What's hot in 2016 travel? Find out at Rosemont show
International news in 2015 made even seasoned travelers take pause.
Terrorist attacks in Europe and Africa, earthquakes in Nepal and Chile, a debt crisis in Greece and other events made people wonder, "Is this a good time to travel?"
Travel pros -- many of whom will be in Rosemont Jan. 23 and 24 for the Chicago Travel & Adventure Show -- say it's actually the best time to travel.
"You definitely should keep traveling. They say you're more likely to die slipping in a bathtub than you are in a terrorist attack," adds Pauline Frommer, editorial director of the Frommer's Guides, publisher of Frommers.com, and a speaker at the show.
Another incentive to travel in 2016: the strong U.S. dollar. It's at a 40-year low against a number of foreign currencies, making places which had been pricey in recent years -- including Argentina, South Africa and Australia -- good deals now.
"The Canadian loonie is now $1.40 (to every U.S. dollar). That's great. That's a 40 percent discount to everything in Canada. It's amazing the value you can get by just going outside the U.S.," she said. "You're going to have less expensive prices at the hotels, and you're going to have a warm greeting when you get there. There's never been a better time to go."
Where to go in 2016
• Cuba: It's fast-expanding with tourism, now that U.S. and Cuban governments have made it more accessible. Though it's close to Florida, it's not cheap, and you need to use a few select tour operators. Still, travel experts say you should see this culturally rich Caribbean island before it becomes developed and touristy. "Go before Kentucky Fried Chicken gets there," joked CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg, a speaker at the show.
• Australia: The land down under is more affordable than it's been in years, thanks to a weak Australian dollar. So if you've always dreamed of scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, bungee jumping off Sydney's Harbor Bridge or holding a koala bear, now's a good time.
• Croatia: It's one of Europe's hidden gems. A new passenger terminal at Croatia's Zagreb Airport will make it easier for people to get here and enjoy the country's beautiful cities and beaches along the Adriatic Sea.
• Anywhere on a bike: Guided biking tours everywhere from Iowa to New Zealand continue to grow in popularity. Some are upscale, with luxury accommodations and a van following along with a chef who prepares meals and snacks. One travel executive was recently quoted as saying "Biking is the new golf."
• Anywhere on a river: River cruise companies added 23 new ships in 2015, so river cruises down the Mississippi, the Danube, the Elbe, the Amazon and others, will remain popular (and a little less expensive) in 2016, said Jeanne Fosco, an Aurora-based AAA Regional Travel Consultant for Illinois and Indiana. Some offer luxury boats and excursions at every stop. Once considered more of a senior citizen trip, it's evolved to be multigenerational (although not recommended for little kids). "You get to see a lot ... and you just unpack once," Frommer said.
• St. Vincent and the Grenadines: It's been described as the part of the Caribbean "where billionaires get away from millionaires." A new marina and high-end resorts are in the works, yet it'll still feel like a private island.
• Pittsburgh and Detroit: Pittsburgh's booming art scene and Detroit's ongoing revival (more than 100 new restaurants have opened in the past two years, among other things) make these towns worthwhile road trips. "I have this image of Pittsburgh as a steel town, but it's a beautiful city," said Colleen Kelly of Mount Prospect, host of the nationally syndicated PBS series, "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly," and a speaker at the Rosemont show.
• Brazil: With the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer, tourist areas in Brazil are in the midst of a building blitz. While some travelers are still skeptical of crime there, others say there will be great post-Olympic deals to be found.
• National parks: This year is the 100th anniversary of U.S. National Park Service, and that means parks, including the Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park, have spiffed up their trails and lodges to be a little nicer for the special celebrations. Consider taking a road trip to a park, as gas prices are expected to stay around $2 a gallon this summer. "We're seeing a big increase in people who want to see the good ol' USA," Fosco said.
