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Year in Review: Top 5 destinations of 2014

- December 15th, 2014
Reuters/WENN.com Images

Reuters/WENN.com Images

Each year, I put together a list of the top five destinations of the past year. Major sporting events, world festivals and even a visit from a royal or two can all put a destination in the spotlight.

At the start of 2014, Lonely Planet declared Brazil the destination to watch, an obvious pick in light of the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament, followed by the less obvious choices of Antarctica, Scotland, Sweden and Malawi. TripAdvisor chose Havana, Cuba as the must-visit location of 2014, especially among Americans as rules for visiting the Caribbean country relax. And Hotels.com went sporting heavy, listing World Cup host Brazil, Tour de France starting point Yorkshire and Winter Olympics host Sochi as  hot destinations for 2014.

PAST LISTS:

- Top five destinations of 2012
- Top five destinations of 2013
- Top 10 destinations of 2008

How did these destinations fare now that the year is coming to a close? As always, it’s easier to look back than ahead. Here are the five places I think were the most talked about in the year that was.

New Zealand: New Zealand makes a return to my list of top destinations of the past year, thanks to the release of the final ‘The Hobbit’ movie and an Easter visit from Prince William and Duchess Kate, along with Prince George on his first official royal engagement. The number of international visitors to New Zealand has increased by about 10% year-over-year thanks to ‘The Hobbit.’ Director Peter Jackson filmed the entire trilogy, as well as ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ in New Zealand and fans of the films can visit real locations across the country that feature in the film, including the original Hobbiton set in Matamata.

The springtime visit of Prince William, Duchess Kate and baby Prince George also drew a huge amount of attention to New Zealand this year. The royal couple were greeted by Maori warriors in a traditional welcome ceremony, rode a jet boat on the famed Shotover River and even met Jackson for a tour of his aviation museum. Prince George took part in his first official royal engagement during a play date at Government House in Wellington.

Rio de Janerio, Brazil: Rio had a huge year in 2014, acting as one of the host cities for Brazil’s 2014 World Cup, which saw an estimated 1 million people travel to the South American country. The city also hosted its annual Carnival celebrations in February, an uber popular event that saw an estimated CDN $952 million injected into the city’s economy from nearly 1 million tourists. Rio hardly has time to catch its breath after a busy 2014, though, as preparations for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics are well underway.

Toronto: Ontario’s capital had a busy 2014. Toronto hosted the 2014 WorldPride festival in July, a celebration of LGBT rights that organizers expected would draw even more visitors to the city than the 1.2 million people the 2011 Pride Week celebrations did. This was also the first full year Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada was open in the city, celebrity brothers Donnie and Mark Wahlberg opened their first Wahlburgers location outside the U.S. in Toronto in the fall, and, for better or for worse, ex-mayor Rob Ford kept the entire world talking about Toronto as his 2013 crack scandal continued into his last year in office. Plus, six of Facebook’s 12 most checked-in locations in Canada in 2014 were in Toronto. Look for Toronto to stay in the spotlight in 2015 as the city prepares to host the Pan Am and ParaPan American Games next summer.

New York City:  I have yet to feature the Big Apple in my year-end roundup, but 2014 seems like a good year to do so. In addition to the never ending parade of events in New York — from literal parades, like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, to the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas tree to New York Fashion Week — New York opened the National September 11 Museum in May. This poignant testament to the horrors of Sept. 11, 2001 and the city’s resounding strength in rebounding from the attacks follows the opening of the September 11 Memorial in 2011 and even attracted a visit from the young royals, Prince William and Kate — without Prince George, this time. William and Kate’s glamorous first visit to New York City came in December and attracted international attention. In addition to the September 11 Memorial, William and Kate visited other iconic sites like the Empire State Building, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and even met New York’s own royal couple, Beyonce and Jay-Z, during an NBA game at the Barclays Center.

