Explore Australia and New Zealand with Private Abercrombie & Kent Tours

Cairns to Cape York, Abercrombie & Kent

From bespoke New Zealand cycling tours to encountering indigenous life in the Outback, take a look inside Abercrombie & Kent’s Australasian private tours

Abercrombie & Kent announced its expanded portfolio in expectation of offering travellers unique Australasian private tours once it is safe to travel again. With tailor-made and small group options, guests can enjoy a variety of travel experiences from adventure travel to Outback retreats. A&K Australia Asia Pacific Regional Managing Director Sujata Raman says, “By travelling on these journeys, our guests will be giving vital support to the many local businesses right around the country who have been equally challenged throughout the pandemic.”

Adventure is just around the corner in Australia and New Zealand

The 10th edition of A&K’s Australasian private tour portfolio offers travel from tropical islands and red deserts to snow-capped mountains, glaciers and fjords. For those looking for more athletic adventures, A&K’s offerings include thrills such as golfing getaways, eco walks, fly fishing, swimming with whale sharks and more. Without further ado, here’s a look into some of the most anticipated new experiences:

South Australia

A new eight-day Outback Adventure by private aircraft takes a small number of guests on a private air tour of the raw South Australian landscapes from Adelaide. Flyers can enjoy views of the Flinders Ranges, Parachilna and William Creek, Coober Pedy and the Eyre Peninsula. On this journey, travellers can obtain insight to the state’s pastoral heritage by visiting outback stations and meeting the people who reside there. Relax in pubs and hotels while tasting the myriad of local cuisine offerings from ‘feral fare’ and home brew to seafood. There are just five departures with prices from $14,900 per person.

Other South Australian offers for the private traveller include a walking and houseboating experience through the Murray River floodplains as well as McLaren Vale, Kangaroo Island and the Barossa Valley.

Western Australia

Explore Ningaloo Reef from the comfort of the beachfront camp, Sal Salis, where guests may enjoy adventures to spot whale sharks and humpback whales or follow a gourmet discovery of the Southwest. Guest can compliment these experiences with a quokka walk on Rottnest Island or hiking and gourmet picnics in Margaret River.

Northern Territory

A&K adventures in the Northern Territory highlight the Outback through experiences such as an exclusive camping safari in Kakadu National Park that offers guests access to indigenous rock art galleries, gorge walks and billabong cruising.

Northern Territory add-ons include a special access visit to traditionally owned turtle breeding grounds and a self-drive adventure into the Red Centre, where travellers can marvel at the Field of Light installation.

Queensland

Explore Queensland’s northern regions with a week-long road trip from Cairns to Cape York via Cooktown, the Daintree Rainforest and remote cattle regions. A&K guests can further explore the far north region of Queensland with a guided indigenous walk through ancestral lands.

Head south from Brisbane or west from the Gold Coast to hike the Scenic Rim, where the Abercrombie & Kent experience includes a stay Spicer’s Lodge. For an island experience, A&K offers guests golfing excursions in the Whitsundays.

New South Wales

A private Kangaroo Valley retreat for 14 guests is on offer in New South Wales with possible paired experiences including an insider’s discovery of Sydney’s Chippendale or a wildlife adventure on Lord Howe Island.

Australian Capital Territory

A&K’s take on Canberra leads guests through a behind the scenes tour of Parliament House as well as into the Australian War Memorial and the National Museum. Private gourmet experiences highlight the capital city’s cuisine.

Victoria

Discover views of the Grampian mountains and the Bass Strait while driving the Great Ocean Road. A&K recommends pairing its in-depth Melbourne experience with add-ons such as a gourmet immersion in the Mornington Peninsula or an indigenous history and heritage experience at Worawa College in the Yarra Valley.

Tasmania

Explore Australia’s southernmost state by joining a walking tour on Maria island or discovering Hobart’s hidden gems before roadtripping to Freycinet National Park to reconnect with nature. Pair these experiences with an visit to the Raptor Refuge south of Hobart, which rehabilitates native wildlife and is supported by Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy.

For golfers keen to be reunited with the links, a private charter plane can escort players away for a day trip to the Barnbougle golf courses on the island’s northern shores.

New Zealand

Active adventurers can join a local host on A&K’s six-day ‘Active Fiordland Adventure’. This South Island experience ranges from Queenstown to Te Anau through hiking, lake and fjord expeditions complemented by stays in two lodges. Four departures are scheduled with pricing from $7,200 per person.

