North Shore experts identify top international travel trends and the best places to experience them. Plus, our local picks-no passport required. By Scott Kearnan
In travel, as in fashion, there are trends. Just as seasonal styles become in vogue, certain global destinations suddenly become hot spots. So if you’re looking to book a getaway abroad, why not set your sights on places where the in-the-know go? We talked to North Shore travel experts to find out which far-flung locales are in high demand with locals. They shared top choices and some close runner-ups-and we’ve provided a few New England getaways that are equally enticing, no matter what type of travel you seek.
For upscale globetrotters, the trend in travel is to choose a trip that is highly personalized, says Middleton’s Patricia Shachat. Her agency, The Travel Corner, belongs to Virtuoso, an esteemed consortium offering clients exclusive travel experiences. Shachat says luxury travelers want those one-of-a-kind packages that earn big bragging rights. She cites one recent escape to South Africa that began with restful evenings at The Twelve Apostles, a Cape Town luxury resort. Then came whale watching and cage diving with great white sharks in the town of Hermanus. At night, the travelers retired to a cliff-top hotel. Next up were culinary tours and wine tasting through the valleys of the Cape Winelands and Stellenbosch, a well-known oenophile paradise. Finally, they embarked on a six-day safari through national parks and luxury camps to spot the “Big Five”: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo. Sounds fit for a fat cat. 12apostleshotel.com.
English Charms: Clantyre, in Lenox, MA
Plan B: Chile is on the radar for many well-traveled clients lately, says Shachat. Granted, they’re not backpacking through the country like starry-eyed college students; they’re looking for unique, adventurous activities, like those accessible from the adobe-style town of San Pedro de Atacama. Horseback riding through the desert and hiking the Inca Trail, anyone?
Local love: Want opulence? Head over to the Blantyre in Lenox, part of resort-filled Western Massachusetts. The English-style estate, which earned the top spot in Conde Nast Traveler’s list of America’s best small hotels, sits on 117 acres that offer everything from luxurious spa treatments to relaxing rounds of golf and from tennis in the summer to ice skating in the winter.Â Blantyre.com.
Tahiti & Fiji
For honeymoons and destination weddings, lovebirds look for the same qualities: romance and beauty. But distance makes the difference, says Stacy Evos, president of A Girl’s Gotta Go, an agency specializing in wedding and woman-centric travel. Evos believes that far-flung locales are better suited for a pair, not a party. Presently, high-end honeymooners are opting for the South Pacific islands of Tahiti and Fiji. Both offer exotic enchantment, while their even more isolated, outlying neighbors, like famously beautiful Bora Bora, are just a propeller plane ride away. There’s plenty of eco-adventure-nothing brings a couple closer together than rappelling down a waterfall-but you’re really here for the romance, and boy, is it in full bloom. Whether snuggling over turquoise lagoons in Tahiti’s famed overwater bungalows, indulging in five-star spa treatments at one of Fiji’s regal resorts, or setting hips a-sway with Polynesian song, dance, and drumming celebrations, you’ve got choices for romantic relaxation.
Plan B: On the other hand, spectacularly unspoiled St. Lucia offers a similarly romantic wedding destination in the much-closer Caribbean, says Bronwyn Bashore, owner of Newburyport’s Top Notch Travel. Plus, the Caribbean’s many all-inclusive resorts make it easy for traveling wedding guests to gauge their exact expenses.
Local love: You don’t need to be a blue blood Brahmin to appreciate the romantic allure of Newport, Rhode Island. Like many North Shore towns, the port has charming brick-lain streets lined with fine restaurants and shops. But it’s hard to resist a local getaway to spots like the Cliffside Inn, where couples can cuddle in oceanview hot tubs while sipping wine handpicked from the well-stocked cellar.
Perusing art galleries in Paris is always a lovely option, but it’s Eastern Europe that is stealing the spotlight right now, according to experts like Marisa Cole of Sensational Travel in Salem. That increasing interest intersects with another huge travel trend: leisurely riverboat cruises, which allow visitors to sample the region’s cultural treasures and culinary indulgences one stop at a time. Cruises have shed their stuffy reputations and are luring vacationers aboard increasingly lavish ships that snake down rivers like the Danube, allowing for day trips to Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and Belgrade. Each spot offers city shopping and cultural sightseeing at Eastern Europe’s fascinating museums, historic castle ruins, and ornate churches. Croatia is another up-and-coming destination, says Stacy Evos of A Girl’s Gotta Go. The country is especially popular for sailing, and it won’t be on the Euro until mid-2013-so right now, your dollar goes farther there.
Plan B: For another kind of culture crawl, go fjord cruising in Scandinavia, says Travel Corner’s Shachat. In particular, Norway boasts a dazzling, serene coastline with impressive cliffs and gorgeous glaciers. Longer cruises will also swing through the waterfront city of Stockholm, Sweden, and may even float as far as St. Petersburg, Russia.
