Travel's Best for 2014
Luxury hostels, Cuba, local brew pubs and the Jersey Shore – they’re all reasons to pack your bags in 2014. See what hot destinations and travel trends are our favorites for 2014.
Best Wedding Destination -- Hawaii“A perennial favorite, we predict even more couples will say "I do" in Hawaii now that gay marriage has been legalized there. For picture-perfect nuptials tie the knot in Maui at the romantic Grand Wailea resort or on the increasingly popular, but still less-developed Kauai.” – Sara Gilliam, Interactive Producer 960 1280
Best Overall Travel Trend -- TV and Movies-Inspired TravelFrom Breaking Bad to Hunger Games: Catching Fire, TV and movies in 2013 moved us – from Albuquerque, NM, to Hawaii. Tourism boards are finding this is a great way to market a destination – targeting set-jetting fans wanting to follow the steps of their favorite characters on screen. We’re predicting films such as Grace of Monaco,The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and cult-favorite shows like Games of Thrones will inspire even more fans to travel in 2014.” – Kathleen Rellihan, Interactive Producer 960 1280
Best Travel Gadget -- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II“This Sony Cyber-shot point-and-shoot camera is the perfect substitute for the photog that does not like hauling around a bulky DSLR camera while on vacation. It's an update to 2013’s model, which is still available, but offers some new features that are useful such as a tilt LCD screen and Wi-Fi so you can connect with your smartphone.”– Arthur Hsu, Video Producer 960 1280
Best International Destination -- Trinidad, Cuba“For the first time since the 1960s, flights have resumed from Key West to Havana -- thanks to the eased travel restrictions enacted by the Obama administration in 2011. And more travelers are expected to flock to the island nation next year to help Trinidad, Cuba, celebrate its 500th anniversary. This city is also where the rhythmic foundation of salsa music started. We recommend visitors take a comfortable pair of dancing shoes to experience the series of fiestas and cultural events hosted by this hot travel destination.” – Kwin Mosby, Managing Producer 960 1280
Best Domestic Location -- Jersey Shore“What travel spot are we ready to see make a comeback? In 2014, New Jersey celebrates 350 unforgettable years of history, milestones and memories. This is the time to visit the Jersey Shores’ beautiful beaches and boardwalks, which first broke ground in the US on the Jersey Shore in 1870. Enjoy an array of year-long events including restaurant week, concerts and more to commemorate 350 years!” – Rani Robinson, Managing Producer 960 1280
Best World Event -- Winter Olympics, Sochi“For the first time in history, the Winter Olympic Games will be held in Russia. From February 7 to February 23, fans will flock to northern Eurasia to see some of the world's greatest athletes compete against one another in an attempt to earn respect for their home countries; They're final destination: Sochi. Don't miss out on another amazing sporting event taking place in 2014, the FIFA World Cup in Brazil from June 12 to July 13.” – Ben Breslerman, Interactive Producer 960 1280
Best Tourist Attraction -- Northern Lights“Thought this past year was your best chance to see the northern lights? It’s true, the lights whipped up a flurry of solar activity in 2013, but the best is yet to come, with show-stopping displays anticipated well into 2014. NASA is predicting the lights’ solar activity will peak this winter, with aurora borealis displays stretching into the months to come, in places like Iceland’s Lake Myvatn.” -- Lisa Singh Interactive Producer 960 1280
Best Wellness Travel Trend – Yoga and Volunteer Vacations“In 2013, yoga vacations became increasingly popular to detox and decompress outside of yoga studios. And experts are forecasting that volunteer vacations will be on the rise in 2014. So what better way to recharge and support a good cause, than by combing a yoga and volunteer vacation? From volunteering in Kenya with the Africa Yoga Project to yoga and teaching in Kerala, India – there are more and more opportunities available for yoga-loving travelers who want to give back on a feel-good vacation. “ -- Kathleen Rellihan, Interactive Producer 960 1280
