Hi Slevin, welcome to the forum. I guess you can get 100 different answers to your query, it would depend on personal choice of the respondents. The lens warth man suggested although 2 mm better on the wide end is to short on the long end for me as an all round lens where I shoot surfers as well as festivals.
It would depend on how long away your expected subject/objects are that will need to be considered for you to make the right choice on the long end for you. I use the Nikon 18-200 mm and it never comes of the the D7000. Although a bit short for surfing the IQ of the lens allows me to heavily crop my images and still get a good finish.
I use the VR II version and by all reviews the earlier version produces the same IQ except the VR is improved and there is a zoom lock at 18 mm on the later version which I don’t think is a big deal. The benefit of the earlier model is it should be a few hundred dollars cheaper.
As for wanting blurred background effects I would suggest having a look at the quick tutorial on the forum.http://www.dslrtips.com/workshops/How_t ... ield.shtml
Good luck with your selection and have fun on your trip.