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Most Important Travel Trends of 2013

The millennials are coming! Or rather, they’re going, hitting the road in increasing numbers. And travel companies have been positioning themselves to take advantage of these independent-minded, digital-savvy twenty- and thirtysomethings eager to see the world after tightening the belts on their (collective) skinny-leg jeans. In 2013, we’ll see the results in a series of shifts that benefit all travelers.

Traditional luxury tour operators, including Butterfield & Robinson and Abercrombie & Kent, for instance, are rolling out more affordable and casual lines of trips. These riffs on their standard itineraries reprioritize authenticity over high thread counts and Michelin stars. 

In the meantime, the peer-to-peer model pioneered by millennials gets a new twist as transportation-sharing services multiply, from cabs to bikes to hourly car rentals—now even more convenient thanks to Car2go, which lets you locate and drive a nearby vehicle without a reservation.

The hotel industry is also embracing some changes, notably the here-today-gone-tomorrow pop-up phenomenon that started out with stores and restaurants. For a literally once-in-a-lifetime travel experience, reserve a room at the yoga ashrams popping up in Italy and Bali, Indonesia, for just two months in Spring 2013.  

All this isn’t to say that luxury travel is dead; rather, it’s taking cues from the upstarts. Airbnb’s remarkable transition from a couch-surfing resource into a polished online house-rental behemoth has opened the door for even more sophisticated web-based rental services such as Inspirato and Portico. The difference? These new companies limit your risks by vetting every single property, along with providing maid and concierge service, and charging hefty initiation fees.

Connectivity is a major theme in this year’s travel innovations, among them: better mobile maps (yes, even you, Apple); the pioneering electronic wallet app, Passbook (yes, we’re talking about you again, Apple); and ubiquitous in-flight Wi-Fi. And the device we’ll all soon be connecting with? The “laplet,” an innovative hybrid that combines touchscreen computing with full laptop capability. 

Of course, one thing in travel remains constant year after year: the quest for new horizons. In 2013, cruise lines will deliver by setting sail in the Far East, with voyages through Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, and beyond.

Read on for more glimpses of the year ahead. 

Amy Farley 

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