The travel industry’s top holiday hotlists of 2019 feature a mix of up-and-coming destinations, combined with revisiting some stalwart locations which are set for a resurgence in popularity this year. Your 2019 RCI Holiday Hotlist features a mix of European and long-haul destinations - for those of you residing outside Europe - all having RCI-affiliated resorts, accessible by RCI members, giving travellers a quality base from which to explore.
In our 2019 top holiday picks, we’ve included some new ways to revisit old favourites, taking you off the well-trodden tourist path. We also hope to inspire you with some destinations further afield which may be more accessible, both cost-wise and logistically, thanks to the increasing number of low-cost carriers and flight routes, as well as membership of our holiday exchange programme. Wherever 2019 may take you, we wish you many happy travels of discovery with family and friends. Perhaps you will make some new friends along the way!
Scotland - The land of legends
History and hospitality abound north of the Border in the land made famous by centuries of defiant Scots. Whether you choose to self-drive, fly-drive or even take the train, the landscape of Scotland is truly stunning to travel through, making the journey itself a memorable part of your holiday, as you can see from the main picture that opens this blog. Hiring a car or taking your own gives you the freedom to enjoy the numerous castles, ruins, wildlife, national parks and natural splendour in your own time.
Learn about the art of whisky making during a distillery tour, enjoy a round of golf on some of the UK’s most picturesque greens, take to a loch in a boat, or simply wander through one of the many national parks. Horse riding, cycling, walking and dolphin-watching are all available pastimes around the area if you want to get more active or, should you prefer a racier holiday pace, head into a town or city to enjoy some eclectic food, history and live music.
Edinburgh’s place at the heart of the UK’s industrialisation means there are plenty of museums and tours to enjoy in this city - with night-time ghost tours for the brave visitor! Why not visit during the world-famous Edinburgh Festival in August to enjoy free drama and comedy performances, as well as countless innovative, ticketed shows?
Cape Verde - For paradise-perfect beaches
Making its mark on the holiday destination radar over the past couple of years, Cape Verde’s photo-worthy beaches are just a six-hour flight from London. This group of islands is just one hour ahead of the UK time zone, meaning travellers here will not have any jetlag to contend with!
This up-and-coming destination presents visitors with a landscape shaped by a legacy of volcanic activity. You should definitely tear yourself away from the white-sand beaches to go on a tour to explore the lush valleys which, in contrast, are rich in sugar cane, vegetation and flowers.
Sleepy seaside villages and a handful of museums chart Cape Verde’s nautical past and present, with displays of treasure from sunken ships on show. Morro Negro lighthouse guards over Cape Verde’s most easterly point on Boa Vista, offering stunning views, while marine-nature enthusiasts won’t be disappointed with the tours to see Loggerhead turtles and Lemon sharks.
Turkey - Europe’s gateway to Asia
Turkey is tipped to make a resurgence in the popularity stakes during 2019. Some negative press may have caused concern over the past couple of years, however travellers are now starting to return to this wonderful country which is bursting with cultural stories to tell, and the finest food you’re ever likely to taste.
Where else can you lose yourself in ancient classical history in the morning, laze on the beach in the afternoon, and then enjoy apple tea, generously topped Turkish pide bread and baklava pastry for dinner, eaten in the warmth of the setting sun?
Explore Turkey’s waterfalls, forests and expansive coastline, or follow a walking trail to take in the view across its impressive natural landscape and national parks. Cappadocia’s fairytale rock formations, peppered with honeycomb dwellings carved out of the soft rock to serve as shaded homes for those who once lived on the stark and arid Anatolian plains, are a truly memorable sight and well worth a visit. Here you can take a sunrise hot air balloon ride to float across the magical terrain, which looks like a Tolkein-inspired film set panorama. Definitely a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience!
Germany - Summer solace and winter wonderland
Germany has plenty to offer anyone wanting to feast their eyes on fairytale architecture, explore vibrant cities or partake in outdoor pursuits set against a stunning countryside backdrop. All while keeping yourself well fed and ‘watered’ on the worlds’ finest sausages and beer!
The country’s former political and geographical regional divisions saw hundreds of castles and kingdoms built atop hillsides, each with stories to tell, and each looking like the set of a Hollywood film.
You can even visit the iconic palace which inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle: Neuschwanstein, which was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as his retreat. The 19th Century castle was designed by a theatrical designer, inspired by the sets and characters from the operas of world-famous composer, Richard Wagner, who was a personal friend of the king.
Wherever you stay in Germany, you can guarantee you won’t be far from a magical-looking castle or colourful wooden-beamed town.
In the summer, escaping to the German countryside can trick you into thinking you’re far away from Europe. East of Frankfurt, the state of Thuringia boasts the vast national park known affectionately as ‘The Thuringeti’ after its likeness to the African Serengeti. Nearby Wartburg Castle and the cobbled city of Erfurt, with its two enormous cathedrals perched next to each other overlooking the main square, make a visit to this area something really special.
Most major towns and cities also host Christmas markets at the end of the year, where you can also enjoy some fabulous skiing in the ski resorts bordering the Austrian Tyrol in the south of the country.
Florida - Family fun, especially for the big kids who don’t want to grow up!
My parents first visited Florida in their late 50s and headed straight for Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Centre to relive their childhood memories of the space race rocket launches. They followed this with trips to Walt Disney World, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot, a hovercraft trip in the Everglades National Park, and explored The Keys, adding on a short cruise to the Bahamas.
Based on the stories they tell me, the fact that they visited Florida later in life, without any children along on the trips, didn’t detract from the Orlando magic one bit. In fact, they say they enjoyed the flexibility of going where they wanted, whenever they wanted, and to stay out as long as the night lasted, wherever it took them.
