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Feature: Travel in 2012

Sunset

Whether this year has been filled with pleasant surprises or pockmarked by hardship, there's one thing that catches everyone off guard: the end of it. It feels like we were talking Christmas plans and New Year's Eve resolutions just the other day. So where did the last twelve months disappear to?

2011: A Year Of Change

Where Did The Year Go?

When you stop to think about it, 2011 has been a bumpy ride - not just for the travel industry, but the world at large. Change has been in the air, and the symptoms have popped up everywhere. We've become more environmentally aware than ever before - there's this huge buzz for eco-friendly solutions to everything. Whether it's riding a bicycle to work to use your car less, or growing your own fruit to ingest less MSG, we're heading in the general direction of a more globally-conscious world.

Reflection

London

The time is nigh for us to kick back and relax. We've got Christmas holidays in the pipelines, followed by New Year's Eve and an accompanying bank holiday. And what better way to reflect on the year gone by than by going on holiday, far, far away from the grind of normal life?

Reflection

This month, we are taking the time to look at some of the exciting things we have to look forward to in 2012. We'll count down the hottest travel locations, latest trends, ask the experts what they expect and tell you where to party this New Year's eve...

Hard as it may be to believe, the new year is almost upon us. Before you know it, we'll all be singing Auld Lang Syne, working on a list of resolutions and talking about how suddenly February is around the corner. So this month, we've decided to give everyone a headstart, by talking about travel trends and fads that will be rising to the forefront. Take a look and let us know what you think - have we missed something?

Glamping

Glamping

"Glamping" is just celebrity camping for every day travellers - it's exactly what the name suggests: Glamorous Camping. Rather than sleeping on an air mattress in an old tent, glamping involves sleeping in an air conditioned, restored gypsy caravan, a luxury teepee or an airstream trailer that comes fitted with double beds. It's nothing new, but for travellers who enjoy the finer things in life, but want to be conservative with their money in 2012, glamping offers a cheaper way to visit the coast of Sardinia, Croatia or Cornwall than staying in a luxury hotel. For some good suggestions, Go Glamping has a brilliant selection of imaginative glampsites both in the UK and overseas.

Hitch-Hiking Revisited Via Social Media

Travel blogging sites like www.getjealous.com, which offer anyone the chance to document their journey and create a virtual scrapbook with their pictures, have helped bring the global travelling community together. Nowadays everyone can be a travel writer in some capacity - even if you are just uploading your pics on facebook for family and friends to see. In essence, social media has given internet users a face again. The internet used to be a platform for anonymity; nowadays, everyone has a personal account that offers people some visibility and insight into who you are.

This internet visibility has created fertile grounds for the www.couchsurfing.org concept to take flight in the mainstream media.

What is couch surfing? Couching surfing is almost like virtual hitch hiking, except you're looking for a place to stay rather than a ride somewhere. The website caters for a network of people who are willing to share their homes with passing travellers, and vice versa, for a limited time - it's obviously not a rent free bonanza that can go on forever.

With economic strings being pulled tight again, the couch surfing phenomenon is set to blow up big time in 2012. You can expect similar concepts to simultaneously go large too, like Camp In My Garden, where house owners can rent their back yards out to campers for less than high end resorts.

This is a cheap way to travel and an easy way to make friends abroad. Heading back to our first point, travel blogs and other social networking sites offer a non-invasive way to screen check your guests and hosts before you sign on any dotted lines.

The Sportcation Continues

Sportscation

The number of people travelling abroad to watch sporting events continues to grow. So much so, that even the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office has started issuing sports alerts to keep travellers in the know. In 2010, more than 600,000 tourists went to South Africa in a single month to watch a FIFA World Cup game. With the Olympic Games due to take place in London next year, we can expect a boom in trips to the UK's capital city, while the population in Poland and the Ukraine will no doubt swell during the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship.

War Chic Travel

Sarajevo City Scape

Post-war travel destinations are booming. The Balkan nations have been reasserted as a trendy and affordable travel destination, comparable to some of the most popular spots on the Med. With music festivals and Black Sea resorts becoming more popular in places like Sarejevo, Beirut and Bulgaria, as well as ski resorts opening, many newly politically stabilised nations are emerging as a great place to get a value for money holiday. In the east, Sri Lanka is fast joining ranks of Cambodia and Vietnam, drawing more volume each year with its amazing scenery, wildlife and climate.

