Your next holiday matters.
I spend the year researching, reading, asking and experiencing all things travel because I know it matters.
So, whatever your need may be, I love to give you the benefits of the special relationships nurtured with hotels, resorts and tour operators.
I am not a huge fan of the term 'bucket list' - I prefer a 'life list' - but there's no doubt that Covid has escalated the demand for the once-in-a-lifetime experience and I've been able to lose myself in some fabulous enquiries.
It's still a little hard to predict what 2022 has in store for us, and along with the desire to resurrect all the long overdue and postponed trips, I have found myself hankering to revisit my happy places and unwind in the comfort of the known.
Here are a few tips about destinations, experiences and hotels that excite me and may inspire consideration for the year ahead:
Short but sweet city breaks & European gems
My Comfort Travel List post covers some of the reasons why but Reykjavik, Geneva, Porto and Marrakech are magical cities whilst the brilliant BBC series, Amazing Hotels, recently covered wonderful Copenhagen as well as a previous visit to the luxury spa retreat and cultural hideaway, Schloss Elmau, in the beautiful Bavarian Alps.
Spanish spots that make for great breaks include Marbella, Lanzarote, Seville, and for the musically minded, the Hard Rock Hotel in Tenerife whilst the new adult 5-star, all-inclusive TRS Ibiza and the SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante are both on my list.
Exploring in style
Back-packing or Belmond? I know which I prefer.
Some of the most incredible travel experiences imaginable can be found on the continent of South America, one of my personal favourite trips to piece together.
The Belmond Andean Explorer offers the opportunity to hop on board and travel from Arequipa to Cusco in exceptional style as the train whisks you through some of Peru’s most breathtaking destinations, including sunrise at Lake Titicaca.
You can continue your journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu on a voyage to the heart of the Inca Empire in the 1920s style carriages of the Belmond Hiram Bingham, taking in the views from the observation car whilst enjoying some old-fashioned charm from a bygone era.
What better way to balance the history and culture of Peru than with the flora and fauna of the Galapagos? The Celebrity Flora is a 100 passenger all-suite mega-yacht and the first ship of its kind to be designed specifically for exploring the Galapagos Islands with a focus on sustainability and the local environment.
Certified naturalists are on board to guide your journey along with complimentary snorkeling equipment, mini-wetsuits, binoculars and walking sticks provided for the duration of the cruise.
On disembarkation, it’s only reasonable to recover your land legs with a couple of nights at the beachfront Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel on Santa Cruz Island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of all things Canadian and luckily clients seem to share my love for this wonderful country. I’ve put many a North American road trip together but my recent studies have enlightened me as to the extent of Canada’s national rail network and sparked a new ambition to traverse the entire country by train with a little help from friends at Westjet for the more challenging journeys, such as crossing the Atlantic and the less train-friendly terrain.
WestJet started just 25 years ago with just three aircraft, five destinations and 220 staff, known as Westjetters. Today, with over 180 aircraft and 14,000 Westjetters, they fly to more than 100 locations and their new seasonal non-stop service from Calgary to London Heathrow starts on 26 March 2022.
VIA Rail trains operate year-round, and their network of combinations enables travel from coast to coast. The infamous route from Toronto to Vancouver is serviced by the mighty Canadian, a train that can be up to one mile in length. One mile! I wouldn’t want to be stuck at a level crossing waiting for that one to pass.
The Skeena operates three times per week and takes on a 1,160 km journey through the Rocky Mountains from Jasper National Park to Prince Rupert on the Pacific Coast, with an overnight stop in the town of Prince George.
It’s a fabulously cost-effective way of doing the Rockies by train and the likelihood of seeing black bears, elk, deer and bald eagles is high. Most routes offer sleeper cabins which include en-suite facilities, all-inclusive drinks and meals, and access to lounges and observation cars.
The road less travelled
The desire for something different is always appealing and in the post-pandemic era seeking out some remote island indulgence for that special getting away from it all experience is high on many a wish list.
The more familiar Caribbean islands of Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Jamaica and Grenada all offer wonderful hotels and holidays but there are gems to be discovered casting the net a little wider.
Long Island, also known as Jumby Bay is a three-acre private island located off the northeast coast of Antigua and has been described as one of the most undisturbed places in the world. It's reached by a 10-minute boat transfer aboard the resort's own private catamaran and with only 28 beautifully appointed suites, is the perfect antidote to the ubiquitous big brand all-inclusive resorts.
If the thought of spending too much time away from the trappings of the real world fills you with dread, then may I suggest heading to Eden Rock, St Barths to spice up your life. The hotel is set on a rocky promontory surrounded by stunning white sand beaches, crystal clear sea and spectacular coral reefs.
The 34 rooms are filled with art and lots of treats including books, a cocktail-making kit, a complimentary beach bag and a yoga mat. The spa and fitness centre are built into the rocks and most rooms come with a private pool or hot tub.
In my mind, the perfect solution is to fly into Antigua, spend a few nights at Jumby Bay Island to slow down and recharge before hopping on a short flight to St Barths for a week of lively but dignified recreation.
A combination of 32 islands (only nine of which are inhabited), St Vincent & The Grenadines may be the Caribbean option you’ve been looking for and has excitingly become even more accessible with Virgin recently adding a twice-weekly service between London and Argyle International Airport.
The airport is on the largest and northernmost island, St Vincent, a forest-covered interior dominated by an active volcano. It has outstanding natural beauty, very welcoming people and a full range of accommodation options - from guest houses offering simple bed and breakfast, to luxury high-end resorts.
To its south lie The Grenadines, a paradise for yachting, scuba diving, nature and relaxing in luxurious hideaways. The islands include Bequia, home to the retro-chic Bequia Beach Hotel, Mustique, Canouan, Union Island, and the amazing Petit St Vincent with its renowned outdoor calisthenic fitness trail.
With a brand-new family Beaches Resort (sister to Sandals) also on the horizon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines will be one to keep an eye on.
If the adult-only all-inclusive Caribbean experience is more to your tastes, then April 2022 sees Sandals open their first resort on the tiny southern Caribbean Island of Curaçao.
New Indian Ocean Hotels
The look at inspiring destinations for 2022, and particularly idyllic islands, can’t be complete without a peek at a couple of stunning new hotel options in the havens of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius and Maldives.
Couples and families already have several phenomenally good options in both but with the fantastic Atmosphere Hotels adding two new OBLU resorts at Ailafushi and Lobigili to their Maldivian portfolio, and the brand new flagship hotel from LUX* Grand Baie Resort & Residences, in Mauritius, choosing may just have become too difficult!