What's In, What's Out for 2013
In: Northern lights. Out: City lights. The year ahead is filled with up-and-coming travel trends to watch. Find out Travel Channel's picks for what's hot (and what's not) in 2013.
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
Songkran Water FestivalKnown as the Water Festival by visitors, this annual festival in Thailand falls shortly after the spring equinox. Songkran (based on a Sanskrit word for “astrological passage”) is celebrated in the country as the traditional New Year’s Day. Along with visiting elders and going to a Buddhist monastery, festivities include throwing of water – in this case, with a little help from an elephant! 960 1280
Semana SantaAn important holiday in largely Catholic countries like Mexico and Spain, Semana Santa (Holy Week) showcases colorful parades, Masses, fireworks and elaborate ceremonies, like these celebrants in Roman garb placing crosses on a stone overlook. Semana Santa also coincides with spring break; you may see a sand sculpture of the Last Supper on a Mexican beach during this time! 960 1280
HoliSpring wouldn’t be the same in northern India without this annual festival. Celebrated by Hindus, who throw colored powder at each other, this vibrant festival of colors celebrates the season’s many hues, as well as events from Hindu mythology, such as when a devotee of Lord Vishnu was saved from death. 960 1280
NowruzWidely referred to as the Persian New Year, this annual festival also marks the first day of spring -- which is celebrated on the day of the astronomical Northward equinox (usually around March 21). Nowruz is celebrated throughout Central Asia and here, in Kyrgyzstan’s capital city of Bishek. 960 1280
PassoverOne of the most widely observed Jewish holidays, Passover commemorates the story of the ancient Israelites’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt – items on this “seder plate” showcase symbolic foods related to the story. The weeklong holiday always falls during the spring season, based on a biblical commandment: “Guard the month of spring, and make then the Passover offering.” 960 1280
Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and WakeCompetitors race down a steep hill -- known as Cooper’s Hill, near Gloucester, England -- as they vie for the day’s ultimate prize: a round of Double Gloucester cheese. This centuries-old tradition is held on the UK’s Spring Bank Holiday, attracting not only locals from the nearby village of Brockworth but also people from all over the world. 960 1280
Holla MohallaOne day after the Hindu festival of Holi, another big spring celebration occurs: Holla Mohalla. During this 3-day Sikh festival, celebrants showcase their martial skills in mock fights (thus, the meaning of the holiday’s name) -- and the art of fire breathing, like here on a street in the northwest Indian state of Punjab. The spring festival is also a time when followers reaffirm their dedication to Khalsa Panth (the worldwide community of Sikhs). 960 1280
Cimburijada (Festival of Scrambled Eggs)Eggs, eggs and more eggs -- every year, at the crack of dawn, people from the Bosnian town of Zenica gather by the Bosna River to celebrate the first day of spring. Known as Ciumburijada, or “Festival of Scrambled Eggs,” the event begins with the preparation of a traditional breakfast -- or in this case, a super-sized bowl of eggs for the masses. 960 1280
Walpurgis NightNamed after the English missionary Saint Walpurga, this traditional spring festival is celebrated across Central and Northern Europe -- exactly 6 months after All Hallows’ Eve. Among the places that hold celebrations (which include dancing and bonfires) is the open-air museum of Skansen in Stockholm, pictured here. 960 1280
Las FallasWhimsical characters, known as fallas, are a familiar sight during this annual 5-day celebration. The origin of one of Spain’s most rowdy holidays is uncertain; some say Las Fallas began in the Middle Ages, when artisans burned pieces of wood they’d saved during the winter in celebration of the spring equinox. Over time, under the Catholic Church’s influence, the holiday has developed into a celebration to commemorate Saint Joseph. 960 1280
Spring Equinox in TeotihuacánEvery year, on the 20th or 21st of March, thousands of people gather at this enormous, pre-Hispanic archeological site, roughly 30 miles northeast of Mexico City, to celebrate the spring equinox. Between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., many celebrants climb the 360 steps to the top of Pyramid of the Sun, the largest structure in the area, to get closer to portals of energy. 960 1280
Spring Festivals Around the World 12 Photos