The Growing Popularity of Adventure Sports

Adventure sports are no longer restricted to a small group of fearless people. 2010 saw a massive increase in people's sporting confidence and dare, and 2011 will surely bring more. Whether it's abseiling in Peru, mountain biking in Calderdale or kitesurfing in Bali, Essential Travel's travel insurance has got you covered with policies designed to keep you safe during your holiday adventures.

Travel Gadgets

Travel Gadgets In Use

Our gadgets are becoming smaller, smarter and less dispensable on holiday - keeping in touch via the Internet is simply becoming a way of life. You can be sipping cocktails on a beach in Thailand, checking the football score on your iPad or tablet and listening to Radio 1 on your smart phone. Wireless network access is also not limited to posh hotels anymore - its all over the world. In many USA cities there is wireless access at ALL public places. More and more working professionals are inclined to take a holiday if they can stay wired.

Beyond Borders

Japan

Our 2011 survey saw backpacking, rural cabins and even tour holidays pipping the city break in popularity. Adventure holidays at ski and beach resorts offer a more exotic departure from the norm. Locations like the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Guatamala and Malaysia are gaining popularity, because (1) they offer something exotic and exciting and (2) there are some incredible package holidays available and (3) it is only a matter of time before these rustic gems become hugely commercial and very expensive. With our hectic careers and busy travel itineraries (sight seeing, going out, taking tours) it could be that people just want to relax on holiday and forget about the city for a while.

Expect The Unexpected: Summer Skiing/ Winter Sun

Oman

The weather has been behaving a bit oddly over the last few years, resulting in some great surprises at times when you least expect it. Prepare to be caught off guard. Parts of the UK recorded their highest temperatures of the year in October this year, when the sky is supposed to be getting mean and readying itself for winter.

Keep your eyes peeled for sunny weekends in February and the ski season going on into May, when prices will be far lower than peak season. At the same time, last December saw some of the coldest, snowiest weeks in UK history, so we should be ready for all conditions.

Be sure to check out our Top 10 Winter Sun Destinations.

Eco Holidays

With added pressure on everyone to reduce our carbon foot print, eat better food, to reduce the risk of cancer and look after our bodies, it's no wonder that there has been a big push towards eco/health tourism. Where cycle tours were previously limited to health fanatics and hard-core athletes, these are expected to veer closer towards the main stream. In line with Glamping and interrail holidays, you'll also find people looking for more eco-friendly ways of taking a long weekend.

Next year is shaping up to be the year of the comeback in travel. Former darling destinations like Egypt, Japan and Mexico will be looking to shake off a disappointing 2011 and up-and-comers like Oman and the Ukraine will be making an appearance. Just pick a destination that sounds new and exciting to you and start feeding that piggy bank.

Asia

Japan

Japan

Japan has made an amazing recovery from the tsunami that struck it in March, but tourism has suffered as a result and the country has taken some innovative measures to attract visitors. The Japanese Tourism Agency plans to offer 10,000 return tickets to influential bloggers to visit the Land of the Rising Sun and drum up interest in the country. The plan still needs budgetary approval, but travel bloggers may want to keep an eye out for this amazing offer.

Budget Option: Malaysia

Borneo

After tourism in Thailand blew up, hardcore travellers touted Malaysia as the smart traveller's tropical getaway of choice. It's exactly what people have in mind when you mention the words: exotic holiday. The South China Sea is on one side, Borneo the other, and both are about as exotic as you can get. Travelling around Malaysia by bus is seriously cheap and puts you right in the midst of all the action. If you're a seasoned backpacker and visiting the west and east side is a priority, you'll be fine taking the bus across the country. Malaysia is still relatively low key, so you should take advantage while costs are still down!

Africa

Egypt

Egypt

Eager to make up for lost time from the Arab Spring earlier this year Egypt is making a concerted effort to bring tourists back to its shores. The destination has never been more accessible to travellers with competitive prices and almost no crowds at star attractions like the Pyramids. The situation is not entirely stable so it is advised that you keep up to date with FCO alerts for Egypt if you plan on visiting.

Budget Option: Morocco

Morocco is an entire world within a country, from the desolate beauty of the Sahara Desert (the largest of its kind in the world), to the iconic, snow capped Atlas Mountains, the majestic cliffs that face its golden coastline, to the ancient cities, mosques and markets. With centuries of history etched into the landscape, the architecture and people, the vibrancy and atmosphere of Morocco is a welcome assault to the senses. Day to day living expenses are incredibly low - eating and accommodation in particular - making it a great place to splurge on activities.

