Best travel experiences in 2019: Travel's ultimate bucket-list for this year

The act of compiling your new year's travel wish list can be a hard, albeit thrilling task. The world, after all, is brimming with amazing options, with new things coming about all the time – where do you start?

And perhaps even harder, what do you leave out? This list of the most significant and hotly anticipated debuts in global travel for 2019 can help. It's full of great trip starter ideas, from glam new beach resorts to alpine train adventures.

When compiling their annual to-do lists of the travel experiences they are most excited about, Traveller's specialist writers looked for the most important (and fun) openings, launches and trends in their respective fields, while not ignoring the places where our readers love to go, how they prefer to get there and what they like to do.

As a fresh year of possibility kicks off, we hope the result inspires you to compile your own travel to-do list.

THE HOTEL EXPERT

Julietta Jameson

MY NEW YEAR TRAVEL RESOLUTION IN THE WORLD OF HOTELS IS to take more care in-house. We've all heard horror stories regarding unsecured hotel Wi-Fi with shadowy hackers stealing personal information and hijacking people's personal devices. And then there was the multi-national Marriott group's big data breach, making vulnerable the personal details of 500 million guests. Travellers expose themselves every day to thieves and scoundrels, from petty pick pockets to these more sophisticated threats. It pays to take personal responsibility, be smart and think safety.

MY DREAM DESTINATION FOR 2019 is Singapore. Why? Two words: Raffles (raffles.com) is reopening. Need I go on? The bijou Barracks Hotel (stayfareast.com) is also set to open on Sentosa Island in a conserved colonial structure with 40 heritage rooms and a rooftop pool; and Six Senses Maxwell will open close to sister property Six Senses Duxton (sixsenses.com), in a block of renovated shophouses with interiors by French superstar designer Jacques Garcia. Ah yes, but Raffles. Already accepting bookings for its August 2019 opening and beyond, the return of the venerable luxury property will place Singapore high on many a hotel geek's wish list.

MY MUST VISIT DESTINATION FOR 2019 is London. On one hand, it's a bit sad that city life has evolved as such that once-useful old spaces such as banks, churches, civic centres, shops and company HQs no longer serve their original purpose. On the other, these places can make wonderful hotels and thankfully, there are plenty of visionaries with enough imagination and cash to convert them. There are two new standouts: coming soon, the Standard London (standardhotels.com), in the brutalist landmark, former Camden Town Annexe opposite St Pancras Station, and the deliciously decadent little L'Oscar (loscar.com), freshly opened, in a Grade II-listed old Baptist church in Holborn, also done over by aforementioned starchitect, Jacques Garcia.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR 2019 is that the club concept will gain traction beyond the very exclusive. While "club" accommodation is nothing new, with the likes of the RACV (and the old-fashioned city clubs) offering stays to members either exclusively or at a discount, the new breed of club is a hub of work, rest and play. The Soho House group (sohohouse.com), established by Brit Nick Jones more than 20 years ago, has become the benchmark. Soho House West Hollywood, for example was recently noted by the Hollywood Reporter as "the most important club in Hollywood – a high-wattage magnet for A-listers and dealmakers … LA may have no centre, but the industry now does".

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This year already, Sydney welcomes Kafnu Alexandria (kafnu.com), a membership concept with an emphasis on productivity and with reciprocal rights at other properties in the group. But you don't need to be a Hollywood power broker to join.

THE PLANE SPOTTER

Michael Gebicki

MY NEW YEAR TRAVEL RESOLUTION IN AIR TRAVEL IS to never again travel on a cheap airline with high expectations. In air travel, as in most other things, you pretty much get what you pay for.

MY MUST-VISIT DESTINATION IN AIR TRAVEL FOR 2019 is the Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore (jewelchangiairport.com). Changi does it bigger and better than any other airport and Jewel, opening in 2019, is a vast new glass dome that promises to unveil a fresh dimension in entertainment, shopping and dining to travellers transitting through Singapore's airport.

THE ONE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT TO DO IN 2019 Travel aboard Singapore Airlines' non-stop flight between Singapore and Newark (singaporeair.com). It's the world's longest flight, but all-premium and business-class seating dulls the pain of the 17-plus hour trip.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR 2019 is the advent of expanded economy seating which gives you more leg room for a modest surcharge, along the lines of United's Economy Plus seating or Virgin's Economy X, is going to win flyers' hearts and minds over the coming year.

