As we head into 2013, it’s time to start planning the best places to go for the year ahead. Here at TheDesignAir we’ve wrapped up the best 10 destinations, whether it be for the best in air travel, best new airports or the hottest hotels to stay in. So without further ado, here’s the run-down of the top 10.
10. Wellington, New Zealand
Why? So Hobbit lovers will already be planning to head to ‘Middle Earth’, but New Zealand is already prepared to greet every passenger with a Gollum-style welcome. As already featured on DesignAir, Weta Workshop NZ have produced some mind blowing sculptures at the airport to celebrate the biggest export from the country for the last 10 years.
Who to travel with? Naturally for a full experience you’ll want to fly with Air New Zealand, with its brand new livery, awesome new inflight products, such as the skycouch, super stylish premium economy or the ever popular business premier, you’ll be spoilt for choice and comfort on your way to this magical country. Let’s not forget their fantastic recent safety video, with a cameo from Peter Jackson no less. Air New Zealand are a favourite for us here at DesignAir and we are looking forward to doing a trip report on them in the New Year, so stay tuned. www.airnz.com
Where to stay? If you want to stay in a true North Island Lodge, there is no better than Huka Lodge, just a 1.5 hour helicopter journey from Wellington (or 3.5 hour drive) which is a real getaway place to stay. Situated on a rapid flowing river, surrounded by forest, and fishing being the catch of the day, this 20 room retreat will make you feel as if you are living Lord Of The Rings as a fully fledged Aragorn. Our tip, head for the Owners Lodge, as it really is a magical place to spend a few lazy days.
9. Dubai, UAE
Why? Dubai is now having a big resurgence after its dip (read:- mass exodus) a few years back, now is a great time to go. Dubai has finally stepped away from the construction site image it once had, and has instead now become a sophisticated destination for those looking for fine dining, amazing cocktails and refined service. Let’s not forget the world’s biggest tallest and best that the city can constantly provide.
Who to travel with? Whilst Emirates is still going strong, and the perfect excuse to book yourself onto an A380, Virgin Atlantic have recently added Dubai to its list of A330 destinations featuring the brand new Upper Class suite, housing the world’s longest airline bar. Would seem quite apt, going to Dubai to start with the longest before even getting there. www.virginatlantic.com
Where to stay? Whilst only a short drive away from the hubbub of Dubai, frequent visitors may relish the idea of the Banyan Tree Al Wadi, a resort stylised like a fort in the middle of the Arabian desert. This fort just happens to be one of the most technologically advanced you’ll ever find. Accommodation is in the form of well appointed tented villas with private plunge pools. Obviously being a Banyan Tree resort, service is faultless and those looking for the beach will enjoy private beach access at their sister property Ras Al Khaimah Beach.
8. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Why? So, let’s not forget the Mayans got it wrong, and the world hasn’t ended. So why not head off to Mexico to tell them ‘I told you so’ …And currently there’s no better place than Puerto Vallarta. It’s an up and coming destination, recently getting a few new routes to and from the airport there, and the hotels and weather are hard to beat. Plus with the amazing Imanta Resort on the beach, with only a handful of rooms, now is the time to go whilst it’s still pretty much under the radar.
Who to travel with? Naturally, one of the best connections from around the world, flying from San Francisco and Los Angeles, Virgin America is the airline of choice, and their First Class product is really the way to arrive in style with their super relaxing white leather recliner chairs, AVOD and amazing dining options. www.virginamerica.com
Where to stay? Definitely worth taking a look at is the still undiscovered yet beautiful Imanta Resort with infinity pools, stunning service and private villas situated in acres upon acres of untouched Mexican rain forest. Seclusion, privacy and luxury are the words of choice this year and Imanta is abundant with them. The best time of year to visit is Late Summer to Autumn, where the humidity drops, however this area of Mexico gets more than its fair share of sunshine, making it the perfect all-year-round resort. For even more of a special occasion, why not consider renting the whole place out!
7. Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Why? Hong Kong hasn’t lost its glamour, and being neighbour to the now famous Macau (thanks to 2012 blockbuster Skyfall) there is even more reason to fly here. Macau is just a short hop on Turbojet from Hong Kong Harbour. Yet Hong Kong has so much going on you could spend days on end here. Since the low cost carriers are starting to populate the asia region, Hong Kong is becoming a suitable base to explore the rest of Asia.
