A couple of things worth keeping an eye on if you're even THINKING about a trip to Europe.
Number one is that the Euro, used in almost all European countries (but not the UK, too bad for us) has fallen quite sharply against the dollar in the last while. It was up around $1.40 a year or two ago, and was then down around $1.35 against the Canadian buck for most of 2012.
I checked today and it's all the way down $1.29, which makes a visit all the more attractive. I also spotted an item on Travel Weekly that says tour operators have cut prices from a modest two per cent to a whopping 18 per cent for 2013.
TW said that according to a survey of members of the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA), the top emerging destination for 2013 is Myanmar (aka Burma), "the Southeast Asian nation that is emerging from seclusion after years of military rule."
Abercrombie & Kent has seen Myanmar bookings increase more than 80% in 2012 compared with 2011, Travel Weekly said. But with few new hotels coming this year, availability is a challenge.
Other off-the-beaten-path destinations USTOA members see gaining in popularity in 2013 are Vietnam, India, Peru, Cambodia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica and Ecuador, the publication said.
As for Europe, I've seen hotels in Lisbon and Madrid going for crazy-good prices on hotels.com. It's easy to find a ton of three-star and four-star and even occasionally five-star hotels for $100 a night or a bit more. You can find good prices in London, too; often three or four-star places for around $150/night.
The secret is to travel in the off-season. January is a great month for Europe. Sure, it might be cold but the cafes and pubs and museums will be open and if you're not looking to get a tan on the Spanish Steps in Rome (see photo above right) does it really matter if it's 10 degrees in Italy or 20? March and even April aren't bad, either, with probably warmer weather and still reasonable prices.
KUDOS FOR TORONTO TOURISM/TRAVEL
I see that Conde Nast Traveler has named good old T.O. as one of its five "must-see" destinations for 2013.
Funny, but I made the same point in today's paper, citing Toronto's tremendous hotel growth as a factor.
CN Traveler made a similar point. Here's what they had to say about the Big Smoke: "the thrills in Toronto come from the stunning architecture, diverse array of restaurants, and energetic arts and cultural scene. The restaurant scene has really taken off in recent years, with New York's famous chef David Chang just opening a new outpost of his Momofuku empire. Plus, this city has some hot new hotels."
So there you have it. Tourism Toronto folks were understandably chuffed at the news, as the Conde Nast bit also went out on the Today Show on New Year's Day on NBC television in the U.S. (and here, of course).
The other four spots mentioned by Conde Nast? Seoul, Amsterdam, Nashville and New Orleans. I mentioned New Orleans as one of my hot spots for 2013, as well, plus Ireland, The Philippines, Florida (celebrating its first 500 years) and Spain/Portugal/Greece.