The Algarve awaits: All eyes on Faro for a summer getaway!
Chalkmarks: Rainbow in Madeira, Portugal, December 2023

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 19th January 2024

AT the moment, it’s all: “Where are you skiing, darling: We’re off to Gstaad?”, “Oh, we’re in Verbier”. Ugh, the name dropping. Off piste! If you’re lucky to be rich you can travel anywhere. That doesn’t help me or you though, so let’s huddle cos’ it’s f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g outside. Right now, at our London HQ (Costa Coffee – err, it’s not common) all we can afford is people watching and the luxury of cake. It was there we went through the travel mags – they’re filled with trips to Dubai, easily costing £1k a week. Or there are folk booking safaris, and cruises down the Nile – much more than £1k a week. You fall back to earth pretty quickly when you see those prices. Even everyone’s travel hero Simon Calder has been on the This Morning sofa saying the best price for a package holiday this summer will be £500 per person for a week. Life is cruel. There’s no escape. Well, worry not, there’s no need to spend a fortune. This week’s travel news was soothing, it calmed the nerves and lit the way in the depths of January to some promising summer trips. Best of all, reading this doesn’t cost a penny.

Make travel your goal!

Take notes: Flight prices this summer will remain more or less the same as last year, increasing by only 2 per cent (a few quid), according to travel website Kayak.

Cheat sheet: Kayak analysed its data from 2023 to reveal how far in advance we need to book a flight to bag a great deal – it’s all about the right online timing.

Hot tip: Book two months ahead for a trip to Europe to save 16 per cent, four months for the US to get 12 per cent off, and eight months for Thailand for a 25 per cent discount.

Hot ticket: Their travel survey found that all eyes are on Faro, the capital of the Algarve, southern Portugal as the No1 holiday choice this summer. And, they found that 60 per cent of us are already cutting back on takeaways, eating out, and buying clothes to fund a trip.

Warming words: Annie Wilson at Kayak said: “If you’re planning on booking a summer holiday to Greece, then you may want to wait a few more months, as our data shows that travellers who booked their trip around two months before departure saved on average 16 per cent more than booking 9 months before they travelled.” 

Elsewhere in Portugal: Get to WOW, the World of Wine, on the Douro’s banks in Porto that showcases Portugal’s wine-making heritage. Here you’ll find seven museums and numerous bars and restaurants in port warehouses. WOW explores the city’s history, showcases stained glass, delves into the relationship between Britain and Portugal. From the Pink Palace’s rosé tastings to Planet Cork’s cork industry story, the €100m development also introduces the origins of cacao and produces award-winning Vinte Vinte chocolate. We went there for the i newspaper.

Scoop: The Ryanair boss made a very eye-catching statement on Wednesday! He said they are selling £12.99 flights… at a loss… to get plane seats filled this winter! These prices are less than the £13 Ryanair must pay per person in Air Passenger Duty. Speaking to travel whisperer Simon Calder, Michael O’Leary said: “There will always be periods of time, particularly at this time of the year – January, February before you get to the school mid-term break or the Easter holidays or summer – where we’re trying to fill flights. We’re happy to fill flights at loss-making air fares. So there will still be lots of low air fares.” 

We checked: On the website, in January, Ryanair is offering flights all over, to Bordeaux for £11.85, Bari, Italy, for £12.99 Catania, Sicily, for £12.99. And, somehow Stansted to Edinburgh costs £13.01!

The small print: These prices are one-way flights with just a small bag that fits under the seat.

So pleasing: Wizz Air has had to pay out £1.2 million in refunds to 6,000 passengers whose original complaints over flight cancellations were rejected by the airline. After the Civil Aviation Authority stepped in, each received around £200. Last year, Wizz Air was named the worst short-haul airline, earning just one-star for its overall service by consumer champs Which? The Guardian has more. 

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!

Quoting Rabbie Burns: “Give her a Haggis”. And, Chalkmarks adds, a wee dram too, for it’s Burns night on Thursday. If ever there was an excuse for a warming single malt this is it. Our must-try recommendation is Glen Gariocch. It was at this distillery, in Scotland’s whisky-producing region Speyside near Aberdeen, 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 Las Vegas: The price of taking a holiday snap could cost you £790 ($1,000) or even six months in jail after the local authority banned tourists from taking photos on bridges along the famous Sin City Strip. Signs will be going up telling people they’re breaking the law if they “stop, stand or engage in an activity that causes another person to stop”. They say they want to keep foot traffic moving but critics say it infringes their First Amendment rights. AP had the story.

In Turkey: Tourists wanting a seek peek into the ancient, world-famous Hagia Sofia in Istanbul will have to pay a €25 entrance fee. As of Monday (15th January) there are separate doors for visitors and worshippers to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Once the greatest church in Christendom for more than 1,000 years, Hagia Sophia became a mosque in 1453. In 1935 it became a museum but it reopened as a mosque again in 2020. The Turkish Hurriyet Daily News has more.

In Italy: Remember the news that Venice would introduce a tourist tax to tackle overtourism? No? Well, you missed it then – never mind because it’s now official. The website went live on Tuesday. It’ll cost daytrippers €5 to see the ancient city between 8.30am to 4.00pm on certain days. At the moment it’s a trial to manage numbers during the busiest days of the year. Known as the Access Fee, visitors will have to pay in advance. If they fail to have a QR code ready to scan, they can face a fine between €50 and €300 plus the entrance fee. AFP has the story.

In Japan: Everyone always talks about the cherry blossom – sakura – in spring with the Japanese authorities issuing regular flower forecasts throughout the year. In their first prediction of 2024, the Japan Meteorological Corporation said the pink and white flowers were expected to arrive earlier than usual, on Saturday 23rd March, in Tokyo, due to global warming. The Japan Times has the story.

This time last year: Holidays get grander: Why we’re spending more than £3,000 per trip! Britons were booking trips to their favourite holiday heartlands: Spain, Greece, America and Turkey – with an above-average spend of £3,104 per holiday … That was 5 per cent up on 2022 according to Advantage Travel Partnership … Hays Travel said bookings on 7th January increased fivefold compared with last year … Virgin Atlantic reported its bookings were 70 per cent higher than 2022 … On The Beach said travellers were booking four and five-star hotels … And, Booking.com revealed its most-booked destinations for the February half-term included staycations to LondonEdinburgh, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and York … Dubai was named the winner of Tripadvisor’s Travellers Choice Awards 2023 … London retained its spot as the top destination in Europe … Cuba earned the number one Trending destination … A Yeti Airlines plane crashed in Nepal killing all 72 people on board as it approached Pokhara, the gateway for the Himalayas – popular with bucket list tourist trekkers … Barra Airport in the Outer Hebrides was voted a top 10 most extreme runway by US tech mag Wired.

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