What's In, What's Out for 2012
In: Traveling Social. Out: Traveling Solo. Find out more of Travel Channel's picks for what's hot and what's not for travel in 2012.
Bolt Bus and AmtrakIn: Amtrak
Out: Bolt Bus
Oh, Bolt Bus, how we wanted to love you. A one-way ticket from DC to NYC costs only $25. After an orderly boarding at Union Station, we were all aglow. But then we were forced to sit for 30 minutes at a time in several nasty Jersey Turnpike rest stops. We thought we could still be friends. But then we got to the embarkation point in NYC for the trip home. Holy nasty corner and crowds, Batman! After a street-side scuffle over luggage space, we were done. Dear Acela, please let us pay you $166 one way, we won’t leave you again. 960 1280
Skiing Out: European Summer
Skiing The Farmers’ Almanac is forecasting “clime and punishment” for the winter of 2012, a season of unusually cold and stormy weather that will be strongly influenced by La Nina. Translation? Ski bonanza for the Pacific Northwest! At the same time, European ski resorts across the Alps are being forced to close summer ski areas due to the combined effects of global warming and glacial melting. In 2012, only 3 resorts in France are able to offer conditions suitable for summer skiing. 960 1280
Out: Stealing Hotel Towels
You, too, can help save the planet by simply reusing hotel room towels and linens. According to Green Suites, a hospitality service company, when guests participate in towel and linen reuse programs, an average 150-room hotel can save 6,000 gallons of water and 40 gallons of detergent monthly. And for those of us who sometimes find a towel in our luggage, FYI: Linen Technology Tracking has patented a washable chip for hotels to sew into towels, robes and bed sheets that triggers an alarm when tagged items leave the premises. Ouch. 960 1280
Last year, around Christmas time, we had our Italy travel guides primed in anticipation of Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie zooming around the canals of Venice in The Tourist. In 2012, we’re all about the dark side of Stockholm as the US version of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo brings us a menacing Daniel Craig and badass Rooney Mara. Here’s to a very Scandinavian 2012. 960 1280
Out: Traveling Solo
Savvy travelers have been using TripAdvisor to help plan getaways for several years, and going forward, social travel website and app launches will only accelerate. A dizzying glut of startups hope to cash in on the trend in 2012 with services that run the gamut from sharing and planning itineraries to meeting up with people along the way. 960 1280
Silly Incas, you need to predict a world apocalypse if you want to be “In” next time. Maya calendar buffs will want to visit a few key sites this year on or before Dec. 12, 2012, the date on which the world is predicted to end (or be reborn) in the Mayan “long count” calendar. Mexico’s Tortuguero no longer exists as an archaeological site, but Monument 6, its most famous relic containing the only text bearing the actual date, is now housed in the Museo Regional de Antropología Carlos Pellicer Cámara in Villahermosa. 960 1280
Out: Underwater Hotels
This year Galactic Suites plans to open the world’s first orbiting hotel. The Barcelona-based company says guests will orbit the earth every 80 minutes, see the sun rise 15 times a day and crawl around pod rooms using Velcro suits. Your 3-day stay in space will cost approximately $4 million. Meanwhile, Poseidon Undersea Resorts, a proposed chain of underwater hotels, was slated to open its first property in Fiji by 2008. We’re still waiting to sleep with the fishes. 960 1280
Out: Books on Kindle
Last year we carried our laptop for work, mobile for texting, tablet for movies and Kindle for books. But this year we’re asking ourselves, “Why carry an extra device when we can download our library to a mobile phone or tablet?” From handy dandy travel guides to beach reads to movies and Angry Birds, the tablet or phone can handle them all. Some of us remember the days when we tore the pages out of our “Let’s Go” after we left a destination to save room in our backpack. You kids have it so easy. 960 1280
Out: Lima for Breathing
Recently this coastal city has been drawing foodies from all over the world to sample a new breed of modern cuisine reflecting Lima's cultural mix of Spanish, African, Chinese and Japanese. The country’s long Pacific coast provides an endless bounty of fresh seafood for all sorts of recipes, including Lima's signature dish -- ceviche. Unfortunately the Peruvian capitol suffers from the worst air pollution of any South American capital. 960 1280
NBC’s Who Do You Think You Are, a program on which celebrities trace their genealogy to destinations across the globe, is capitalizing on a trend that travelers are also embracing -- trips on which learning and activity is emphasized over lazing around the beach or pool. Many tour companies are also offering trips where experts lead the way through historical, scientific and archaeological sites. We’re up for these authentic experiences over last year’s kind-of creepy “glamping” trend. Even the Sex and the City women can’t pull off couture while riding a camel. 960 1280
Out: 2-Wheeled Luggage
The first time we saw a woman in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle gliding along next to her suitcase as she daintily guided the large bag down the concourse, we did a double take. We were shocked -- SHOCKED! -- to notice the thing had 4 multi-directional wheels. We were skeptical even as our right shoulder ached from the weight the 2-wheeler that added several feet to our total length. Color us convinced. WANT. 960 1280
