The top 10 international travel destinations considered to provide the best value.
The top 10 international travel destinations considered to provide the best value.
Mexico’s alluring weather, close proximity to the U.S. and wide range of accommodation options are key reasons travelers seek this destination. Kathy Gerhardt, Travel Leaders’ spokeswoman, said eight of the company’s top 20 international destinations are in Mexico — and Cancun, Riviera Maya and Puerto Vallarta are in the top five. “Mexico always has been a great value, and there really is something for everyone here,” she said. “There are lots of all-inclusives, and these locations have resorts which cater to singles, couples, families and large groups.” Families can stay at the Vallarta Palace (left), an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Vallarta.
“This is the easiest vacation anyone can take,” Gerhardt said. “Everything is right at your fingertips.…Past surveys have told us that consumers love cruises for two reasons: great value and high rate of consumer satisfaction.” Incentives, such as free room upgrades (Cunard Cruise Lines) to reduced deposits (Holland America and Celebrity Cruises), are being offered. Other lines, such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises have suspended their fuel supplement charges. Although cruising the Caribbean is by far the most popular option, Gerhardt said there has been a spike in European river cruising. “You have the value of a cruise, but then excursions within the countries are already included, so it’s a great way to see Europe without paying high prices,” she said.
For U.S. residents, especially those on the East Coast, flying to the Caribbean is cheaper and more convenient than ever. “There are plenty of short, available flights,” Gerhardt said. She pointed out that, like Mexico, great weather and extensive hotel and resort options provide what travelers on a budget are looking for. “There are charming, smaller accommodations, to huge, all-inclusive resorts,” she added. For example, the Ritz-Carlton’s Grand Cayman location (left) is offering “The Tropical Take-Off” package, which includes accommodations in a Garden View, Resort View or Ocean Front guest room, daily breakfast for two at the oceanfront restaurant and a $400 resort credit for a four-night stay, or a $300 resort credit for three nights.
“Central and South America really speak to the value of the dollar bill,” Gerhardt said. “You get a lot of vacation for not a lot of money.” She pointed out that Costa Rica and Belize are particularly enticing to U.S. travelers. “Costa Rica is still very popular for honeymooners, and for people who want to have an adventure but want some down time as well. It’s a lush, tropical destination that’s great for tourists, but the land is still preserved.” Located across Costa Rica’s North-Pacific Riviera, is the Meliá Paradisus Playa Conchal (left), an all-inclusive beach and golf resort with over 400 rooms on 2,400 acres along the Pacific. Amenities for this family-friendly resort include a luxury spa; four tennis courts; a shopping arcade; on-site babysitting, and medical services.
The top three destinations in South America are Brazil, Argentina and Chile, Travel Leaders experts said. “If you can get yourself to one of these countries, your vacation will be inexpensive,” Gerhardt said. “This is an entirely different type of vacation from places like Europe. Outdoor activities, such as hiking and exploring the mountainous regions, are popular, and the people in these places are warm, inviting and friendly.” Those interested in Argentina can stay at the Alvear Palace Hotel, featuring suites that are among the largest and most lavish in Buenos Aires (left). The Alvear Palace has a “personal shopper” package deal for guests that includes butler service; three hours of personal shopper service around the Buenos Aires region; access to the Alvear Spa & Fitness Center, and a 60-minute massage per person, among other amenities.
The strengthening of the U.S. dollar and proximity to the States make Canada an ideal value destination. “We’re witnessing a trend toward people staying closer to home for their vacations, so why not visit the neighbor to the north?” Gerhardt said. “Many travelers from the U.S. don’t even have to fly, which helps budget-conscious people save hundreds of dollars.” She added that the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver is also creating interest. Whistler, British Columbia, is one of Canada’s most popular skiing destinations. Whistlerhorizons.com features special ski packages this season (including discounted rates and lift tickets) at hotels such as the Fairmont Chateau Whistler (left), a ski-in, ski-out luxury destination at the base of Blackcomb Mountain. Other popular spots include Quebec City, Toronto and Montreal, according to Travel Leaders experts.
Although it may be costly to fly to Southeast Asia, accommodations won’t do too much damage to the wallet. “This is such an exotic part of the world, yet it’s extremely inexpensive,” Gerhardt said. She pointed out that Thailand (left) and Vietnam are the two leading destinations, along with Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. “People today feel comfortable going there, and if they’ve already been to Europe and South America recently, where to next?” Gerhardt said. “The resort areas that were impacted during the tsunami have been brought back to life.” The Kamala Beach Resort in Phuket, Thailand, is offering deals and discounted rates to senior citizens and AAA members.
CENTRAL EUROPE (CZECH REPUBLIC, HUNGARY, POLAND, SLOVAKIA, SLOVENIA)
“This region may be a surprise to some people,” Gerhardt said. “But in central Europe, only one country [Slovenia] has changed its local currency over to the euro. All other countries — Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — still have their own currencies.” She cited travelers’ infatuation with Old World charm and architecture in these countries. “The entire region is relatively inexpensive, when you start comparing this to places like Paris and London.” In Budapest (left), for example, the Andrássy Hotel is a small luxury hotel that is located on one of the busiest shopping streets — Andrássy Avenue — in the region.
UNITED KINGDOM AND IRELAND
While the U.K. and Ireland are relatively expensive to visit, travel agents said there are ways to save money when booking a trip. “These are still two of travelers’ favorite destinations, and people are going to find a way to go, no matter what,” Gerhardt said. The best way to see the U.K. on a budget is to book a tour. “Tour companies work hard to put together packages that offer good value and discounts that other people wouldn’t be able to do, if they were piecing together their own trip.” Meanwhile, hotels continue to offer packages and discounts to travelers. London’s The Park Lane Hotel (left), an upscale hotel in Piccadilly, features more than 300 rooms and suites and has a number of Internet-exclusive offers. The hotel has also extended its New Year sale, for which selected rooms are offered at $185, at current exchange.
EAST ASIA (CHINA, JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA)
“The dominant factor in this region is China,” Gerhardt said. “Beijing and Shanghai are two of clients’ favored destinations, and we believe much of this is due to the heightened awareness from the Beijing Summer Olympics.” While the flight may be costly, “Once you arrive in East Asia, prices are still reasonable,” she said. Options for hotel accommodations are plentiful in places like Shanghai (left) and Tokyo. Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo, features a “Tempting Offers” section on its Web site, with several packages including “Spa and Relaxation,” “Dine and Cinema” and a “Sweetheart” package for Valentine’s Day.
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