It’s a strange time in travel—I should know, having spent the past two weeks circumnavigating the globe. Hong Kong was the first stop on my recent seven-day trip to Asia, followed by Singapore, Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. Then, three days after returning to New York, I took the Acela up to Boston for a meeting of Travel + Leisure’s Travel Agent Advisory Board (TAAB), a group of 16 super-agents who account for a mind-boggling proportion of U.S. leisure and business travel bookings. As always, I listened closely to the insights they provided. Herewith, a quick look at the wisdom I acquired along the way.
The fuel crisis continues to impact New York–Asia direct flights. Sadly for those of us who celebrated the launch of Thai Airways’ nonstop route from JFK to Bangkok, the sky-high cost of carrying fuel means that it will be flown no more. Opting for this service-savvy carrier will once again require a stop in L.A. But no matter how you access the continent, Asia has abundant pleasures waiting to be uncovered: this month we examine the tantalizing but still relatively untapped South Korean capital of Seoul with contributing editor Gary Shteyngart (“Rediscovering Seoul”).
Dedicated travelers won’t be surprised by this news: it’s projected that from October to December this year, the number of available airline seats will have been reduced by 60 million compared with the same period in 2007. Read “America’s Best and Worst Airports 2008” for more on flying now, and our tips on avoiding flight delays.
Fortunately, on the good-news side, multigenerational travel, a trend that took off post-9/11 as a way to keep loved ones close, is alive and well. Our TAAB agents reported much demand for resort villas, contiguous rooms, and staterooms on cruise ships to accommodate the whole clan.
More good news, at least from the traveler’s point of view: you may not be too late to book a great escape during the December holiday season. At press time, there were still rooms available at hotels and resorts whose waiting lists usually never budge—as well as opportunities to reserve for less than the standard one-week or 10-day minimum. As our cover story reveals, you’ll find a few low-key—and affordable—options in Barbados in contributing editor Tom Austin’s “The Rebirth of Barbados.”
U.S. travel is hotter than ever, according to our TAAB agents, who have been coming up with dollar-wise alternatives to Europe (e.g., bagpipes sounding on the bluffs at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay). Interested in a classic spot with a new twist?Waikiki may fill the bill, as writer Guy Trebay illustrates in “The Hawaiian Paradise of Waikiki.”
France appears to be staging a comeback for U.S. travelers. In this issue, we drop by a new Paris hotel and a classic Alpine resort; plus the best affordable restaurants in Paris and a handful of other cities with contributing editor Anya von Bremzen, in “37 Affordable European Restaurants.”
Finally, despite the apparent boom in online booking sites, our TAAB agents reported that having a trusted adviser is more important to travelers than ever. For those of our readers who are DIY devotees (or who research online as a complement to using their invaluable experts), we offer “The Top Travel Websites Now,” our guide to 33 great sources that will put you one click closer to getting the information you need.