Out: Napa, CA
Wine connoisseurs have long been in on the secret that Sonoma’s 300-plus wineries offer superlative tasting, but travelers have discovered that Sonoma has a more well-rounded flavor than her sister county, Napa. From floating the Russian River to hiking through ancient redwood stands, to browsing Petaluma’s Victorian row to sampling Sepastopol’s Gravenstein apple pies, Sonoma satisfies all tastes. 960 1280
Travelers to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in 2012 are forgoing the tired Americaland of Cancun and turning to the “real Mexico” a few hours inland at Merida. The city’s Spanish colonial center is ringed by 16th-century cathedrals and free art museums. Plus, 5 Mayan sites are situated on public bus routes. It’s simple to arrange day trips to the region’s magical cenotes (water-filled limestone sinkholes unique to the Yucatan), as well as the village of Celestún where hundreds of pink flamingos nest and feed in the mangroves. 960 1280
The Middle of Middle-earthA giant sculpture of Gollum, created by local special-effects studio WETA, welcomes the throngs of Hobbit fans at the Wellington Airport in New Zealand. The airport terminal has also been renamed, greeting arrivals with a sign saying, "The Middle of Middle-earth." The whole airport is dedicated to Hobbit-fever -- even luggage is collected from "Baggins Services." 960 1280
Tongariro ParkTongariro National Park was selected by filmmaker Peter Jackson to stand in as J.R.R Tolkien’s ominous Mordor. This 300-square-mile park on New Zealand’s North Island is full of natural wonders, including active volcanoes and emerald lakes. The park’s popular Alpine Crossing was ranked one of the world’s top 10 day hikes by National Geographic. 960 1280
Weta CaveVisit the Weta Cave Museum in Wellington to see J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe come to life. Hobbit fans can meet some of the characters from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, learn about the movie’s special effects and get a sneak peek at behind-the-scenes videos. This Middle-earth mecca is open 7 days a week, with free admission. 960 1280
Middle-earth MeccaA 2-hour drive from Auckland will lead you to the famous rolling hills of Matamata’s countryside. Here you’ll find Hobbiton, the mecca of all Hobbit tourism. Fans can visit Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, where a Middle-earth expert will guide you through the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy film set. 960 1280
Mt. Aspiring National ParkMount Aspiring National Park, located in the Southern Alps of New Zealand's South Island, was a location for the fortress Isengard in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The park is a popular sport for tramping (the New Zealand term for hiking and trekking). 960 1280
Hobbit HoleVisit the Hobbiton Movie Set Tours to see where the furry-footed creatures live. There are 44 Hobbit holes on the site, which were recreated in 2011 for more Hobbit filming. The tiny Hobbit holes were remade with permanent materials, so the set can continue on as a permanent tourism attraction. 960 1280
Westland Tai Poutini National ParkWestland Tai Poutini National Park, located on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island, appears in the trilogy’s third and final installment, The Return of the King. The 290,000-acre park showcases a stunningly diverse landscape of glaciers, snow-capped mountains, forests and beaches. 960 1280
Lord of the Rings Horse TreksGlenorchy on New Zealand’s South Island is an area known for its horse riding and spectacular scenery. Trek on horseback 10 miles north of Glenorchy to an area known as Paradise. This rural treasure was the filming location for scenes in The Lords of The Ringstrilogy. 960 1280
Follow the Hobbit Trail in New Zealand 13 Photos
Everglades National Park, FloridaThe most threatened site in the US is the beautiful “river of grass” flowing into the sea on the southern tip of Florida, whose habitats provide sanctuary for a wide variety of birds and reptiles, as well as threatened species such as the manatee. Reinstated on the list in 2010, the fragile aquatic ecosystem is threatened by nearby development and pollution upstream. 960 1280
Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, IndonesiaMade up of 3 national parks, the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra is home to 10,000 plant species, 200 mammal species and 580 bird species in its protected area, many of which are endemic and endangered. Construction, poaching and illegal logging are just some of the threats to the island and its unique inhabitants, such as this Sumatran orangutan. 960 1280
Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, BelizeThe series of coral reefs lining the coast of Belize alongside picturesque sand cays, lagoons and offshore atolls makes up the largest barrier reef system in the Northern Hemisphere. The possibility of swimming alongside threatened species such as sea turtles and manatees makes it a diver’s dream, but continued development of formerly public lands could destruct the mangrove and marine systems. 960 1280
Niokolo-Koba National Park, SenegalThe plush savannas along the banks of the Gambia River are ripe with birds, chimpanzees, lions, leopards, elephants and Derby elands, the largest type of antelope, which have faced threats of overgrazing and poaching in recent years. 960 1280
