Top 2011 Vacation Hotspots

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Sure, the winter holidays just ended. But it's never too early to start thinking about your next vacation. Here are some ideas for the most popular, most off-the-beaten-path and most affordable destinations this year.

If you believe 547 travel agents, Las Vegas will be the most popular vacation destination this year.

Last week, the travel agent network Travel Leaders released its annual Travel Trends Survey, and the big news was the return of Sin City to the top spot (after losing out last year to wholesome Orlando) and the encouraging fact that agents are reporting that when it comes to their clients, “over 88 percent will spend the same or more on travel this year.”

The Travel Trends Survey is significant because it’s based on actual bookings from around the country. So its predictions are closely watched.

“The trends revealed in this year’s survey lead us to be quite bullish on travel in 2011,” says Roger E. Block, president of Travel Leaders Franchise Group. “Bookings are on the rise as people either feel more stable in their situations or decide they can’t wait any longer to take a needed vacation.”

Here are the top 10 domestic destinations…

  1. Las Vegas
  2. Orlando
  3. Alaska (cruise)
  4. Honolulu
  5. Kahului (Maui)
  6. New York City
  7. Washington, D.C.
  8. Hawaii (cruise)
  9. San Francisco
  10. Chicago

Off the beaten path

If you’re the kind of person who hates going where everyone else is, Lonely Planet last month made its own recommendations for U.S. vacations. Best known for its offbeat and hippie-esque travel guides, Lonely Planet picked some intriguing destinations…

  1. Southern Utah – “If you’ve never seen the amazing rock formations and colored landscape of Southern Utah’s canyonlands, you’re missing out on one of the most mesmerizing landscapes in the United States. Why go now? Southern Utah’s national parks like Zion and Bryce Canyon have miraculously not been overrun with tourists.”
  2. Austin and West Texas – “Our staff picked Texas because it’s the most overrated and underrated state in the country. Overrated, some say, by Texans, and underrated by everyone else. From music to food to natural resources, Texas does nothing small.”
  3. Savannah, Georgia – “Next April marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Although hostilities started in South Carolina, Savannah was the ultimate goal of General Sherman’s army as they marched to the sea. But when he arrived, he got soft on its beauty – and spared it. There’s no denying that Savannah is gorgeous. The trees are covered in Spanish moss, which makes it enchanted.”

Budget travel

Finally, if money matters more than obscurity, vacation site Travel Zoo last week released its list of Wow Deal Destinations for 2011. While three of those destinations are outside the country – Iceland, Bermuda, and the Yucatan Peninsula – the other two are Central California and…Las Vegas.

“These selections represent destinations where we anticipate a strong collection of ‘wow’ deals based on recent trends, industry projections, and buzz,” Travel Zoo says.

So it appears that Las Vegas is that rare combination of popular and affordable this year.

Stacy Johnson

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