Top travel destinations and trends for 2019
Learn where will be hot and what will be trending in travel in 2019.
As the year draws to a close, we start to reflect on the year that was and the year that will be. 2018 saw the world flock to Russia for the World Cup and to the Gold Coast for the Invictus Games, but what will 2019 hold?
We take a look at where we, as well as the rest of the travel industry, predict will be hot in the coming year.
Top 12 destinations for 2019
There's been so much talk about Lisbon this year, you'd literally have to have been living under a rock in 2018 to escape it. Skyscanner has seen a 27% increase in searches for the Portuguese capital between 2017 and 2018.
Contiki agrees, naming Portugal as the #8 destination on the rise for 2019. Hostelworld called it early, having had it on its top 10 places to visit lists in both 2017 and 2018 – and yes, it's still up there for 2019.
Finder's tip: Visit Lisbon for Portuguese tarts, the Belem Tower and the famous tram, but don't focus all your time in the capital. Make a day trip to Sintra to feel like a princess in a Disney movie and spend a few nights in Porto to cellar hop and visit the Douro Valley.
We're not sure if it's just us, but our social feeds have been overflowing with pictures of Malta enticing us to pack up and go.
The island nation is blessed with beaches, such as the Blue Lagoon, and ancient sites, such as the walled town of Mdina, megalithic temples and the underground Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum. Say farewell to the Greek islands; it's all about Malta in 2019.
Finder's tip: Hire a car. Being an island nation, the public transport on the island doesn't always go to schedule, and in smaller towns, you'll find yourself arriving at the bus stop and simply waiting for your ride to arrive. Hiring a car provides you the freedom to get between each town at your own pace, and for Aussies, it's one of the easier countries to drive in as the streets are fairly quiet and they also drive on the left.
Speaking of social feeds, every travel influencer seems to be visiting Turkey at the moment, too. Hostelworld has pegged it as one of the top backpacking destinations of the year having seen an incredible 62% increase in bookings to Istanbul between 2017 and 2018.
It's also one of the most cost-effective countries to visit based on exchange rates with the dollar up 28% against the Turkish lira on last year. It's also one of the European destinations you can visit on airlines such as Qatar for around $1,000 return.
Finder's tip: Don't hole yourself up in Istanbul as the country has so many mysterious and enchanting sites to visit. This includes the ruins of Ephesus near Izmir, the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia and the white thermal waters of Pamukkale.
Contiki, Booking.com, G Adventures and Hostelworld have all placed Jordan on their hot for 2019 lists making it literally the one to beat. G Adventures has personally seen a 71% increase in bookings between 2017 and 2018, and it's not predicting interest to slow down.
You might know Jordan best from blockbuster films Indiana Jones and Star Wars, making it an ideal destination for anyone looking to "get their geek on" or hunt for adventure.
Finder's tip: Tick these off your list: stay in a Bedouin camp to sleep under the stars, swim (well, float) in the Dead Sea and don't pass up the chance to see the mighty structure of Petra, imposingly carved into pink sandstone cliffs. Many multi-day tours can help you see it all.
Australia's love affair with Japan is getting deeper and richer. It literally has something for everybody from pink-tinged cherry blossoms and powder-soft snow to traditional temples and onsens to quirky shopping and fashion.
Japan will also host the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the summer Olympics in 2020, so it's little wonder that G Adventures, Abercrombie & Kent, Hostelworld and Contiki have all tipped it to be big in 2019.
TripAdvisor has also seen an increase in unique searches year-on-year for Japan with Osaka up by 22.69%, Kyoto by 14.03% and Tokyo by 12.3%.
Finder's tip: Buy that JR Pass before you leave. This lets you use the JR rail system for a designated period of time and is only available to tourists.
6. Da Nang
Say "goodbye" to Ho Chi Minh City and hello to Da Nang. Located in Vietnam's north, low-cost carriers like AirAsia and Jetstar can get you there on the cheap, and from this city, it's an hour's drive to Hoi An, a beautiful town well-worth your time.
It might be the call of an alternate city or it might be the cheap flights – either way, Skyscanner has seen a 23% increase in searches for trips from Australia to Da Nang between 2017 and 2018. That's saying something.