THE CULTURE VULTURE

Katrina Lobley

MY NEW YEAR TRAVEL RESOLUTION is to tick off more art blockbusters. Must-sees include the Art Gallery of NSW's (AGNSW) showing of recently acquired Jeffrey Smart drawings and highlights from its Smart painting collection (May 11-September 29, artgallery.nsw.gov.au) and Tate Britain's Van Gogh and Britain exhibition that incorporates Sunflowers (March 27-August 11, tate.org.uk). Every odd year heralds the Venice Biennale's art edition (May 11-November 24, labiennale.org) – video, installation and performance artist Angelica Mesiti will represent Australia. Over these summer holidays, I plan to visit Canberra's National Gallery of Australia to see the rarely lent works in Love & Desire: Pre-Raphaelite Masterpieces from the Tate (until April 28, nga.gov.au) and Sydney's AGNSW for Masters of Modern Art from the Hermitage (until March 3)

MY DREAM DESTINATION FOR 2019 WILL BE Japan. The Setouchi Triennale returns in 2019, activating 12 "art islands" in three seasonal sessions (April 26-May 26, July 19-August 25, September 28-November 4, setouchi-artfest.jp). Part of the fun is travelling between these Seto Inland Sea islands via ferry. I particularly want to see Yayoi Kusama's famed polka-dotted Pumpkin adorning Naoshima Island's pier.

MY MUST-VISIT DESTINATION FOR 2019 Paris and Milan. These two cities, among several others, are marking the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death in a big way. Paris's Louvre (louvre.fr) will bring in other da Vinci paintings to join its five masterpieces, including the Mona Lisa. Opening in the northern autumn, the show will include da Vinci drawings from Queen Elizabeth II's collection. In Milan (turismo.milano.it) where the Renaissance genius worked from 1482-99, the drawcard of the nine-month program starting May 2 is the reopening of Castello Sforzesco's Sala delle Asse (milanocastello.it) where da Vinci's nature-themed handiwork plasters a wall and ceiling.

THE ONE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT TO DO IN 2019 is see the Tony Award-winning musical Come from Away (comefromaway.com.au) when it premieres in Australia at Melbourne's Comedy Theatre in July. The musical is based on real events in Gander – the Newfoundland town that hosted thousands of diverted air passengers after the tragic events of September 11. While in Melbourne, I'll also visit Housemuseum Galleries (lyonhousemuseum.com.au), a bold bluestone-clad contemporary art space opening in March in Kew.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR 2019 is that people will seek a cultural hit outside the big cities. In Western Australia, the non-profit organisation FORM is reinvigorating regional communities through projects such as the Public Silo Trail (publicsilotrail.com) and Albany's Field of Light: Avenue of Honour (fieldoflightalbany.com.au, until Anzac Day 2019) from Bruce Munro, the artist that lit up visitation to Uluru. In Tassie, MONA's annual Mofo music and arts festival will travel north to Launceston (January 13-20, mofo.net.au).

THE OCEAN CRUISER

Sally Macmillan

MY NEW YEAR TRAVEL RESOLUTION IN OCEAN CRUISING IS to take more onboard classes. Cruise lines offer an inspiring range of courses so 2019 will be my year for sharpening up drawing, dancing and digital skills.

MY DREAM OCEAN CRUISING DESTINATION FOR 2019 is Africa. From the Cape Verde islands, Gold Coast countries and Namibia on the Atlantic coast to South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar and the Seychelles on the Indian Ocean, this vast and diverse continent has history, culture and wildlife galore. And then there's Egypt on the Mediterranean coast, a destination that's coming back into vogue after several years in the travel-industry wilderness.

MY MUST-VISIT OCEAN CRUISING DESTINATION FOR 2019 is Japan. In 2019 there are more ships sailing more varied itineraries to the intriguing island nation than ever before. Cherry blossom season is the most popular time to visit, closely followed by autumn for spectacular fall foliage cruises. Japan is hosting the Rugby World Cup from September to November; this is the perfect time for first-time visitors to combine a thrilling sporting event with a cruise exploring the Land of the Rising Sun.

