Top 2012 Travel Hot Spots

I always love the start of a new year! It’s the perfect time to reboot your life and go through your own personal bucket list and plan all the things you want to accomplish over the next 12 months and that includes your next vacation!

I’ve spent the last few months traveling almost non-stop getting some great content for the new ABC national travel show I’m hosting called Travel Now, and I’ve found some really interesting destinations that have come up on the radar as top travel hot spots for 2012.

Here’s a look at my TRAVEL THERAPY list of the hottest travel destinations to visit in 2012. I would also love to hear your ideas. Just leave a comment below and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook under TRAVEL THERAPY for the best travel deals and trends in 2012!

Top 7 Vacation Hot Spots in 2012

1. Shanghai, China

What I love most about Shanghai is the city’s unique blend of old and new. On one corner you’ll find a tiny street market where people are selling live chickens, bugs and fish and on the next corner you’ll find multi-million dollar futuristic skyscrapers. Shanghai hosted the World Expo in 2011, so the city is more than ready to welcome international visitors with open arms. Several of the top hotel brands in the world have also opened new properties in Shanghai, including the Waldorf Astoria and Ritz Carlton. The Langham has undergone an impressive refresh and the legendary five-star Fairmont Peace Hotel  has re-opened its historic and impressive doors after a three year multi-million dollar renovation. For more: www.fairmont.com/peacehotel and www.yangtzeboutique.langhamhotels.com

2. Bordeaux, France

We  featured Bordeaux on the ABC travel show as a top culinary destination and when I last visited I was amazed to find this UNESCO World Heritage site has more than 7,000 restaurants and 5,000 wine chateaus that are open to the public. How cool is that?! Another hot trend in Bordeaux that’s taking off in 2012 is that top, world renowned winemakers are allowing you to get a sneak peek into the  magical word of Bordeaux winemaking. Much of this new access is thanks in part to four progressive women who call themselves Les Medocaines www.lesmedocaines.com. Each woman in the group owns her own wine chateau and is offering special classes on the wine making process from picking the grapes to blending the wines. Grape picking during the  harvest was one of the highlights of my trip! For more: http://www.bordeaux-tourisme.com/

3. Anguilla, Caribbean

So who doesn’t love going to the Caribbean during the winter months when most of North America is in a deep freeze? Anguilla, a celebrity favorite, has always been known for its star power partly for its stunning and peaceful 33 beaches and partly because of its laid back, barefoot luxury vibe. I checked out a new multi-million dollar villa property that’s creating all kinds of buzz as THE place to stay right now on the island. It only took me a few second to see why. This property is amazing! Ani Villas is perched high on a cliff overlooking Little Bay, one of the top snorkeling spots in Anguilla. On the property you’ll find two modern, five bedroom villas, with floor to ceiling windows everywhere, each having their own swimming pool, executive chef, tennis courts, gym, vehicle to get around the island, game room…and the list goes on. For anyone looking for the ultimate vacation experience this is it! While you’re on the island you’ll also want to check out the new Viceroy that just opened up, a perfect happy hour hot spot. Also, be sure to head over to CuisinArt Resort to check out the award-winning spa and Cap Juluca Resort, a honeymoon favorite, for one of the most romantic restaurants on the island, Spice, that’s right on the water. For more: www.anivillas.com

4. Algarve, Portugal

If you’re looking for an authentic, European beach experience that’s as inspiring as it is affordable, the Algarve is the place you want to be in 2012. Offering up some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Europe, the Algarve is about a one hundred mile stretch of beaches along the southern tip of Portugal. What’s really special is the variety of beaches you’ll find sprinkled in between the quaint fishing villages. From secret and secluded beaches, to long stretches of sugar white sand, the Algarve delivers a fabulous beach vacation. An ideal choice for where to stay is the award-winning Vila Vita Parc Hotel that’s on a cliff, overlooking the ocean, right in the center of the Algarve so is a great central location for exploring. What I liked about staying at this property was all the different restaurant choices you have and how you also have your own private beach. Right now Vila Vita has a special with starting room rates at around $200 a night but says to check the website also for last minute deals. For more: www.vilavitaparc.com

5. Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic continues to offer up great value in 2012, along with some new golf courses, restaurants and hotels, making this an exciting destination to check out. One of the top resort properties on the island, Casa de Campo, has recently undergone a multi-million dollar renovation and has so many different offerings, from simple hotel style suites, to million dollar estate homes, that there’s something for everyone. At Casa de Campo you’ll even find your own cultural center, Marina and shooting range, along with one of the top rated golf courses in the entire Caribbean called Teeth of the Dog. I can’t wait to play this course! The starting room rate right now for the high season this winter is around $445 a night but look for prices to start dropping in March to as low as $200 a night during the summer months. For more: www.casadecampo.com.do

6. New York City, NY

One of the most exciting things about visiting New York City is how this city is forever changing and staying ultra competitive by offering great travel deals. Plan to see even more new hotels, restaurants and Broadway shows coming up in 2012. Several fun restaurants to try out include the hip and happening MPD, owned by two hot former male models, Derek and Daniel Koch, dishing up French-American inspired cuisine and the new English stunner, The Fat Radish, that’s giving English food a whole new respect! The winter, after the holidays, is a great time to visit Manhattan because as long as you’re okay with bundling up you can find some fantastic travel specials, minus all the crowds.  New York City is also a great place to spend a long weekend and hotel hop, sampling the best that each hotel has to offer. The Carlton Hotel has the new casual seafood brasserie Millesime restaurant and a TRAVEL THERAPY favorite, The Mandarin Oriental is the perfect spot to enjoy afternoon tea service on floor 36 while soaking up an awe inspiring city view. Then head into the spa to indulge in the Mandarin’s exclusive new two-hour Opulent Rejuvenesence hydrating and anti-aging facial. Talk about the ideal way to put your best face forward in the new year! For more: http://www.mandarinoriental.com/newyork/

7. Scottsdale/Phoenix, Arizona

I have to admit I’m partial to Scottsdale, Arizona, because I own a condo there. After living in more than a dozen states across the country I fell in love with Scottsdale for it’s fabulous weather, outdoor activities, friendly people, hot bars and restaurants, designer shopping and world renowned hotels and spas. Oh, and of course the golf! This warm weather winter hot spot is on the radar for 2011 because now, more than ever, you can find fantastic deals and bargains, even during high season, which is something you couldn’t usually find in the past. You can thank the economy for this one! One great tip if you’re traveling with friends or family, check out renting a fully furnished vacation home or condo. There are literally hundreds on the market for 2012 because so many people have struggled with their mortgages and have decided to put their luxury homes and condos up for rent. You can find some great deals at www.vacationrentals.com and www.vacationhomerentals.com. If you like the resort scene you’re also in luck because a lot of top properties are offering great winter bargains so be sure to ask about specials! Some TRAVEL THERAPY favorites include The Phoenician and The Four Seasons. For more: www.thephoenician.com and www.fourseasons.com/scottsdale

Stay tuned for more travel deals and bargains in 2011 and for more unique vacation ideas be sure to check out my new book TRAVEL THERAPY: Where do you need to go?, featuring top trip ideas based on what you’re going through in life!

Follow the TRAVEL THERAPY journey at www.twitter.com/traveltherapy and on Facebook at Travel Therapy!