Road Warrior

Where the jet-setters are vacationing this summer

Where the rich are vacationing

Source: Jeremy Swanson

Summer travel spending is on the rise, especially at the top.

If you have the funds to order up a private jet on demand, some locations become more appealing than others.

Based on current booking patterns, the private jet set this summer is expected to favor many of the same destinations that were popular in 2013—just a lot more frequently than before, according to Sentient Jet. The company, which offers on-demand charters as well as 25-hour jet cards, is forecasting a 34 percent growth rate above 2013 levels at its Top 10 summer destinations.

The increased summer expectations come on top of a strong winter. During the first quarter of the year, when severe weather walloped the major airlines, Sentient had its best financials in six years with $43.7 million in revenue, a 21 percent year-over-year growth.

—By CNBC's Amy Langfield. Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at  @CNBCtravel.

Posted 24 May 2014

10. San Francisco

Source: Vladimir Pcholkin | Photographer's Choice RF | Getty Images

San Francisco is a city where fliers are most likely to mix business with pleasure, according to Sentient Jet. But for those coming to play, the eclectic mecca offers plenty of new cuisine, culture and lodging. 

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco this summer will host works visiting from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.: "Intimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art" and "Modernism from the National Gallery of Art: The Robert & Jane Meyerhoff Collection."

New attractions at Fisherman's Wharf this summer include a touristy theatrical production, The Dungeon, and Madame Tussauds Wax Attraction—featuring not just Kate Winslet and Leonardo DeCaprio, but also a waxen Mark Zuckerberg.

A free Sea Lion Center also has recently opened at Pier 39 as part of the Aquarium of the Bay.

Several hotels have just completed upgrades, renovations or an expansion—including the Mandarin Oriental, the Galleria Park Hotel, The Fairmont, Pier 2620 Hotel Fisherman's Wharf and the Inn at the Presidio. The Singapore-based Grace International group has also just opened the The Scarlet Huntington in Nob Hill following a $15 million renovation.

San Francisco in 2013 recorded a total of 16.9 million visitors, a 2.3 percent increase from the year before. Spending was up 5.1 percent, to a record $9.38 billion, according to the San Francisco Travel Association.

9. Monterey, California

Source: Felipe Borges | Moment | Getty Images

Monterey is a landing spot for Big Sur, Carmel, rugged beaches and hiking trails.

Summer highlights include a Porsche Parade, wine and beer festivals, as well as the Great Pacific Race for endurance rowers and the "come prepared for anything and everything" Spartan Race in June.

The nonprofit Montery Bay Aquarium is popular with serious environmentalists as well as kids. The newest big exhibition, "Tentacles: The Astounding Lives of Octopuses, Squid and Cuttlefishes," opened in April.

 Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck, continues to draw tourists as well.

8. San Diego

San Diego
David Olsen | Getty Images

Jammed with great beaches and ideal weather, San Diego last year drew 33.1 million visitors who spent nearly $8.4 billion, according to the San Diego Tourism Authority.

San Diego County's average hotel rate is $134.20 at its 464 hotel and motel properties plus 83 bed and breakfasts, casinos and health spa resorts. 

New in San Diego this year is the Tull Family Tiger Trail at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as well as the "The LEGO Movie Experience" LEGOLAND California Resort.

SeaWorld, which is celebrating its centennial this year, has opened a new Explorer's Reef as well as a TaumataRacer water slide at Aquatica, the SeaWorld's Waterpark.

Other summer highlights include Comic-Con International in JulyMission Beach centennial celebrations, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on June 1, the San Diego County Fair in June and July and a dog surfing competition on July 13.


7. San Jose, California

San Jose, Calif.
Denis Tangney Jr | E+ | Getty Images

At the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose's airport also serves as a practical option for high-fliers on their way to Pebble Beach and Carmel since the Monterey airport often gets fogged in, according to a Sentient Jet spokeswoman. 

But for summer travelers on their way to San Jose, the airport is also within driving distance to San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Big Sur. Half Moon Bay also offers lush properties such as the Ritz Carlton on the beach.

6. Westhampton Beach, New York

MikeRega | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

For those who are not taking a helicopter to the Hamptons, the Westhampton Airport is a popular option.

