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Top Travel Stories of 2008

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Launch Slideshow
Photo: Angie Vo

See our slideshow of the Top Travel Stories of 2008.

What do a hair-raising runway in Gibraltar, America’s most attractive people, and a $98-a-night Hawaiian beach resort have in common?They were all parts of the most-read stories on travelandleisure.com in 2008—The World’s Scariest Runways, America’s Favorite Cities, and 27 Affordable Beach Resorts.

So, what do our most popular features reveal?Site visitors, it seems, like the taste of danger, are full of hometown pride, and are more budget-minded than ever—not surprising in this unsteady economy. But, as always, our readers also want to know about exciting new hotels, fun family getaways, and America’s best airports.

Our annual lists, such as T+L 500 (published every year in January), It List: Top 30 New Hotels (June), and World’s Best Survey (August) have emerged over the years as go-to resources for travelers seeking the latest insider hotel information ranked by readers and our editors.

Every year, the Travel + Leisure editorial staff scours the globe discovering such newly opened properties as the Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, a dreamy 32-room adventure hotel in Chile’s Atacama Desert that uses unorthodox materials (think oxidized iron and shale) to make its design statement. Or, closer to home, the ultra-civilized Regent Bal Harbour in Florida—the first Regent property in the United States. Refreshingly removed from South Beach crowds, the adult hideaway with crystal chandeliers and Anichini linens is also the first hotel to open in Bal Harbour Village in the last half-century.

But, sometimes, the discoveries are less obvious. In our popular Great American Beaches package, we sift through 95,000 miles of shoreline, sharing our favorite hidden stretches of sand, swimming spots, and more. Laid-back Ladies Beach on the southwestern edge of Nantucket, for example, may not be easy to access (you have to bump through a maze of rocky dirty roads to get there), but the beachcombing and near-private views of the Atlantic are well worth the trip. At Rosemary Beach, a swimmer’s paradise along the Florida Panhandle, the sparkly quartz sand squeaks between your toes and Gulf waters average 79 degrees.

At the end of the day, it’s smart travel advice that people want, which is probably why Best Places to Stretch a Weak Dollar and 2008 America’s Best and Worst Airports had an unprecedented amount of readers. While today’s exchange rate is more favorable for U.S. travelers headed to Western Europe than it was earlier in the year, one U.S. dollar still only buys .69 euro, which means Eastern Europe is by far a better value. It’s no surprise that more affordable cities like Zagreb, Croatia, and even Prague are also seeing record numbers of visitors.

And of course, despite 2008’s fluctuations in fuel cost and surcharges, travelers kept flying. So to help readers identify which airports to use—and which to avoid—we turned to FlightStats for the latest figures on delays. And if their travels took them to, say, Princess Juliana Airport in St. Maarten or Paro Airport in Bhutan, they knew to be ready for a heart-pounding approach to one of the world’s scariest runways.

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