Where not to go
• Certain countries in the Middle East and Africa: The U.S. State Department has issued warnings for a dozen unstable countries, including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, South Sudan, Congo and Cameroon, where they say Americans could be targets of violent crime, kidnapping or terrorism. Crime also has been a problem for tourists in Egypt recently, several travel experts said.
• Chechnya (Russia): Greenberg, author of The New York Times best-selling book, "Don't go there! The Travel Detective's Essential Guide to the Must-Miss Places of the World," said there are only five places in the world he wouldn't travel to in 2016. Four fall into the above category. The other is the southern Russian republic of Chechnya. "No one is in control there," he said.
• New experiences: Seeing towns in new ways -- and "live like a local" experiences -- are big now. One example is Feastly (https://eatfeastly.com), a website where you can arrange to dine with a small group in a local chef's house. It's a good way to meet people and see how locals live. Unique city tours (running, yoga, chocolate, photography) also are booming.
• Trips focused on wellness more than sightseeing: As people crave a break from their hectic lives, vacations are being used as time to restore one's mental health. Experts say there's growing demand for girlfriend getaways, yoga and wellness retreats/resorts and spas.
• Volunteer vacations: Not three years in the Peace Corps, but a week doing things like helping build a school in Haiti or assisting park rangers in Yosemite. Several cruise lines, including Crystal and Carnival, have added excursions where you can help marine life in Spain, work on water filtration in the Dominican Republic or spend time with elderly residents in Dubrovnik. "It's enriching, and in some cases, life changing," Greenberg said.
• Multigenerational travel: Baby boomers continue to spend money on travel so they can spend quality time with their families. "There's nothing better than getting everyone together when they're away from their jobs and the hecticness of their lives," Fosco said.
What the experts say
Pauline Frommer, editorial director of the Frommer Guides and publisher of Frommers.com
Best place you visited in 2015: Madurai, India (in southern India). It's not a city that many Americans know about, but it's fantastic.
Worst part about traveling: The games that are being played with loyalty programs. They keep changing the rules, and they keep angering me. It's too much time and effort, and the awards are too small.
First thing you do when you get into your hotel room: Check to see if there's a bathtub. I love to take a bath.
Best tip for saving money while traveling: A lot of people think Tuesday is the best day of the week to book travel, but I just saw a study that showed the best day of the week to book is Sunday -- about a 19 percent savings.
Trip you're excited about in 2016: I have a daughter looking at colleges, so I'll be driving all around the U.S., including Nashville, Chicago, North Carolina and California. We'll see America. It's gonna be good. This is going to be like the family road trip.
Jeanne Fosco, AAA regional travel consultant for Illinois and Indiana
Best place you visited in 2015: A multigenerational trip to Disney World with my family, on a personal level, was a highlight.
Worst part about traveling: Airports and security. It gets a bit trying. Fees continue to grow (carry on bags, airplane seats, hotel fees) ... and those taxes are getting a little out of hand.
First thing you do when you get into your hotel room: Check for a safe, especially internationally. I want to make sure my travel documents and passport are in a secure place.
Best tip for saving money while traveling: If you're in a foreign destination, make sure you don't have a credit card that charges foreign transaction fees.
Places on your to-go list in 2016: Cuba and New Zealand.
Collen Kelly, host of the PBS series "Family Travel with Colleen Kelly"
Best place you visited in 2015: The north side of Oahu (Hawaii), where they filmed "Jurassic Park." It was unbelievably gorgeous and untouched.
Worst part about traveling: Security lines.
First thing you do when you get into a hotel room: Open the balcony doors and look at the scene. Hopefully it's a good one.
Best tip for saving money while traveling: Find the places where the locals eat, because they don't pay the prices tourists pay.
Places on your to-go list in 2016: Australia, Scotland and Quebec City.
Chicago Travel & Adventure ShowWhen: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24
Where: Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont
Admission: $16 for adults for a one-day pass, $25 for a two-day pass; free for kids 16 and younger with a paid adult; special prices available online