East Rennell, Solomon IslandsEast Rennell is on the southernmost island of the Solomon Island group in the western Pacific and the largest raised coral atoll in the world. A former lagoon on the island, Lake Tegano, has a dense forest canopy (soaring more than 65 feet), rugged limestone islands and many endemic species threatened by logging. 960 1280
Air and Ténéré Natural Reserves, NigerSituated in the Sahara desert lies the largest protected area in Africa and an isolated volcanic rock mass with its own unique climate, landscapes, vegetation and wild animals. Military conflict and civil unrest have made the area unsafe since 1992. 960 1280
Timbuktu, MaliFor children, Timbuktu is synonymous with the end of the Earth, although few of them know where its remote location actually is — perched on the edge of the Sahara in Africa — or that in its golden age, the city was a spiritual and intellectual hub for some of Africa’s richest empires. Although its great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, are continuously restored, they are still threatened by desertification and militants (who destroyed sacred tombs in 2012). 960 1280
Chan Chan Archaeological Site, PeruSome 600 years ago, the city of Chan Chan in northern Peru was the largest adobe city in the world. Before being conquered by the Incas, some 60,000 people lived within the walls of the 9-square-mile city. The intricate labyrinth forms 9 separate citadels, or palaces, that mirror the Chimú’s strict social stratification. The ancient structures now endure heavy rainfall, which will slowly turn the once-brick walls into mud without constant conservation. 960 1280
Medieval Monuments of Kosovo, SerbiaThese 4 Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries represent the high point of Byzantine-Romanesque ecclesiastical culture, a unique fusion of east and west, with a distinct style of wall painting developed in the Balkans. Upkeep of the Decani Monastery — which was built in the mid-14th century for the Serbian king Stefan Decanski and also serves as his mausoleum — as well as the other historic buildings, has given way to political unrest in the area. 960 1280
Portobelo-San Lorenzo, PanamaThe ruins found at the port city of Portobelo and nearby Fort San Lorenzo hark back to the height of the Spanish colonial empire and were built to protect trade, particularly that of silver, between the Americas and Spain. Some parts of the walls have been lost to decay, but the most impressive section, at the mouth of the Chagres River, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, has been maintained. 960 1280
Old City, Jerusalem, IsraelJerusalem, as the holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, has always been of great religious symbolism. Of its more than 200 historic monuments, the most significant may well be the Dome of the Rock, which is recognized by all 3 religions as the site of Abraham’s sacrifice. 960 1280
Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, West BankJust south of Jerusalem lies what has been considered the birthplace of Jesus since the second century. The pilgrimage route is shared by Latin, Greek Orthodox, Franciscan and Armenian convents and churches. Much work is being done to safeguard the authenticity of this vulnerable site, which includes elaborate floor mosaics from the original building. 960 1280
Maritime Mercantile City of Liverpool, EnglandThe city of Liverpool, surprisingly, is home to the most endangered site in the United Kingdom. The historic center and maritime mercantile docklands played an important role in the growth of the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries; however, today, its preservation is threatened by new development along the waterfront. 960 1280
Great Barrier Reef, Australia?Off the coast of Queensland, Australia, sits the largest coral reef system and one of the most complex ecosystems in the world. While the Great Barrier Reef has not yet been named “in danger,” recent plans for rapid coastal development have a vocal group of leading scientists and activists calling for UNESCO to add it to the list during its annual review in June. 960 1280
World's Most Endangered Sites 14 Photos
Out: Meet at the Airport Bar
Forget sidling up to the airport bar alone, hoping to make that magical connection with someone during the doldrums of an hours-long layover. The new website MeetAtTheAirport.com gives tech-savvy travelers the chance to, er, hook up with a possibly special someone in advance of bellying up to the bar. Simply register on the site in a few simple steps, and you'll be able to discern other singles traveling through the same airport you're flying through. You'll be able to meet over a coffee or cocktail, or heck, why not really turn things up a notch, and grab a few slices from the food court Sbarro?
Out: Meet at the Airport Bar
Out: Cruise to the Caribbean
In: Cruise to Exotic Destinations
No longer are discerning travelers content to sip a mai tai on the starboard deck while watching tried-and-true ports of call like St. Thomas slip by. In fact, cruisers are looking toward destinations once rarely frequented by cruise lines, like the western coast of South America, Northern Europe, India, Africa and the Middle East -- and the cruise industry is responding in kind. In the midst of a definitive spike in the popularity of exotic cruise destinations, for 2013 companies such as Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean have more exciting destinations on the docket than ever before.
