Welcome to our Top 10 destinations of 2014, the list of 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, the best new routes or the hottest hotels to stay in. So without further ado, here’s the run-down of the top 10 (in no particular order!).
10. Wellington, New Zealand
Why? Hello Hobbit lovers! so if last year, you took our advice, and are already planning to head to ‘Middle Earth’, be pleased that New Zealand is fully prepared to greet every passenger with a magical welcome. We’ve already featured quite a few of these on DesignAir, but Weta Workshop NZ have produced yet again 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 (including Smaug), 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 soon, 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.
09. London, United Kingdom
Why? So London may be in the shadow of the Olympics and The Jubilee, but it has now become one of the hottest destinations in Europe with a plethora of new hotel openings sitting alongside British Airways brand new A380 and 787 services, and also Virgin Atlantic’s A330 fleet. London with the exchange rate as it is, is also a bit of a shopping Mecca right now. Now the time is to snap up some bargains in luxury.
Who to travel with? Whilst Virgin has ruled the roost for a few years now at London with it’s impeccable Upper Class and Premium Economy experiences, British Airways are fighting back hard. What does this mean for passengers? Fundamentally, just more for less. With the new A380 and 787 services from BA, the new aircraft and upgraded cabin products make for a spacious experience. Our recommendation, the A380 first class cabin. www.ba.com
Where to stay? Whilst there are hundreds of luxury hotels in London, why not stay at the best of the best. As recommended by a couple of our London based, judges, why not head to Claridges, made more famous recently by the latest TV programmes, featuring our newest judge, Thomas Kochs, general manager of the hotel expect supreme opulence and cream teas to die for. Or if you are looking for a new property, head to Rosewood London, a super slick property on the other side of the West End, with ‘best-of-British’ uniforms designed by our other judge, Nicholas Oakwell of NOUniform. Not sure which to stay at? Why not a couple of days at each property!
08. Buenos Aires
Why? What with TAM’s awesome new First Class international cabin, and LAN’s five amazing new lounges, including one that has opened up in Buenos Aires, South America is becoming a very hot property. As for LAN? Take it from us, expect some exciting news in 2014.
Who to travel with? If you haven’t already guessed, LATAM group is starting to become an internationally recognised carrier that could threaten even the most established of carriers. The cabin offering has already improved over the past 12 months, and is set to continue over the next 12. Whatsmore, with the beautifully designed lounges appearing across South America, you wouldn’t be blamed for not wanting to leave the airport! www.lan.com & www.tam.com.br
Where to stay? Once you have pealed yourself away from the new cabins on the aircraft and lounges in the airports, when not head to our favourite, if not perhaps one of the more established hotels in Buenos Aires, Hotel Faena, designed by Philippe Starck. The wonderful red-bricked building is the perfect designer bolt-hole in the southern hemisphere, with a plethora of nearby buildings turning the whole area into an arts centre, perfect for browsing, once tanned by the long hotel swimming pool.
Why? Taiwan, especially for Europeans and Americans alike, is still very much under the radar, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t full of luxury hotels brimming with excellent dining options and amazing customer service. Taiwan is a destination that really should be explored, as it has some stunning scenery, and is well connected to the rest of Asia.
Who to travel with? Whilst the airline may not be on everyone’s radar right now, with our secret knowledge of cabin improvements underway, 2014 will certainly be a carrier that all eyes will be turning to. China Airlines currently have the right kind of package, (bar the slightly older cabin styles), so no doubt, Taiwan will become a destination to start considering in the near future. And if you are travelling from America, don’t forget to try out their first class, it really is amazing and no doubt in the near future, will be out of this world. www.china-airlines.com
Where to stay? The Lalu Sun Lake Hotel in Taiwan has been visited by the great and good, and whilst not perhaps one of the most modern hotels, this hotel, situated in the heart of the country, set against the country’s largest fresh water lake is the perfect place to discover the real Taiwan. Not only that, but with it’s super slick design and long swimming pool with a view to die for, this is also a chic long weekend getaway retreat for anyone living in Asia. With the clean lines and well appointed bedrooms and public spaces, the 3 hour drive into the heart of Taiwan is an easy burden to carry!
