For true travellers, it’s a blow to be living in a time when foreign and even local holidays are banned. (Although of course the current lockdown rules are in place for everyone’s safety.) But don’t despair. Now would historically be the busiest time for Brits to book their next adventures, because in deep mid-winter there’s no better tonic than planning an escape for later in the year. Psychologists declare that the anticipation of a holiday is almost as good as being away. But there are also lots of practical reasons why we should be browsing and buying right now.
‘With the government announcing hotel quarantining, we have moved quickly from a scenario of the vaccine unlocking our horizons to being tethered tighter to our shores,’ says Justin Wateridge, managing director of Steppes Travel. He, quite rightly, believes we need something to look forward to more than ever. ‘Booking a holiday, no matter how far in advance, provides just that light in this otherwise dark time. With total flexibility of booking conditions being offered and a strong pound sterling, now is a great time to book. It is difficult to predict in these uncertain times what’s next, but availability will increasingly become an issue and prices will need to rise at some point. I’d recommend our trips to Sri Lanka, where we have excellent third-off discounts on stays at the Teardrop properties.’
Here are 6 reasons to book a holiday now
1. LOW SEASON, ALL YEAR
Turquoise Holidays reminds us that our money will be safe if we book through an ATOL-bonded tour operator, as a result of the government-backed protection scheme. The company acknowledges that seasons are no longer what they were, and what was once considered peak season is now low, emphasising that hoteliers are extending irresistible offers year-round, particularly for long stays. ‘Airlines are also being creative on how they fill seats,’ says James Bell from Turquoise Holidays. ‘Business travel will take months to return, so it’s always worth asking about the cost of upgrading to a higher-category cabin – Emirates is offering Premium Economy seats on sale, which will mean fantastic deals.’ The other advantage of acting now is that when demand returns prices will rise quickly. ‘Local tour operators will have celebrity-like status where they’ll be stopped in the street with people pleading to help squeeze them in where they want to go.’ Until 13 February 2021, Turquoise is running a Maldives sale which includes brilliant offers from its favourite resorts, including generous spa credit.
2. QUICK BEFORE IT’S GONE
Availability is already tight for the next 12 months due to the number of postponed bookings caused by the pandemic. As Henry Comyn from The Conscious Travel Foundation (TCTF) puts it: ‘If you have been dreaming of a certain experience, it is worth getting the ball rolling to see whether and when it might be possible, as you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity for that particular adventure.’ The co-founder of Joro Experiences also recognises that now, more than ever, travellers have the chance to bring positivity and change to the areas they visit. ‘By starting the planning process of a trip, you allow guides, operators and hotels to see that there is still a desire to travel when we are allowed. If you book through a socially conscious operator – members of TCTF, for example – you are also ensuring that your dream trip is having a huge positive impact on the communities and environments you visit. So not only will you have a brilliant experience, but you will know that you are making a difference to those around the world who directly benefit from tourism.’
3. STAYCATIONS AND NO-FLY ITINERARIES
‘Popular hotels in the UK are booking up really quickly, especially the bigger properties,’ says Holly Chandler of Fish & Pips, a small and independent business that’s able to be more flexible and adapt to last-minute changes. ‘So we encourage anyone thinking about a staycation to book now and be assured that our Covid promise is in place to protect you.’ The company’s solid Covid-cancellation policy extends across its entire portfolio in the UK and Europe, covering hotels, houses, chalets and villas. Byway is a new Travel Association (ABTA)-bonded start-up that arranges slow trips off the beaten path by train, boat and bike, planning step-by-step itinerary around personal preferences. ‘Last year, summer staycations sold out in a flash when restrictions were lifted, and we’re sure to see something similar this year. If you can, it’s best to book early while our most popular stays in destinations such as France’s Alsace region and Corsica are still on the table,’ says founder Cat Jones.
4. DEFERRED GRATIFICATION, INSTANT POSITIVE ACTION
Conservation work in Africa has been hard hit by a loss of tourism revenue – by arranging a trip for 2022, you get something to look forward to while supporting invaluable environmental protection now. ‘Booking now will mean your deposit goes to those on the ground, helping to prop up the camps, jobs, conservation work and communities, sustaining the industry,’ says Alice Gully, co-owner of Aardvark Safaris. ‘It is crucial that the employment opportunities provided by tourism continue, both to support local economies and to generate revenue to put back into environmental efforts all over the continent.’ A decline in jobs is already leading to an upsurge in poaching – undoing the many wildlife-preservation success stories. Another reason to book early is that a high-quality safari escape takes time to organise and a lot of the small lodges that Aardvark Safaris favours get reserved quickly, so now is actually an ideal time to start planning for next year. There’s been a spike in demand for remote properties, such as Greystokes Mahale in western Tanzania, exclusive-use stays, including Jabali Private House in southern Tanzania, and mobile safari experiences such as Drumbeat’s pop-up camps in the truly wild regions of Botswana.
5. GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
Vicky Smith from Earth Changers is a leader in spotlighting thoughtful tourism that has a positive impact. ‘Never before have travel companies needed to be so flexible to attract cautious customers,’ she says. ‘Responsible businesses offer penalty-free booking conditions and transparency on top of standard health-and-safety protocols.’ Smith recognises that now is an excellent time to consider trips to destinations that have never been so peaceful. An exceptionally tranquil retreat that she connects conscious travellers with is Lapa Rios Lodge in Costa Rica. ‘Self-isolation may be required on return, but since more of us than ever now have the opportunity and flexibility to work from home, it may not feel like such an unmanageable trade-off.’
6. MORE FOR YOUR MONEY
The pound sterling is at a high, and if you’re planning an international holiday for the future there are destinations where you will get an especially favourable exchange rate. TransferWise‘s multi-currency account service offers contactless spending internationally, allowing people to hold up to 50 currencies on one card at a time, accessible through Apple Pay and Google Pay. Use the card in stores, coffee shops, online or to withdraw from cash machines, and your money is converted automatically, always via the real exchange rate, for a low fee.
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