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VOL. 39 | NO. 7 | Friday, February 13, 2015

No surprises in top domestic destinations

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Best Beaches, Best Luxury Hotels, Top 10 Islands to Visit, Top 10 Cities for Kids, Top Five Destinations for Seafood – travel lists can be so exhausting.

The latest to come my way is Hotels.com’s compilation of the most popular domestic destinations for Americans in 2014.

Nashville checked in at No. 21, with Memphis at No. 50. Knoxville didn’t make the list.

Anyway, there is much predictability on this list, and I really can’t argue against the top 10: Las Vegas, New York City, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Houston and San Antonio.

For me, these lists serve two purposes: Confirm all the low-hanging fruit destinations for the masses (see the top 10) and reveal a few hidden gems.

And there is nothing wrong with the “low-hanging fruit” destinations. I’ve been to eight of the top 10 and would happily revisit them all, especially New York.

But I especially appreciate these lists when they present new ideas.

High on my personal list for future travel considerations: Portland (22), Charlotte, N.C. (24), Kansas City (31), Sacramento, Calif. (34), Salt Lake City (35) and Scottsdale, Ariz. (46). And I’m a big believer in Indianapolis (32) and Albuquerque, N.M. (42).

For many American travelers – I suspect travelers from other countries, too – we stick to the destinations and types of trips we know best. Have children? My betting money is on you taking them to the beach or Orlando.

From Tennessee, Orlando is within reach and has a plethora of theme parks. Orlando was the third-most popular domestic destination last year, but Los Angeles and San Diego fall in just behind. Anaheim is a big part of that Southern California mega-destination, and the city comes in at No. 19 on the popularity list.

Carlsbad sits between San Diego and Anaheim, and with the four destinations combined, it’s what I would argue is a more attractive travel option for families compared to Orlando.

In fact, my family is looking at my son’s first Disney experience being Disneyland in Anaheim later this year. We’ll combine that with a few days at the beach and Legoland in Carlsbad and a couple days checking out the culture of San Diego.

I get it that for a lot of people, the Magic Kingdom rules compared to Disneyland, but why always stick to the same old thing?

California schools go into June, meaning it might be possible to beat the crowds with a May or early June trip to Anaheim versus all the madness Southern travelers encounter in Orlando.

I say pay attention to these lists, but be willing to dig deeper beyond the usual suspects and consider those hidden gems.

Lance Wiedower is a marketing strategist at RedRover Sales & Marketing. His travel column appears every other Tuesday in The Daily News. For more travel inspiration, read his blog at tripsbylance.com or follow him on Twitter at @tripsbylance.

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