06. Maui, Hawaii, USA
Why? Whilst the small, but more famous island of O’ahu, with it’s Waikiki beach, Honolulu International Airport, and Pearl Harbour all making for the 1st stop to any Hawaiian holiday, it’s Maui that our eyes are turning to now. With amazing resorts and hotels, and the ‘Road to Hana’ coastal drive that is 3 hours of torturous hair-pin bends or the volcano on the southern part of the island, this less frequented but equally amazing island gets our vote.
Who to travel with? Hawaiian Airlines have recently undergone a massive fleet renewal, offering a wealth of A330’s for their long haul ventures, meaning extra comfort, IFE on demand, and new business classes. But for those that can’t afford the front of the plane, the airline has started to offer ‘Extra Comfort‘ economy seating. At 36″ seat pitch, this is perfect for a little more stretch for a little more price on a 6 hour trip from the mainland. It’s available to purchase from January! Whilst these flights are all mainly to Honolulu, consider a connection to Maui, or why not stay the night, and rest your head at the Halekulani hotel, still one of the best hotels on the island. www.hawaiianairlines.com
Where to stay? We have always liked the Andaz brand here at thedesignair.net, it certainly has a level of urban cool, oozing out of each one of its properties. But their latest venture Andaz Maui at Wailea is just a Hawaiian paradise. With 297 rooms, this medium sized resort is all about offering more. The design is exquisite and with 5 different dining options, 5 pools (including an adults only one) a huge spa and more activities to do than you can imagine, you could holiday in the resort and never need to step outside. (although we do recommend this) This level of luxury is making Hawaii step up its game, lose its ‘Hawaii 5-0’ image and become a truly international destination.
05. Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Why? Hong Kong has always been a hub of business in Asia, and with the wealth of airlines now operating to and from Hong Kong, it has become a great connection hub to the rest of Asia. But what trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, or even neighbouring gambling Mecca, Macau. But it is Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy, Business and First Class cabins that make us really want to travel to Hong Kong… Any excuse!
Who to travel with? Cathay Pacific is our preferred choice of airline to this BladeRunner city. With their new 777 cabin products, flying truly is a comfortable and enjoyable experience. Our tip though is once you are in Hong Kong, find any excuse to check in as early as you can, and make camp in one of their lounges. The lounges are phenomenal and were recently awarded thedesignair.net’s Top Lounge 2013. Check out our business class review, and take our word for it, this is one airline, we would readily book again with. www.cathaypacific.com
Where to stay? Whilst there are a wealth of properties in Hong Kong, our regular home from home is Upper House, a swire property that is like staying in your wealthy friends apartment. The wonderful finishes and simple layouts make way for fantastic views and a great location. Designed by Andre Fu, the property may not be boasting a wealth of restaurants, spas and amenities, but there certainly are enough for a business traveller, and after all, with the whole of Hong Kong Island literally on your doorstep waiting to be discovered, why keep yourself penned in. Go explore!
04. LikuLiku, Fiji
Why? Who doesn’t dream of sandy beaches, over-water villas, remote tropical islands and not get a warm fuzzy feeling. Fiji may be one of the destinations that most people in the Northern hemisphere have always dreamed of, but reality has often bitten back, proving long flights on once uncomfortable unknown airlines could easily put passengers off. However, Fiji Airways, originally Air Pacific, has reformed to create an airline that everyone would want to travel with.
Who to travel with? Award-winning Fiji Airways is one of the only major long haul carriers to frequent the islands, so options are limited, but for once this is a good thing. Fiji Airways new A330 fleet, has now been fully delivered meaning flights from both Los Angeles and Hong Kong, can connect passengers to the tropical haven in speed and finally, comfort. The new business class seats may not be fully flat seating, but they are comfortable enough for the journey, and the warm Fijian hospitality will make sure you arrive refreshed and already in you own little bit of paradise. The dining and IFE onboard will also keep you more than happy on the 10 hour trips. www.fijiairways.com
Where to stay? Fiji has a wealth of hotels, and many chains have a property in the archipelago. LikuLiku Lagoon Hotel however, is a Fijian owned luxury resort that looks like something from a dream. The small property, with a few over-water bures means you can select what type of holiday you want to take, either a beach vacation, a tropical island holiday or whiling away your hours living on the waters. Our recommendation, if you can afford it, is the over-water bures, as you truly do feel like you are in paradise. This little gem, may not be as pricey as Laucala Island, last years top destination, but it offers the same luxury, at a fraction of the price.
