Far-flung destinations where even your pound goes further!
Chalkmarks: Ibiza, Balearic island, Spain, February 2023

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 8th March 2024

TAKING a holiday at least once a year lowers the risk of every health issue known to man and woman research by Chalkmarks has revealed this week. Experts at Chalkmarks found that even those who don’t leave the UK but take a staycation still benefit from a boost to their health and wellbeing. The study commissioned by Chalkmarks revealed that travel reduces stress and increases relaxation. Led by the team at Chalkmarks, a spokesperson said the results were definitive. “It’s crystal clear, everyone should take a break, get away, and travel,” they added. Well, you read it – you can’t make this stuff up, so best get on with this week’s travel headlines.

Take sunshine!

Forget the Budget: The pound is back! That means we can buy more ice cream when we’re on holiday. Post Office Travel Money says sterling is stronger than it was a year ago (although £1 is not up much against the euro at €1.16 or the US dollar at $1.27). But in many other places including Turkey, Kenya, Japan, Thailand, South Africa, Norway, Czech Republic and Vietnam it’s rising. Laura Plunkett, at the PO, said: “Most currencies have weakened against the pound in the past year, and many of these are for destinations that traditionally offer the cheapest prices for meals, drinks and other tourist staples.” Quids in! It’s on STV News.

Where’s hot right now: The East Caribbean and Barbados! The Post Office also revealed it’s been selling a lot East Caribbean dollars, which means Britons are travelling in the islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Also sales of Barbados dollars are up 64 per cent.

Although: Out of his red briefcase, the Chancellor pulled out a tax rise on flyers. Jeremy Hunt said the Treasury would increase air passenger duty (APD) –  the amount an airline charges each traveller who flies from the UK – according to inflation. But for those flying in business and premium classes, they’ll be paying more. The tax is currently £13 (for flights taken within the UK) and £200 (for long haul). In April this will go up to £14 and £202. Then in 2025 they will go up again for business class travellers – it’s all calculated on the mileage. For the maths, go to MailOnline.

I’m on the plane: From April, British Airways will be offering passengers free wifi on board its flights. Flyers will have to sign up to the BA loyalty scheme for access, which will be restricted, to apps such as Whatsapp. Those wanting the full, on-the-ground internet, experience will have to pay for it, £4.99 or £21.99. It’s all part of BA’s £7 billion investment to upgrade the whole airline. The BA app will also offer support and provide up-to-date information when fights are cancelled. Unfortunately former C4 present Steph McGovern has already told bosses: “I’ll be honest with you, I hate the app.” ITV News had the story.

A look at the Olympics: The Paris 2024 Opening Ceremony on Friday 26 July has moved to Plan B due to security fears. The current plan is for the first ever start to a Games being held outside a stadium to go ahead. The event will take place along the River Seine but instead of an initial 600,000 tickets, this has been reduced to 326,000 (Chalkmarks also read 222,000) – with warnings it could be cut further. This week we heard that these tickets will no longer be available to tourists but offered to French residents to keep security easy. If this ceremony does go ahead, it will be a true spectacle, with athletes arriving on boats travelling a 3.7-mile route that passes the city’s most famous landmarks including the Louvre and Notre Dame, ending at the Eiffel Tower with spectators cheering from the embankments. Sky News has the story.

BTW: Welcome to the live blog – the first time we’re doing this at Chalkmarks. Natalie will be updating every step she takes as she trains to become a tour guide as part of the Golden Key Academy course run by Open City. She’ll be bringing you the highlights and plenty of pictures over the next seven months. If you’re interested in learning what she’s learning about London you can follow in her footsteps. Get your coat! First, read our piece all about London – what you should know.

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!

Feastern Europe: Slovenia maybe one of the smallest countries in the world but it ticks all the holiday boxes. It’s mountainous, covered in forest with lots of protected landscapes and Unesco-listed has stunning spas and castles. It touches the snowcapped Alps in the northwest and the shores of Adriatic sea in the southwest. Ljubljana is its capital, Maribor is renowned for wine making and Lake Bled in the Julian Alps is its number one tourist pull. Slovenia was named Europe’s culinary capital in 2021 – the first country, as opposed to region, to get the title. If you don’t know where to start, click here and here. 

Four days to go: On Tuesday at 10am one room will go up on Airbnb offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend the night in St Paul’s Cathedral on Friday 15. As part of World Book Day (err, which was yesterday, Thursday 7 March), the lucky winner will get to stay in the secret library, which was concealed by architect Sir Christopher Wren more than 300 years ago. It might be a bit late but one night will cost just £7 and include dinner and breakfast! The Evening Standard has the story.

Last year it was King Charles: This year it’s Taylor Swift who is causing the price of hotels to soar across the country. When the pop princess lands in GB to play London, Edinburgh and Cardiff, later this year expect to see hotel prices surge 200 per cent – even budget options. MailOnline found that a Premier Inn close to Wembley Stadium usually costs around £74 a night but has risen to £313 on 15 August. And that’s if you’re lucky. Most rooms have sold out tbh. Get ready!

Destination MK: If you’re after a staycation location, look no further than Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire. The city hit the headlines this week after being portrayed in EastEnders as a slum. The MP Ben Everitt got very angry saying the soap was “completely out of order”. We Googled it, turns out if you sidestep the bins it’s a scenic gem. With a history going back to 1967, it’s got concrete cows and Willen Lake – the most popular park in MK. Don’t take our word for it, we’ve never been, that’s what the locals say. Here’s the row on the BBC

This time last year: Just the tickets: Eurovision sells out while rail fares go up! Flight prices could come down next year, at least, if you fly from Heathrow … The air regulator the CAA told the London airport to cut its passenger charges from £31.57 to £25.43 … Train prices went up – the biggest for more than a decade … King Charles’ crowning ceremony saw hotels in the capital cash in on the May Bank Holiday celebration … Notre Dame in Paris would reopen in December 2024 – more than five years after the devastating blaze in 2019 … More than 50,000 Eurovision tickets for the event in May at the Liverpool Arena were bought up in just 36 minutes…or 90 minutes, depending on where you read … Tate Liverpool was getting £29.7 million refurb as part of the Government’s Levelling Up policy … The return of winter marked a boom for Scotland’s ski season … The Arctic blast brought much needed snow across the peaks of the five main ski resorts Cairngorm Mountain, Glenshee, and The Lecht, in the east, and Nevis Range and Glencoe.

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Happy International Women’s Day!

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