Canucks scratching their travel itch

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More Canadians are planning to travel this year than in 2011 and the majority of trips will be out of the country, according to a study by BMO Bank of Montreal.

March is typically one of the busiest travel months of the year as families and students take advantage of Canada’s annual March break to escape the winter doldrums.

“Over the last two years, the strong Canadian dollar and relatively favourable income growth have made vacation travel outside of Canada much more attractive,” said Sat Guatieri, a BMO spokesperson. “We expect these conditions to similarly influence Canadians’ travel plans in 2012.

During the third quarter of 2011, spending by Canadians travelling abroad grew more than 11% to $7.3 billion compared to the same period in 2010. More than $4 billion was spent in the U.S.

Domestic travel is expected to increase by more than 1.8% in 2012 and generate 97.6 million overnight stays at hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts. Tourism spending in Canada is expected to rise by 3.6 % to $40.5 billion this year.

The U.S. remains the top travel destination outside Canada with New York, Florida and Washington being the most visited states.

Mexico, the United Kingdom and France are countries of choice for Canadians travelling to destinations outside of Canada and the U.S.

The top three travel destinations within Canada are Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.

Credit cards remain the most popular way to pay among Canadian travellers. In addition to world-wide merchant acceptance, many credit cards offer loyalty rewards, insurance against loss or theft of purchased product, extended warranties and zero liability in cases of fraud.

While not as widely used as they used to be, many Canadians still like the security and convenience of travellers’ cheques when they travel abroad. If they are lost or stolen, they are promptly refunded, often with 24 hours.