Lonely Planet Writer

Travel's next big thing: readers' predictions for 2012

We wanted to know what you think are 2012's hottest destinations, and boy did you tell us. The response to our Best in Travel Readers’ Choice Awards, alongside Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2012 guide, has left no part of the globe untouched, with recommendations for bustling cities and unknown gems, from the Arctic Circle right down to the southernmost tip of Chile. We also asked you to cast an eye over your crystal balls to predict the 'next big things' for travel in 2012. So following the results of the Readers' Choice Awards, here's a rundown of your best travel trend predictions.

1. Collaborative travel

Despite economies plummeting and a shaky job market, Lonely Planet readers don't plan to hibernate through the crisis. As purse strings tighten, travellers are getting more creative, and readers predict collaborative travel to be a big hitter for 2012. Couchsurfing, service sharing and skill swapping are smart ways to travel far on the power of generosity (as well as acquire enviable anecdotes about stopping over in a thatched-roof Japanese country house or crashing on a hip New Yorker's apartment floor). Whether you make a beeline for CouchSurfing and CrashPadder, arrange a group hitchhike or lift-share or soak up local knowledge online and on the ground, this coming year may see more of us than ever relying on the kindness of strangers.

2. Inspector Gadget

You may be bedding down on a local's floor and exchanging your home-made jam for a day's bike hire, but give up your technological toys? Not a chance. 2012 will see more travellers glued to their smartphones and walking into things than ever - your GPS didn't warn you about that lamp post, did it? The portfolio of travel apps on the market is getting more diverse by the day. Travel guides in ebook form reduce the risk of that weighty guide to Italy fraying your bag straps, and translation widgets like Lonely Planet's own app can even handle those tricky foreign-language menu moments for you. You might be creating an iPad scrapbook as you go, checking the weather in your next destination or scoping out restaurant reviews remotely, but will you be too busy looking for a wifi signal to make any eye contact?

3. Snail's pace travel

Could the age of frenetic airport dashes and madcap itineraries be at an end? Many of Lonely Planet's readers seem to hope so. Epic train rides, meandering road trips and your own two feet are what you say will be powering your travels next year. Classic tourist sights may take a back seat to the sheer joy of driving Australia's Great Ocean Road, or admiring the view from the Trans-Siberian railway. While some of you plan to staycation, others will be seeing just how far their own two feet can get them. 2012 is definitely the year to invest in a sturdy pair of hiking boots.

4. To infinity and beyond

A number of offbeat destinations were predicted to be huge for 2012, from Antarctica to Sudan, but Lonely Planet readers don't feel they're truly off the beaten track until they're bobbing in zero gravity. Yes, the biggest fantasy is space travel, and with the recent dedication of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic gateway to space, the dream of pleasure flights to space is getting stronger for adventure-minded travellers. The $200,000 price tag doesn't sit well with the revival of shoestring travel, but luckily there are plenty of earthly destinations to whet the appetite of wannabe astronauts. The final frontier is within reach, but it's still an awfully long way to hitchhike...

For all your travel inspiration and tips for the coming year from Lonely Planet's experts, pre-order Best in Travel 2012 now!

Best in Travel 2012 also available for pre-order on the iBookstore.