A six-day overnight catamaran trip introduces travellers to the Abel Tasman National Park. This tour has just four departures with pricing from $7,700 per person.

Explore the Nelson Tasman region of the South Island with a bespoke cycling tour that balances views of natural landscapes with visits to artists’ studios, galleries and wineries. Guests can also enjoy the mountain experience at Minaret Station and Blanket Bay or travel northwards towards to bathe in the Marlborough Sounds. On the Northern Island, guests can golf at Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs. Add-on experiences include glacier heli-adventures and wine tastings.

Each of Abercrombie & Kent’s unique experiences are crafted by team members who travel to regions to compile the guest experience firsthand. Travellers can book trips as created by the A&K team or tailor their adventure to suit individual tastes. See below for more information about A&K’s Australasian private tours.

abercrombiekent.com.au

A&K’s COVID Safe Plan

A&K is prioritising the health and wellbeing of its guests, and in order to help guests feel confident about planning future travel A&K has introduced new measures:

  • Elevating health and hygiene protocols, A&K’s partners have been vetted to ensure all local and global regulations are followed and that cleanliness and social distancing practices are met.
  • For new bookings made by 30 September 2020 for travel this year and in 2021, travellers may change or cancel up to 30 days prior to departure in the event of a COVID-19-related reason and receive a credit toward future travel.
  • Provision of personal protective equipment during the journey in the event local health regulations require it, or for guest peace of mind.
  • Health and safety procedures followed by all A&K guides and staff.

One Month Left to Experience the Igloos at Pier One

Pier One Sydney Igloo Interior

From hot tub experience to unique proposal setting, Pier One Sydney’s igloos offer cosy winter experiences with unobstructed Walsh Bay views

Pier One Sydney Harbour’s beloved winter pop-up – ‘Igloos On The Pier’ – is back with new re-imagined experiences. Open until the 30th of August, this season’s retinue of Pier One Igloos are now perched in suites overlooking the harbour. Igloo experiences range from sleepovers under the stars to a hot tub igloo and a bespoke proposal experience.

Enjoy this socially distanced harbourside retreat in safety, knowing that the NSW Government has certified Pier One Sydney Harbour as a COVID-Safe premises. This year, each igloo is limited to a maximum of 10 people to ensure social distancing expectations are met.

Pier One’s Dream Igloo Suite offers harbourside views of Walsh Bay from the comfort of the igloo balcony’s cosy furnishings, including plenty of cushions and a daybed. With overnight accommodation available in Suite 216, there’s no time like the present to experience a sleepover under Sydney’s stars.

Perched 5 metres above the pier, the Hot Tub Igloo offers warm and cosy relaxation sessions with a private bathroom, including bathrobes and towels. Stroll from the igloo’s interior to its balcony to find the hot tub, where the fresh harbour breeze enhances the ambiance. Guests can also book the Hot Tub Igloo for an overnight experience in Suite 247.

The popular winter proposal experience hosted by Pier One are once again available in collaboration with My Proposal Co. Rent out a private igloo designed for a romantic wintery proposal setting, complete with mood lighting, catering, photographer, event coordination and personal touches.

Pre-ordered sharable food and beverage items are available for all igloos. Three luxe hampers are available to guests: the Cheese & Charcuterie Hamper in collaboration with The Gantry; the Seafood Market Basket; and the After Dark Hamper featuring desserts styled by The Gantry. All three hampers feature Australian products, including components of the After Dark Hamper being sourced from bushfire affected regions to support local recovery efforts.

Daily bookings are available at 12:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 7:00 p.m.

Book from $600AUD, which includes a minimum of $400AUD spent on food and beverages.

pieronesydneyharbour.com.au

Bathing in the Beauty of Rural Japanese Traditions

Japan Kyoto Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine Torii Gates | © G Adventures Inc.

Japan is a nation steeped in tradition, but it is in the country’s lesser-known regions where cultural rituals are best explored

It’s been a long time since my Mum has run me a bath, which is probably for the best because I’m 38 years old. So, when Akiko shuffles into the dining room, where I am basking in the satisfaction of an entirely-too-generous dinner, to tell me she has drawn me a bath, it comes as a surprise.

For two nights only, Akiko is my host – or, as she is quickly dubbed, ‘Host Mum’ – as part of G Adventures’ 11-day Back Roads of Japan tour. I am in Hagi, a quaint castle city in Yamaguchi Prefecture on Japan’s southwest coast, enjoying the homestay portion of the itinerary.

