If you're a master traveler, then get ready: 2016 is your year.
The next 365 days bring the promise of low-cost transit, groundbreaking cultural events and incredible rising destinations that are making even the most seasoned explorers -- and savviest deal-finders -- totally swoon. Some of our personal highlights for 2016 include:
1. New flight routes will open up corners of the world for cheap.
Favorites include Southwest Airlines' upcoming route from LAX to Costa Rica and nonstop service to the Caribbean from a whole host of east coast departure points. With so many excellent new flight options, exploring is only going to get easier.
2. Botswana will become a big-name destination.
It shouldn't take long for travelers to recognize this off-the-radar wonderland full of sprawling national parks, glorious safaris and untouched lagoons and gorges. Lonely Planet calls it the number-one place to visit in 2016, and for good reason: Flight options could be expanding real soon.
3. "No frills" fares make flying cheaper, too.
American Airlines will debut its cheaper version of an economy-class ticket in 2016, which allows passengers to skip paying for perks they don't use. Delta already has a similar "basic economy" fare, and we wouldn't be surprised to see more like it crop up in the next year.
4. Harry Potter world is coming to L.A.
On April 7, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open in Hollywood, as a counterpart to the magical Harry Potter world in Florida. This means muggles on both coasts will soon be able to hop aboard the Hogwarts Express.
5. And The New York Times Travel Show is coming to NYC.
The largest travel trade exhibition in North America will welcome more than 28,000 visitors to New York City for three January days filled with cultural performances, dining demonstrations and expert seminars. There's no better way to sharpen your explorer skills before the new year gets underway.
6. The National Park Service turns 100 years old.
The biggest bash in NPS history will include four days of free park entry for the nature-inclined. It's the perfect time for a road trip to those beautiful, lesser-known parks you didn't know you needed to see.
7. And Cuba will get even easier to visit.
Ever since the U.S. announced changes to its relations with Cuba late last year, travelers have seen a significant uptick in available flights to the island country. This month, the nations agreed to restore commercial flights between each other. Airlines are already announcing plans for new routes, which will undoubtedly increase the options for 2016.
Happy travels, wherever this year takes you!
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