Europe

Ukraine

Ukraine

The UEFA Euro will be a major draw to the Ukraine next year, but there are plenty of reasons besides sport to give the former Soviet republic a look. Contrary to the image of a bleak grey country, Ukraine is big and bountiful with a rich history as the crossroads of eastern and western Europe. Students of history will particularly enjoy the peninsula of Crimea, where the legendary Light Brigade - immortalised by Alfred Tennyson - met their unfortunate end. Popular sights include the Swallow's Nest, a quaint castle built on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Black Sea, and Vorontsov Palace - a grand mansion built in a beautiful synthesis of architectural styles.

Budget Option: London

London

There are two ways to look at the Olympic Games in 2012. On one hand, it's a chance for you to get out of the crowded city and enjoy Europe, Asia or the Americas while a large chunk of the tourism market comes to England. On the other hand, you won't need to leave the country to feel like you're in a foreign land. The UK's capital city will be lit up like a Christmas tree and humming with visitors from far and wide. It probably won't be a budget friendly trip if you are paying for accommodation (and we all know that drinks and eats in the capital are anything but cheap), but if you live in London already or have friends/family to stay with, it'll probably be a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy the oldest sporting meet still in practice while it takes place on home soil.

For more information, check out www.london2012.com.

South America

Brazil

Brazil

There is no doubt that Brazil is a perennial favourite for tourist, but with its increasing economic clout (as part of emerging economies block BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) it's becoming a business destination as well. And with the two largest sporting events - the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 - coming to its shores, the lesser known attractions of inland Brazil are bound to get exposure.

Budget Option: Argentina

Buenos Aires

Before visiting Buenos Aires, there were three things that we didn't know about the Argentinian capital: 1) The architecture is amazing - the streets are lined with some of the finest neo-Gothic and modern works of art we'd ever seen. 2) You will eat, drink, eat some more and sleep for less than you ever imagined - good food and accommodation is cheap. 3) The average taxi driver could hack it in Formula 1 if given half the chance

When you think about almost every holiday you've ever had, it's the food, drink, accommodation and sites that make it an expensive trip - in Buenos Aires those things are cheap. Bang, problem solved. It's a long way to go for a holiday, but Argentina is well worth the 14 hour aeroplane ride. Aside from the capital city, the countryside really makes its mark.

The Middle East

Oman

Oman

Following on the heels of its illustrious neighbours, the United Arab Emirates, Oman is set to undergo a boom in tourism. The Middle Eastern country has quietly seen an uptick in visitors that bodes well for its tourism sector. With major architectural developments, like the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House in Muscat, and the development of Oman's extensive natural resources - ranging from wadi's to mountains to miles of untouched beach - this a destination worth saving up for.

Budget Option: Jordan

Jordan

Jordan is the quintessential "historic" holiday, with a big edge over other destinations - it's cheap to eat, sleep and tour. There is a mystical blend of history, culture and insanely beautiful landscapes that makes you feel like you're on a walking tour of the world as it was thousands of years ago. Petra's Nabataean City (one of the New Seven Wonders of The World) will blow your mind - plain and simple. The ancient city is mesmerising, and when you consider the amount of time and the seasons it has endured to still be there (in its current state), it defies logic and stirs your imagination.

Also worth checking out: Wadi Rum, or Valley of the Moon, is unmissable.

North America

Mexico

Mexico

According to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar, the world will be ending in 2012; what better way to see it out than visiting Mexico - the source of these apocalyptic rumours. The country has had a rough time recently with a spate of drug-related incidents, but expect it to make a comeback next year with coastlines on both the Pacific and Atlantic to tempt visitors. As with Egypt, its worth keeping updated about the situation on the ground with the FCO.

Budget Option: USA

USA

Various states in the grand 'ol US of A have been tipped as hot spots for 2012 - Orlando, Kansas and Utah. To boost the economy there has been a massive push in tourism for the new year, so we can expect to see the biggest and best sites in the States for less than ever before. Getting into theme parks like Florida's Disney World and Epcot Center will always be a little pricey, but if you book your tickets in advance and choose to use a site like Vacation Rental By Owner rather than staying at an expensive hotel every night, a holiday in the USA works out very reasonably. If you have the time, a road trip down California's Highway 1 is worth a thousand spools of camera film.

Hard as it may be to believe, the New Year is almost upon us. But before we start getting reflective about the year that has passed, we thought we'd take a look at what lies ahead. This month we spoke to a group of experts about what they expect from the New Year - which trends will be taking over, what destinations will be most popular and what types of holidays to expect.

Paul Johnson - A Luxury Travel Blog

Paul Johnson

Essential Travel: Which destinations do you think will pick up in 2012? Have you got plans to visit anywhere special?