I had met Akiko just a few hours earlier. The 75-year-old speaks no English, but her kind expression conveys a warm welcome and the bath, if it’s possible, delivers an even warmer one. I lower my weight into the comically short, but indulgently deep tub and am immediately inclined to draw a long and mindful breath. This isn’t my usual scene. I am a shower person, for starters. And while the idea of doing nothing appeals to me, when an opportunity presents itself, I am quick to start wondering what I can do. But there is something about this bath. The steamy water, bordering on scalding, is just my temperature. It’s also yellow and on that note, I want to swiftly put your mind at ease. Akiko has added a yuzu-scented (and -coloured), mineral-laden liquid, essentially transforming her bathroom into an onsen experience.

I soak. And I soak and I soak and I soak. It feels considered and restorative, two things that keep cropping up during my stay with Akiko. On arrival, we sit to a traditional tea ceremony, not a tea bag in sight. Instead, the ceremonial preparation of matcha, complete with a delicate bamboo whisk. The accompanying wagashi (tea sweets), made with white bean paste, are just as intricate. On to dinner, we slowly, steadily slice and plate the freshest of ingredients – salmon, kingfish, cucumber, avocado and the rest – in preparation for a make-it-yourself sushi feast.

Akiko’s kitchen is filled with ikebana, traditional Japanese flower arrangements that she has taken the time to create herself, and as we sit down to eat, our host offers us homemade plum sake. Onegaishimasu! She digs it out and, in the process, discovers a 20-year-old strawberry sake she’d forgotten all about. We try both. We finish both.

This isn’t my first brush with Japan’s famed alcoholic beverage, and it won’t be my last. The fact that our G Adventures tour guide happens to be a certified Sake Advisor can be credited, although only in part. His name is Makoto – Mack for short – and he’s not actually a guide, but a Chief Experience Officer, or CEO. The acronym is G Adventures’ way of acknowledging that its guides are the backbone of the company. With Mack as my example, as well as Ayako, who has joined us to complete her CEO training, I can’t argue. From the moment we meet, it is clear both guides possess not only the passion and knowledge required for such a job, but the telepathy, too. The WiFi code is in my hand before I draw breath to ask for it; a personal bottle of hand sanitiser is part of the thoughtful welcome pack; ponchos and umbrellas are at the ready when the rain begins to fall. I almost forget how to look after myself during our 11 days together, and this is before I’ve touched a drop of the fermented rice wine.

At an impromptu ‘sake party’ in Nagano, Mack offers a crash course, explaining the flavour profile of each of the three sakes he has selected for the group. He then compares the three-drink journey – which started “fresh”, moved towards “dry” and finished “deep” –  to life. The analogy is as layered as sake number three, but if anyone understands such transitions, it’s Mack. Four years ago, the now 58-year-old moved on from a three-decade-career in research and development for a chemical company to work for G Adventures because he “wanted to enjoy a second life”.

“From the moment we meet, it is clear both guides possess not only the passion and knowledge required for such a job, but the telepathy, too.”

And what a second life he’s living. On our Back Roads of Japan tour alone (G Adventures runs 12 different trips in Japan), he took in the neon glamour of Tokyo and the cultural gems of Kyoto; he witnessed the cheeky snow monkeys of Nagano and the tradition of making washi (Japanese paper) in Hamada; he explored the towering sand dune of Tottori and the charming streets of Hagi. But for Mack – and this comes as no surprise – his experience is not what matters. “I love introducing good points of Japanese people and their daily life [to travellers],” he says.

Japan’s good points are many and varied, and the rewards feel richer via the back roads. Traditions are sacred and locals hold firm. They are also immensely proud to share their knowledge, hoping such efforts will help preserve their treasured way of life. In contrast, other parts of the country stand at the forefront of innovation and modernity. Its capital is the obvious example. The world’s most populous city, Tokyo is a jungle of fluorescent advertising, its citizens scurrying below with help from an astonishingly sophisticated rail network.

Yet, even within particular destinations, Japan’s diversity is evident. Still in Tokyo, amid the frenzied pace of Shibuya, we stroll through Yoyogi Park, a 54-hectare expanse of lush lawns, picturesque vistas and forested nooks. The park is also home to Meiji Jingu, where my attention is torn between the grand shrine and the countless ema hanging nearby. A Shinto custom, ema are small wooden plaques on which worshippers – and, surely in this case, plenty of tourists – write their wishes and prayers.