03. Bali, Indonesia
Why? Indonesia has recently opened its doors to the world, with home-grown airline Garuda Indonesia massively improving its image and service offering thanks to its Quantum Leap programme. The new fleet of 777s mean that this once rich and powerful playground to Australasia is now on the tips of tongues of well travelled souls around the world. As Garuda’s expansion plan over the next few years means for more connections to further afield, now definitely is the time to visit.
Who to travel with? Garuda Indonesia is a natural choice. With their beautifully appointed 777 fleet, including their brand new first class, one of the only airlines to actually introduce a first class (rather than remove it) in recent years, this is one airline to take advantage of. For those in Europe, the new London service launching in March 2014 will easily connect Jakarta to Europe making for another option for the Kangaroo route, and also bringing some of the harder to reach Southern Asian destinations to Europe’s door. www.garuda-indonesia.com
Where to stay? If it is the pinnacle of understated opulence you are after, look no further than Aman Resorts, an international property portfolio that has some of the most iconic and historical places in the world, respectfully updated and turned into luxury accommodation that falls into the ‘money-can’t-buy’ category. Amankila is one of five Aman Resorts in Indonesia, and this Bali bolt-hole, is one of the most peaceful we could find. This intimate 34 bedroom property is situated on the hills, offering wonderful views of the oceans, and if you think you will miss the water, the three infinity pools will more than sate your appetite. Aman Resorts are by far some of the best hotels in the world, and this property is the perfect example of how they do things right.
02. Los Angeles, California, USA
Why? The City of Angels is massive, anyone that has been there has probably been swamped by it’s enormity. To many of our friends and colleagues, they see this as a negative, feeling the city has no soul. As we have spent many a trip there, we have to disagree, and usually ask people to think of the city as a group of villages, interconnected. What you would get out of West Hollywood, wouldn’t be the same as Santa Monica. Bel Air, is totally different to Venice Beach. So if you have visited before, and not enjoyed it, why not give it a go again. Now that the airport is served by more A380 carriers than any other airport in the world. It’s easy to travel there in style!
Who to travel with? Emirates Airlines has to be the epitome of luxury, the 3rd longest route in the world, and the longest A380 route in the world, this is one 16 hour trip you could look forward too, especially in Business or First Class. To celebrate the airline has updated it’s massive ICE IFE and made sure that the full collection of Oscar winning films is onboard to keep you entertained. The A380 with Emirates also offers an onboard bar, and showers for its first class passengers. www.emirates.com
Where to stay? If glamour is your thing, Hotel Bel Air is a favourite of ours, with only 103 rooms spread over 12 acres, in a city that keeps on sprawling, this is a perfect haven in the heart of the action. Situated only moments away from the best shopping on Rodeo Drive, and only a 5 minute cab ride away from some of the best restaurants that the city has to offer, this beautifully chic hotel is retro-Hollywood glamour at its best. The recently completed renovations in the hotel may even have you wake up feeling like you are in a Hollywood film alongside Rita Hayworth. Now this is what LA is about!
01. Chengdu, China
Why? So Chengdu in China may be known by name, but for most people that’s it. In fact most people have an image of a Panda when they think of Chengdu. You would be right, Chengdu is the official base of Panda breeding and research. But it recently has become a destination that all airlines want to fly to. Qatar Airways, British Airways, United all started flying this year amongst others to this southern Chinese city, meaning tourism will soon start flocking in, so why not beat the crowds.
Who to travel with? Qatar Airways would be our airline of choice on this route, flying 3 times a week from Doha, with onward connections, the award-winning business cabin is the perfect start to any trip, and with their brilliant lounges (such as their London lounge) you can expect opulence, fine dining and a comfortable sleep the whole way there. www.qatarairways.com
Where to stay? Six Senses is the main reason to visit Chengdu. Their brand new Qing Cheng Mountain property which is due to open in 2014, sits just moments away from a nearby UNESCO world heritage site. With only 111 suites, the property is still fairly small and intimate, and is designed sympathetically to the area. Offering both indoor and outdoor pools for all-year-round enjoyment along with a variety of dining options and spa, the luxurious and unique hotel will be a perfect base for exploring the locale, which includes the world’s largest stone carved buddha, the legendary silk route, and naturally, the conservation programme for the Giant Panda. This is one property that should be on anyone’s bucket list.