Travel trends are important because they give us insight into what’s whetting holiday maker’s appetites. Knowing what’s popular helps travel companies and tour operators decide what they’ll focus on over the coming season, which in turns influences the choices we’ll have when booking our next vacation.
And as summer marches on, TripAdvisor has announced the findings of its Season Experiences Trend Index showing the ten hottest tours and activities in the US this summer. What’s immediately obvious is the huge leap in popularity of outdoor experiences, from animal-focussed whale watching and safari tours to more active snorkelling and sailing trips. Here then is TripAdvisor’s top ten – prepare to be inspired!
1. Whale Watch and Mendenhall Glacier Combo Tour – Juneau, Alaska
Year-on-year bookings increase: 1,120%
This five-hour combo tour will having you breathing deep the cold Alaskan air as you take in the combined wonders of the Mendenhall Glacier and the whales that inhabit the waters around it. Visitors rave about the knowledgeable guides, proximity to the whales and other sea life, photo opportunities and professionalism of the whole experience.
2. Grand Teton Wildlife Safari in Open-Air Vehicle – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Year-on-year bookings increase: 326%
Not far from Jackson Hole, this open-air safari will have you scouring the landscape at dawn and dusk for wolves, bears, moose and elk while eagles soar overhead. With knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic guides describing the area’s ecology, history, geology and culture, it’s never been more popular.
3. Half-Day Tour of Pearl Harbor from Honolulu – Honolulu, Hawaii
Year-on-year bookings increase: 305%
Always an emotive subject, the legacy of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor has become a popular topic to explore for vacationers in the last year. This half-day tour explores Hawaii’s role in the war and on a guided boat tour takes in exhibits at WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument and the USS Arizona Memorial.
4. Washington DC Monuments by Moonlight Electric Cart Tour – Washington, D.C.
Year-on-year bookings increase: 296%
Something a little more eclectic, this monuments by moonlight tour of the nation’s capital gives visitors a unique view of some of the US’s most iconic landmarks, dramatically lit. From the whisper quiet open-sided vehicle you’ll get great photo opportunities of the Jefferson Memorial, White House, Capitol Hill and more.
5. Steamboat Natchez Harbor Cruise – New Orleans
Year-on-year bookings increase: 281%
Steamboat travel! What’s not to like? Take a step back in time and travel like the residents of old New Orleans on board the historic Natchez steamboat. Head out from Natchez Harbor and enjoy your cruise down the Mississippi River to the tunes of live jazz as you stroll the decks, dine fine and become mesmerised by the churning paddle wheel.
6. Molokini and Turtle Town Snorkeling Adventure – Maalaea, Hawaii
Year-on-year bookings increase: 272%
Back to Hawaii, but this time focussing on the 50th state’s extraordinary biodiversity and in particular its marine life. This half-day cruise from Maui takes visitors to Molokoni, a sunken volcano where you can snorkel the vibrant coral reef and as a bonus stop off at Turtle Town or Coral Gardens to seek out a turtle sighting.
7. Haleakala Maui Sunrise Tour with Breakfast – Maui, Hawaii
Year-on-year bookings increase: 240%
Showing strongly in the top ten, Hawaii’s natural wonders are proving to have strong allure for experience seeking vacationers – and few are more inspiring than the 10,000-foot summit of Mount Haleakala. Rising early, this tour takes you up winding roads through the clouds to witness the stunning sunrise over Maui.
8. Swamp and Bayou Sightseeing Tour with Boat Ride from New Orleans – New Orleans, Louisiana
Year-on-year bookings increase: 218%
While the word swamp doesn’t pop up in many travel bucket lists, the beautiful bayous around New Orleans are a definite exception. This tour and boat ride takes in the secluded Mississippi River swamps on the lookout for the region’s infamous gators while guides give you the lowdown on Cajun culture.
9. Dry Tortugas National Park Day Trip by Catamaran – Key West, Florida
Year-on-year bookings increase: 215%
If you find yourself in Florida, you could do a lot worse than escape to the secluded islands and tropical beaches off the coast of Key West with a full-day adventure to Dry Tortugas National Park. You’ll ride the awesomely named Yankee Freedom III catamaran across turquoise waters where you can snorkel reefs, laze on beaches and explore sights like the military fort.
10. Monument Valley Guided Tour – Oljato-Monument Valley, Utah
Year-on-year bookings increase: 206%
Rounding out the top ten is this Navajo guided tour into usually forbidden parts of astounding Monument Valley. In an open-air vehicle that lets you drink in the views, you’ll ride backcountry routes prohibited to most, including visiting one of the valley’s largest arches.