What’s trending in travel right now?
It might be easier to ask what’s not trending.
“There’s something for everyone and in every style of travel,” said Kate McGowan, manager of travel and branch marketing for AAA Northeast.
To discover the freshest finds in the travel world, we consulted experts, travel studies and data trends. Four main trends stood out, ranging from exotic locales and adventure travel to tried-and-true family favorites, with one consistent theme: There really is a style of travel to suit everyone. Here’s the hot list for 2019.
Adventure is Where It’s At
Small-group adventure travel is the new way to see the world. But don’t worry; adventure travel no longer means adrenaline-drenched activities like rock climbing or bungee jumping – rather, most people think of it as experiencing a new culture, according to a 2018 Adventure Travel Trade Association study. Experience is the key word here. After years of being buried in their smartphones and laptops, tourists are eager to connect with people and share experiences, whether it’s learning to make pasta in Rome or strolling through a riotously colored farmers market in Marrakesh.
Today’s tours consist of activities that “you would never find in the traditional tourism industry, such as going thrifting with a former Jean-Paul Gaultier designer in Barcelona, or eating with a food blogger in Queens,” said Jamie Wong, founder/CEO of Vayable, a travel sharing website, in a recent study on experiential travel done by Peak and Skift. The newly formed Club Adventures allows travelers to journey the world, living and exploring like locals and taking part in active pursuits like bike tours, cooking classes, kayak excursions and more.
So far, Morocco has been Club Adventures’ best-selling trip, featuring activities like camping in the desert, camel rides and cooking a meal in a local host’s home. Other popular journeys include in-depth trips to discover ancient Peru, the lush landscapes of Bali, seaside wonders in Italy’s Cinque Terre and Amal Coast, and the medieval history of the Balkans.
Cruising Continues to Swell
More than 27 million people were expected to cruise in 2018, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. And just like with adventure travelers, cruisegoers are looking for meaningful experiences both on and off the ship. If you’re worried about booking a trip to the Caribbean, don’t be: The Area has bounced back after hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the area in 2017, with most hotels, resorts and other hot spots back in action.
“The Caribbean is back,” McGowan said. “It’s open for business, and all the cruise ships are going there.”
As for the ships themselves, well, they’re getting bigger and loaded with more high-tech goodies and toys (robotic bartenders anyone?). And forget about being able to fully unplug on board a cruise ship: Every cruise line is competing for the fastest Wi-Fi speeds, so checking your email or uploading the perfect sunset shot onto your Instagram account won’t be a problem.
Look for more wellness amenities on board, as well. Cruise lines are catering to health-conscious travelers with more healthy eating options, wellness seminars, walking tracks, customized fitness programs and active excursions, according to a study by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association.
Other trends to look for in 2019: Conservation efforts abound, whether it’s curbing plastic straws or setting up solar panels on ship; more travel to colder climates like Alaska, the Antarctic and Scandinavian countries; and more millennials taking to river cruising.
Europe is Always a Good Idea
Readers of a certain age may remember a “Saturday Night Live” skit where Mike Myers, playing a Scottish shop owner, insists “If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!”
Almost three decades later, tourists are taking heed: Travelers are flocking to Scotland in record amounts. Nearly 3.2 million people visited in 2017, an increase of 17 percent, according to the country’s Office for National Statistics. The Scottish government attributes the rise to the popularity of the Starz TV series “Outlander,” its Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology and digital tourism campaigns.
Elsewhere in Europe, countries like Italy, Spain and Greece are always abuzz with tourists. But countries like England, Ireland, Iceland and Croatia have been seeing more visitors as well, which AAA Northeast’s McGowan credits to the “pop culture phenomenon” – when fans want to visit the real-life places where their favorite TV shows and movies are made.
“People want to see where ‘Game of Thrones’ is filmed,” she said. “I love ‘The Crown,’ so I want to see where the Queen Mother vacations. Visitors want to see their favorite Hollywood sites up-close.”
And expect U.S. travelers to keep visiting their favorite European destinations: London, Paris, and Reykjavik, Iceland.
Disney and Universal Unwrap New Goodies
Another trend to watch in 2019, courtesy of the hip millennials: 44 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds say they want to revisit a vacation they took as a child, according to a study by Booking.com.
If, by chance, those visits take them to central Florida, they’ll find tons of nostalgic delights as well as some new cutting-edge attractions. Both Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort have been expanding year after year, McGowan said, with seemingly no end in sight.
Perhaps Disney’s most-anticipated arrival has been Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a 14-acre wonderland devoted to all things Force-related that’s set to open this fall at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Fans can also look forward to a “Star Wars”-themed hotel in the near future. Epcot will get a new “Guardians of the Galaxy” roller coaster and a space-themed restaurant, as well.
Over at Universal, a new Harry Potter ride is coming to Hogsmeade at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in early 2019.
The resort’s newest value hotel – the Endless Summer Resort-Surfside Inn and Suites – will open in the summer, providing guests with another budget-friendly option, and giving millennials – and other young-at-heart travelers – a chance to relive their childhood dreams.