2017 travel hot spots: Canada, Europe, Finland, Montreal, Anchorage

Visionaries bring out their crystal ball in January and share what they know, think or hope for the new year. That is especially true during years when a new U.S. president begins work, but the whirl of predictions thankfully doesn’t begin and end with politics.

As you burrow in for the winter and await vacation, consider the hunches of these travel prognosticators who cast a keen eye on consumer preferences, emerging trends and their own sense of what’s new or exciting.

National Geographic Traveler magazine includes Moscow and Madrid on a short list of go-to cities for 2017. Not budging from the U.S.? Anchorage makes the cut, too, because of the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase.

The magazine’s top destinations for a cultural experience include Georgia because of its rich music heritage, and Canada’s Banff National Park is a particularly exquisite mecca for nature lovers in 2017 because of the country’s 150th anniversary. See the full list of 21 must-see destinations at NatGeoTravel.com.

Canada leads Lonely Planet’s list of winning destinations, too, and the magazine notes that admission to all of the country’s 47 parks is free this year. Finland is another hot target because 2017 marks one century of independence for the country.

Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities to visit include Los Angeles, in part because of a cultural rebirth that goes beyond Hollywood starlettes. Rapid transit expansions make it much easier to get around, connecting L.A. to Long Beach, Santa Monica, Burbank, San Luis Obispo, San Bernardino and points between. lonelyplanet.com

Travel maven Pauline Frommer, in a National Public Radio interview, expected airfares to go down but add-on fees (for a carry-on bag, selecting any seat) to increase. The woman behind the Frommers.com budget-travel site says travel to Paris is down 30 percent and the value of the U.S. dollar remains high, so travel to Europe will remain a good value.

Montreal, home to Cirque du Soleil, might be party-central because the city reaches its 375th birthday this year, she suggests. With Canada’s sesquicentennial, that gives Montreal two reasons to whoop it up.

Triphobo.com, a trip-planning platform, comes up with six travel trends for the year: DIY (do it yourself) trips instead of group travel packages, hikes in homestays vs. hotels, more offbeat experiences (food or specialty tours instead of see-all/see-little windshield tours) and more off-season travel, short trips (as in weekend) and solo travelers.

The United Nations declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, notes TrekkSoft, whose specialty is booking and management software for tour operators. The company predicts travelers will stay closer to home, to reduce their carbon footprint, and choose companies with “a strong social focus.” Interest in voluntourism and homestays are growing, TrekkSoft adds, especially among millennials, who seek “full cultural immersion.” trekksoft.com

AARP declares that 99 percent of baby boomers will take at least one vacation in 2017, but the average is five trips, and a bucket list is the biggest motivator for international travel. Booking.com says the number of travel companies for women travelers has more than doubled because more women are deciding to travel solo.

The American Automobile Association predicts a majority of Wisconsin travelers will take two or three vacations in 2017. Top destinations are cities in the upper Midwest and Atlantic Ocean beaches in the South. About 20 percent of Wisconsin travelers, AAA says, will leave the country – especially for the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe. aaawisconsin.com

Longtime travel writer Larry Olmsted, at Forbes.com, advises travelers to go on a safari, take a cooking class, book a river cruise or take a vacation involving significant exercise. “Take more weekend trips,” he urges. “Not every vacation has to be an epic three-weeker to Nepal.” Check his Twitter handle, @TravelFoodGuy.

And when Ellen Creager of the Detroit Free Press retired from travel writing recently, she shared five destinations that everybody should see in their lifetime: Paris, New York City, the Grand Canyon, Vietnam and the Great Migration on the Serengeti and  in Africa. freep.com/life/ellen-creager

Airbnb.com, the online site for nontraditional lodging, had 500,000 listings in 192 counties three years ago. Now 3 million homes are involved.

Thanks to Airbnb, I have met musicians at their Eau Claire home, stayed on a farm near Elkhart Lake and shared a two-bedroom condo 20-some stories above ground on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

A friend’s base for a summer family reunion was a beautifully converted church in Reedsburg. Another relied on Airbnb to save money during a trip to Germany. Four frugal girlfriends and I rented part of an Airbnb house on San Juan Island, a good experience, even though our uphill walk with luggage from the harbor was lots steeper than expected.

I want to hear your stories – hits or misses – related to Airbnb lodging. Maybe you’ve been an Airbnb guest, or maybe you’ve provided lodging through Airbnb. Doesn’t matter. A panel of judges will reward the writer who enlightens or entertains them the most.

Send your essays of 250 words or less by Feb. 1 for a chance to win two Chicago CityPASS booklets, worth up to $400. Each CityPASS sells for $98, but the value is closer to $200 because of attractions that are covered.

Type “airbnb” in the subject line of email essays sent to mary@roadstraveled.com. Send snail-mail entries to Roads Traveled: Airbnb, PO Box 259623, Madison, WI 53725. Include your contact information.

Each Chicago CityPASS covers one free admission to Shedd Aquarium, Skydeck Chicago (inside the former Sears Tower) and The Field Museum. In addition, choose free admission to 360 Chicago (formerly called the John Hancock Observatory) or the Museum of Science and Industry, plus admission to Adler Planetarium or the Art Institute of Chicago.

Other CityPASS booklets cover attractions in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Tampa Bay or Toronto. citypass.com, 888-330-5008