The holidays remind us about the importance of family, as we button up and head out into the winter night to spend time with grandparents, grandchildren and friends. Travel experts Ellen Bettridge and T.J. Mahony say they are seeing a significant rise in travel to vacation destinations this holiday season.
“More people are traveling together this season,” says Bettridge, vice president of American Express’ U.S. Retail Travel. “Our tracking data shows three in 10 Americans taking at least two trips between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and spending 40 percent more than in 2010.”According to Bettridge and Mahony, founder and CEO of vacation-home rental site FlipKey, families are traveling together more during the holidays in search of new experiences and traditions. Cruises, all-inclusive resorts and vacation homes provide excellent destinations for families, allowing plenty of opportunity for individual exploration while maintaining a hub for collective dinners and other gatherings.
Here are five travel destinations that these experts consider “the places to be” over the holidays, with or without your weird Uncle Frank.
Cruising in Caribbean
Warm and sunny places are a natural choice for many families, who favor the affordability and lack of hidden costs in all-inclusive packages such as cruises. Freedom from daily budgeting logistics also eliminates a source of potential family tension, since most families are composed of many different wage earners with corresponding levels of disposable income and lifestyle choice. “Cruising into the Caribbean remains hugely popular,” says Bettridge. “Many families like to remain close to home and cruising enables multigenerational families to enjoy time as a family but also to have independent time as well.”
Mahony says FlipKey.com data suggests Americans who travel farther abroad at this time of year prefer the convenience of large cities. Rome tops his urban getaway list. “I think people look for hassle-free travel whenever possible during the holidays. The fact that there are direct flights to these cities from major U.S. airports is very appealing.”
Rio de Janeiro
No doubt about it, Brazil is a hot travel destination and, with both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympic Games on the horizon, the Brazilian sizzle will only get hotter. In fact, Rio is the only non-European city to break FlipKey.com’s “Top Five” urban destinations data.
Lake Tahoe and Mammoth, California
“Something is definitely happening in California ski areas,” Mahony says. In fact, according to Bettridge, their data shows a 10 percent growth nationally in ski vacations this year – a healthy sign for the ski tourism industry. “We’re seeing people book driving vacations to Mammoth and the Lake Tahoe ski areas much sooner and more frequently then in the past. We are also seeing more ‘Big Chill’ friend/group travel to the ski areas than we have in the past few years.”
Mexico offers travelers over 1,600 beaches, numerous all-inclusive resorts and plenty of recreational options, including the familiar (snorkeling) to the less known (a pirate cruise). Both agree that specialty trips, including surf clinics and yoga retreats, continue to grow in popularity. Bettridge notes that Mexico’s blend of travel convenience, warm weather and costs appeals greatly to Americans.