must-have travel experiences: travelers to Cuba in horse-drawn cart with grand building in background
One of the must-have travel experiences for the year ahead: Cuba, before its unique character changes

The beginning of a new year is a great time to think about the excitement of the journeys that lie ahead. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do there? So to find out what the coming year’s must-have travel experiences are, we turned to our experts: Virtuoso travel advisors.

When surveyed for the Virtuoso Luxe Report, professional advisors recommend eight experiences for their clients next year. Take inspiration from their ideas as you ponder your own trips.

Head for places with a sense of urgency

Many destinations are changing rapidly or are even at risk of disappearing. Virtuoso advisors say now’s the time to head to these locales or you may lose your opportunity to see them in their current, more pristine state.

Cuba tops this year’s Luxe Report as the destination most in danger of losing its distinctive character. Other places advisors recommend seeing now before more travelers arrive and their authentic quality shifts: Iceland, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Myanmar and Slovenia. The Arctic is another of the must-have travel experiences now, with melting glaciers impacting the region’s unique wildlife.

Seek out active journeys

Adventure travel soars even higher this year in the Luxe Report as a dominant trend. Virtuoso advisors recommend a variety of adventures all over the globe. One of their top picks, particularly for families, is an African safari.

Other active adventures on the list of must-have travel experiences: swimming with whale sharks in Mexico or Australia, hiking the Swiss Alps, snorkeling in Maui’s Molokini crater, horseback trekking in Machu Picchu or walking the Great Wall of China.

Take a cruise that’s your perfect match

Virtuoso advisors recommend cruising for its convenience, value and range of options. With today’s abundance of options, you’ll find one that’s a great fit for your preferences.

must-have travel experiences: two penguins in antarctica with cruise ship in background
Expedition cruising combines several must-have travel experiences: an adventure-focused sailing to a pristine destination

Expedition cruising is big right now due to its nature-focused, experiential itineraries to remote destinations. One example: sailing through the Northwest Passage, which wasn’t possible even a decade ago.

River cruising continues to grow in popularity, with lines debuting new ships to increase capacity. It offers passengers greater cultural immersion and the opportunity to explore the heart of a destination. Themed sailings allow people to explore their interests, whether they’re music, wine or golf.

Luxury cruising provides an exceptional experience. In general, luxury ships are smaller but include more perks such as all-suite accommodations and drinks. The service is highly attentive, with gratuities usually built into the fare. Because you’re one of hundreds, not thousands, of passengers, you’ll get to know your fellow cruisers. Some of them may even turn into friends and future travel companions.

Splurge on an exclusive experience

There’s nothing like having a luxurious private travel experience. Perhaps that’s why Virtuoso advisors report that exclusive-use travel is a key trend for the year ahead.

At a minimum, hire a personal guide for a few hours for a tour customized to your interests. You’ll discover much more about your destination that you might have missed otherwise.

Or at the high end, the sky is literally the limit for these exclusive must-have travel experiences. Board a private jet for a round-the-world journey. Rent a villa in a prime destination such as St. Barts. Or go over the top and rent the entire island. For those who love the water, charter a yacht – perhaps for a Croatian sail?

must-have travel experiences: five women in kitchen for cooking class
Eating like a local is hot, which includes taking a cooking class

Eat like a local

Culinary travel is hot for the coming year. And Virtuoso advisors recommend a variety of must-have travel experiences to explore the food culture unique to the place you’re visiting:

  • Take a cooking class in the local cuisine. This activity is especially great for families. Some classes are offered in the chef’s own home for a more authentic experience.
  • Tour local culinary landmarks as well as enjoy samples of the wares.
  • Visit markets, particularly historic ones where locals shop. You can also venture there with local chefs, then eat dishes they prepare from the day’s bounty.
  • Have a meal at a restaurant where locals go. Even better, sit with them and savor the camaraderie as well as the cuisine. Or enjoy a private dining experience in the home of a local chef.
  • Dine at a world-class restaurant. Perhaps it’s a Michelin-starred establishment. Or one helmed by a celebrated chef.

Reconnect with family

Travel with multiple generations is the top trend for the coming year, according to the Luxe Report. As people live longer, healthier lives, they’re able to continue traveling later in life. And they want to take the whole family with them.

Travel is an ideal way to share quality time and create memories together. And the must-have travel experiences for each family vary widely with their personal tastes. For some, a cruise to Alaska is perfect. Others want to rent a villa in Tuscany. Yet others are seeking out more unusual destinations away from the typical theme-park and sun-and-sand settings. One country on the rise with families: Japan.

Concentrate on your well-being

must-have travel experiences: woman practicing yoga pose on rocky beach with water in background
Another must-do trip in the coming year: a wellness journey

People are planning entire trips around their physical, mental and spiritual health. That might be at a luxury fitness boot camp, with its range of activities and healthy cuisine. Or a resort with signature wellness experiences, such as yoga and meditation or spa treatments with local ingredients. Or another option: a digital detox trip, where you put down your devices and live in the moment. Whatever the destination or style of journey, relaxation and renewal are at the top of the list.

Put a dent in your bucket list

Exploring new places was the top travel motivator in the Luxe Report. So it’s no surprise that Virtuoso advisors recommend that people go somewhere different and learn something new in the coming year. Perhaps it’s somewhere you’ve only dreamed of – somewhere that didn’t seem possible. Or maybe it’s somewhere out of the box that pushes your personal boundaries. Somewhere more remote or distinctive than anywhere you’ve been before.

If you’re looking for help planning your bucket-list journey, or any of these other must-have travel experiences, a Virtuoso advisor is here to help. On virtuoso.com, you can browse the array of professional travel experts who are ready to assist.

Your must-have travel experiences

We’d love to hear where you’re venturing next year and what you plan to do along the way. Please share your thoughts with us.