Who to travel with? It would be wrong of us not to applaud Cathay Pacific for their advancements over the last year. Premium economy now on certain flights, and for those at the front of the plane, upgrading the coffin like herringbone seats they had to larger more private ones are definately a good reason to pay out a little more for your long haul comfort. Cathay, like most legacy carriers recently, have had to all up their game, and refreshed generally tired looking cabins after a few years of holding onto their coffers. And let’s not forget their award winning lounges! www.cathaypacific.com
Where to stay? Whilst almost everyone fights the old-age question, ‘Kowloon or Island’, and each side taking the edge from the other, currently the fight is favouring the Island, with The Upper House still drawing in the super wealthy and uber-cool. This is less hotel, and more a home away from home. Although, if our home looked anything like this, we wouldn’t ever travel again. This hotel, owned by the Swire group is still seen by Hong-Kongers as an impressive address on the island. So take advantage of the views and the cuisine at one of Hong Kong’s finest design-led hotels.
6. Seoul, South Korea
Why? Whilst Seoul is becoming one of the hottest destinations this year, and the region is still pretty undiscovered, the best reason to visit is to check our Incheon airport. Voted airport of the year 2012, this super slick airport is the best welcome you could ask for. Whilst attracting new international airlines such as one of our favourites – Hawaiian and the likes of BA, there is only one real airline of choice.
Who to travel with? Korean Air is one of the most elegant carriers in today’s market. The uniforms are clean, fresh and elegant. The A380 is definitely Korean’s flagship airframe, with a lounge-bar that belongs in a design hotel and first class seats to die for. Whilst they aren’t as lavish or private as Singapore Airlines First Class suites, the service is impeccable, and the amount of personal space is vast. And if you need to stretch your legs, there is always the onboard retail shop at the back of the plane to do Duty Free shopping as it really should be done. www.koreanair.com
Where to stay? The W Hotel Walkerhill is one of the coolest places to stay in Seoul. It’s overloaded with awesome facilities, such as a spa with a Hammam and 17 treatment rooms, or an indoor heated infinity pool with a view of the city. Highly ranked on trip advisor, it’s less about hype and more about a hotel that delivers on it’s promises. For some great cocktails go to the Woobar, or great views, just head to the lounge to sit back and take it all in. For some great interior design, whilst away your time drinking sake in the Namu/Liquid bar.
5. London, United Kingdom
Why? London has proved itself to the world with a successful Olympic and Jubilee party. Now the party is over, head over to London where you will be able to get hold of a great deal and enjoy a slightly less hectic pace of life. Summers can be warm and winters are perfect for shopping and enjoying London’s nightlife. London has had millions invested into the infrastructure and clean up of the city, leaving it sparkling new. For the bargain hunters, Bicester Village is only an hour away by coach to stock up on all your brand names at a fraction of the price too. Perhaps you want to time your visit to coincide with the birth of the next heir to the throne.
Who to travel with? Although there is to this day still much secrecy about the new livery to AA’s new 777-300ER fleet, the interior has been revealed and it’s a good enough reason to travel to London for us, as this will be one of the first routes for the new-era American carrier. This new airplane for AA has got all the mod-cons we come to expect of European and Asian carriers, although a nod to both BA and Virgin, as they are the two best routed carriers that Heathrow have. www.aa.com
Where to stay? Although the secret doors have been opened to Claridges with the successful TV documentary run by the BBC just a few weeks back, there is no better, or more British place to stay, than at the champion of London hotels. Harking back to an era of old, cream teas, champagne and butler service are all order of the day. No doubt you’ll feel more like Royalty than the British royalty actually do. For a bit of true glamour, try the Linley suites. With their dining experience last year, hosted by The world’s best restaurant Noma, it is anyone’s guess what will ensue next year!
4. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Why? So Brazil recently announced it’s pumping money into its air-infrastructure, meaning more airports (800 if you believe the government) and more routes opening up. This means that Brazil is going to become a hot new destination in a couple of years. Before the masses arrive, now is the time to visit if you haven’t been before.
Who to travel with? TAM’s new first class cabin for their 777 is also a good reason to travel. It’s more designer sitting room than airline cabin. Designed by UK firm Priestmangoode. TAM have recently lifted the bar, after merging with LAN creating South America’s super airline group LATAM. If you think it couldn’t get any better, they are one of the first airlines to bring a real coffee experience to the sky, with Nespresso machines now installed too. Finally, a coffee you can actually be proud to drink at 35,000 ft. tam.com.br
Where to stay? Sao Paulo is the 7th biggest city in the world, so there are a lot of people, and a lot of hotels. But if you want one with character and charm, there is no better than the Fasano. 30’s reincarnate is what this hotel is all about, and has the feeling of a romantic epic movie from the 30’s mixed with a little Indiana Jones. Located in the heart of the designer shopping district, this hotel is conveniently located, and for those weary world travellers, their spa will more than sort you out.