Sochi, Russia: What would a list of the top five destinations of 2014 be without Sochi? The Russian city hosted this year’s other big sporting event in the Winter Olympics. More than 1.1 million event tickets were sold for the 2014 Olympics, which got off to a slightly rocky start, what with that fifth Olympic ring not opening during the opening ceremonies and incomplete or improperly finished lodgings. The Games ended on a stronger note, though, and Canada finished third in the medal standings. However, as seen in this photo essay from Gizmodo, Sochi had turned into a ghost town just six months after the Games as tourists left town and businesses struggled to stay open. The long-term impact on the Russian town remains to be seen, but in February 2014, all eyes were on Sochi.

Vacation breasts: Is an enhanced bust the next must-pack travel item?

- November 19th, 2014
(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Is it possible we’ll see the day when packing your vacation breasts is on par with travel insurance?

ABC News reports a New York doctor named Norman Rowe is developing a temporary breast enhancement procedure that gives women a boost of up to one-and-a-half cup sizes for two to three weeks. It’s being called ‘vacation breasts’ and is marketed toward women who want to increase their bust size before they sport a bikini on holiday.

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The doctor previously developed a saline injection called InstaBreast which takes 20 minutes to inject, lasts 24 hours and costs $2,500 per procedure.

“Twenty-four hours is great, but it’s still just 24 hours,” Rowe told ABC News, explaining why he is developing the new formula. He said the product can also help women decide whether or not they want to purchase more permanent implants or could be used for calf implants on men.

ABC’s medical contributor Dr. Jennifer Ashton warned women of the risks. “With this procedure, there is the risk of hitting a blood vessel with the injection, as well as a risk of infection,” she said.

Additionally, the U.K.’s Daily Mail spoke with Dr. Ash Mosahebi, director of surgery of the London Plastic Surgery Centre, who also warned “what you rely on here is that the saline is absorbed, but one side could go quicker than the other. You could be left with one side a B cup and one side a D cup, and who knows how long for.”

It will still be about two years before Rowe’s newest formula is approved by the FDA.

What do you think? Have you ever wished you could change anything about yourself before a vacation?

Canadians to escape winter driving, shoveling snow with beach vacations: Survey

- November 17th, 2014
(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Canadians who plan to escape the cold weather this winter are being pushed to sunny Caribbean beaches because of a dislike of the dark (39%), winter driving (30%) and shoveling snow (25%), according to a new survey from Expedia.ca.

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The data, released via the Expedia.ca 2014 Escape Winter Report, shows most Canadians plan to travel with their partner (45%) or family (33%) this holiday season, though residents of Quebec are three times as likely to travel on their own versus other Canadians.

Before hitting the beach, 55% of Canadians said they bought new clothes and 42% said they get a haircut. Nineteen per cent of women said they dieted before their sunny south vacation, while 12% of men said the same.

The majority of survey respondents (54%) said they book their trip online.

Chile: Event highlights wine, food, culture of South American country

- October 22nd, 2014

 

Think of Chile and visions of a long country – 4,300 km in length to be exact – with fantastic wine, UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Easter Island and Valparaiso, and delicious seafood come to mind. But at a Tourism Chile event at Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario, I discovered Chile offers much more – from skiing to whale watching, magical caves to relaxing spas and retreats. To learn more about travel to Chile, visit chile.travel.

 

Canadian business travellers: Majority enjoy a break from the family, says new poll

- September 11th, 2014
(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

The majority of Canadian business travellers secretly enjoy the break from their families when on the road, according to new data from a national Choice Hotels Canada poll.

In the survey of more than 1,500 Canadians, 55% of business travellers admitted they liked the alone time on the road and 23% said they wouldn’t even consider a job if it didn’t allow them to travel.

Business travellers said they most enjoyed the naughty perks of being away from home, including leaving towels on the floor (34%), eating in bed (34%), leaving clothes laying around (26%) and keeping lights and the TV turned on (23%).

Women were most likely to break out some bad habits when on the road, like eating in bed (32%) and hanging out in a bathrobe (25%).