What's hot in travel for 2013

DOWN UNDER: Dubai's planned underwater hotel features a discus-shaped residential building connected to another discus above water.
DOWN UNDER: Dubai's planned underwater hotel features a discus-shaped residential building connected to another discus above water.

1. Agora Place Asakusa is a recently refurbished and stylish budget hotel in central Tokyo where you can choose which amenities and even furniture -- including refrigerator -- you wish to have in your room. ''The ''Style My Stay'' concept works with guests choosing how to fit out their room from a lobby shop that has everything from pillows, to tea bags, hair dryers and chic stationery. There are also pet-friendly rooms. English web site under construction but see the hotel at agoraplace-asakusa.com.

2. Nextpedition is an American Express holiday booking service in the US that customises a trip to your profile but keeps the details secret until the last minute. The destination and itinerary details are revealed via smartphone day-by-day, only when you need to know. See nextpedition.com.

3. Nikoi Island. Former Australian banker Andrew Dixon has gone back to basics, building a Robinson Crusoe style getaway (''it's not a resort'') on the 15-hectare Nikoi Island near Singapore. He has 15 driftwood beach houses, booked way in advance. Next project is more barefoot luxury at Bawah Island, also near Singapore, where he plans to put luxury tents. See nikoi.com and bawahisland.com.

4. Mygola is an online travel planning service. Ask a question about your trip and the Mygola people who are expert at internet searches will reply with the most up-to-date information about flights, hotels and anything else you could possibly want to know. Answers are based 90 per cent on technology and 10 per cent on human judgment and come back within 24 hours. Pay what you like for one answer, $US30 for unlimited questions about a single trip and $US99 a year for any number of trips. See mygola.com.

5. A caravan holiday has taken on a whole new meaning at Berlin's Hutten Palast, a former vacuum cleaner factory, that is full of old vans and wooden huts. The retro caravans are renovated and include outside picnic tables to enhance the feeling of the great outdoors.  There's also a cafe and garden in the factory. Budget priced. See huttenpalast.de.

6. An atomic bomb site in the Xinjiang area of northwest China is being developed for tourism. China's first atomic bomb was developed there and tests were carried out during the 1960s and until 1996. The zone has been declared  a ''red tourism site'', which are chosen by the Communist Party to celebrate important events in its history, according to Telegraph reports. Visitors will find laboratories and dormitories scientists used and an anti-air strike tunnel.

7. It looks like a flying saucer that has landed from Mars but it's a half-submerged hotel, with some rooms 10 metres below the surface. The Water Discus Hotel is planned for Dubai with some estimates that it will cost $US120 million. Apart from the rooms with coral views, there will also be a submerged bar and a dive centre. See the concept drawings and virtual video at deep-ocean-technology.com.

8. Free website iflybags.com provides up-to-date details on baggage allowances for more than 300 airlines. Enter your route and number of bags and the site will tell you if any extra fees will be incurred. Obviously built for the American market because weights are expressed in pounds not kilograms.

9. North Korea's 105-storey Ryugyong Hotel -- nicknamed the ''Hotel of Doom'' and widely derided for its ugliness -- is scheduled to open next July or August after years of delays. Construction on the pyramid-shaped building started in 1987. It will have 3000 rooms, will be operated by Kempinski and will be the world's tallest hotel at 330 metres.

10. ''Me No Speak'' is a pocket-sized book or app that solves language difficulties. You just need to point to pictures or basic phrases to get your point across, from ordering sushi to finding a money exchange.  Available in several languages including Japanese, Italian and French. The idea came about a few years ago when the authors were in China and had to use hand-drawn pictures to buy a train ticket. See menospeak.com.

The Age