In 2012, blogger Scott Shetler has found that he can be much more spontaneous when he travels.
Thanks to a smartphone, “I do a lot less advance research about destinations, and rely more on apps to find fun places after I arrive,” says the author of Quirky Travel Guy. The liberating pace has just one limitation: “I just have to make sure I’m never far from an outlet, so I can keep the phone charged.”
Between advances in travel-related technology and seemingly less anxiety about the economy, good news mostly dominated the top travel stories of 2012. At the very least, more people used their passports: according to the United Nations World Travel Organization, the number of international visits is set to exceed an impressive one billion by the end of the year.
In the U.S., business was particularly good by some standards. “In July, U.S. hotels booked the most rooms, ever, for a single month,” says Jan Freitag, senior vice president of travel data firm Smith Travel Research. The year-end totals for booked rooms, he adds, also look to break the record. Companies are sending more business travelers out on the road, and hotel rates—though higher by about 5 percent since 2011—still remain competitive compared to peak levels in 2007.
There are other fresh incentives to travel, too: airports are boasting fewer delays; London is basking in a post-Olympics glow, with plenty of cool new attractions; Myanmar has adventurous travelers buzzing; U.S. national parks are less crowded; and you can enjoy wine over dinner, for the first time, at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World.
For a lot of travelers, however, the biggest triumph may come from being able to get through airport security faster, whether it’s thanks to their age or their enrollment in the TSA’s expanding PreCheck program.
“Gone is the 30-minute wait in security lines and accompanying hand-wringing about whether you’re going to miss your flight,” says Pete Meyers, vice president of EuroCheapo.com. “Add to that a slightly ridiculous but undeniable sense of travel superiority—and you have yourself a winner.”
The coldest air of the season so far and some snow will pour into the northwestern United States by early next week.
Arctic air settling over Germany may prompt children to leave their shoes for St. Nicholas indoors instead of outside before going to bed on Monday night.
A deadly wildfire exploded in Tennessee this week, charring a popular resort town and causing devastating damage.
On the heels of Cyclone Nada, a new and more significant tropical cyclone threatens to take aim at India next week.
Dashing hopes for Christmas Day snowmen and white rolling hills, forecasters predict Britain's weather pattern will leave more to be desired on Dec. 25.
Rounds of heavy rain will heighten the risk for flash flooding across portions of the southern United States through the weekend.
As colder air sweeps into the northeastern United States, temperatures will settle to seasonable levels, and lake-effect snow will erupt into Saturday night.
Thousands of firefighters from across the country answered the call to help save the South, not just on the front lines but also back in camps supporting those out among the flames.
A tranquil beginning to December will be replaced by unsettled weather ahead of the holidays.