Have you made holiday travel plans yet? You may be running out of time, at least when it comes to getting the best deals. The holiday season typically sees the most concentrated volume of leisure travel, and early indicators show that we are headed for a record holiday season.

Hotel chain Best Western recently announced that it has already seen a 5.4% rise in advance bookings compared to the same time last year. It looks like a hectic holiday season ahead.

Top affordable destinations

If you are planning for domestic travel, WalletHub's study of the top U.S. winter destinations may come in handy. Key metrics for the study were travel costs, hassles, attractions, weather, activities, costs of destination, and safety. WalletHub analyzed around 70 major metros to produce this report.

Not surprisingly, Chicago is No. 1 for winter travel with Washington D.C. and Atlanta following close behind. This ranking analyzed numerous destinations and then sorted them by the cheapest and easiest to reach U.S. destinations with lots to do and see.

The greater New York metro area, which ranked among the top cold weather destinations for winter travel, scored big on local attractions, various cold-weather activities and safety for travelers despite weather conditions.

Atlanta has emerged as an ideal destination for holiday travel. It ranked high both in terms of cost and convenience, and surprisingly has "most cold-weather activities" along with the top contenders.

Top luxury destinations

A study conducted by travel management company Ovation Travel Group revealed some interesting results. Instead of pristine beaches, cosmopolitan cities, and rugged mountains, it is the American West that tops all luxury leisure regions within the United States.

Montana and Utah bookings are soaring, along with some popular southern names like Charleston, South Carolina; Austin, Texas; and Nashville. The breathtaking natural beauty of the West, along with authentic experiences, has made it a top choice for the new generation of luxury travelers.

Montana, with its dramatic landscape and contemporary rustic elegance, is fast becoming the “emerging” destination for American and global travelers alike. Both Montana and Utah feature a distinctive and appealing blend of the great outdoors, exotic and remote places, and national parks. They also offer the best luxury services for the fast-growing trend of glamping.

Austin, with its hip culture, celebrated culinary offerings and renowned music scene, is a big southern attraction for luxury travel. Charleston's blend of great weather, beautiful beaches, and rich heritage makes it a big draw as well. Nashville is the new hip, trendy, and cosmopolitan destination for the rich, where music and culture abound.

Top international destinations

Thrillist and Conde Nast Traveller have each compiled a list of top places for international travel this holiday season.

Thrillist’s list of top international places for holiday travel include:

  • Cologne, Germany, with its traditional Christmas markets and truly authentic holiday experiences.
  • Kyoto, Japan, with its exotic experiences, fun festivals, and markets.
  • Rio de Janeiro with its blend of an exotic city, rainforest, and beach with illuminated palm trees.
  • Quebec City, Canada, which offers the most elaborately constructed Christmas village even while blanketed in snow, attracting thousands during the winter.
  • Reykjavik, Iceland, complete with festive feelings, a Christmas village, and the Northern Lights.
  • Antarctica may seem like a strange entry, but December is one of the best times to visit Antarctica.

Conde Nast Traveller has added to these with its recommendations. The Turkish Riviera, Egypt, the Scottish Highlands, and Mozambique rank among the unique destinations listed.