Best Dining Trend – Local Brew Pubs“Forget eating local, start drinking local! Whether you’re into IPAs, wheat brews or ambers – craft brewing is definitely on the rise, and so are local brew pubs. These establishments offer a unique experience: see how and where the beer is brewed, get out of your comfort zone by sampling a tasting flight, and pair the beer of your choice with the perfect dish. On a recent trip to Asheville, NC, the “beer city,” I was surprised by the quality of the beer, the food, and even the atmosphere at Wicked Weed Brewing.” – Allee Sangiolo, Interactive Producer 960 1280
Best Hotel Trend – Upscale Hostels“Forget all your preconceived notions about hostels. Budget travel gets a luxurious makeover with new upscale hostels like the MOXY in Berlin, Milan, London and Frankfurt, #bunk in Istanbul, and the Lisbon Lounge Hotel. Sharing space can be stylish with these hostels’ chic rooms made for mingling and networking. Hostels are no longer just for the backpackers, but for the social and savvy budget-conscious traveler.” –- Amanda DiGiondomenico, Interactive Producer 960 1280
Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal (Hiking Adventure)Trekking in the shadow of the ice-clad Himalayan summits -- for avid hikers, scaling these peaks of legends is a dream come true. “The sights, sounds and culture of Nepal surround you like no place on the planet,” says Justin Wood, travel exec with REI Adventures, “your psyche will be forever changed.” On the trail, you pass black-and-white yaks with ornate woven harnesses and clanging bells, as well as singing children and locals carrying unimaginable loads of supplies bound for their remote villages. The best time to trek to Everest Base Camp is October through November for clear dry weather, but the trail will be full of trekkers. If you’re looking for more solitude, consider March through April, when you’ll find cloudy skies but fewer hikers. 960 1280
US Route 50, Nevada (Road Trip Adventure)Nicknamed “The Loneliest Road in America,” US Route 50 begins just past Lake Tahoe, CA, and ends at the Utah state line. In the 409-mile stretch between Fallon, NV, and Delta, UT, alone, there are only 3 towns. Road tripper and documentary filmmaker Allison Otto, says, “This route is beautiful in its austerity, offers numerous photo ops, traverses several large desert valleys and 17 mountain passes -- in some cases reaching altitudes of more than 7,000 feet.” This route was constructed over a historic corridor first used by the Pony Express; today, enjoy several must-see sites along the way, including the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and the singing sand of Sand Mountain, as well as the old mining town of Ely. Take a detour south along Route 6 to NV-375, aka the Extraterrestrial Highway that passes the alleged location of mysterious Area 51. 960 1280
Djibouti (Water Sport Adventure)You may have never heard of Djibouti, but if you’re looking for an amazing water adventure this tiny country -- located on the Horn of Africa -- is about as epic as it gets. “Djibouti sits on the Gulf of Aden, which is home to warm, clear waters that are full of pristine reefs and shipwrecks that have yet to be overrun by the diving masses,” says Shane Reynolds, founder of Color Earth. “Marine life is plentiful and the biggest attraction, literally, are whale sharks.” Seasonally these gentle giants settle in to feed here, providing divers the opportunity to share their space, all without the crowds like in other destinations such as Cancun. Djibouti is the ultimate water adventure experience. There’s no other destination in the world that provides scuba diving inside the rift that separates Asia and Africa. 960 1280
Andalusia, Spain (Camping Adventure)Spend a night underneath the stars in Andalusia, Spain. Most people wouldn’t know it, but this area is a hot glamping spot. Sleep in a tricked-out tipi at Altiplano Tipis or in a hand-crafted luxury yurt at Hooting Owl Yurt Holidays. The more adventurous campers who like to rough it should head to Desfiladero de los Gaitanes National Park. “The rock climbing and hiking here is great,” says Matthew Karsten, adventure travel expert and blogger for ExpertVagaBond.com. “Plus the famous, but steep Caminito del Rey trail is located right outside the Park,” he says. Only in the south of Spain is it possible to go camping on the majestic snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains, then travel an hour to the Mediterranean coast and pitch your tent on a beautiful, sunny beach in Malaga. 960 1280
