Travel is ever-evolving, so it's smart to stay on top of the trends.
If you travel smarter, you can travel better -- and longer. Luckily, we don't have to know everything. We can cheat and ask other travel experts to chip in and share their knowledge. I tracked down one of the best to pick her brain and help give you insight into what you should expect for travel in 2016 and beyond.
Dalene Heck and her husband Pete are what you would call professional travelers. The digital nomads have been wandering the globe almost non-stop since 2009 after they quit their corporate jobs. Along the way, the 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year have built two businesses: a travel blog HeckticTravels.com and a service, HeckticMedia.com, that connects travel brands and destinations with the expert travelers who help to review or promote the cool places we visit around the world. Being a top-notch travel influencer gives Dalene a unique insight into the trends we should be aware of.
Let's check out what she had to say in a recent Q&A with In The Loop Travel.
Dalene Heck: There are more opportunities for travel than ever. With the lower cost of airfare due to reduced fuel costs and increased affordability via the sharing economy, travel is a bargain compared to recent years. And it's an especially great time for Americans looking to venture outside their borders -- the low Canadian dollar is making a trip to that country far more attractive, and suddenly Cuba is available and becoming a hot destination. Now is the time to go. I think the biggest challenge for many hasn't changed for the past several years, namely the concern with traveling safely amid terrorism concerns or because of health issues (with the Zika virus being the latest worry).
ITL: Are there any regions of the world do you think travelers should avoid because of political crises or other reasons?
DH: There are very few regions of the world that we would specifically recommend not traveling to. In most cases, the bad news that deters people from travel is but a small fraction of the whole story of an area. Anyone who has been traveling as long as we have will attest to the belief that over 99 percent of people in the world are generous, hospitable and mean no harm to tourists. That being said, it is important to diligently do research before travel. Take blanketed travel advisories such as Worldwide Travel Alerts from the U.S. State Department with a big grain of salt, and instead do more concentrated and local research. Talk to others who have been there and get a more local view of what is happening in the area you want to travel to.
ITL: How about great "new" locations around the world that present a unique value or experience and why?
DH: Cuba is obviously a fantastic "new" location for Americans. As Canadians, we visited over 10 years ago and still rave about the most beautiful beaches we've ever seen. We also encourage anyone who has Europe on their radar for this year, to go past the usual tourist haunts of France and Italy and instead hit up the Balkans for fantastic value. Head to Slovenia for gorgeous mountain scenery and greener rivers than you've ever seen, or to Albania for its stunning Riviera. Go island Âhopping in Croatia or hiking in Montenegro. ÂThese countries all hold some of the most spectacular scenery on the continent and at a much lower price than western Europe.
ITL: What's new in adventure travel?
DH: Adventure travel is undoubtedly on the rise, with more people looking for unique experiences around the globe. Personally, we admit to totally being seduced by far northern adventures, and we spent most of our last year in winter climates! We went dog sledding 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Finland, hiked in unmarked territory in the Faroe Islands and had staring contests with polar bears in Manitoba. And on our blog, readers have been gobbling it up and responding to these adventures more than anything else.
Everyone seems to be on the lookout for uncommon opportunities to push themselves (and their Instagram feed) to new heights all over the globe. The more unusual, the better.
ITL: Travelers increasingly groan about the airline industry, whether poor service, added fees, cramped spaces. Is there any hope, or do we just have to learn to deal with it if we want to travel?
DH: Deal with it! We can't have it all (low, low prices and all the amenities) so if lower prices are selling seats, then we have to settle for the tradeoff. Yes, it can be groan-worthy for a few hours, but if it gets you to somewhere glorious, then it's all worth it.
But we are lucky these days that there are still amazing deals to be had, even on the most opulent airlines. Consider the Middle Eastern airlines where passengers are completely spoiled; it is possible to get great prices. And it sometimes just comes down to pure choice. Personally, we'll pay a few extra dollars for an extra level of comfort on long flights.
ITL: What new "essential" travel gear should we be thinking about?
DH: We all need good selfies, right? (Instagram it or it didn't happen!) The new iPhone is rumored to have dual lenses to create a more DSLR experience; many of the smaller and lighter point-and-shoot cameras also have increasingly fantastic quality. It is becoming easier to share exceptional travel experiences during and after the trip with much higher quality (while carrying less).
ITL: How will the rise of Airbnb and similar services affect what we see from the hotel/resorts industry?
DH: As digital nomads, we are massive advocates of Airbnb because it helps us feel like we're at "home" around the world. But we still have an obvious need for hotels when it comes to short stays or when we want a different experience. At times, using Airbnb can be a hassle because it most often doesn't include the service of a receptionist or a concierge. And I think that is what we may see from hotels and resorts in the future in order to remain competitive, an enhanced customer experience that can capitalize on these services. By loading up on amenities as a reminder that a vacation is an "escape", they'll keep my business!
Thanks to Dalene for taking time out of her busy schedule to give us some great insight into how to travel better and longer! Go check out her blog to follow the adventures, and always Travel happy!