Frommer’s reveals top destinations for 2012

What destination are you dreaming of for 2012? The staff at Frommer’s have just unveiled their list of top travel destinations for the coming year. Included in the list is a little something for everyone: large metropolises, secluded beach towns, colorful riverside villas, and more.

But Frommer’s didn’t just rely on their expert editors and author’s for this years list–they also polled readers to find out where they wanted to visit in 2012. Click through the gallery below to see Frommer’s (and their reader’s) picks–including one surprising midwestern city that is the only spot in the United States to make the cut.

Other Winners:
Top Family Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Top Cruise Destination: Tromso, Norway
Top Beach Destination: Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Top Adventure Destination: Moab, Utah
Top Food & Drink Destination: Lima, Peru
Top City Break Destination: Chicago, Illinois
Top Endangered Destination: Aysen Region, Chile
Top Value Destination: Albanian Riviera
Top Destination to Get Lost: Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Travel and Leisure names Virgin America best domestic, Singapore best international carriers

The prestigious Travel and Leisure “World’s Best” awards were announced today, covering everything from best hotels to best islands to best airlines. Not surprisingly, no legacy carriers were in the top domestic airlines list — as we expected, Virgin America and JetBlue were the winners. And how couldn’t they be? With in-seat video, internet and hipsters on their side it’s hard to compete.

On the international side, Singapore Airlines wins once again, with all-star global service including private rooms on their delightful A380’s.

The full list of top contenders in the domestic category:

  1. Virgin America
  2. JetBlue
  3. Midwest
  4. WestJet
  5. Southwest
  6. Sun Country
  7. Hawaiian
  8. Frontier
  9. Alaskan
  10. USA 3000.

Check out the international rankings after the jump.
Top international airlines raked as such:

  1. Singapore Airlines
  2. Qatar
  3. Emirates
  4. Japan Airlines
  5. Virgin Atlantic
  6. All Nippon Airways
  7. Cathay Pacific
  8. Thai Airways
  9. Air New Zealand
  10. Asiana

Airlines were ranked on a number of factors (and we do love it when they publish methodology,) from cabin comfort, in-flight service, customer service and value. You can read the entire list here.

Life Nomadic: Building the Ideal Country

As I travel I build up this myth of the perfect country that I’ll someday discover, move to, and give up traveling for. Some countries do things SO RIGHT that it’s hard to fathom how other countries can do it so wrong.

To get the world moving in the direction, I’m posting — free of charge — the blueprint for a new country that does everything perfectly. Let’s call it Gadlingland.

Police of Panama

The police in Panama are great. They’re friendly and helpful, they seem to a good job of deterring crime, and when you do get caught slightly on the wrong side of the law, they treat you with respect and accept small bribes. An example: I decided to “surf” on the roof of the car crossing the Bridge of the Americas. They laughed about it when they stopped me, took a $15 bribe, and then cleared a lane of oncoming traffic for us to drive across the bridge in!

Tokyo police are a close second. They’re just as friendly and are too polite to stop you for minor infractions like riding your bike like a maniac.
Dried Fruit and Orange Juice of Morocco

Amazing fresh squeezed orange juice is served at just about every restaurant in this country, as far as I can tell. Street vendors sell cups of it for fifty cents. I don’t like grapefruit juice, but it’s almost as common. The nuts and dried fruits also sold by small vendors are amazing. I’m hooked on the almonds, figs, and especially the apricots. The apricots are really in a league of their own compared to the stuff we get in the states.

Honorable mentions go to most countries in Southeast Asia for having fresh cut fruit available cheaply everywhere along with coconut water.

Prices of Thailand

Things in Thailand are often inexpensive, but of surprisingly good quality. Hotels stand out as an example – $20 a night will get you a clean, comfortable, and well appointed hotel by the beach. A great Pad Thai is a dollar or so. Even movies are shown in better theaters than most American cities have, for half the prices.

Trains of Japan

Japan’s train system is legendary. Between the comprehensive but navigable subway systems in every major city to the bullet and sleeper trains that link most cities and towns, it’s safe to say that you can get just about anywhere of interest in the country by train and a short walk. Prices for long distance trains can be expensive, but buying a JR Rail Pass as a tourist makes them one of the best train deals in the world.

Europe’s train system is worth mentioning as well, but it’s a bit more expensive.

Diverse food of Europe

There are a lot of countries that have amazing food, but Europe really stands out to me. Besides the local foods it’s famous for, ethnic foods from other regions are pretty faithfully reproduced. As an obsessively healthy eater, I’ve been floored by the high quality healthy foods in the UK, Spain, and France. My current favorite: Inspiral in London.