Pacific Coast Highway 1 (Cycling Adventure)See the beauty of the Pacific Coast from the seat of your bicycle. "Pedaling down California's famous Highway 1, surrounded by towering forests and endless coastline is a cyclist’s dream," says avid cyclist and travel journalist Ryan Van Duzer. The epic journey starts along the breathtaking Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and goes all the way down to the sunny beaches of Southern California in San Diego. "My favorite sections are the redwood forests in Northern California, including the mind-blowing beautiful coastline in Big Sur, and being able to dig your feet into the sand along the beaches in LA,” he adds. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Hearst Castle are other must-see sites that cyclists will find along this amazing pilgrimage that showcases The Golden State’s history and diverse landscapes. 960 1280
Yosemite National Park- California (Family Adventure)This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant Act, which paved the way for the famed national park to come. Home to wildlife, glaciers, waterfalls, valleys, granite domes, cliffs, lakes and wilderness, Yosemite is an ecological wonderland. “Families have a buffet of activities at their disposal, including biking, backpacking, camping, fishing, bird watching, rock climbing and horseback riding,” says Tawanna Browne Smith, travel expert and founder of Mom’s Guide to Travel. “Stay overnight and camp out in a tent, relax in a cabin at Curry Village or enjoy a luxury stay at the AAA Four-Diamond Ahwahnee hotel.” More than 150 activities are planned throughout the year to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Yosemite Grant Act to protect the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. 960 1280
Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia (Eco-Friendly Adventure)Just off the coast of Queensland, <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/beaches/articles/fraser-island-australia">Fraser Island</a> is ideal for an all-encompassing eco-friendly adventure. It is the biggest sand island in the world, and home to a wide range of animal and plant life. Visitors can take in the sights of this phenomenal giant sand system on a 4-wheel drive adventure; hire an Aboriginal tour guide to discover their connection to the island; or escape the heat by swimming in one of the many lakes around the island. “Swamp wallabies, echidnas, possums and sugar gliders hide within the bush and a native dingo population -- said to be the purest breed alive today -- roam freely,” says Linda McCormick, travel writer and editor. Staying on Fraser Island can be as exciting -- or as luxurious -- as you wish. “No matter where you stay or what you do,” says McCormick, “it’s certain you’ll be wowed by this impressive natural habitat.” 960 1280
Ubatuba, Brazil (Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventure)As host country of the <a href="http://www.travelchannel.com/destinations/brazil/photos/brazil-2014-world-cup-cities-tour">2014 World Cup</a>, Brazil has been top of mind for travelers and sports lovers alike in recent months. Escape the throngs of soccer fans, and embark on an underwater adventure around the coastal town of Ubatuba, in Sao Paulo state. “Isolated beaches line the coast, and beds of coral and islands dot the surrounding waters, making the region heaven for scuba divers and snorkelers,” says Valerie Conners, travel writer and expert. “Find a tour operator to take you into the pristine waters of Ilha Anchieta, Ilha Vitória and Ilha do Prumirim,” she adds. In addition to underwater rock formations, divers will see caverns, colorful corals, plenty of dolphins and even an underwater statue of researcher Jacques Cousteau. 960 1280
Skydiving in Orange, Virginia (Extreme Adventure)Go local to experience extreme adventure in your own backyard. “I’ve gone paragliding off Pedra Bonita in Rio, but sometimes you don’t have to travel thousands of miles away to experience extreme adventure,” says Kwin Mosby, managing producer for TravelChannel.com. His suggestion? Experience the adrenaline rush of skydiving with local companies like Skydive Orange, the largest tandem skydiving center in the Northern Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland area.” Skydive from 13,500 feet in the air with experienced instructors. And while you’re in freefall, make sure you take in the unpolluted, country-fresh air and the awe-inspiring Blue Ridge Mountains off in the distance. 960 1280