Out: Cruise to the Caribbean
Where once-upon-a-time backpackers to Southeast Asia once heralded Laos for its lush environs, Buddhist culture and fascinating temples, today the nation has become more of a frat party for ill-behaved backpackers getting wasted on a variety of substances and partying along riverbanks. Today, smart travelers are setting their sights elsewhere. In fact, you can barely discuss intrepid travel destinations without someone crying out "Myanmar!" these days. With the lifting of a travel ban imposed on rights activists to the once-fiercely ruled country, travelers have been pouring in.
Out: Western Europe
In: Eastern Europe
Oh, we know that Western Europe will never actually lose mass popularity among travelers, nor should it, but at times its prices can be staggering for Americans dealing with a weaker dollar. As 2013 approaches, more and more travelers are seeking out wonders beyond the Roman ruins and Parisian museums. Eastern Europe, once avoided during periods of extreme political upheaval and unrest, is now bubbling up as the go-to destination for many travelers. Take for example, mountainous Slovenia; it's being touted by travel and adventure publications as the new Alps.
Out: Western Europe
Scores of travelers take advantage of their vacation downtime to indulge in a spa treatment, typically a soothing Swedish or aromatherapy massage. And yet, that's so 2012. The next trend in restorative treatments is hammams, often referred to as Turkish baths. The traditional hammam experience typically involves stripping down, donning a small towel, loosening up in a steam room and getting the living daylights scrubbed and rubbed out of you by your treatment provider while lying on a marble slab. The whole ordeal is often capped off by a refreshing (albeit, startling) dunk in icy cold water.
Out: Non-Organic Foods
In: Foraged Cuisine
Ever since the Copenhagen restaurant Noma was named 2011's World's Best Restaurant by Restaurant Magazine, foodies have been turning a keen eye toward chef René Redzepi's unique twist on dining: forage cuisine. Wondering what on earth that means? Basically, the chef forages through the region to unearth, obtain and cook unexpected ingredients found in their natural habitats, like mosses, lichens and pine needles. Now, come 2013, it's not unusual to find restaurants such as Elizabeth in Chicago and Atera in New York City following suit. Best part: In this heightened embrace of nature, there's no space for pesticide-sprayed foods.
Out: Non-Organic Foods
Out: Thai Islands
In: Philippine Islands
Once upon a time, long, long ago, the young Leonardo DiCaprio starred in The Beach, filmed on Koh Phi Phi, and Thailand's beaches and islands would never be quite the same. As Thai islands have become overrun with backpackers, jacking up prices and leading to oft-crowded party zones on once-secluded beaches, travelers are seeking respite in as-yet-encroached places, such as the Philippine Islands. Head to the Palawan region but head there soon: As tour providers discover the area's growing popularity, more airlines are offering flights to the region, and we'll be again looking for the next epically isolated island experience.
Out: Thai Islands
Out: City Lights
In: Northern Lights
Catching a glimpse of the Northern Light's ethereal, dancing lights display, also known as aurora borealis, is the highlight of a lifetime, much less a vacation, for many travelers. The lights can be seen during periods of heightened solar activity, which happens to peak cyclically, every 11 years. Astronomy experts have predicted the lights will reach their next apex between now and April 2013. While a Northern Lights-spotting trip cannot guarantee a successful sighting -- there are certain Northern Hemisphere locations where sightings are more successful than others, such as Greenland, Iceland and parts of Canada.
Out: City Lights
Out: Pricey Hotels
In: DIY Vacation Rentals
Tired of paying out the wazoo for hotel stays that don't even include the cost of parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast or resort fees? We are too. Luckily, in 2013, there are alternatives for travelers with an open, DIY mindset. Rather than forking over the steep nightly rates of many hotels, travelers, and families in particular, are seeking accommodations through sites such as Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner). These sites allow vacationers to rent furnished condos, apartments or houses directly from their owners. While you might not get daily maid service, you will get steeply discounted rates, sometimes as low as $30 per night.
Out: Pricey Hotels
Out: Ignoring the Mall
In: Sleeping at the Mall
Leave it to the opulent mindset of Middle East hotel developers in places such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to recognize a possible trend and blow it up, large scale. Today, many hotels are opening in or adjacent to malls, making them an epicenter of tourism and commerce. One of these malls, Abu Dhabi's Yas Mall, is expected to house or be in close proximity to 7 hotels. In fact, at least 9 mega-malls (beyond UAE, in countries such as Lebanon and Qatar), are expected to be built across the Middle East by 2014, with hotels springing up in and around them.
Out: Ignoring the Mall
What's In, What's Out for 2013 10 Photos