Vacation planning? Check out these 2016 hot spots

For the travel-minded, a new year brings a fresh round of planning travel excursions—and starting to budget for them.Luckily for many would-be vacationers, industry experts have loads of suggestions for places that should be on any traveler’s list, and they run the gamut from reasonable to money being no object.

Some “must see” destinations, such as Cuba, may already be on your radar. Renewed diplomatic ties between the U.S. and the tropical island has resulted in the lifting of travel restrictions, and lots of would-be travelers making vacation plans to get there. Other options may include a new attraction, a major sports event, or celebrations that mark milestone anniversaries.

Or, this may be the year some finally tack a few extra leisure days onto a business trip instead of rushing right home. So called “bleisure” time is becoming a hot trend for travel watchers, but savvy vacationers just call the dollar and time-saving strategy “great planning.”

Sports fans of all stripes will flock to Rio de Janeiro in August for the Olympic Games. Yet before that, football fans will descend on California’s Bay Area for Super Bowl 50, with the big game taking place on February 7 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Booking data experts at have found that average daily hotel rates in the area are already spiking for Super Bowl weekend, from $156 in 2015 to $434 in 2016—a whopping 178 percent year over year increase.

“If you’re a football fanatic, paying more to travel over Super Bowl weekend may be worth every penny,” said senior editor Jeanenne Tornatore. For those who can wait, “there are plenty of other reasons to visit this year’s West Coast hot spot, and lots of off-peak travel weekends to plan an affordable escape,” she said.

If you enjoy the outdoors, the U.S. National Park Service turns 100 on August 25,2016, and events celebrating the milestone are being held throughout the year.

The Find Your Park site will help you find out if there’s an event scheduled at a park near a city you’re already planning to visit. Also, travelers might consider building a trip around a special National Park-themed event such as the 2016 PhiladelphiaNational Flower Show (March 5-13), or one of the days or weeks when admission fees at the national parks that charge for entry are waived.

Top Ten (or 25) Lists and good-value options

Utah, home to Park City Mountain Resort, is a Mecca for skiers and snowboarders, as wellas five national parks (Zion, Arches, Bryce Capitol Reef and Canyonlands). The location tops Fodor’s Go List of 25 places to visit in 2016.

Destinations as varied as Palm Springs, CA, Cuba, Haiti, Lithuania and Nepal are also onthis Fodor’s list this year.

LonelyPlanet’s experts have put together top-ten lists of “must-see” countries. Among them are Botswana – celebrating 50 years of independence in 2016, as are Japan and the good old USA. Regions and cities that top the suggestions for “best value” destinations include Estonia, East Africa, New Mexico, Quebec City and Western Australia.

And AFAR’s 2016 suggestions “are not just destinations for travelers to cross off their bucket list,” said editor in chief Julia Cosgrove, but are instead recommended places that may now be easier to get to—thanks in large part to improvements to tourism infrastructure.

The publication’s Top Ten list for 2016 also includes the America Southwest, Nepal, Tasmania, Portugal and Cuba.

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC Sunday,
January 3, 2016

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