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Cities remain a go-to. So do tropical places like the Caribbean and Cancun.
In 2020, travelers avoided urban centers for beach towns and national parks, where it felt like a safer place to go, said Brian Hoyt of TripAdvisor.
But by last fall, Las Vegas, New York City, and Orlando had supplanted places like Key Largo, Key West and Atlantic City, which were the top three destinations for travelers in fall 2020, according to TripAdvisor.
The trend is continuing: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver, Orlando and New York are the five most booked destinations in the United States for fall, according to Hopper, a travel booking site. For international travelers, cities like San Juan, Puerto Rico; Cancun; Mexico City; Barcelona; and Rome are in the top 10, according to Hopper.
“What’s old is new again,” Mr. Hoyt said. “High-density population centers are back in vogue.”
But lower-key vacations are still a draw. Ocean City, N.J., a beach town of about 11 miles south of Atlantic City, was the top trending U.S. destination this fall based on the number of nights booked, according to Airbnb. That’s part of a growing trend to extend summer. There has been a surge of interest from visitors who flock to the eight miles of beach in September and October, when the summer crowds leave and the town hosts events like an antique car show and a huge block party and fireworks show, said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Travelers remain eager to go to Europe, where demand for flights and hotel bookings is “on par” with 2019, said Kareem George, a travel adviser and the owner of Culture Traveler, a firm specializing in luxury trips.
“Italy is the standout,” Mr. George said, “which is not a surprise because Italy always is the standout.”
London, Paris, Munich, Copenhagen and Dublin were the top cities searched by people looking to travel between Sept. 6 and Nov. 15, according to Expedia.
The Amalfi coast in southern Italy and Santorini, a whitewashed Greek island in the Aegean Sea, are so popular this fall that travelers are struggling to find accommodations, said Charles Neville, a spokesman for Jayway, a boutique travel agency that specializes in European travel.
People are so eager to tour these destinations they are willing to spend $600 to $700 a night for accommodations that may not justify that amount, he said.
Mr. Neville said he is encouraging clients to book later in the fall when the weather is still pleasant and the crowds have abated, or to consider Sicily, Croatia and lesser known islands in Greece like Paros and Naxos. “Maybe that’s a way to have your Greek island vacation dreams come true without spending stupid amounts of money,” he said.
In the Americas, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Costa Rica are seeing more passengers book trips than they did in 2019, said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. The countries are easy to get to and airline tickets are generally cheap — round-trip fare from nearly anywhere in the United States to Colombia was selling for about $260 in August, he said.
“For a lot of folks, the trip they want to take as their first one back is fun, overseas, but not too far away,” Mr. Keyes said.
That sort of ease is what Silvia Sims, a retired sales manager who lives in suburban Detroit, said she and her three friends wanted when they began planning their fall trip last May. They settled on Jamaica, where Ms. Sims, 71, has traveled nearly a dozen times since the early 1980s but had not visited since April 2019.
“I’m going back to a place where I really love to visit and I feel safe,” she said. — Maria Cramer