2024 great escapes: Spain, Germany, Vietnam and Shropshire!
Chalkmarks: Ibiza shade, Balearic Islands, Spain, February 2023

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 5th January 2024

SO, here it is, 2024! Welcome aboard. This is Chalkmarks, your pilot speaking. We are currently three months away from the clocks going forward and it’s a six-month journey to summer. It’s going to be a gloomy and wet January with a touch of frost forecast next week. We can also expect a lot of turbulence. Everyone’s going to be talking about the election (it’ll be the same across much of the world with the US, Russia and India going to the polls). It’s all very boring. Some things should be kept private tbh! There is some good news: we can navigate around this holding pattern. We have some of the best flight attendants who’ll help us escape. So, please fasten your seat belts and remain in your seats. Let’s get those glasses half full. We are ready for take off. The holidays aren’t over… they’re just beginning. Let’s fly you through the week’s travel headlines.

Year we go!

Wake up! Tomorrow is what travel agents call Sunshine Saturday, when they see a surge in bookings in the first weekend of the year. There are plenty of bargains around. When the sales are on, we’re off!

For £500: Travel whisperer Simon Calder was on the Good Morning sofa on Tuesday sharing his top tips for 2024. He said there were stand-out summer deals to be bagged even on the busiest day to getaway on Saturday 27th July. He plugged a Jet2 break from Bristol to Marmaris, Turkey, for £500 per person for a family of four. And, he advertised a Tui package from Manchester to Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote, for £544 per person also for a family of four. He didn’t say how many days.

New year’s resolution: The latest polling by Atol reveals that more than half of us (56 per cent) are planning to take a summer holiday with 51 per cent intending to travel abroad more than once. That’ll be us!

Stay safe: Atol, the air travel protection scheme, is a financial protection scheme that looks out for travellers on package holidays. If a tour operator goes bust, such as Thomas Cook in 2019, they come to the rescue, arranging for passengers to be flown home and helping to get their money back. This year they are advising travellers to check web addresses are legit, not to reply to spam emails, texts, social media messages or calls with holiday offers, to use a credit card to pay and buy travel insurance. 

At the airport: We can expect to see test trials of “smart, intelligent” e-gates at the UK border, where we leave our passports in our bags when we’ve arrive off a flight. According to the Sunday Times splash  (which we read a few times so you don’t have to), passengers will just be required to look at a camera, and using high-tech facial recognition, the gate will open and we’ll walk straight through. Phil Douglas, director-general of the UK Border Force, has predicted the end of “legacy passport desks” in two-to-three years time. 

The view from Ryanair: On Wednesday the budget airline confessed it had been removed from online booking travel websites such as booking.com, Kiwi and Kayak. First, it called these “pirate” sites and second, it said it was happy to be removed as they can hike the price of their flights. In response, Ryanair said it would lower fares on its own site for passengers booking directly. It said: “Ryanair will respond to this welcome removal of our flights from OTA (online travel agent) pirate websites, by lowering fares where necessary to encourage all passengers to book directly on Ryanair.com where they are guaranteed to always get the lowest air fares without OTA Pirate overcharges, fake contact info, or other pricing/refund scams. In the meantime, Ryanair continues to make its fares available to honest/transparent OTA’s such as Google Flights, who do not add hidden mark ups to Ryanair prices and who direct passengers to make their bookings directly on the Ryanair.com website.” The Guardian reported.

The view from Eurostar: The train company has been told off for promoting “bargain” £39 rail fares but then having a “very small percentage” of seats available at that price. You may have seen the ad: “Treat yourself to a European getaway … from just £39 each way.” Eurostar said it welcomed the “feedback”, adding it wouldn’t happen again. The FT has the details.

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Travel department: Of course the Chalkmarks archive is a fantastic travel department filled with ideas for 2024. For a holiday brag why not try Norway and head into the Arctic Circle. Perhaps blow the budget and head on a safari in South Africa. Or be on trend and jet away to Ksamil in Albania, even Palawan in the Philippines, regularly voted a Number One island on the planet. 

Up north: With more heatwaves in southern Europe, why not look up and head to Northern Europe. Think Copenhagen (Denmark), Helsinki (Finland), Oslo (Norway) or Stockholm (Sweden). Summer in these cities is warm but not too hot. And you certainly won’t need thermal underwear. We headed to Stockholm where the temperature in July hit 30C! That was hot!

Where’s Shropshire? It’s in the West Midlands, turn left at Birmingham. Everyone’s talking about it because it’s been named a top 10 “destination to watch” by Abta, a group of travel agents. It’s been described as a “rural gem” with “beautiful landscapes, towns and villages”. It has the world-first Ironbridge Gorge, built in 1779, famed for being one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution. It joins Extremadura in Spain, Saxony in Germany, Vietnam and Zambia. Abta’s Graeme Buck said: “Some [places] are a little unexpected, and all are well worth a visit.” The best bit: You can walk across the Ironbridge for free! The BBC has more.

This time last year: Holiday hotspots for 2023: tomorrow is sunshine Saturday so where should you book as a new year of travel beckons? Holiday companies threw off the pandemic and were ready for a new year … The package holiday would be in high demand … Spain was tipped as the numero uno destination …  Abta boss Mark Tanzer said travellers wanted “great value” … Which? listed Bulgaria number one for where the pound would stretch furthest … Holiday firms Jet2holidays and Kuoni scored the highest for customer service … Azul Brazilian Airlines won the award for having the best arrivals-time record … Haneda Airport, in Japan, was ranked the most reliable with 90 per cent of departures taking off on time … Croatia switched over to the euro and joined Schengen, which means no border checks once you’re inside the zone … Ski resorts in the Alps were closing due to the hottest ever January … The newest attraction along England’s northeast coast was a wandering Walrus called Thor … A life-size cut-out of Liverpool’s football manager Jurgen Klopp, a suitcase filled with Queen Elizabeth Jubilee memorabilia and two Segways were among the bonkers items guests had left behind at Travelodges. 

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