Local love: To experience the region’s vibrant arts scene, check in at The Porches Inn at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) in the Berkshires. Here, quaint New England meets with an artsy, industrial-chic vibe in rowhouse inns inspired by North Adams’ huge gallery and performing arts space. From here, it’s also an easy drive to Northampton, a funky cultural Mecca, and Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home. porches.com.
Much as you love mugging with Goofy for a photo op at Cinderella’s castle, be honest: Those Disney World trips are just for the kids. Multigenerational family travel is “exploding,” according to Evos of A Girl’s Gotta Go. Clients want destinations where everyone from
grandparents to grandkids will be entertained, and Italy is a consistent pick for that purpose. Evos points especially to the Amalfi Coast, where splendid beaches and amazing adventures-like climbing Mount Vesuvius in nearby Naples-offer something for everyone. Tuscany is another popular choice for families, she says. The region is steeped in Italy’s history and culture; Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance, shines a bright spotlight on some of the finest European art and architecture in a contemporary fashion capital. And Tuscan’s legendary cuisine- explored through culinary tours and vineyard trips-make for uniquely exceptional family dinners.
Plan B: For value, families can’t beat the Bahamas, says Abramson of Flagship Travel, which bills itself as the largest retailer for Atlantis Resorts north of Boston. The government, which relies hugely on tourism, is keen on offering incentives and airfare promotions. All-inclusive resorts make the Bahamas a value-laden option with fixed overhead-not to mention plenty of breathing room for family trips on a budget.
Local love: Burlington, VT, isn’t just beautiful, situated as it is on glassy Lake Champlain, but it also has something for the whole family. Home to the University of Vermont, there’s a hip, progressive culture here-manifested in vibrant restaurants, bars, music halls, and galleries-that younger people will love. Its adorable downtown is walkable-a plus for grandparents. And the whole family can dig in for dinner at The Essex, a “culinary resort and spa” with its own “Cook Academy.” Bon appetit!
A beach bum you’re not, so tropical Costa Rica might be right up your alley, says Marisa Cole of Salem’s Sensational Travel. Cole calls it one of the most in-demand destinations for travelers seeking an active vacation, and for good reason: Boasting serious bio-diversity, Costa Rica offers a uniquely wide array of adrenaline-pumping adventures. Kiss the sky with zipline tours through mountain treetops, or thrill yourself with some of the world’s best whitewater rafting. Break a sweat with organized hikes through lush, wildlife-filled rainforests or to the top of awe-inspiring volcanic craters, then cool down by snorkeling or scuba diving off the Pacific or Caribbean coast. Catch your breath by kicking back at one of the tourist-friendly country’s luxury or all-inclusive resorts, or by soaking in one of Costa Rica’s famous hot springs nestled in the gorgeous great outdoors. Exhale.
Plan B: You probably associate America’s largest state with relaxing glacier cruises, but Cole says Alaska is a domestic gem that shouldn’t be discounted by adventure-seekers. Go “flight-seeing” over pristine terrain and wild bear habitats, kayak alongside spawning salmon in coastal streams, and explore-by foot or with sled dogs-sprawling ice fields.
Local love: New Hampshire’s rambling Omni Mount Washington Resort offers plenty of outdoor adventure in our own backyard. Situated in the state’s largest ski area, the regal resort offers opportunities for dog sledding and snowmobiling in cold weather, as well as hiking and ziplining when warm. Its elegant interior, originally constructed by a railroad tycoon, is filled with roaring fireplaces and boasts a four diamond-rated restaurant. omnihotels.com.
Been there, seen that, bought the t-shirt? Extensively well-traveled and well-heeled types are always on the hunt for trendy destinations that haven’t yet been done to death. And right now, Vietnam is increasingly in-demand for clients who have stamped their passport nearly everywhere else, says Joel Abramson, founder of Marblehead’s Flagship Travel. The country was also deemed Virtuoso’s second most popular “emerging location” in the travel organization’s trend-spotting 2012 “Luxe Report.” Traverlers are mainly attracted to the mix of beautiful beaches, exciting jungle expeditions and cave tours, fascinating topography-like that of Ha Long Bay, one of the new Natural Wonders of the world- and historic ruins reflecting both ancient civilizations and modern Indochina wars. But the capital city of Hanoi offers urban exploration, boasting gorgeous temples, exotic food markets, and a colorful, burgeoning nightlife scene.
Plan B: Leading Virtuoso’s emerging locations list is Cuba, now that America has finally relaxed certain restrictions against travel there. Tourists can only legally travel in groups on “people-to-people” cultural and education tours, but that’s been enough to lure the curious to Cuba, says Top Notch’s Bashore.
Local love: If you think you’ve seen every nook and cranny of New England, get thee to Winvian in northern Connecticut. This eccentric luxury resort is made up of multiple cottages outfitted with different themes, like the “Library” cottage with its bookcase-lined balconies, the “Golf” cottage with an undulating floor for playing putt-putt indoors, and the hanger-like “Helicopter” cottage, where the living room is inside a restored 1960s chopper. winvian.com.