lodging accommodations at Settlers Drift are stunning: Ten private, luxury tented cabins set high above the giraffe-roaming plains with soaker tubs and amazing views.

If you’re type of adventure only goes as far as finding a good bottle of wine, you’re in the right spot for that too. Head for Franschoek and the wine region where you’ll also find the stunning Richard Branson-owned Mont Rochelle hotel and vineyards. And when you’re ready to explore, there are some great neighbourhood tours throughout the townships worth checking out.

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TURKS & CAICOS

2017 was brutal to much of the Caribbean. Many of us watched in horror as hurricanes ransacked island destinations we loved leaving nations devastated and people in really dire situations. The road to recovery has been a tough one for many of the countries but the resilience of the people is shining through and a big part of the recovery success stories are the tourists who are heading back either to volunteer or to show their support to renewed spots.

Case in point: The Turks and Caicos islands is what many are calling a silver lining in the hurricane season. The island bore the brunt of the storms but managed to actually house and take care of 2,500 guests who stayed on island throughout. The stunning Seven Stars Resort and Spa actually never closed! And while Beaches Resort (the popular family destination) did close, they used the time to renew and upgrade the property. They’re now open again and guests have new food trucks and fresh accommodation options to explore.

Another bright light is Antigua. While the sister island of Barbuda was devastated, Antigua suffered minimal effect and has been hosting guests for months now.  Another thing to consider:  Many of the islands are actually reporting that their sandy beaches are bigger and better thanks to the hurricane turning up fresh sand.

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JAPAN

Japan has so much to offer, no matter what type of traveler you are. With kids, it’s ideal. The Japanese love all things cute! I’ve been there with my family. From Hello Kitty restaurants to cat themed coffee shops to candy stores selling cotton candy as big as your head, kids will have a blast.

Adventurers will love Minakami where you’ve got huge cliffs to jump off and white-water rafting adventures. For winter adventures or just cooler summer temperatures, head north. Sapporo has an incredible winter festival but the island of Hokkaido as a whole has a lot of amazing history and culture relating to the first peoples of Japan. Then there’s the food – seafood, ramen, noodles! And of course, the educational aspects of tragic events like those that took place in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is just so much to see here. Plus, this country is so kind and gentle and clean!

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SRI LANKA

If you’re on Instagram and love travel, chances are you’ve seen at least one photo of the gorgeous tea plantations across Sri Lanka.

The country’s lush green fields and stunning beaches are taking the internet by storm.  But there’s more to the Eden-like island paradise than that: The Wilpattu Safari and Conservation Centre, which is known for its leopard population, welcomes visitors and the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre is where you can learn how they treat and rehabilitate injured elephants found in the area – before releasing them back into the wilderness. Plus, you can visit the villages and rice paddies, jungles and lakes, artists and chefs who make the area special. It’s gorgeous and inexpensive. All this attention being paid to the country isn’t without effort. The country’s tourism board is aiming to double the number of tourists to 5 million by 2020. That is all the more reason to go now before everyone is there.