Holidays get grander: Why we’re spending more than £3,000 per trip!
Chalkmarks: Stansted Airport, England

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 20th January 2023

Brrrr it’s freezing out there. Temperatures have dropped on this little glacier isle so we’re keeping warm eating all the cake in the office. If you’re doing the same, please let Chalkmarks know which one. Red velvet it our fave. Beep. Bing. That’ll be our new microwave slippers we got in the January sales. Click. Bubble, bubble. And that’ll be the kettle ready to fill up our hot water bottle. We’re off to catch up on the travel news in our warm sanctuary aka the sofa. We advise you also cosy up and read this week’s holiday headlines. Keep warm out there!

Holidays are landing!

Carry on travelling: January 2023 and Britons are booking trips to their favourite holiday heartlands: Spain, Greece, America and Turkey – with an above-average spend of £3,104 per holiday. That’s 5 per cent up on last year according to Advantage Travel Partnership. Boss Julia Lo Bue-Said told the BBC that sales across 700 travel agents were up by 75 per cent on the same period in 2022. “It’s really quite interesting when we look at the economic climate and cost of living… and look at holiday sales – there is such a disparity,” she said. “Consumers are not forgoing their holidays. They are doing absolutely everything they can to afford a holiday.”

Keep calm: There is no cost-of-holiday crisis, it seems. Hays Travel says bookings on 7th January increased fivefold compared with last year. Virgin Atlantic also reports its bookings are 70% higher than 2022 and On The Beach says travellers are booking four and five-star hotels, and all inclusives. And, Booking.com reveals its most-booked destinations for February half-term included staycations to London, Edinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and York.

See you at the airport: With bookings high, prepare for airport queues. After last year’s fiasco, Which? travel editor Rory Boland says passengers will “rightly expect a significant improvement in service from airlines and airports in 2023. Given every airline and every airport knows how many travellers are travelling and when, and have already banked their cash, it is inexcusable for them not to properly resource their business to get travellers to where they are going as promised.”

The best holiday in the world: Dubai has been named the winner of Tripadvisor’s Travellers Choice Awards 2023. Loved by reality stars, it ranked number one for the quality and quantity of travel reviews on the website based on accommodation, restaurants and things to do. Tripadvisor said: “A favourite with celebs and influencers, the “City of Gold” continues to attract tourists from all over the world seeking out their very own slice of luxury.” So, we ask: What can we learn from Dubai?

There’s more: London retained its spot as the top destination in Europe but it fell to third place with rising star Bali, Indonesia. Rome came fourth and Paris, fifth. New York was listed as the highest-ranking American destination, which placed 23rd.

Mas: Cuba earned the number one Trending destination, followed by Hoi An, Vietnam. Mauritius came top spot for best in nature with Kathmandu, Nepal, coming in second. And Fes, Morocco, secured Best for Culture with Jerusalem, Israel, on its tail. The MailOnline has the full list.

February 1: You must have heard more rail strikes are coming down the tracks. Train drivers from the two unions Aslef and RMT will take part in industrial action on Wednesday 1st February – which is the day the Trade Union Congress has marked as national ‘protect the right to strike’ day, with coordinated walkouts across industries including teaching and civil service. Train drivers will strike again on Friday 3rd February. The BBC has the story.

Deadly plane crash: On Sunday, a Yeti Airlines plane crashed in Nepal killing all 72 people on board as it approached Pokhara, its second city and the gateway for the Himalayas – popular with bucket list tourist trekkers. While the flight recorder box has been found, it’s still unknown what caused the crash but experts have suggested the plane had stalled upon landing. It turns out the country has had 11 crashes in 11 years. The Daily Telegraph said Nepal was one of the world’s most dangerous places to fly. They reported that Nepalese airlines had been banned from European airspace since 2013 due to their poor safety records. And in 2019, two Nepalese airlines, Nepal Airlines and Tara Air (not Yeti), were ranked in the bottom seven by AirlinesRatings.com. Its editor-in-chief Geoffrey Thomas advised travellers to be careful which airline they choose when travelling in Nepal, but warned: “For travellers and adventure tourists there is little choice. Everest is dangerous to climb and so is flying there.”

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!

We’ve done it: We’ve come back to Tenerife but we have grown up. We’re not in one of those 18-to-30s-resorts where young Britons enjoy the sun, sea, fry-ups in Irish pubs. We have been there, and done that. In fact, we thought the whole place was one big Spanish party island but all that noise is tucked away in a very small corner in the south. In the north, in the capital Santa Cruz, this is the place to be hot but lazy.  It’s a whole different island, far away from the busy beaches, bars and sunburned punters. If we’d felt nostalgic for a foam party, dancing till sunrise and downing shots, we could have nipped into nearby Puerto de la Cruz for a dizzying all-nighter. Instead we did this!

Wild adventure: We leave at 6.30am with hot water bottles and blankets – heading out as the sun rises into Kruger National Park. Thousands of animals roam this wide space, an area roughly the size of Scotland. While the park is home to 147 species, the main draw is the Big Five – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. Picking our way through the bush, it’s difficult to spot anything. There are rustles and strange sounds in the long grass but we can’t see any animals. Soon enough, we gasp and nudge each other, our guide sights a leopard through the trees. Next we find a large herd of elephants. Then baboons and impalas. By the afternoon we spot a skipping baby rhino with its mother. When darkness falls, word comes over the radio of a lion kill. We get closer here.

Your nearest holiday: Calais, of course! The French city is usually found in the headlines for queues at the border and migrant camps, but behind all that are stunning beaches, along what’s known as the Opal Coast. It’s the strangest thing. No one ever told us. The inews this week called it a “French gem” – a hidden treasure perfect for a family holiday and just a short hop from the UK in northern France. What’s not to love?  

Touching down: Barra Airport in the Outer Hebrides has been voted a top 10 most extreme runway by Wired, a US tech and science magazine. Already popular with plane lovers, it has previously won prizes for being one of the world’s most beautiful airport landing spots and dangerous too. Barra, which operates flights to Glasgow, placed 10th from 41,000 airports across the planet. Kai Tak in Hong Kong took first place and Gibraltar came second – which itself is a tourist attraction for the road that passes down the middle! The Herald has the story.

Highland magic: Wednesday is Burns Night and if ever there was an excuse for a wee dram this is it. Our must-try recommendation is Glen Garioch. It was at this distillery, in Scotland’s whisky-producing region Speyside, we tasted a single malt straight from the barrel. Before this, we thought all whisky tasted of petrol – but there we picked up the vanilla, spice and even sweetness. We now understand why Robert Burns became a poet! 

In case you don’t follow us on social media you really should. Here we are, here too and over here. Say hola muchacha! 

Happy Chinese New Year of the Rabbit!

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