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Top Summer Travel Destinations

April 23, 2014
6 min read
Top Summer Travel Destinations
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The good people of have been watching ticket sales, search trends and airline news to come up with the hottest summer destinations for 2014. Here were their findings and the key takeaways.

The beautiful Rio de Janeiro.
Rio's the top trending destination this summer - no surprise there.

Memorial Day

According to Kayak, not only are more Americans planning to travel this Memorial Day, but more of them are heading south of the border, and the top destination this year will be Puerto Vallarta, which saw flight searches jump 59% over last year. Other top search destinations included Cabo San Lucas, Nashville, New Orleans and Austin - so everyone's headed south this year.

However, bargain hunters should look to Costa Rica for great fares since San Jose saw the greatest drop in year-over-year airfares from 2013 to 2014 at an average of 10% less.

It's going to be a lot busier in Puerto Vallarta this Memorial Day.
It's going to be a lot busier in Puerto Vallarta this Memorial Day.

Summer Travel

This summer is also going to be all about international travel for Americans. The top 10 destination searches on Kayak were all international cities with Rio de Janeiro nabbing the top spot with average airfares from the US coming in at around $1,670. No surprise there given the World Cup festivities that will be taking place there.

The other cities on the top 10 list of destinations with increased flight searches from last year to this year and their airfares are:

Milan at $1,149
Athens at $1,478
Tel Aviv at $1,418
Seoul at $1,475
Frankfurt at $1319
Beijing at $1,558
San Jose del Cabo at $487
Dublin at $1,074
Madrid at $1,267

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So there's a healthy mix of European and Asian cities here, but just one in North America itself in terms of destinations with the greatest year-over-year increases in flight searches. The Milan route doesn't surprise me given the fact that Emirates' launching its (now-imperiled) route upped traffic 62%, and Dublin and Madrid are both (relatively) cheap European destinations.

Vegas comes out on top yet again with almost 10% of overall searches.

The most popular destinations in terms of overall airfare searches are:

Las Vegas $363
London $1,404
Honolulu $810 (wow, that's high!)
Orlando $337
Seattle $407
Paris $1,342
Los Angeles $386
New York $347
Cancun $522
San Francisco $394

And the most popular destinations for hotel searches and average nightly rates this year are:

Las Vegas $193 - this came in at 10% of overall searches!
New York $278
Orlando $135
New Orleans $290
Chicago $232
Honolulu $292
San Diego $247
Myrtle Beach $173
London $291
San Francisco $248

In terms of hotels, the top trending year-over-year summer 2014 destinations for searches and average rates are:

Rio de Janeiro at $338
Austin at $180
Denver at $149
Cabo at $308
Playa del Carmen at $380
New Orleans at $290
Toronto at $186
Amsterdam at $213
Nashville at $227
Boston at $280

So even though people are searching for more international flights, they are still looking to book hotel stays closer to home around North America, with just one European destination making the list.

Part of that could be because once they do the flight searches and find out how high airfares are to international destinations they either decide to book trips closer to the US, or because of the rise of services like Airbnb and VRBO where folks are spending more stays and longer stays in rented apartments rather than traditional hotels in order to save money while abroad.

Among the destinations that have seen the greatest drop in airfares are Anchorage (8%), Minneapolis (5%), San Jose Costa Rica (4%), Manila (4%) and San Jose del Cabo and Bangkok both at 3%, while Vegas and London are both coming in at airfares 3% higher than last year.

If you're looking for deals, head north to Canada where flight searches to Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto all dropped between 9-15% this year. And if you've been hankering to see the Northern Lights, Alaska might just be your best bet with airfares to Anchorage down an average of 9% from last year at just under $600 from other US cities.


What's interesting to me is that so few South American, Asian and Australian cities made the top trending and overall searches lists so far for summer this year. That could be because it's winter down south and much of Southeast Asia is entering its wet season, which might be keeping travelers away. However, I do expect to see an upward tick in Australia searches and bookings thanks to the current royal tour underway with Prince William and Kate and baby George down there, and the Australia episodes of Modern Family set to air next week. We'll see if that's just the celebrity-fueled jolt they need Down Under.

I also think more people are finally coming out of hunker-down-and-save mode from the recession and are willing to spend some more money on traveling abroad during the traditional summer high season. However, once they're abroad I think we're seeing more people booking alternative accommodations like Airbnb or VRBO, which is skewing the hotel bookings rankings to more domestic searches.

If you're in the midst of making your travel plans to use the best credit cards for purchasing airfare and hotel bookings. I tend to put all of my airfare on my Amex Premier Rewards Gold card, which is currently offering a 25,000-point welcome bonus for spending $1,000 in 3 months and earns 3 points per dollar spent on airfare (4x if booked through Amex Travel). The Sapphire Preferred card from Chase is also a great option, giving 2.14 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar (2x base on all travel plus a 7% annual dividend), while the Ink Bold and Ink Plus also from Chase offer 2x points on hotels. And if you’re buying your airfare on a foreign website it should be noted that there are no foreign transaction fees when using the Chase cards.

Where are you planning to travel this summer? Any of your destinations make these lists?

Featured image by The beautiful Rio de Janeiro.

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