THE BLOG
12/18/2013 06:13 pm ET | Updated Feb 17, 2014

2013: The Year of the Fearless International Traveler

2013 was quite a year for growth in international travel. For instance, Americans explored Cuba in record numbers and interest in active and volunteer tourism has reached new heights, further indicating that many people are very excited to explore our fascinating world in traditional as well as innovative ways.

We wanted to investigate further into this growth trend to determine just where people stand on international travel at the close of 2013. So, we conducted a poll on our website and gathered over 23,000 responses from travelers around the world. We also studied the research of top-tier organizations to get the full picture of the state of the international travel industry.

Our most impressive finding was this: Most travelers aren't letting anything get in the way of their international travel plans. Sixty percent of travelers that we surveyed reported that despite recent events such as cruise disasters or acts of terror, they feel as safe traveling now as they did five years ago. Moreover, 55 percent reported that these events haven't impacted their travel abroad.

It is great to learn that the upswing in making international travel plans isn't slowing down any time soon. In fact, more travelers are choosing to leave home than in years past. 747 million international tourists traveled worldwide between January and August 2013, 38 million more than in the same period last year. This is an overall increase of 5 percent, according to the U.N. World Tourism Barometer.

So where are international travelers heading? For starters, they're flocking to Europe, famous for its warm people, mesmerizing sights, and wealth of history. Europe took in 5 million more tourists between January and August than in the same period last year, according to the U.N.'s findings. But that's not all.

Travelers are also interested in visiting Thailand, China, and Turkey, each of which saw increases of more than 20 percent in international tourism earnings in 2013. Tourism to these destinations are on the upswing because our economy is improving, as are the economies of many countries around the world, and there's more discretionary spending possible on travel. Favorable exchange rates make travel to these exotic locales affordable, and frankly, the world is growing smaller and smaller. More and more, we're ready to hop on a plane and fly half way around the world to an exotic place that has caught our imaginations.

Our findings also revealed that not only are travelers still eager to go abroad, they're also willing to spend more while they're there. Seventy-five percent of travelers plan to spend the same amount of money or more on their next international trip as they did on their last one. So how much is that?

Well, it appears to vary. But the majority of travelers surveyed reported planning to spend about $2,000 to $3,000 per person for an international trip, followed by the group planning to spend about $1,000 to $2,000 per person for an international trip. This range can buy a very attractive vacation, including airfares, intra-country transportation, first-class hotels, and even included meals.

Despite the fact that travelers aren't daunted by going abroad, they are taking precautions to stay safe -- as every international traveler should. Whether traveling alone, with a partner, or in a group, 56 percent of travelers surveyed said they plan to purchase travel insurance for their next international trip.

Buying insurance is a great first step to safety precaution. Here are three others that I always recommend to travelers as they prepare to explore new and interesting international destinations:

Anticipate that circumstances might change and be ready to act. Pack a working smartphone that's set up with international calling features or have your provider unlock your cell phone and just get a local sim card when you arrive at your destination.

Register your trip through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Once registered, the embassy or consulate in the destination you're visiting can keep track of you and in the event of a true emergency, help you make your way home safely.

Have at least $100 in emergency cash, if not more, in small bills. If you can't afford to set aside an emergency fund and an extra credit card, you really can't afford the trip. Even if you have travel insurance and even if your travel providers agree to cover any unanticipated expenses, you might need to pay out of pocket.

All in all, I believe we can bill 2013 as the year of the "fearless international traveler," and I'm excited to see where our industry progresses in 2014.

Read more of Peggy's insight on the travel industry on blog.FriendlyPlanet.com.