Kentucky DerbyOn your mark, get set … it’s off to Louisville for the granddaddy of all horse races. In time-honored tradition, the 140th annual Kentucky Derby -- the first leg of the Triple Crown -- kicks off the first Saturday in May. Settle into your seat at Churchill Downs racetrack on Central Avenue, sip a mint julep and enjoy the "Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports." 960 1280
Mother’s Day Tea at The PlazaMom is always fussing over you, now’s your chance to turn the tables -- in style. Treat Mom to afternoon tea at The Plaza’s Tea Room. A tradition since the hotel opened in 1907, tea at this NYC landmark has inspired scenes in popular films and novels, including Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Mom can enjoy a selection of sandwiches and savories from the Fitzgerald Tea for the Ages and The New Yorker menus. 960 1280
Cannes Film FestivalLa lumière, la caméra, l'action! Slip on some shades, and head to the French Riviera for the largest annual showcase of cinema in the world. Don’t have a ticket to events inside the Palais des Festivals et des Congres building where the festival is held? Pas de probleme! Enjoy open-air shows at the Cinema de la Plage, and for celebrity sightings show up extra-early outside the Palais. You may just spot Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman or Steven Spielberg on this year’s red carpet. 960 1280
Indianapolis 500Rev up for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Part of the Triple Crown of Motorsports (with the Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans right behind) this annual race is quite possibly the largest single-day sporting event in the entire world, attracting roughly 400,000 spectators. Head to Indianapolis the last weekend in May, and prepare for a high-speed show around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.5-mile oval circuit. 960 1280
Brighton Festival, EnglandEnjoy a 3-week celebration of music, theater, dance, art and film at the 47th annual Brighton Festival. Held each May in the southeastern English city of Brighton and Hove, the gathering is the largest multi-art form festival in all of England: More than 370 performances from artists such as Sinead O’Connor and 3-time Grammy winner Lucinda Williams, are slated for 2013. 960 1280
Shenandoah Apple Blossom FestivalTake in the small-town charm of Winchester, VA, in this 6-day celebration of spring. First held in 1924, the annual festival packs a wallop of more than 30 events into its lineup: band competitions, dances, parades, carnival, a 10K race, the coronation of Queen Shenandoah and so much more, attracting crowds in excess of 250,000. 960 1280
Whale Watching, Stellwagen BankDid winter come and go without you getting a chance to see whales? There’s still time: Between May and September, more than 400 orcas swim in the waters around Canada’s Vancouver Island. Or head to the Azores, the Portuguese archipelago about 1,000 miles from Lisbon, where sperm whales gather from May to October. Closer to home, Stellwagen Bank, a submerged sandbank between Cape Cod and Cape Ann in Massachusetts, attracts the endangered North Atlantic right whale to its waters. 960 1280
Atlanta Food & Wine FestivalWhen chef Mark Abernathy of Arkansas restaurants Red Door and Loca Luna kicks the bucket, he wants to skip heaven and head straight for this food extravaganza. Such is the praise heaped on this annual fest by critically acclaimed chefs. Now in its third year, the gathering celebrates the best of Southern cuisine’s past and future, with cooking and cocktail demos, tasting tents and seminars on everything from the history of the Southern cocktail to Southern beer culture. 960 1280
National Bike MonthDust off that old bike, or buy a new one: It’s National Bike Month. Cities nationwide, including Austin, Boston, Santa Barbara, and Portland (pictured), are among the cities actively participating in the event. In San Francisco, you’ll find “energizer stations” this month, with food, drinks, red blinky lights and reflective leg bands available for bikers participating in the month-long public awareness campaign. Sounds like a great way to get free stuff -- and get in shape! 960 1280
Cinco de MayoCelebrate Cinco de Mayo (meaning "fifth of May" in Spanish) right here in the United States. Nationwide, there are more than 120 official US celebrations, spanning 21 states, in cities such as Cleveland, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta. The holiday stretches back to the first few years of the American Civil War, when Mexican-American communities sought to commemorate the causes of freedom and democracy. Head to downtown Denver for one such celebration: Here, members of a Mexican folkloric dance academy perform at the city’s Civic Center Park.
