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Using 2010 Destination Trends to Plan Your Vacation

You’ve probably seen a handful of those “what will happen in 2010” stories. I did one a couple of weeks ago, myself; and I had lots of company. Many of them—including mine, I hope—provide useful information, but all too many others present information that is of no practical use to a typical traveler.

The best are those that inform you of good deals, explore interesting things to do, and warn about scams and deceptions. That’s the sort of information that helps you plan a trip or decide what to do when you get there. Here are a few that caught my eye.

International Living released its 2010 worldwide “quality of life” index. Although this longtime newsletter targets people who are considering retiring outside the United States—or at least planning to stay away for extended periods—the information is useful to anyone who wants to stay more than a day or two in one of the covered destinations.

According to the release, France has the highest quality of life index of any country in the world. This composite index is based on cost of living, culture and leisure, economy, environment, freedom, health, infrastructure, safety and risk, and climate, as calculated from a mix of hard data and opinion. France scores well where you’d figure it would, but also does well for cost of living, as long as you stay in the provinces. The others in the top 10, in descending order, are Australia, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand, Belgium, the United States, Luxembourg, Canada, and Italy. The United States dropped from last year mainly because of our lousy economy. Click on “Quality of Life” on the website for the complete report.

The always reliable folks at Budget Travel published their list of the top 10 budget destinations for 2010: Portland, Oregon; Las Vegas, Nevada; Glacier National Park, Montana; Baja California, Mexico; Samana Peninsula, Dominican Republic; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Vienna, Austria; and Hanoi, Vietnam. This eclectic mix illustrates some general patterns that may apply to other similar areas/regions:

  • Portland is certainly a great place to visit, but it is also a surrogate for dozens of other U.S. cities—not quite as famous as Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco—that nevertheless have a lot to offer.
  • Glacier Park is fabulous, but so are all the other “crown jewels,” especially if you can score in-park accommodations.
  • Baja is certainly a great place to visit, but it’s on the list partly because of the low peso, which is making most other Mexican visitor centers equally attractive. Buenos Aries and Hanoi also make the list mainly due to favorable exchange rates.
  • Sydney makes it because of the airfare war to Australia—you could just as easily have added Brisbane or Melbourne.
  • Vegas makes it because of ongoing great hotel rates and low airfares.

The Department of Homeland Security’s latest bulletins remind you of this year’s new and tighter documentation required to re-enter the United States. You need a passport for most areas outside the country. You can cut processing time by enrolling in the Global Entry Program. For Canada and Mexico, a passport card, enhanced driver’s license, Nexus ID, or Sentri ID will suffice. Check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for details.

I’ve also received a bunch of reports containing data—some in excruciating detail—about where Americans will go next year. Some reports are based on popularity, others on someone’s list of hot destinations. I can see why a publication or website would be interested in knowing where people want to go. We used to ask Consumer Reports Travel Letter’s readers to help us focus our coverage for the year. But what earthly use is it to you, as a traveler, to know where either the public at large or a few anointed celebrities are thinking of going? In fact, the “where are you going” numbers typically round up the usual suspects: Orlando, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, and Paris. And the “hot” designations depend on some writer’s whim. The really useful reports are those that help you decide for yourself where you want to go.

What do you find most helpful about 2010 travel forecasts? Do the predictions help you plan your vacation or influence the destination? Share your thoughts, experiences, and advice by submitting a comment below!

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