THE ONE OCEAN CRUISING EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT TO DO IN 2019 is to see more of Papua New Guinea. Visiting the pristine Conflict Islands has inspired me to discover more remote spots in this relatively untravelled region right on our doorstep.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR 2019 is that the desire for experiential travel will continue to grow. Travellers are signing up for adventure cruises to far-flung destinations; shore tours are becoming more active, in-depth and tailored to special-interest groups; and culinary experiences will still reign supreme, onboard and onshore.

THE FOODIE

Ben Groundwater

MY NEW YEAR TRAVEL RESOLUTION IN FOOD IS to try everything, without fear or prejudice. Even for the most dedicated food lover it can be hard, sometimes, to shed preconceived notions of what is good to eat and what isn't. When you travel you're exposed to so many new ideas about cuisine, so many dishes and ingredients that may sound challenging or even inedible. This year, I aim to sample them all.

MY DREAM DESTINATION FOR 2019 Tokyo. The more times I visit this food-crazed city, the deeper my obsession becomes. The food is just so good. You can't overstate it. Cheap food – ramen noodles, izakaya snacks – is good. Foreign food – pasta, pastries, burgers – is good. Expensive food – high-end sushi and haute cuisine – is good. I could dine in Tokyo every day for the rest of my life and never grow bored.

MY MUST-VISIT FOOD DESTINATION FOR 2019 is Singapore (visitsingapore.com). This city-state has long been known for its high-quality budget food scene, for its hawker centres filled with drool-worthy Chinese, Indian, Malay, Peranakan and uniquely Singaporean food. In 2019, however, the city's fine-dining restaurants will take centre stage. Singapore is hosting the annual 50 Best awards in October, recognition of its place among the world's best high-end culinary destinations.

THE ONE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT TO DO IN 2019 is to enter a Basque txoko. For the next 12 months I'll be based in San Sebastian, Spain (sansebastianturismo.co) and my aim is to weasel my way into one of the city's gastronomic societies, or txokos. These social clubs celebrate Basques' famous love of good food, where amateur cooks impress each other with high-quality ingredients and culinary skill. Txokos are also private, and restricted to speakers of the Basque language. That sounds like a challenge.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR 2019 is the continued rise of plant-based cuisine. With a shift in many Western countries towards vegan or vegetarian diets, there is a growing number of restaurants catering to those needs, and some are true destination dining. Denmark's Noma (noma.dk), one of the world's best restaurants, does a purely plant-based menu from June to September, while in New York, London, Vancouver, and India in its entirety, there are extremely good options for vegans and vegetarians.

THE RIVER CRUISER

Brian Johnston

MY NEW YEAR TRAVEL RESOLUTION IN RIVER CRUISING IS to sail some of the same rivers again. I've tended to focus on new rivers, but I've realised recently that you can have abundant new experiences on rivers already sailed. River ports are so dense with history and culture that you should never have to do the same thing twice. There's always a different shore excursion, a museum you missed, a patisserie you haven't plundered. And favourites to revisit, of course.

MY DREAM DESTINATION FOR 2019 is the Ganges River and its tributary the Hoogly in India. Kolkata apart, I've never explored the Lower Ganges region. The ancient trade artery has riverbanks lined with villages, colonial port towns and palaces. And the Ganges is, of course, also a holy river erupting with spectacular temples and ghats where Hindu rituals have remained unchanged for millennia. I expect everyday life in India will also, as always, provide a peculiarly wonderful passing spectacle.

MY MUST-VISIT DESTINATION IN RIVER CRUISING FOR 2019 is the Moselle River, a tributary of the Rhine in western Germany, although its source is in France. An increasing number of river cruises are focusing on this short but spectacular waterway, which is flanked by steep vineyards occasionally topped by castles. The towns of Cochem and Bernkastel-Kues must be two of Europe's loveliest river locations. Shore excursions explore Luxembourg and historic German cathedral town Trier.