History of Paris

Walking through Paris is like walking through the pages of a history book. Except that it doesn’t make you fall asleep and drool all over it. And once you think you’ve finally seen everything, you can always sneak into the catacombs and see Paris’ entire history from a totally new perspective.

Nocturnal Sensibility of Taiwan

Taiwan stays up late. Stroll through Sun Yat Sen Park at midnight and you’ll be sharing the area with teenagers hanging out, seniors doing aerobics, and even families spending time together. It’s a bit eerie, but I’m a night owl myself, and I like being in a country that matches up with my schedule.

Infrastructure of the US

I’ve traveled far and wide, but the US still takes the cake when it comes to overall infrastructure. We have addresses that make sense (Japan, I’m looking at you), maps for every GPS and online service, good water, good power, decent internet, and good phone service. Other countries beat us individually in most of these areas, but overall we have it pretty good.

Urban Landscape of Hong Kong

Hong Kong, grossly simplified, is three stripes. The first stripe is the ocean, which is home to ferry-accessible islands, beyond that is some of the densest urban development in the world, and close behind is a stripe of lush green mountains. The contrast is striking, and the ability to jump from downtown to pristine beach or dense forest within minutes is pretty darn appealing.

Unfortunately it’s not really possible for any country to have all of these things I love so much, so until then the only option is to go visit them one by one and appreciate the best in each.

This year’s World’s Best Airports

It’s hard to imagine that an airport is actually a place that you would want to spend some time when you’re stuck in Newark’s Northwest terminal, but believe it or not, there are actually a few really fantastic airports out there.

Domestically, San Francisco recently won the award for best airport facilities and my personal favorite is the Detroit McNamara Terminal, but Skytrax took an in-depth look at airport amenities and service around the world. And their winner for best airport on the planet?

Hong Kong International.

With sprawling, well-lit terminals, excellent connections to the city (you can check your luggage in HK before even getting on the train to the airport) and a friendly and efficient staff, it’s not hard to believe.

In fact, five of the top ten airports ranked were in Asia, with four more in Europe and the final airport in Cape Town, South Africa. Where are the American airports, you ask? San Francisco is at number eleven while Atlanta, Dallas and Dener. The top ten list (in no particluar order)?

  • Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Kansai, Japan
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Munich, Germany
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Zurich, Switzerland
  • Helsinki, Finland
  • Cape Town, South Africa

Click on the links below to see some images from the top ten.

Why are these the world’s best airports?

Click the image to find out!

HNL: Honolulu’s airport done right.

Looking at the picture to the right, you would probably think that it was an image captured off of a tropical island beach or a Zen garden, nestled somewhere deep in the Thai jungle. Or perhaps it’s within the grounds of Shanghai’s old city, where pristine gardens and tailored landscapes roll across ancient architecture and history. But you wouldn’t think that it’s smack dab in the middle of an airport, which is exactly where it is.

The first thing that you notice when you land in Honolulu Airport is the tropical air. This is because most of the airport is open to the weather, with only a roof over many sections. But walking through the terminals, you notice something else distinct from the cruel American airports that you’re used to: it’s actually quite nice.

Though the John Rodgers Terminal was dedicated in 1962, the building doesn’t look like its almost fifty years old. Inside of security, there are a wealth of shopping and dining options — since HNL serves many international destinations, duty free and Hawaiian paraphernalia shops are scattered through the concourse where you can even buy 3-packs of local pineapple to bring along on your flight.

At the center of the compound, a well manicured garden serves as a peaceful interlude from airport madness. Many of the airline lounges are situated around this garden and there are numerous benches and walkways that you can rest on and find peace.

Got a long layover? At only 3 miles from the downtown area, HNL is within easy access via public transportation and numerous city shuttles. While traffic on the expressway can be heavy, well planned commuting is quick — no 2 hour transfers into the city. You can also take a quick public bus northwest, to Pearl Harbor, visit the Arizona (free admission) or wander around the other navy ships on site.

Several rental car companies are stationed nearby, so you can drop off your vehicle and dart to the terminal if you’re in a hurry, or you can take your sweet time and catch a shuttle if you’re at ease.

It’s as if the designer of the airport actually knew what was going on in a travelers head and knew what was most important to a frequent flier. Sounds like it should be easy, but few airports have the space and flexibility to do this.t

Last week I was dreading a 14 hour layover in Honolulu on a return trip from Tokyo. But the combination of amenities and its proximity to the sights made HNL an excellent airport to spend my time at and by the time I was boarding my flight to Los Angeles I had been through the airport garden, business lounge, to Pearl Harbor, Waikiki beach and had eaten a great lunch at the mall downtown. And that’s why HNL gets my vote for the best airport in the nation.