They were also impressed by the generous meal portion sizes in the restaurants and regularly found themselves sharing dishes or opting for cost-effective ‘all you can eat’ buffets.
Theme-park lovers and die-hard Star Wars' fans will be keen to time their visit after August 2019 when the new Star Wars' theme-park - Galaxy’s Edge - opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando. Set over 14 acres, this innovative new venture is pitched as a ‘fully immersive experience'. Visitors will meet street-market traders, smugglers, bounty hunters and are even given the chance to fly the infamous Millennium Falcon - with the success of your piloting skills consequently shaping your experience of the park as you depart the spaceship!
With 125 RCI-affiliated resorts in the Orlando area of Florida alone, and flights to Florida getting cheaper all the time, you really should explore this natural and man-made playground in 2019. RCI members also benefit from deals on attraction tickets through RCI Travel.
South Africa - Wildlife, wine, weather and undoubtedly worth your while
One trip to South Africa almost isn’t enough. You could immerse yourself in the country’s many vast national parks with game drives, walks and visits to private reserves and rehabilitation centres, offering once-in-a-lifetime encounters with the wildlife that has made this country famous.
RCI has resorts signed up to its holiday exchange programme which benefit from great locations on the edge of several national parks, including the mighty Kruger National Park. There are many tours - including those on offer to RCI members through its travel services provider - so if you want to get up close to some of the world’s finest wild game, there will be a tour to take you there.
If you love the freedom of a road trip, you may want to hire a car and drive South Africa’s Garden Route. The 125-mile journey takes you through national parks, dense forests, coastal roads. Stop off for more than just leg-stretches en route to marvel at breathtaking beaches, shipwrecks and seals - you may even be lucky enough to spot some playful dolphins.
All of this with a daily dose of some of the world’s finest wine to wash down your evening meals, and not forgetting the customary ‘sundowner’ tipple, to be enjoyed under the setting of the African sun.
With 159 affiliated resorts throughout South Africa, our members can combine a week in one place with shorter stays in multiple destinations, including coastal resorts like Plettenberg Bay.
Spain - Explore a different side of this well-loved holiday destination
Spain has long been one of the most popular holiday destinations for Brits and Europeans. However, the land of sangria and paella has much more to offer than its well-known coastal destinations. Venture inland and you will not be disappointed with the change of landscape and the wealth of activities this brings.
Walking has to be one of the best ways of enjoying the natural environment, and Spain’s expansive national parks offer some amazing walks in abundance. Venture just a few miles from the main tourist haunts and you will find yourself immersed in the local wooded and wild areas, walking towards some mind-blowingly stunning views. Or, simply take a gentle wander on some of the easier trails through the national parks, and remember to take a picnic of local foods to fuel your day of walking.
RCI has more than 100 resorts affiliated to its holiday exchange programme throughout the ever-popular resorts of Spain and Andorra. With so many destinations on offer in the Spanish mainland, you could enjoy a two-week stay, taking one week by the coast and the second exploring further afield.
RCI members have access to resorts in a wide variety of areas, including coastal favourites and within the national parks. For example, there's the Country Club Ibipozo (D792) which lies within the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park. Situated within the province of Jaén, the park is the largest protected area of Spain and the second largest in Europe. Walking trails for all levels of fitness, waterfalls, rafting, cycling and horse riding are all on offer within the park and the Country Club Ibipozo is the ideal base, running daily organised hikes. The area is famous for its olive oil so make sure you drizzle some on your salad!
Australia's Gold Coast - A champion base to explore inland too
Queensland’s Gold Coast even sounds magical by name. It’s one of Australia’s top holiday destinations, largely due to its dreamy 35 miles of sandy beach, laid-back atmosphere and every amenity you could ever want.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit a few times over the years, staying in numerous accommodations, from a backpacker hostel, a beachfront AirBnB apartment with friendly hosts, to a friend’s house and a palatial room with a sea view at a Wyndham Hotel.
I’ve sat on the beach at Surfers Paradise, feasting on food from around the globe; watched the world’s finest athletes battle for Commonwealth Games medals; wandered for miles in flip flops along Currumbin beachfront, and danced barefoot in the sand until the early hours at a free concert with the country’s best performers and DJs.
This area has so much more to offer, however, than one of the best beaches in the world. Use one of the resort towns like Burleigh Heads, Broadbeach, Coolangatta, Mermaid Beach or Surfers Paradise as your base to drive west into the mountains, and you’ll find yourself in another enchanted world.
Hiring a car in Australia is easy and cost-effective if you shop around for deals. This will give you the freedom to discover the natural geographic wonders lying just an hour away from the buzz of the main beaches.
Take the winding road up through the rainforest to Tamborine Mountain and stop off to sample food and pick up a memento from local traders. Exploring the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk and Waitomo Glowworm Caves may sound energetic, but you can meander along at your own pace and take a shorter route. Time your visit to the Glowworm Caves at dusk for the ultimate magical encounter. You’ll pass a waterfall and, most likely, walk underneath dozing fruit bats on the way too.
The rainforest in this area plays host to the camp used by the ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here’ UK TV programme, but stick to the well-marked walking trails and you might even spot a koala just hanging out in the trees.
Wherever your passport may take you in 2019, we hope you've been inspired to explore further afield. Even venturing an hour away from regular tourist locations can give you a much more authentic regional experience, putting a new perspective on a favourite destination and making some remarkable memories you could have missed out on. There's a whole world out there waiting to be explored, and RCI membership can help you get there. If you want to start exploring the world of adventure that awaits RCI members, click on the Resort Directory button below.
If you own timeshare, but have never used it to travel the world, assured of enjoying comfortable home-from-home accommodation wherever you go, then you should think about joining the RCI Holiday Exchange programme. To find out more about RCI and to join our membership and start your own worldwide adventures, click on the Join RCI button below.