THE ONE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT TO DO IN 2019 is to sail through the Iron Gates again. The only time I've been through these it was misty, and most of the130-kilometre stretch of limestone gorges that separates Serbia and Romania on the Lower Danube was tantalisingly hidden. I'd like to see its 300-metre cliffs, old fortresses and isolated Orthodox chapels in clear weather.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR 2019 is that there will be more themed cruises that attract both niche travellers and repeat cruisers by offering new angles on the same rivers. The number of themed river cruises has increased dramatically, and next year's choices include food, wine, beer, golf, classical and jazz music, Jewish history, Impressionist art and the American Civil War. Other cruises tie in with seasonal events such as Oktoberfest, tulip season in the Netherlands and Europe's Christmas markets, especially along the Danube.

THE OUTDOORSMAN

Andrew Bain

MY NEW YEAR TRAVEL RESOLUTION IN THE OUTDOORS IS to broaden my outdoor experiences. I've walked, cycled and kayaked in so many places, and it's time to change things up. Perhaps it's time to do that heli stand-up paddleboarding, choppered into a remote New Zealand or Canadian alpine lake with an inflatable SUP.

MY DREAM DESTINATION FOR 2019 is Uganda (worldexpeditions.com). When I think of the African peaks I've climbed – Kilimanjaro, Ethiopia's Simiens, South Africa's Drakensberg – they all sit high among my fondest mountain memories. Uganda's Rwenzori Mountains, aka the Mountains of the Moon, are likely to top them all.

MY MUST-VISIT DESTINATION IN THE OUTDOORS FOR 2019 is the Grand Canyon (nps.gov/grca). With 2019 marking 150 years since the first descent of the Colorado River by John Wesley Powell's expedition team, it's the perfect time to hit the waters of the big ditch. There are plenty of commercial rafting trips on offer, and the canyon also entices for hiking, with a number of tracks crossing rim-to-rim, most notably the Kaibab Trail.

THE ONE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT TO DO IN 2019 is hike Tasmania's South Coast Track (parks.tas.gov.au). Once it was talked about with the same reverence as the Overland Track, but in recent years it's slipped into some sort of anonymity behind the Three Capes Track and Tassie's private walks. Time to give it some love.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR 2019 is for the continuation of the inexorable eBike revolution. Purists (ahem, me) may scorn them, but sales show double-digit growth each year across the world and it's forecast that there will be 40 million around the world by 2023. Soon we'll all be pushing buttons as we pedal our legs.

THE RESORT TRAGIC

Sheriden Rhodes

MY NEW YEAR TRAVEL RESOLUTION IN THE RESORT WORLD IS to spend less time on devices and more time immersed in local culture. Infinity pools, sun lounges, cocktails (and Instagramming it all) are fun, but nothing beats interacting with locals and learning about how they live.

MY DREAM DESTINATION FOR 2019 is Los Cabos (visitloscabos.com) at the tip of Mexico's Baja Peninsula, home to the 7000-hectare Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park, authentic Mexican cuisine, home-grown tequila and swanky five-star resorts. Closer to home, I'd love to hire a car and beach hop around Vanuatu's main island, Efate, before flying to Santo and staying in one of the rustic chic beachfront fares at Aore Island Resort (aoreislandsresort.com).

MY MUST-VISIT DESTINATION FOR 2019 is Vietnam, with emerging beach destinations such as Quy Nhon and Phu Quoc on the radar. Quy Nhon is relatively untouched, with vast green rice paddies, long stretches of picturesque beaches and ancient temples. It's also home to the new Anantara Quy Nhon Villas (anantara.com). Also expect to hear a lot more about Phu Quoc (pronounced "foo kwok"), a tropical archipelago now home to a crop of new luxury resorts including the Intercontinental, Novotel, JW Marriott and more.

THE ONE EXPERIENCE I REALLY WANT TO DO IN 2019 is to swim with whale sharks and snorkel with manta rays at the Anantara Dhigu Maldives Resort (anantara.com), and learn to surf with my daughter at Elements of Byron. I want to see if it lives up to its reputation as Australia's best family resort. I also can't wait to see what the Intercontinental (intercontinental.com) will do with Hayman Island, due to reopen July 1.

MY FEARLESS PREDICTION FOR 2019 Travellers will seek out experiences authentic to the destination. They don't want to feel like they're staying in a prototypical resort that could be anywhere.

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