Paul Johnson: All eyes will no doubt be on London in 2012, because of both the Diamond Jubilee and of course the Olympics. Some would say, though, that it's best not to visit a place when a big sporting event is on. Since we were unsuccessful (along with 250,000 others) in the somewhat farcical Olympic ticket ballot system, we sadly won't be going. Our plans for 2012 are still up in the air but it's looking like trips to the Canary Islands, St. Moritz, Cornwall and possibly France and the US are all in the pipeline.

London

Essential Travel: Where do you think the best budget destination will be in 2012? What destinations are you definitely going to visit in the New Year? Are there any new travel trends that you think will be very popular?

Paul Johnson: It looks as though we are still in uncertain times as far as the economy is concerned. However, I don't think this affects the travel plans of the uber-rich. If their total wealth diminishes, it's unlikely they'll be downgrading from that planned trip to a remote private island. For those who are still in the luxury market, but with less deep pockets, we might see changes. High-end self-catering accommodation and the likes of glamping can serve the needs of the moderately wealthy but at significantly lower cost, and I would expect those sectors to do well in 2012.

For more about Paul, check out our full interview with him here.

Sofia And Nathan - As We Travel

Nathan And Sofia

Essential Travel: What have you got on the cards for 2012, destination and trip wise? Are there any travel trends or particular destinations that you think will be big in the New Year? How important/unimportant is technology and gadgets to you when travelling and have you recently got yourself any new apps/devices you're keen to try out?

Stunning Thailand

Nathan: We are in the process of planning our travels for 2012, at the moment we're planning to visit India, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand & Malaysia before spending the rest of the year travelling around Europe. We think that the Philippines is a country which will be getting more and more attention as a great holiday and beach destination in the next few years, as more people continue to visit Thailand to "relax" on the crowded beaches - the untouched and peaceful islands and beaches in the Philippines will become a very attractive alternative.

Technology and gadgets are very important to us while travelling; we never leave home without our laptops or iphones anymore - the amount of amazing apps, and information you can access and save on your iphone/ipod touch is incredible and comes in so handy when out travelling the world.

Rob - Stop Having A Boring Life

Rob

Essential Travel: Which destinations do you think will pick up in 2012? Have you got plans to visit anywhere special?

I believe that Lebanon and Jordan will pick up. Both are beautiful places and people are realizing that conflict in part of the Middle East doesn't mean everywhere is like that. Also I believe more people will be taking shorter vacations due to cheap discount airlines.

Jordan

Personally, I am headed to Nicaragua in late November 2011 on a one way ticket. I'll probably end up exploring much of Central and South America over the winter of 2012. After that, I haven't planned anything yet as it's not my style.

Essential Travel: Are there any special gadgets you're using nowadays that make the process of travelling a bit easier?

An unlocked iphone. It has seriously transformed the way I travel. I can handle all my business and do all my research from anywhere with wifi or a cheap sim card. Furthermore, the camera on the iPhone 4+ is exceptional and I use it exclusively for my blog. If you're just traveling it's more than enough and so convenient; lugging around a camera isn't for everyone and becomes a hassle if you end up letting the day take you where it may - also enjoy using it for the maps that pinpoint my current location.

Steven Carter/Hayley Lochhead - A Day In The Life Of Someone Else

Hayley And Joff

Essential Travel: What have you got planned for the next few months? Anything exciting coming up for New Year's eve?

Joff And Hayley: We're currently in the South of Vietnam, and are looking forward to seeing some of the Mekong Delta on our way into Cambodia. Obviously the 'big' thing in Cambodia will be visiting Angkor Wat near Christmas, which we are thrilled about, but before that we'll be exploring the south coast, hoping to find some idyllic islands for a week or two. New Year is something we've been looking forward to since the beginning of the trip as we're meeting up with good friends who have been teaching in Japan and we haven't seen in a year. We're going to be staying on Koh Samui, but are planning to get the boat over to Koh Pha Ngan for their legendary beach party, which should be an experience and a half. After that we're undecided; we're dying to see more of Indonesia, but the Phillipines are also looking promising so it'll be one of the two because we'll sadly only have three weeks left.

Halong Bay

Essential Travel: What advice would you give someone planning their trip in 2012 - are there any trends or activities you've noticed heating up that side?

