Prognosticators are plentiful when a new year begins, and so are resolutions. If you intend to travel more or pursue the trip of your dreams in 2016, there is no shortage of experts to offer observations and advice.
For me, contemplation begins with a review of my Tweets from the most recent Society of American Travel Writers conference, in Las Vegas, where some of the biggest online travel sites and leaders were keynote speakers. So, forgive the shorthand, but in a nutshell:
“Americans don’t use average of 3.5 vacation days per year. Time to change that, says Roger Dow of @USTravel.” (He is U.S. Travel Association president.)
“Traveling Gnome @keithnowak of @travelocity shares scoops on travel trends. Like ‘new frontierism’ – uber-remote explorations.” (Keith Nowak is communications director at Travelocity.com.)
“Trend: Unique offerings in nearby smaller cities gain as attractive, short-hop vacation choices, sez @CallMeEich at @trivago.” (Jon Eichelberger is regional manager for North America at Trivago.com.)
“Mobile technology is a consumer behavior, changing every business, including @facebook, sez @leemccabe, FB global head of travel.” (Lee McCabe of Facebook.com recently noticed that hotels are turning to Airbnb.com to fill rooms.)
“Sez @leemccabe: Technology helps you understand the landscape. Soon the landscape will understand you. Big Brother-ish, right?”
“Bicycling tours gaining mileage, sez Mark Jenkins of @AAAnews – not limited to MAMIL (middle aged men in @LYCRABrand).” He is senior project manager at the American Automobile Association.
“From Mark Jenkins @AAAnews – Skittish travelers who fear terrorism favor trips to Alaska, Canada, rail travel.”
Todd Powell, co-founder of Vacations by Rail, is among the travel execs who say national parks will be popular vacation destinations in 2016 as the National Park Service celebrates its centennial. “Taking the train is a way to connect two rich histories,” he asserts; his business arranges such trips into the Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks.
Sometimes offerings begin in Chicago or have connections along Amtrak’s Empire Builder route, which includes Wisconsin. Cost depends upon where you begin, where you go and how long you stay.
Trips to Canada are in demand because the strong value of the U.S. dollar “has awakened people to opportunities to travel abroad,” Todd says. He counts Canadian Rockies rail tours and trips across Canada by train among his company’s most popular offerings.
An 11-day Vacations by Rail fall colors tour begins in New England, then crosses the border into Quebec and Montreal. Prices start at $2,699 for the escorted tour, which begins in Boston.
In Ireland, Belmond Grand Hibernian in August begins luxury train travel from Dublin to Belfast and elsewhere. A two-night itinerary starts at $3,539 and six nights on board starts at $8,648, not including international airfare. belmond.com/grandhibernian
Less expensive through Vacations by Rail is a nine-day Emerald Isle Express tour that includes castle and five-star hotel overnights for $4,495. vacationsbyrail.com, 877-929-7245
In the U.S., “it’s baby steps for high-speed rail,” Todd says, but a big exception is Brightline, a fast-track link between downtown Miami and the Orlando airport that begins in 2017. This first privately constructed rail line since 1956 will run hourly during the day, taking only three hours to traverse 235 miles. That includes stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. allaboardflorida.com, 305-520-2300
Lower fuel costs mean greater competition among airlines for your business in 2016, concludes Pauline Frommer of Frommers.com and the well-known series of budget travel guidebooks. The same might prove true for the growing number of river cruises.
She also expects the convenience of river cruises (travelers cover much ground but only unpack once) to take a toll on operators of multi-day bus tours. So watch for more competitive pricing there.
Who will travel together? “Three generations traveling together isn’t new, but it’s becoming far more common than ever before,” Pauline says, online. That means savvy innkeepers will adjust to offer affordable and comfortable suites that accommodate all.
More extreme weather patterns and “an increasingly fraught geopolitical atmosphere,” she observes, mean travelers need to prepare for the unexpected – but she appears confident that technology will provide increasingly new ways to be helpful if vacations go awry.
Pauline Frommer of the Frommer Guides is among keynote speakers for the Chicago Travel and Adventure Show, which is 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 23 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Rd., Rosemont, Ill. Admission is $16 (less, for a limited time, online); ages 16 and younger get in free with a paid adult. Parking is $13.
Other speakers include guidebook and TV travel series host Rick Steves, Colleen Kelly of National Public Television’s “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly” and Peter Greenburg, CBS News travel editor.
On other stages, chefs prepare ethnic dishes, cultural performers dance and teach, tour organizers introduce global destinations and others share advice about how to minimize hassles while traveling. Exhibit booths represent thousands of trip possibilities, within Wisconsin to opposite points of the world. For more: travelshows.com, 203-878-2577.