Next summer will see the popular 3-D ride based on the "Transformers" movies opening at Universal's theme park in Orlando. "Transformers: The Ride -- 3D" previously opened this past May at Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles.
At Disneyland in California, spring will see the opening of Fantasy Faire, located at Fantasyland and dedicated to Disney heroes and heroines. At Disney World near Orlando, Fla., a new attraction called Princess Fairytale Hall, where guests can meet Disney princesses, is also scheduled to open in 2013. Princess Fairytale Hall will be located at the Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland, which opened in early December, doubling the size of the original Fantasyland. Both parks are offering weekly surprises for guests as part of a yearlong 2013 program called Limited Time Magic.
The beach, post-Sandy
Superstorm Sandy destroyed beaches, boardwalks and waterfront attractions all along the mid-Atlantic coast. Many communities on the Jersey shore, the beloved pier in Ocean City, Md., and elsewhere are hoping to have infrastructure rebuilt by summer.
On Coney Island, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the landmark Cyclone and Wonder Wheel rides are in good condition along with other amusement park attractions and are expected to reopen in spring as usual, along with the famous hot dog eatery Nathan's and the home stadium for the Cyclones minor league baseball team. The New York Aquarium at Coney has been closed due to damage from flooding but hopes to reopen some if not all exhibits by summer.
Hotel booking trends
According to Anne Banas, executive editor of Smarter Travel, ever-increasing air fares and airline fees have forced travelers to focus on the other big-ticket item in vacation spending: hotels. "It's all about hotels now and hotel deals," she said, adding that interest is skyrocketing in hotel booking sites, apps and membership-only sites. The vacation rental market is changing too, with more owners allowing people to book for a weekend of a few nights instead of the Sunday-to-Sunday week.
Banas said sites like SniqueAway, Jetsetter and the Vacationist are becoming more popular "because you can get a more luxurious property for lower prices -- you can stay at a four- or five-star hotel for the price of a three-star. But you have to be more flexible. You have to take what's being offered, which might be off season or slow season."
Another site, Tingo, "automatically rebooks you at a lower price if the price drops, and issues you a refund," Banas said. "Tingo does all the work. It's a nice passive way to save some money."
Several new sites and apps offer highly discounted hotel rooms that can only be booked that night, including HotelTonight and Priceline's Tonight-Only Deals.
"This is for two types of people: people who are really last-minute, flexible travelers, or people whose flight is canceled and they need a hotel tonight," Banas said.
Jan Freitag of STR, which tracks hotel data, said mobile apps are becoming a "preferred travel booking tool" to the point where some travel startups are forgoing websites for app-only hotel booking models.
Ann Mack, director of trend-spotting at advertising agency JWT, is noting several trends for 2013 with implications for travelers. For the trend toward "intelligent things" -- tech-enabled smart devices -- one example offered by JWT is The Hop, a prototype suitcase that literally follows you around using a system based on sensors that track Bluetooth signals from a smartphone.
JWT says another trend, the "Super Stress Era," will lead to ramped-up efforts to fight stress. Examples include the San Francisco International Airport's yoga room and the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport's 1.4-mile walking loop.