Illinois Tourism & Travel

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Our 20 Most Popular Travel News Stories From 2021

At TravelAwaits, we strive to provide our readers with relevant content that will inspire their future travels. In addition to great articles showcasing all of the wonderful things to do in locales from around the world, we are also dedicated to keeping you on top of the newest trends and updates from the travel industry. From landscape altering catastrophes to updated stats on key retirement destinations, our team was busy in 2021 ensuring you didn’t miss a thing. As the year draws to a close, we wanted to share our most popular travel news stories and look back at some of the harder hitting — or at the very least, engaging — news stories from this year as we look ahead to 2022.

Rocky Mountaineer train in Canada
Albert Pego /

1. Luxury Train Line Now Operating On One Of The Most Beautiful Routes In The U.S.

Canadian-based luxury train line, Rocky Mountaineer, began its inaugural season in the U.S. back in September. Passengers should expect the same stellar service and magnificent views this Canadian line is known for, but now with access in the U.S. for those not able to travel easily to Canada. Read more about where this new line will take passengers, and what to expect for future seasons.

Line of parked Delta airplanes
Felipe Sanchez /

2. Delta Flight Crew Finds Letter Left In Cockpit Calling It A Pandemic Time Capsule

Air travel came to a screeching halt in 2020, and while it did resume that same year, some planes remained out of use until 2021. One such Delta plane — the last out of its arid California desert storage — held a surprise for the flight crew that brought it out of its unexpected sabbatical. Tucked into the tray table was a note left by the last to pilot the aircraft — 435 days prior. Learn more and read the letter that the Delta crew called a pandemic time capsule.

Famous Darwin's Arch in Galapagos in Ecuador
Hakbak /

3. Famous Galapagos Islands Arch Formation Collapses Into Ocean

While time appeared to stand still for humanity in the midst of the pandemic, it never-the-less marched onward. Darwin’s Arch in the Galapagos Islands learned this first hand when it lost its long-held battle with erosion and collapsed into the ocean, forever changing this famous landscape. This was a shocker for many, including those that saw it happen before their very eyes. For more details — and a look at what it looks like today — have a look at our report of the incident from back in May.

Canadian border crossing
AP Group of Photographers /

4. Canadian Border Reopening: Everything Visitors Need To Know

Canada became off-limits to U.S. travelers early in 2020 in hopes of reducing transmission of COVID-19. The border remained closed for more than a year. Then, in August of 2021, that all changed when the border opened once more for non-essential travel. While the info in this article is already at least partially out of date (always check the state department’s website for the most up-to-date details and travel restrictions) take a look back at this momentous news story for many desiring to travel to our neighbors in the north.

Sunset at Hapuna Beach in Hawaii.
A. Emson /

5. Dr. Beach Announces His 2021 Best Beaches List

TravelAwaits‘ readers were chomping at the bit to learn Dr. Beach’s picks for the best beaches in 2021; our article revealing his picks was one of our more popular articles all year. This coastal ecologist and university professor has evaluated what makes a beach truly pristine for decades and has released his findings each of the last 30 years. Our release showcases his top picks for 2021 and provides more details on the specific criterion used to make his selections.

Snowy ski trail in Minnesota
Vladimir Daragan /

6. The Farmers’ Almanac Says We’re In For A Long, Cold Winter

A more recent news story shared this month provides insight into the weather we should expect during the winter ahead, at least according to one source. The Farmer’s Almanac claims we are in for a long, cold winter in 2022. While no one can predict the future with certainty, the almanac does reportedly have an 80 percent accuracy rate over its 2 centuries of publication which is quite impressive.

Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park .
blewulis /

7. The Most Expensive Places To Live Near U.S. National Parks

Proximity to breathtaking beauty and natural wonder doesn’t come cheap. In fact, the closer you get to some national parks, you may find the cost of living skyrocketing. Can you afford to live near a national park? See the full list to learn which national parks are the most expensive to live near. If you are a little tight on cash, you can also scroll down to the 10th most popular news article on our list to take a look at the most affordable.

A colorful street in Malta.

Daniel.Petras14 /

8. The Best Islands In The World To Retire On In 2021

Many fantasize about leaving everything behind and retiring on a tropical island someday. For some, this is a pipe-dream at best, but you might be surprised at just how affordable some island locales can actually be. In April, our team reported on an International Living release of the best islands in the world to retire on; see our full list for more details if you need a starting point for your retirement research.

Kyrenia Castle in Northern Cyprus.
Nejdet Duzen /

9. This Country Has The Cleanest Waters In The European Union

Considering the cleanliness of swimming water likely does not top your list of factors to consider when scheduling a trip, but maybe it should. The European Environment Agency released their report comparing numerous water samples from each EU member state — as well as three additional nations. Learn which country has the cleanest water in the EU. You might want to see who falls to the bottom of the list as well.