The Pantanal, Brazil (Wildlife Adventure)The Pantanal is hands down the hottest and best wildlife safari destination outside of Africa Africa, and with the latest photos of jaguars taking down caimans on riverbanks dominating the internet, it's not hard to see why. The wildlife sightings get better and better each year. “On any trip, you can expect to see several rare and endangered wildlife species, such as giant river otters, neotropical river otters, giant anteaters, tamanduas, crab-eating Fox and Tyra -- a type of honey badger,” says Jessica Pociask, owner of WANT Expeditions. “You can easily expect to see up to 50 species of birds in one day.” See beautiful birds like hyacinth macaws, toucans and herons. This is a not-to-be missed destination if you’re a wildlife photographer. 960 1280
Out-of-This-World Views: The Lasso, SD, to Devil’s Tower, WYTV host Don Wildman chose the 110-mile loop from Rapid City, SD, to Devil’s Tower, WY, as one of the country's best road trips. While Wildman was brave enough to cover the Badlands during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, he says it’s just as memorable to travel by car, since either way you’ll drive through deep forests and thrilling mountain vistas. If you’re not brave enough to ride a Harley like Wildman, you can at least follow in his footsteps and stop at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum in South Dakota.
"Maybe you’ll even have a close encounter to write home about,” adds Wildman; Devil’s Tower is the site where the iconic alien landing scene was filmed in the movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. 960 1280
Off-Road Adventure: Salar de Uyuni, BoliviaFor the intrepid road tripper, Bolivia offers off-road adventures across otherworldly landscapes. “The world’s largest salt flat, Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is a surefire, natural amazement,” says Don Wildman, host of Mysteries at the Museum. After a short flight south from La Paz, Bolivia, a number of skilled tour companies will house you in a hotel constructed entirely of salt and then drive you out to experience extraordinary visuals not to be missed in this life, adds Wildman.
While the salt flats are the smoothest “road” you’re likely to drive on, keep in mind you’re at an altitude of 12,500 feet, so take measures to prevent altitude sickness. 960 1280
Unexpected Fall Foliage: Glacier National Park, MontanaOne of the most iconic drives in the country, Montana's “Going to the Sun Road,” is a true bucket list drive not to be missed, says RoadTrippers.com CEO and founder James Fisher. The road spans a breathtaking 50 miles of Glacier National Park's most beautiful twists and turns. Considered an engineering marvel, the road was completed in the fall of 1932, after workers blew through half a million pounds of explosives for its construction.
Jackson Glacier Overlook, between Logan Pass and St. Mary offers the park's best views of a glacier from the road. And while Montana might not be the first place that comes to mind for viewing fall foliage, we suggest taking a drive here in autumn to witness the dazzling color show. 960 1280
Castles, Caves and Cheese: Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, EnglandIt’s no surprise that Fisher, born and raised in the English countryside, also picks a road trip in the United Kingdom. It all starts at a castle, says Fisher: Tintagel Castle, located high atop the rugged coast of Cornwall. Fisher advises then taking the scenic route to Bath, past the fishing village of Boscastle, which dates back to the 1500s. The gorge itself is one of England's most interesting areas, a land of witches, caves and waterfalls.
Fisher adds, “But most importantly it is home to the original, cave-matured, cheddar cheese.” See the cheese being made by the town’s only remaining cheesemakers at Cheddar Gorge Cheese Factory, followed by free tastings of the town’s namesake. 960 1280
Mountains and Mining Towns: The San Juan Skyway, ColoradoNicknamed the "Road to the Sky," the San Juan Skyway loops through the heart of southern Colorado's towering San Juan Mountains and is a "must-do" for road tripping fans, says filmmaker, photographer and road tripper, Allison Otto. The Skyway passes through old Colorado mining towns like Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton, climbs to an elevation of more than 14,000 feet and circles down to the ancient cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde National Park.