Vesak (Buddha Day)Seeking enlightenment? Celebrate Buddha’s birthday this May. Or take in the festivities as Buddhist devotees mark the occasion in Southeast Asian countries from Nepal to the Indonesian island of Java (pictured). Here, Buddhist monks pray at Borobudur, a 9th-century temple (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) that is Indonesia’s single most visited tourist attraction. 960 1280
Carlsbad Caverns National ParkHead to this amphitheater at Carlsbad Caverns National Park for a grand show: Each May Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from a large, rocky passage within Carlsbad Cavern in search of a tasty mix of insects for dinner. In case you’ve happened on this wondrous sight in southeastern New Mexico with your family (and your kids have questions), a park ranger gives an informative talk as visitors wait for the bats to come out. 960 1280
May’s Must-Dos 12 Photos
National Christmas TreeLooking for ideas on where to travel in December? Kick off the month with a tour of the National Christmas Tree. Located on the White House’s South Lawn, a towering 40-foot evergreen spruce has been a seasonal fixture of the nation’s capital since 1923. 960 1280
San Antonio River WalkKeep the Christmas spirit going in San Antonio. Every December, more than a mile of the San Antonio River Walk comes alive with over 100 underwater lights, as well as LED rope lighting crossing from one side of the river to the other. 960 1280
Hobbit TourHobbit fans, rejoice! With this month's release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Tolkien fans have a reason to follow the Hobbit trail to New Zealand. Besides being a great time to visit (December is the start of New Zealand’s summer season), the country has a Hobbit movie set tour on upper North Island. 960 1280
Ice Fishing, Colorado StyleThis December, put Colorado on your outdoors adventure map: Colorado's robust winters lure ice-fishing enthusiasts to gear up and head out for the thrill of the catch. Prime spots include Wolford Mountain Reservoir, a 1,550- acre reservoir, about 100 miles west of Denver. 960 1280
Caribbean Cruise: Early DecemberFor an impromptu December getaway, set sail for the Caribbean. The first 2 weeks of December are your best bet for bargain prices on cruises and hotels, before fares rise come Christmas and New Year’s. Combine your warm winter escape with cool events, like the Bahamas International Film Festival. 960 1280
San Francisco Ballet's The NutcrackerThe holiday season wouldn’t be quite the same without catching a performance of The Nutcracker. We suggest heading to the City by the Bay to see the sparkling 2-act ballet performed by the San Francisco Ballet, which first introduced Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece to American audiences in 1944. 960 1280
Rockefeller Center Ice SkatingFor the quintessential NYC Christmas experience, take a whirl on the ice at Rockefeller Center. The world-famous ice-skating rink at the famed commercial complex, in the heart of Manhattan, has been a fixture of Rockefeller Center since 1936. 960 1280
Stonehenge Winter SolsticeTake in the winter solstice at Stonehenge. Every year, more than 5,000 people gather at the prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, to mark the time when the sun appears at noon at its lowest altitude above the horizon. And good news in 2013: Visitors can explore a new visitor center close to the ancient site that's set to open this month. 960 1280
Santa Claus House in North PoleJust where does Santa Claus live? North Pole, AK, of course. Head to this small, wintery city in the heart of Alaska to see Santa Claus House: A storefront, built in the early 1950s, it’s the spot from which the Original Letter From Santa is mailed out, proclaiming the bearer to be “on Santa’s Good List.” 960 1280
Hit the SlopesHit the slopes this month at North America’s most popular ski resort. In addition to being home to more groomed terrain than any other resort in the world, Vail, CO, boasts the country’s largest ski school for all skill levels. For the more seasoned skier, head to Jackson Hole, where over 90% of the trails fall into intermediate to expert categories. 960 1280
NOLA Christmas BonfiresAdd a little spice to the holiday season with a trip to The Big Easy. Come Christmas Eve, dozens of bonfires light up along the Mississippi River levee to make way for Papa Noel, as locals in bayou country call Santa. Arrive by 7 p.m. to watch the fiery feu de joie (“fires of joy”)! 960 1280
Christmas Village in PhiladelphiaCome December, the City of Brotherly Love transforms itself into a Christmas Village. This annual holiday market in Philadelphia’s LOVE Park features traditional German Christmas market items, displayed by more than 60 vendors in decorated booths and tents. Get your fill of holiday goodies like gingerbread cookies and mulled wine. 960 1280
Chicago's Polar Adventure DaysLearn dog sledding in … Chicago? Yep, for outdoor winter adventure, head to the Windy City’s Northerly Island, site of the 9th annual Polar Adventure Days. Beginning in early December, the family-friendly event includes a toddler zone with outdoor “ice fishing,” an REI winter activity station and a dog-sledding demo with huskies. 960 1280
Things to Do in December 13 Photos