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2011 Travel Destinations

Hot Spots for Domestic Travel
Las Vegas and Orlando will remain the two most popular domestic destinations for U.S. travelers during 2011, according to Travel Leaders’ latest Travel Trends Survey. However, those two destinations have switched places since last year’s survey, with Las Vegas now ranked first by a narrow margin over Orlando.

Some of the newest attractions in Las Vegas include the City Center complex on the Strip. The complex includes the ARIA Resort and Casino; the Mandarin Oriental, a luxury non-gaming hotel; a 50,000-foot retail and entertainment area called Crystals; and a notable art collection. A new casino and resort, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, just opened on December 15. The Cosmopolitan’s double towers offer lots of rooms with balconies that overlook the neon lights and excitement of the Strip.
Travel Leaders’ agents report that many Las Vegas hotels are now offering special room rates, even at high-end properties. And, with an incredible array of shows, clubs, spas, shopping, golf courses and other diversions, Las Vegas has come a long way from being just a gamer’s mecca.

Two cruise destinations – Alaska and Hawaii – are also on the list of the top ten domestic travel destinations, with Alaska cruises at number three and Hawaii cruises at number eight. Cruises offer terrific value as a way to see the incredible beauty of the 49th and 50th states. Hawaiian cruises can provide exceptional value to those seeking a captivating way of seeing the Aloha State’s beautiful and distinctive islands.
Rounding out the top ten domestic travel destinations for 2011 are Honolulu and Kahului (Maui) Hawaii, tied at number four; New York City at number six; Washington, D.C. at number seven; San Francisco at number nine; and Chicago and Phoenix/Scottsdale, tied at number 10.

Top International Vacation Destinations
Cruises occupy three of the top ten spots in Travel Leaders’ annual list of the most popular international travel destinations, determined by a survey of Travel Leaders owners and agents across the U.S. Caribbean cruises retained their number one spot on the list again this year, with Mediterranean cruises climbing to number three and Mexican cruises at number 10.

Completing the top ten are Cancun, Mexico, at number two; Riviera Maya, Mexico, at number four; Rome, Italy, at number five; London, England, at number six; Montego Bay, Jamaica, at number seven; Playa del Carmen, Mexico, at number eight; and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, at number nine.

Among the international cruise destinations, cruises of the Mediterranean have made the most impressive climb up the Travel Leaders list, leaping from 11th to third place in the past five years. Mediterranean cruises enable travelers to see some of Europe’s grandest coastal cities, as well as nearby villages and islands.

Mediterranean cruises generally focus on either the Western Mediterranean or the Eastern Mediterranean, with the “boot” of Italy serving as a rough dividing point. Western Mediterranean cruises call on ports in Spain, France and along the western coast of Italy, including Barcelona, Nice, Rome and Naples. Some of these cruises visit the exotic cities on the north coast of Africa, too. In the Eastern Mediterranean, cruise ships call on ports along the eastern coast of Italy and in Croatia, Greece and Turkey, such as Venice, Dubrovnik, Athens, the beautiful Greek Isles and Istanbul.

Part of the appeal of cruising to an international destination is that you can visit multiple cities, as well as diverse countries, while unpacking and packing just once. The ship usually moves at night, so each day you’ll awake in a new port, rested and ready to explore. Cruises also provide great value, including meals, accommodations and entertainment in one base price.

Bright Outlook for Vacation Travel in 2011
A new survey of Travel Leaders’ agents, managers and owners reveals that vacation travel is on the rise for 2011. When comparing overall 2011 travel bookings made for clients with 2010 bookings at the same time last year, 50.3 percent of Travel Leaders’ professionals report that bookings are higher. That compares to 28.2 percent in 2010 and just 11.1 percent in 2009.

In addition, 50.1 percent of Travel Leaders’ agents say clients are spending more per trip than in 2010, while 38.2 percent are saying that clients are holding their travel budgets steady.

Vacation lengths are holding steady, with the majority of surveyed agents – 67.3 percent – saying their clients are booking trips of six to seven days, the same as in 2010.
About one-fifth of the surveyed agents indicate that their vacation travelers book their domestic travel at least three months in advance, taking advantage of early booking discounts or to assure the flight schedules and accommodations they want, especially given the diminishing number of last minute deals being offered. International travel has a much longer reservation window: well over half of the surveyed agents – 58.1 percent – say their international travelers make their trip reservations more than three months ahead of time.

Cruise travelers book their cruises even farther ahead of the date of travel, with more than 80 percent of the surveyed agents indicating that cruisers are booking at least four months in advance. Of that total, 43.9 percent say clients book four to six months ahead, 29.6 percent indicate clients book seven to up months ahead and 36.6 percent say clients book up to a year in advance. Several established favorites are among most popular cruise destinations for 2011, including Alaska, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and European river cruising.

The bright outlook for vacation travel means that travelers may have more choices for destinations and flights than in the recent past. However, competition for airplane seats, hotel rooms and cruise staterooms may be greater, too. So it’s always a good idea to book vacation travel as far in advance as possible. For expert assistance in finding the best travel options and values for your 2011 vacation, call your travel professional.

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Boomers Resource Guide is a special supplement to the Senior Citizen's Guide