In addition to its society scene, dining and shopping, the Hamptons is home to popular beaches such as Coopers Beach in Southampton and Main Beach in East Hampton.

Regionally, Long Island gets over 9 million overnight visitors per year, and they spend $6 billion per year, according to numbers crunched by the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau & Sports Commission. On average they spend $246 per overnight stay, but those numbers are higher for the Hamptons.

5. Santa Ana, California

Source: Mitch Diamond | Photodisc | Getty Images

The John Wayne Airport, in Santa Ana, is in the heart of Orange County, California.

This is where you land if you want to visit Disneyland.

Other key Orange County destinations include Knott's Berry Farm Theme Park, Newport Beach's yacht harbor and upscale shopping, along with legendary surfing along Huntington Beach.

(And make no mistake, Orange County is not getting a bump in the rankings from Los Angeles overflow, according to a spokeswoman for Sentient Jet. Their jets also fly into Los Angeles International and the Van Nuys Airport, though neither of those made the Top 10.)

4. Hyannis, Massachusetts

Source: OlegAlbinsky | iStock / 360 | Getty Images

The hub of Cape Cod, Hyannis also serves as a gateway to other seaside getaways including Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

It's also not far from Cape Cod's Coast Guard Beach, which earned a spot on the "Top 10 Beaches 2014" list compiled by Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach." 

Its hotels include the SeaCoast Inn, which was just listed by TripAdvisor on its Top 5 list of best hotels in the United States for service. 

3. Las Vegas, Nevada

Source: Moment | Getty Images

Post recession, Las Vegas is on its way back. In 2013, it recorded 39.7 million total visitors, accordng to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

During the first three months of 2014, visitor volume was up 5.3 percent and the average daily room rate was $122, up 9.7 percent from a year earlier, according to a report compiled by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

New attractions in the city include the just opened the $12 million Slotzilla zip line at Fremont Street.

The Memorial Day opening of The Cromwell is part of a boutique trend coming to Vegas, which is otherwise dominated by mega-resorts.The other big opening of the year will come at the end of the summer as the SLS Las Vegas will open with 1,600 rooms and suites.

2. Nantucket, Massachusetts

Source: Panoramic Images | Getty Images

On the little island of Nantucket, the biggest event of the summer is July 4th, which is expected to be even bigger this year since it falls on a Friday, said Kate Hamilton Pardee, director of Nantucket Visitor Services. Main Street will go into full Americana mode with music, face painting and other events and the night of July 4th is always dominated by the fireworks show, she said.

Known for its slower pace, Nantucket has popular beaches and historic sites that document the area's 19th century whaling history. This summer Nantucket will also host wine, comedy and music festivals, she said.

At the end of June, the 2014 Nantucket Film Festival will present Aaron Sorkin the Screenwriters Tribute Award.

This summer, the island population is expected to swell to about 65,000—compared with 12,000 to 14,000 in the off-season, Pardee said.

There are no big commercial hotels on the island, but about 900 beds are available through inns and bed and breakfast locations, Pardee said. In addition, there are private home rentals. And of course: "A lot of the people who fly in have their own private homes," she said.  

1. Aspen, Colorado

Source: Jeremy Swanson

Aspen may seem like a winter town, but that's not entirely true.

"No matter how it's measured, July is Aspen's busiest single month of the year in terms of occupancies and numbers of visitors," Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, said in his annual survey of the region's tourism trends.

Major summer events include the Food & Wine Classic in June, the Aspen Arts Festival in July and the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival in June and July. 

Later this summer, Aspen Art Museum will open a 30,000-square-foot Shigeru Ban-designed addition, scheduled to debut just after its annual ArtCrush event

Aspen's three major five-star hotels—the St. Regis, the Little Nell and the Hotel Jerome—are wrapping up major renovations after investing during the recession, said Maureen Poschman, the public relations director for Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

In the summer of 2013, the average daily rate at Aspen hotels was $280 (up from $257 in the summer of 2012.)

Aspen is actually doing even better than it was before the recession, Poschman told CNBC. March was Aspen's best month ever in terms of tourism.