THE BLOG
01/20/2015 10:37 am ET Updated Mar 22, 2015

Will European Terrorism Skew Previous 2015 Travel Predictions?

A new year brings predictions by travel experts based on last year's stats. But how much will the January terrorist incidents in Paris, the unresolved air crashes in Southeast Asia, and other health and safety issues at home and abroad influence these newly released trends?

Things happen, and travelers adjust. Just in the last year I drove around a spewing volcano in Iceland, dealt with pirate possibilities in the Indian Ocean, traveled to Mexico despite crime warnings, and aborted a trip to Kenya, last minute, based on tourist murders. Like many of you, at the time I read government warnings, assessed the situation, and adapted.

Already this new year, tourists are rethinking their plans. Here's a roundup of projected 2015 American travel trends collected by travel professionals -- reworked, collated and expanded from an article in The New York Times, with my own up-to-the-minute take on the trends. This info can be helpful in planning your own trips, and a reminder to remain flexible:

-- Top bookings for destination vacations in 2015 will be: a Caribbean cruise, Mexico, London. (A survey of 1,226 travel agency owners, managers and agents from the Travel Leaders Group)

-- London, Paris and Cancún top the list of 2015 international destinations. (A research team at Bing, Microsoft's search engine)

-- Top international destinations for Americans: Mexico, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, the Bahamas, Jamaica, China, Spain and Japan (the latter two tied). (Euromonitor)

Professionals in late 2014 felt that "Europe is drawing in Americans in the highest numbers we've seen this millennium." Will this now change after January's Paris terror? Considering the sometimes-overblown and lingering fears of many American travelers after other terror events and catastrophes, I'd guess yes, Europe's increasingly visible problems and right-wing turn will dampen American tourism in Europe this year.

Despite crime, drug cartels and dark rumors, Mexico last year hosted over 20 million trips, and this year is projected to reach a million more, mainly from California and other border states. American tourists, especially those traveling with families, prefer a safe, welcoming environment with minimal language problems.

But the low cost and the variety of attractions in Mexico seem to overshadow fears. For peace of mind you can stay in popular areas such as Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Cabo San Lucas, and stay aware of government warnings.

-- East Coasters are almost half of overseas travelers, usually traveling within the Western Hemisphere or to Western Europe. (Michelle Grant, a research manager for Euromonitor)

Travelers seek affordable places with direct flights. Travel to Europe has been at its highest level in 15 years, and the falling Euro helps, but fragile political situations and terrorism are always relevant. Especially beyond the coasts, most Americans have never traveled overseas and are hyper-fearful of negative headlines.

Decreasing prices and fading memories of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis, plus Japan's fascinating culture and excellent safety perception, keep the destination enticing. The new Haneda airport, much closer to Tokyo than Narita, also helps.

-- Emerging tourist destinations for 2015: Myanmar, Cuba, Croatia, Iceland, India, Peru, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia and Panama. (United States Tour Operators Association, survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers)

With the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, and eased travel restrictions, I'd say Cuba will rise to number one. Queries have already increased by almost 1,000 percent, according to Google, most of them from Florida, New York and California. Count me among the interested travelers.

-- The most popular domestic tourist destinations tend to be the states with the most people.

Pretty obvious. There are myriad reasons to vacation close to home, especially ease and cost. One exception is Nevada, with Las Vegas and its strategic geographical position beckoning travelers from all over the states.

-- Americans will travel most, in order, by land, air, rail, and sea. (Euromonitor)

Experts project that almost a billion road trips could be taken this year. With gas prices down and auto rentals becoming more adaptable and creative, this could rise even higher. And with air travel becoming more uncomfortable and expensive, and with highly publicized and unsolved crashes, flying will probably remain a distant second at about 150 million trips.

Our slow and clunky rail system needs a major overhaul modeled after high-speed trains elsewhere. Many travelers remain unaware of the speed, convenience and comfort of international trains, and don't book them. And while cruise lines are expanding destinations and operations, especially in Asia, and while international river cruises and overnight ferries have become popular travel options, the US offers minimum options within the our own country and along the coast.

-- The country most likely to see increasing American tourism is Japan. (Euromonitor)

Decreasing prices and fading memories of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis, plus Japan's fascinating culture and excellent safety perception, keep the destination enticing. The new Haneda airport, much closer to Tokyo than Narita, also helps.

-- Hotels and motels remain the main lodging option, but private rentals will increase in popularity. (PhoCusWright travel market research)

Some 14 percent of travelers booked a private home, condo or apartment rental for at least one of their trips in 2013, up from 8 percent in 2010. And that's increasing. Entrepreneurship in this area means private bookings will soar, including AirBnB, and barter programs such as CouchSurfing and house swapping. It's become trendy to upgrade basic accommodations, such as glamping (comfortable camping), and poshtel in Britain (elegant hostels such as Hoax or Safestay).

-- Americans are taking less vacation time than at any point in nearly 40 years. (U.S. Travel Association by Oxford Economics)

The dollar is stronger in many places, but the tight job market, and stagnant wages for most workers will probably continue this trend. Plus our evergreen Puritan ethic.