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What makes a trip the best trip?

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

Full disclosure: It's nearly impossible to plan a best trip. But what you can do is create all the right conditions for having a best trip—and that's just what our annual Best Trips list is all about. We canvassed the world and collaborated with our global team of editors (we publish 17 international editions of Traveler magazine) to identify 25 essential places to discover and experiences to savor in 2020.

Which destinations made the cut? Wild and beautiful places: Tasmania, Kamchatka, Guatemala. Cool cities: Puebla, Philadelphia, and Parma. World wonders: Egyptian treasures in Abu Simbel and epic landscapes in Wales. One of my favorite stories is about Asturias, an autonomous region of Spain along the Bay of Biscay—far from the madding crowds of Madrid and the overtourism of Barcelona. Asturias is the Spain you dream of: earthy, delicious, utterly Iberian. Spain speaks to the soul, as every best trip should.

Where has your best trip taken you? We'd love to know. Send me your story at george.stone@natgeo.com; we will share readers' trips of a lifetime in coming weeks.

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Poll: Does social media ruin tourism?

Well, we were surprised. We thought the rash of tourist closings and curtailments brought by mobs of selfie-takers would have caused a tourist backlash against Instagram—and against social media in general.

A National Geographic and Morning Consult poll this month of 2,200 Americans indicates otherwise.

By a 39-to-25 margin, those polled say social media has had a positive impact on tourist destinations. There’s an age break, with Americans under 30 years old much more open and positive (a 49–19 margin) toward the benefits of social media. Other big supporters of social media: People who said they have traveled internationally (and presumably have seen some negative effects from crowded, Insta-dominated sites) have a positive view by a 44–27 margin. Check out the chart below for more:

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Today in a minute

Nature preserve. Inspired by the U.S. National Park Service, China aims to create a unified park system with standards on limiting development and protecting ecosystems, the AP reports. It’s starting in one of the world’s last remote places, the Tibetan plateau, ringed by the world’s tallest mountain range.

A visa to Europe? Yes, Americans will need one traveling there in 2021. Here’s what you need to know, Afar reports.

Who needs Paris? We’re captivated by these scenes from villages in Europe, including Monemvasia, Greece, the hilltop Portuguese community of Monsaraz, and the Dutch harborside hamlet of Blokzijl. Take a look! While you’re looking, here are our best travel photos of the year.

Byway BTW: It’s been a decade since there’s been a new Scenic Byway in the United States, but the program has been revived by Congress and, earlier this month, by the president. That means we could see more iconic roads designated soon. Since 1991, Congress has designated 150 such roads in 47 states, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and California’s Route 1 - Big Sur Coast Highway.

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Thrumming. Crowds gather in the evenings at the Race Street Pier in downtown Philadelphia. In a feature in the latest Traveler magazine, Johnna Rizzo writes this about evenings in the City of Brotherly Love: “The thrumming settles over the rooftops of South Philly as sunset’s hues deepen and drip into the folds of the city streets.” If you’re looking for more U.S. travel, check out the new vitality from these former industrial sites in the Midwest.

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The big takeaway

Recovery time. “Fishing is a sport of patience in a world that has little. To love it is to love the excuse to slow down and focus on a singular goal, surrounded by nature’s stereo: the babble of a wooded creek, or the definitive smack of a fin on the water’s surface. For me, the sport is a harbor, and I treasure it as much for the act itself as the memories that come to life with it—the steady hand of my grandfather, or the quiet company of my dad.” —Ali Watkins, on chasing salmon with her dad in upstate New York.

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Come back tomorrow for Victoria Jaggard on the latest in science. If you’re not a subscriber, sign up here to also get Rachael Bale on animals, Whitney Johnson on photography, and Debra Adams Simmons on history.

One last glimpse

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More than wallabies: In Tasmania, the riverside Museum of Old and New Art features mind-bending installations. Not that far away are the unspoiled walking trails, bold bike runs, and kayaking adventurers on the island that is Australia’s southernmost state. Oh, and Tasmanian Devils, too.

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard. Have an idea or a link? I’d love to hear from you atdavid.beard@natgeo.com.