3. Riviera Maya, Mexico
Why? So the Yucatan peninsular is having a massive resurgence of cool (especially now it hasn’t fallen into the ocean in a cataclysmic event) and more and more airlines are trying to gain access to this popular tourist spot. What’s more, with a wealth of Mayan ruins to discover, perhaps it is time you went and found out why the world didn’t end? (We did and we are feeling very smug about it.) Just avoid hurricane season if you want constant good weather, but go on the cusp of it, if you want cheap rates.
Who to travel with? British tourists are one of the highest imports into the Yucatan, and luckily for them, the brand new 787 dreamliner will be one of the options. Thomson are bringing the 787 to Cancun from a variety of UK airports (still to be confirmed) but with their new cabin and new livery, package holiday travel has never been so good. For those wanting to fly with a legacy carrier, Virgin and BA offer the same amount of comfort (And as of January Virgin will now only have their upgraded fleet flying from Gatwick) For US travellers, try Virgin America or AA. flights.thomson.co.uk
Where to stay? The Riviera Maya is what you would expect, a row of densely populated hotels lining the beach. To break away from the masses, there are two hotels you need to try. For a bit of luxury with all the trimmings, head to the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, where you will feel like a king. For more simple and honest Mexican luxury, (and our favourite), go to the Viceroy Riviera Maya. A true back-to-nature luxury, where the service is impeccable, the staff are phenomenal, especially Pepe and Hector. For some real luxury, try out the Premium Villas, well worth the money!
2. Honolulu, Hawaii
Why? So Hawaii is on a massive drive to try and become the hub of the Pacific. And it’s doing well. With the massive expansion of Hawaiian Airlines this year (especially to many Asia cities), the home of Hula has never been more accessible. Hawaiian’s new fleet of A330’s are the best way to visit this Pacific paradise, and with talk of the likes of Southwest and Virgin America joining in, along with Allegiant also flying there already, there are plenty of options to suit all budgets
Who to travel with? With AVOD and brand new planes, Hawaiian really is the best airline to fly with. Their first class, if you can afford, is well worth the money, although only recliner style chairs (so no really good sleep to be found) the food is well worth the sacrifice. One of the best menu’s you’ll find, this Hawaiian Tapas style menu is far too good not to ask for seconds. With the 787 now bringing Hawaii into range of Europe, now is the best time to go, before European voices are the only one’s you’ll hear. Let’s also talk interisland travel, whilst Hawaiian has an amazing network and schedule to cover the islands, we are still wanting to go on Island Air, to experience their new livery and new product. www.hawaiianair.com
Where to stay? There are so many choices in Honolulu, it’s hard to find a choice best suited to you, however there are two must go-to’s. The first is The Modern Honolulu, which is a minimalist chic bolt- hole in a sea of Hawaiian prints. More so a destination hotel because of Morimoto’s restaurant at the hotel, which is the only place to eat in Hawaii, already bringing in celebrities such as the president. Well worth the visit, and the Tofu is really out of this world. However if a more classic and classy affair is in order, go to the Halekulani, a timeless, countless-award-winning hotel that really is the epitome of luxury. If you can afford to go, this is the hotel that you’ll never want to leave.
1. Laucala Island, Fiji
Why? The best airline livery launch of this year has to be that of Fiji airways, and their new inflight product is something that matches that ethos. Finally flying to the true pacific gem has never been more comfortable. More so than ever, Fiji is a real escape from the modern rat-race that most of us are subject to, and whilst the long flight-times from asia and America have been somewhat detrimental to wanting to go there, the new comfort of Fiji Airways has made the decision to go much easier.
Who to travel with? Well, no surprises here. Fiji Airways (Formerly Air Pacific – Formerly Fiji Airways) is probably the only airline of choice. Great new cabins on their A330’s launching 2nd Quarter of 2013, are a new era in the airlines timeline. Amazing recliner seats with AVOD are a huge step forward for the ageing 747 fleet they have and there is no question that we will be jumping at the first opportunity to do a trip report on them when the new fleet comes out. http://www.fijiairways.com
Where to stay? This tiny little island is home to one of the most exclusive and opulent hotels we know about. Laucala Island Resort is a real slice of heaven. Only 25 luxury residences dot the island, featuring over water villas and forest villas, not forgetting the 5 restaurants and bars that make this even more luxurious. Everything here feels like a part of nature, natural woods and wickerwork embellish the island showing the craft of the islanders whilst still providing every bit of luxury you could ask for. And as for the final winning part of the formula? How do you get here from the main airport? On the hotels own private aircraft. Perfect!