“The views are dazzling, especially in the late summer/early fall, but be careful along the cliffside-clinging stretch known as the ‘The Million Dollar Highway,’ where there are parts of the road that lack guardrails," adds Otto. 960 1280
Adventure South of the Border: Creel to Batopilas, MexicoSkip the touristy beaches of Mexico and take an adventurous road trip instead. Otto suggests driving from the Mexican town of Creel to Batopilas: “This is an amazing white-knuckle, eye-popping drive to the base of Mexico's Copper Canyon, which is actually a series of 20 canyons formed over the years by 6 rivers,” says Otto. The narrow, mostly dirt road begins in Creel, which has a frontier feel, and ends in Batopilas, a sleepy old silver mining town at the base of the canyon.
There are no guardrails on this route and drivers can expect to weave through a few cattle, donkeys and goats along the way. “The views are truly breathtaking, though, and Batopilas, which was founded around 1632, is definitely worth a visit and a perfect base for day hikes in the canyon,” adds Otto. 960 1280
Beaches and Leaf Peeping: Michigan's Gold Coast“Leaves, lighthouses, and sugary beaches! New England? Nope: Michigan!” reveals Robert Firpo-Cappiello, executive editor of BudgetTravel.com. Treat yourself to a 3-day autumn road trip starting in Grand Rapids, MI, where you can soak up serious art, public gardens and craft beer, suggests Firpo-Cappiello. Drive along the “Gold Coast” highway west to the jaw-dropping shoreline of Lake Michigan. “From Grand Haven down to Saugatuck and on to South Haven, you'll have a great weekend and bring home bragging rights for having 'discovered' some of the finest beaches, highest dunes and freshest seafood in America,” says Firpo-Cappiello.
Take a break from driving and ride on Saugatuck’s ferry to Oval Beach, the only remaining chain-driven ferry in the United States. 960 1280
The European Tour: France to Italy to SwitzerlandSkip the train, and travel at your own speed on a road trip through Europe’s charming lakeside towns. Start your journey along the banks of Lake Annecy that sits under the French Alps’ Mount Blanc, advises travel writer and TV personality, Kim Mance. “You’ll cross many picturesque canal bridges as you drive toward Italy, with countless castles on hilltops,” says Mance.
After you stop for an Italian fondue lunch (yes, that exists!), Mance suggests you head back north toward Switzerland’s tiny villages, which dot the mountainside. From here, make your way to the stunningly beautiful Belle Époque city of Montreux, Switzerland on the shore of Lake Geneva. The entire drive from Annecy to Montreux can be done in about 4 hours, but Mance suggests taking a week. 960 1280
Tour of the Island: Oahu, HawaiiThe best way to explore the island of Oahu? By car, preferably a Mustang convertible to be exact, says Kathleen Rellihan, interactive producer for TravelChannel.com. Escape Honolulu’s crowds and explore the hidden gems on Oahu, from the Halona Blowhole to Lanikai Beach (often ranked as one of the world’s best beaches) and Tropical Farms’ Macadamia Nut Farm.
Plan to stay at least a night on Oahu’s famed North Shore , a relaxed surf mecca that’s home to Pipeline, a world famous surf break, and beach-basking sea turtles. “Don’t miss the garlic shrimp trucks along Kamehameha Highway and stop at Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach to watch big wave surfers and incredible sunsets,” adds Rellihan. 960 1280
Seaside Foodventure: Puglia, ItalyIf you’re looking for a road trip off the beaten track with plenty of unforgettable food stops, look no further than Italy’s Puglia region. With over 250 miles of ancient olive groves, charming fishing villages and glistening Adriatic coastline, Puglia “the heel on Italy’s boot,” is less tourist trodden than other regions in Italy and best explored on a slow-paced road trip, says Rellihan.
As you drive along the coast of Puglia, steering clear of cattle and steep rocky drops, stop at cliffside wonders like Vieste’s fortified whitewashed castle and Bari’s Grotta Palazzese, one of the many restaurants nestled inside ancient caves perched over the blue-green Adriatic Sea. 960 1280