Joff And Hayley: Don't hesitate! It seems that this part of the world is changing so rapidly and there may only be a limited time left to experience it like this, on our type of budget. Already we have found former backpacker 'gems' destroyed by rampant development and short-sighted exploitation of the natural surroundings. Definitely venture off the beaten track and don't just stick to the heavily westernised tourist hot-spots. Things like trekking, diving excursions, and cultural tours are really big business over here, and we've been really lucky to do some great ones. But not everybody is in it with the best intentions, so while deciding which trek to do, or which company to go with can be really confusing, in the end it often determines whether a rise in tourism has a negative, degrading impact, or a positive, constructive impact on the places you visit. As a result, we really advise anyone planning a trip here to do their research and try as far as possible to make their visit a constructive one.

Essential Travel: What has been the travel accessory(ies) you've valued most on your trip?

Joff And Hayley: Our cameras have been invaluable: one is big and fancy, and the other is small and simple, but both have really proved their worth many times over. Also, our laptop has been great to have along - it means we rarely have to pay to use the internet (as most places have wi-fi) and never have to go in search of internet cafe's, plus it's great for backing up photo's and watching films on long bus journeys (having something to drown out the repetitive karaoke videos is an untold blessing). Then - a really important one - waterproofing (of all forms). Whether it be the raincovers on our backpacks, the cheap dorky plastic raincoats we bought in Thailand, or the umbrella that was donated to us by a travelling friend - you can't put a price on staying dry - and in these climates it is often quite a challenge. Lastly, things like a pack of cards and Joff's travel guitar have been great ice-breakers when it comes to meeting other travellers, and we've really met some amazing people along the way.

For more about Steven and Hayley's blog, check out our full interview with them here.

Marcello - Wandering Trader

Rob

Essential Travel Where do you think the best budget destination will be in 2012? What destinations are you definitely going to visit in the New Year? Are there any new travel trends that you think will be very popular?

The developing countries in Asia, South America, and Africa still are great for budget destinations. For the most part, I would consider the off-the-track destinations best, as these places haven't completely set up a tourism industry. Suriname, Guyana, and Paraguay are great examples in South America. For Africa, someone could consider Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Zambia. And fortunately for all of us, everything is cheap in Asia.

Peru

I plan to visit Peru and Ecuador, as I have never been, and living in Brazil. After that I plan on visiting Asia which will be a daunting task since there are so many countries to visit. I think I will make a pit stop in Ethiopia or Israel and then continue to India where I would spend a minimum of 6 months. After that I haven't made any official plans.

There are two countries that stick out in my mind as being possible choices of places that could explode: South Sudan and Somaliland, both countries in Africa. The ties that are being built in the Eastern Africa community are integrating everything in the region and I have heard from a lot of people that they want to visit the newest country in the world in South Sudan. As far as Somaliland, this is as off the track as it gets as it sits in the warlord region of Somalilan. The coastlines are as bare as I have seen anywhere in the world and the potential is endless

Jennifer - The Vacation Gals

The Vacation Gals

Essential Travel: Where do you think the best budget destination will be in 2012? What destinations are you definitely going to visit in the New Year? Are there any new travel trends that you think will be very popular?

Jennifer: With the increased economic instability across the world, and with financial concerns here in the US, I believe that family travel will become even more popular than ever. Multigenerational family travel, in particular, allows for more intergenerational closeness and appreciation with the added benefit of built-in babysitting. We travelled with my parents and kids to Costa Rica for a volunteer vacation last year, for example, and though it was about as far from a luxury vacation as you can get, it's the trip my daughters talk about on the phone with their grandparents most often. We are the sum of our experiences, and doing good while opening our kids' minds to other cultures' lifestyles creates experiences that they carry with them for a lifetime. Being able to share that gift with extended family, tightens those familial bonds in ways that emails, and phone calls simply cannot.

Costa Rica

I believe that more and more North Americans will start opting out of backscatter scans at the major airports (like mine, LAX) and wait for the pat-downs instead. Europe just banned the backscatter scans used at US airports due to health concerns. My dermatologist recommended that I opt out because I have a history of basal cell melanoma. I've experienced the pat downs at LAX often enough to know that, while it takes a few more minutes, they're professionally done and not as intrusive as some may assume them to be. As more people become aware of the increased risk, the balance of actual security versus "security theater" at airports will become more and more clear. More at backscatter scans article.

Last Updated: December 2011

Clayton Truscott

Clayton Truscott

Clayton is a comfortable traveller, having grown up in a small city that was far away from everything. He spent lots of time in the car as a child, driving up and down the coast of South Africa on surfing trips with his family. After studying abroad in the United States and spending a year working in London, he moved to Cape Town, where he completed a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. He now works as a freelance writer for various travel, surfing and action sports publications.