Mount Ranier National Park
Roman Khomlyak /

10. The Most Affordable Places To Live Near U.S. National Parks

You may recall that we discussed how expensive it can be to live near a U.S. national park; some are outright cost prohibitive. However, not all parks are equal in this regard. There are even some parks that tout affordable housing nearby. Where can you find these hidden real estate gems? Our full list showcases the most affordable places to live near U.S. national parks.

Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Manamana / Shutterstock

11. The Least Visited U.S. National Parks In 2020

Over 237 million visitors experienced a national park in 2020. The great outdoors was certainly the place to be. While many parks were overwhelmed with the stronger demand, many of the more remote parks remained far less crowded. If you are looking for a quieter trek through nature, consider one of these least visited U.S. national parks for your next national park excursion.

U.S. Passport with Global Entry info
Evgenia Parajanian /

12. TSA PreCheck Vs. Clear Vs. Global Entry: What’s The Difference?

Navigating through airport security can be tedious. Ensuring you have everything you need — and nothing that you don’t — is crucial, as is arriving with ample time to spare to ensure security doesn’t force you to miss your flight. Our team compared a few of the top trusted traveler programs available to determine what really sets them apart.

Pro Tip: As mentioned, airport security can be a scary place. Come prepared and know what is allowed before you arrive. You might even be surprised at what can be brought on as a carry-on.

The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas
Kobby Dagan /

13. Two Major Las Vegas Strip Resorts Putting Hotels Up For Sale

This past year saw two major Las Vegas hotels put up for sale. The two largest players in town — MGM and Caesars — both announced plans to unload one property each from their impressive portfolios. Discover which hotels may be under new management in 2022 as you plan your next Vegas getaway.

Porto, Portugal
ESB Professional /

14. The Best Places To Retire Internationally In 2021

International Living Magazine releases its updated list of the best places to retire around the world in January of each year. We had the pleasure of sharing the list with our readers last January and were amazed at the level of detail International Living puts into its research. Check out its 2021 list for yourself, and keep your eyes open next month when we reveal its 2022 list!

Virgin Hotel, Las Vegas
Virgin Hotels Las Vegas

15. Peek Inside The Sleek New Las Vegas Resort With No Resort Fees

When you check into a hotel, you expect basic amenities to be included in your stay. This is not always the case at Vegas area resorts where such commonplace amenities and services like Wi-Fi and a basic fitness center will cost you extra. Learn more about how one sleek new Las Vegas resort has promised to do away with such fees.

House decorated for Christmas
romakoma /

16. FAA Has A Warning For Anyone Decorating Their Home For The Holidays

No, the FAA is not out to steal your fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. However, this warning isn’t just directed at the Clark Griswold’s of the world blinding neighbors — and more importantly pilots — with their 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights. No, an increasingly common holiday decoration is to blame, and it has cost some homeowners over $30,000 in fines! Learn more here to ensure you stay out of hot water with the feds this holiday season.

Visitors lined up at Grand Teton National Park in 2020
Michael Vi /

17. Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Parks Set Visitor Records

It’s year 2 of the pandemic and national parks across the U.S. continue to set new records for attendance. This article from May discussed how the neighboring Wyoming parks of Yellowstone and Grand Teton both set new visitor records this April. Learn more about what this spike in attendance could mean for visiting the famous parks in 2022.

Redwood skywalk
Eddy Alexander on behalf of the City of Eureka

18. Longest Skywalk In Western U.S. Gives Visitors Unique View Of Beautiful Redwoods

Just staring up at the mighty redwoods of northern California will take your breath away. However, an exciting new experience opened at Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, California, which will enrich this experience further. Visitors will climb 100 feet into the air where they can look down at the ground or up to the canopy above. Learn more about this exciting excursion.

Artist's rendering of Disney Starcuiser
Photo Credit: Disney

19. Disney Unveils New Characters For Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Experience

Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser hotel made news throughout the year: We provided a first look inside the upcoming immersive experience, revealed how opening day was being delayed, and highlighted the eye-popping price tag that guests will face when this new battle station — err, hotel — becomes fully operational. With an official opening day on the books, make sure to get to know the new Star Wars characters set to make their debut at Disney in 2022.

Hammerhead shark
Shane Gross /

20. Hammerhead Sharks Spotted Near Swimmers, Boaters Off Florida’s Coast

And what news roundup would be complete without a shark sighting. Over Memorial Day weekend, several hammerhead sharks were spotted in the water near Pensacola, Florida. One witness filmed as the hefty hammerheads swam within feet of their boat in waist-high water with swimmers only feet away. You can find the video as well as more details on this heart-pumping brush with nature in our post from June.

As 2021 comes to a close, we can now look ahead to what news the travel world will bring us in 2022. From national parks and wildlife encounters to hotel openings and heartwarming stories, TravelAwaits is ready to bring you all the news you need to plan your next trip right to your screen. Happy travels!