Forget the fiscal cliff. Though consumer confidence may be faltering
amid Washington's protracted budget and tax battles, we're determined
not to jettison our hard-earned vacations in 2013.
According to a
USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,038 U.S. adults in late December, nearly
three quarters of Americans plan to vacation at least 100 miles from
home this year, up from 60% who said they did so in 2012. What's more,
80% of those who vacationed last year plan to travel as much or more
As for where we're headed, there's no place like home.
resounding 94% of respondents planning a vacation will travel within
the USA, with "lake or beach" the clear favorites, followed by a road
trip and national park visit. (New York, Las Vegas and Orlando,
meanwhile, hope to continue their run of good fortune: All three cities
reported or forecast record tourism numbers in 2012.)
But 36% of
those taking a vacation say they'll be packing a passport this year.
About a third plan trips both within and outside the USA, and it's a
good bet many will cross the Atlantic: When asked where they'd visit if
money were no object and they could go anywhere, nearly a third of those
polled mentioned Europe (with Italy and Ireland leading the pack).
Near and far, here are five buzz-worthy destinations for 2013:
The Sunshine State marks the 500th anniversary
of European discovery and exploration this year, with events in all 67
counties. And two cities 144 miles apart - St. Augustine and Melbourne
Beach - are duking it out over which one most deserves bragging rights
(and a potential influx of tourist dollars) as the April 1513 landing
spot of Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon.
MORE: St. Augustine makes 'National Geographic Travler' list of 20 must-see places in the world
Founded in 1565
and known as North America's oldest continuously inhabited city, St.
Augustine is planning "Viva Florida 500" celebrations this spring. But
event organizers in Melbourne Beach point to their own evidence that
Ponce de Leon made his landing below Cape Canaveral, just south of town,
rather than 15 miles north of St. Augustine.
meanwhile, notable theme park additions include SeaWorld Orlando's
"Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin" and Universal Studios'
"Transformers: The Ride - 3D."
reforms can work wonders for a country's tourism profile. Myanmar, the
country formerly known as Burma, is a fixture on multiple 2013 hot-spot
lists, including the No. 1 "emerging destination" pick by the U.S. Tour
Demand for tours has continued to rise
since a tourism boycott was lifted in 2011; in the first half of last
year, arrivals were up 30% over the previous year.
President Obama's visit in November stoked interest among American
travelers, prompting tour operators such as Overseas Adventure Travel to
add more departures for 2013. (Sister company Grand Circle Cruise Line
is among those initiating port calls in the country this year.)
so much interest in this once-reclusive nation, the biggest challenge
for many travelers could be finding available lodging.
No one can accuse Gettysburg of
downplaying the 150th anniversaries of the Gettysburg Address and the
bloody Civil War battle that raged for four days in 1863.
events already are underway with a weekend lecture series that continues
into March. Remembrance Day on Nov. 16 (three days before the
sesquicentennial of President Lincoln's seminal speech) is expected to
attract thousands of Civil War re-enactors.
But key events will
take place June 29 to July 7 when the National Park Service and various
civic entities commemorate the battle anniversary.
The weekends of June 29-30 and July 6-7 bring re-enactments on farms outside of town.
June 30 evening ceremony on the battlefield will feature dramatic
readings of eyewitness accounts and culminate in a public procession to
the Soldiers' National Cemetery, where luminaries will mark the 3,555
July 1 marks the grand opening of the Seminary Ridge Museum in a former Civil War hospital near the battlefield.
July 3 features a ranger-led commemorative march across the battlefield.
Information: nps.gov/gett; gettysburg.travel
With 11% of survey respondents citing Hawaii as
the place they'd most want to visit (making it the top vote-getter among
individual destinations), the Aloha State has bounced back resoundingly
from its recessionary slump. As of November, the state's tourism
industry was on track to celebrate a 2012 record of nearly 8 million
visitors who spent an average of $193 a day - up $16 a day from the year
to a continued sunny forecast: A boost in service to small and midsize
cities on the mainland by Alaska Airlines and Allegiant Air, plus
Hawaiian Airlines' launch of non-stop flights between Honolulu and New
York's JFK airport.
the anniversary front, both Oahu's Polynesian Cultural Center and the
Big Island's Merrie Monarch hula festival will celebrate 50th birthdays
in 2013 - and this month marks 40 years since Elvis Presley gave his
first concert in the state that became one of his favorite vacation
spots and the setting for three of his most famous movies.
The website chronicling The Gathering - a
year-long celebration of all things Gaelic - is quick to admit that
Ireland "has had its share of doom and gloom the last couple of years."
So what better way to banish the Emerald Isle's economic blues than by
inviting the estimated 70 million who claim Irish ancestry to return to
the Auld Sod for a bit of frivolity?
bivalves: Among the special events planned for 2013 is Galway's "Tribal
Shuck Off." Held in late September as part of the town's annual seafood
fest, the competition is open to non-residents with a link to the 14
tribes, or families, that fueled Galway's prosperity from the mid-13th
century to the 19th century. Familiarity with sharp knives is a plus, as
entrants should be able to open at least 15 oysters within two minutes.