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From Calgary to Cancun, where Canadians are headed this holiday season

We’re searching frantically for San Diego and Florida sun. We’re also talking about trips to Toronto, Vancouver and Vegas.

Several travel groups this week released year-end/holiday lists of where Canadians are heading and what cities they’re searching for online as winter gets ready to set in. Here’s a look at a few of the reports.

The San Diego coastline is especially beguiling around La Jolla. JIM BYERS PHOTO

The San Diego coastline is especially beguiling around La Jolla. JIM BYERS PHOTO

HOTELS.COM: A report issued Monday found that the number of Canadians looking to book holiday stays in San Diego between Dec. 19, 2016 and Jan. 5, 2017 has jumped a remarkable 558% over last year. Interest in Fort Lauderdale leapt by 269%, while searches for Lahaina, Maui were up 196%. Also getting a ton of interest were Anaheim (up 149%) and Miami (121%). I personally love San Diego, and not just because it’s one of the sunniest places in the U.S. It’s also got great beaches, which you probably knew about, and excellent food. It’s also got a ton of wonderful craft breweries; more than a lot of cities twice its size. And the theatre scene is quite strong at places like the La Jolla Playhouse, which has top shows that often go to Broadway. I haven’t been to Fort Lauderdale for 20-something years, but I hear it long ago shed its reputation as a spring break spot for college kids and has impressive food and lovely hotels.

Napili Beach is a short drive from Lahaina and is probably the best beach on Maui, if not in all of Hawaii. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Napili Beach is a short drive from Lahaina and is probably the best beach on Maui, if not in all of Hawaii. JIM BYERS PHOTO

I’ve been to Lahaina a couple dozen times and find it one of my favourite towns on earth; with a fun, relaxed vibe, excellent restaurants and some of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. There are few things better than pulling into the harbour in Lahaina on a sunny day (they almost always are) and seeing the deep green, spiky mountains rising up behind the little town, which is huddled on the shore and dotted with small beaches and towering palm trees. There are nice hotels right in town, including The Plantation Inn. Try Ka’anapali Beach if you want more action. Just a few miles north, Napili Beach is to my mind the best beach on the planet. Anaheim makes sense given Disneyland, and Miami is always a favourite of Canadians looking for great beaches, awesome food and world-class nightlife. There’s good shopping, too, and a huge number of fantastic hotels such as SoHo Beach House, the Four Seasons and the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove.

London has become a more attractive destination for Canadians given the devaluation of the British Pound. JIM BYERS PHOTO

London has become a more attractive destination for Canadians given the devaluation of the British Pound. JIM BYERS PHOTO

KAYAK: A report from Kayak this week found that London remains a huge force for Canadians, with a growth rate in searches of 26% over last year (maybe because of Will and Kate’s visit to Canada this year, or maybe because the restaurants about 20 years ago started serving real food and not just fish and chips with mushy peas). Their study found that Montrealers put Toronto and Vancouver in their top 10 list of destinations, but that all the other top 10 spots were outside of Canada. Halifax residents, on the other hand, were the only major Canadian city folks who put Ottawa (finishing sixth) in their top 10. Kayak also found that Calgarians crave California and Vancouverites love searching for flights in far-flung spots such as Seoul, Tokyo and Honolulu. Saskatoon folks, on the other hand, were loading up on searches for Las Vegas.

Cancun is fine if you want to lie on the beach all day or shop or drink. Better to my mind is a visit to the Mayan ruins at Tulum, south of Cancun. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Cancun is fine if you want to lie on the beach all day or shop or drink. Better to my mind is a visit to the Mayan ruins at Tulum, south of Cancun. JIM BYERS PHOTO

EXPEDIA: An Expedia study released Monday found that the top five searches for the holidays for Canadians are, in order, Toronto, Las Vegas, Vancouver, Montreal and Orlando. For folks heading south to the U.S. Vegas was number one, followed by Orlando, New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix. I may have missed it, but I didn’t see any mention of Little Rock, Arkansas. As for spots outside North America, the top search list included Cancun (the most popular beach destination for Canadians), London, Puerto Vallarta, Paris and Manila. I’ve never been but I’m seeing Manila in a lot of these lists of late, perhaps due to low prices and good weather. I get how London would be so high given the Commonwealth connection. And I know from a lot of these studies that Quebecers prefer Paris over most other world destinations. I’ve never been to Puerto Vallarta but I hear good things. I find Cancun too busy and touristy for the most part, but Playa del Carmen is okay. Even better is Puerto Morelos, which is much lower-key than Playa del Carmen. Don’t miss the stunning Mayan temples in the area, especially south of Cancun at Tulum.

Toronto is the most searched city in Canada for folks looking to book holiday travel. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Toronto is the most searched city in Canada for folks looking to book holiday travel. JIM BYERS PHOTO

SKYSCANNER: This is a list for all of 2016, versus having more of a holiday angle. Still, it’s interesting that the top three searches for the year by Canadians were cities right here in Canada: Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. After that came Dublin, Los Angeles, New Delhi, Las Vegas, Manila, Montreal and Barcelona. All good choices. I love the food and design elements in Barcelona and had a fantastic visit to New Delhi a few years ago.

Skyscanner also looked at top trending destinations by examining what destinations had the biggest increases in searches in 2016 compared to 2015. Using that factor, London came out on top, no doubt due to the Brexit vote and the fall of the British pound. Next was Costa Rica, then Manila, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Casablanca, Seoul, New York, Tokyo, Karachi and Bangkok.

Lisbon is a top city for Canadians searching for European destinations. It's a great city, and one of the best values in Europe. JIM BYERS PHOTO

Lisbon is a top city for Canadians searching for European destinations. It’s a great city, and one of the best values in Europe. JIM BYERS PHOTO

The top spots in Europe searched by Canadians were London, Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome, Reykjavik, Athens, Lisbon and Frankfurt. London, Paris and Dublin pretty much speak for themselves. Ditto for Amsterdam, Barcelona and Rome. I wrote the other day about how Iceland government officials are worried that too many tourists are flying into Reykjavik the other day, so it’s interesting to see the city on Canada’s top 10 list. Personally, I’d put Lisbon much higher. It’s a marvellous city with fine weather most of the year, beautiful piazzas, great urban walks and very good food and wine; all at excellent prices. I think Portugal remains the best buy in Western Europe.

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