Finder's tip: Da Nang has a beautiful beach, but it's also only an hour's drive from Hoi An. Split your time between both (because you can) and take the fast route by taxi between each. These are quite inexpensive, so it won't blow too much of that budget.
Locally, the place being tipped as your "go to in 2019" is Western Australia and its capital city, Perth. TripAdvisor has already noted a 15.08% increase in unique searches on its site for the city over the past year making it the city with the second highest increase in interest nationwide. It's only beaten by Gold Coast which, to be fair, hosted the Commonwealth Games this year which likely attributed to the increase.
Finder's tip: Whatever you do, don't pass up the chance to spend a day on Rottnest Island to meet and snap a shot of the happiest animals in the world, the quokka.
8. The Netherlands
Many of our friends have been making their way into Europe via the Netherlands, and why not?
With flights often under $900 return on 5-star airlines like Singapore Airlines, it's a bargain to get to, and once there, you can work the network of low-cost carriers and trains to get around the continent.
Already, TripAdvisor has seen an 11.77% increase in unique searches for its capital Amsterdam over the past year and Hostelworld has also seen the number of bookings to the country skyrocket, being its #12 most booked city in the world in 2018.
Finder's tip: Do as the locals do and tour the city by bike. The land is generally flat and very bicycle-friendly with dedicated lanes and mammoth parking stations for cyclists. If you don't want to do it yourself, book yourself a guided bike tour to get your bearings.
The Central Asian nation has slowly crept up on us and is the one to visit before the rest of the world catches on. In 2018, it loosened its visa requirements to allow 51 countries access via e-visa, including Australia.
Over the past five years, G Adventures has seen interest in its Uzbekistan tours increase by 72% and why not? It boasts beautiful mausoleums, one of which inspired the Taj Mahal, and is an architect's dream with colourful tiled mosques and train stations in spades.
Finder's tip: Beat your friends to this one – even the team at Finder hasn't broken this ground yet.
Both Hostelworld and Booking.com have pinned Georgia as one of the "off-the-beaten-track" places to be in 2019.
Its beautiful Old World charm is coupled with ancient ruins and delicious cuisine, and for anyone who wants to get out and explore, mountains rife with hiking trails aren't far away.
Finder's tip: Beat your friends to this one. The team at Finder has been eyeing it for a bit but still hasn't made it.
11. Durban/South Africa
Adventure tour company Contiki is also wagering South Africa as the nation to visit for those who prefer to get out and about. It comes up as #3 on its list of destinations on the rise for 2019 for its panoramic views off Cape Town's Table Mountain and the chance to go on safari.
Finder's tip: While safaris are definitely a South African experience worthy of anyone's bucket list, don't underestimate how much time you'll need in Cape Town. With dozens of beaches to visit, panoramic peaks to climb, colourful neighbourhoods to explore and the Cape Peninsula and wine regions nearby, you can easily spend weeks in the city without getting bored.
12. Bacalar, Mexico
Heard way too much about Maldives and want to go somewhere none of your friends have? You're not the only one. According to a study by Booking.com, over 50% off travellers feel the same and Bacalar could be the answer.
Escape has called it "the secret spot that's as beautiful as the Maldives" with its crystal clear waters, turquoise lake and white sands.
Finder's tip: Save this one for the honeymoon or anniversary – it's worth it.
Inspired? Curious? Why not see how much flights are to your top 2019 destination?
You never know. Prices could surprise you.
Top 3 travel trends of 2019
1. We're travelling more to learn more
The Appren-trip (apprenticeship trip) is top of our minds with Australians wanting to return smarter and more fulfilled than when they left. Booking.com has Appren-trips at the top of its "2019 travel trends" list with its survey finding that 68% of travellers considered travelling to learn a new skill, 54% want to participate in a volunteer trip and 52% want to take on a work placement.
2. We're becoming a nation of socially conscious travellers
There's bound to be a few shifts in destinations going forward if Booking.com's research is anything to go by. It found that 58% of travellers wouldn't visit somewhere if it negatively impacted the people living there.
3. We're inching closer to joining the mile high club
Australians are getting a "little luxe" with their flights, finding the happy medium of staying in cattle class (economy) and upgrading to first class by opting for premium economy. Bookings for premium economy are up 30% on Skyscanner between 2017 and 2018.