Whether or not you believe that spirits will receive and grant those wishes, the ema make for inspiring reading. I stand and scan, reading requests for health, wealth, love, university admissions and everything in between. But it is two strangers named ‘C & L’, in particular, who catch my attention. “I wish to be rich in adventure,” they write. Likewise, which is why G Adventures is such a great fit.

The Details

Travel for good

Launched in 2019, the Hagi Homestay is part of G Adventures’ G for Good social enterprise program. A joint initiative between G Adventures and its non-profit partner, Planeterra, the homestay aims to link the Hagi community, which is dwindling in numbers, to the tourism market and grow opportunities for younger locals to remain in their rural homes.

Rates for G Adventures’ 11-day Back Roads of Japan tour start from $3135.

gadventures.com.au

Soneva Leads the Way for a More Sustainable Maldives

Soneva’s Namoona Baa initiative with Maldivian governments has led to Maalhos becoming the first Maldivian island to stop open burning

Aerial beach view, Maldives
Aerial beach view, Maldives

In partnership with Common Seas, an international NGO dedicated to reducing marine plastic pollution, Soneva and island council presidents have pledged to reduce the waste produced in the Baa Atoll for a more sustainable Maldives.

Each island in the Namoona Baa initiative will create an ‘eco-centro’ waste-to-wealth centre that will sort, recycle and reuse island waste in an effort to end the practice of the open burning of waste. This is modelled on the Soneva resort practice of recycling 90 per cent of food and organic waste, metals, plastics and bottles. The eco-centre on Maalhos has already enabled the island to completely stop the open burning of rubbish and waste.

In February, Parliamentary Speaker Mohamed Nasheed and Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh took part in a friendly cricket match celebrating this step towards a more eco-friendly and sustainable Maldives. Speaking at the dinner that followed, Nasheed said: “What we have brought to our islands in the course of building a life, has taken us over – waste has taken over our reefs, beaches and islands. This waste is now a curse.”

Central to the Namoona Baa initiative is the reduction in the volume of plastics arriving to the island nation. This effort is supported by the establishment of a water treatment plant that desalinates and mineralises sea water, bottling the beverage in reusable glass containers.

“The eco-centro is a revolution for Maalhos,” noted island council president, Abdulla Shujau. “After 20 years, we have turned our dump yard into a proper waste centre.”

The waste reduction program is fostered on a sense of love for the ocean and local environment. Soneva is nurturing a new generation of environmental stewards, enabling the Maldivian islands to “produce wealth from its waste,” as stated by Soneva CEO and co-founder, Sonu Shivdasani.

Dealing with waste, particularly plastic, is a major issue for every island community in the Maldives. Plastic bottles and bags tend to litter streets, island jungles and beaches, while waste is routinely burned in toxic, open bonfires. Human health and guesthouse tourism suffer as a direct result of this practice.

Under the Namoona Baa Initiative, the Maalhos model will be expanded to neighbouring Dharavandhoo and Kihaadhoo, with eco-centro waste-to-wealth centres established on both islands later this year. With government support, it is hoped that the model can be rolled out across the Baa Atoll and eventually the whole of the Maldives. A nationwide phase-out of single-use plastics in the Maldives is expected by 2023.

soneva.com

The World’s Best Cities for Solo Female Travellers

Solo Female Travel
Solo Female Travel

The cities were chosen by tailor-made travel company Tourlane based on a range of criteria including female representation in local business, legal and gender equality, female safety perceptions, accommodation options and the quality of communication available

It seems girls not only run the world these days but are also running all over it, with the trend in female solo travel continuing to rise in 2020. Cutting out compromises by ditching companions, women are discovering not only new cities and cultures, but a deeper sense of self and wellness from the experience.

An increasing number of women are travelling on their own terms, at their own speed and in their own way, and a range of studies have revealed that this trend for solo female travel is by no means slowing down. Last year, there was a 131% increase in searches for female solo travel, and airport taxi transfer company Taxi2Airport.com has recorded over 16,000 searches for the travel style already in 2020.

With interest peaking, women can start packing their bags because tailor-made travel experts Tourlane have just announced the best cities for solo female travellers based on a range of qualified categories. These include female representation in local business, legal and gender equality, female safety perceptions, accommodation options, and the quality of communication available including internet speed and phone data.

 

Europe

The coveted continent holds its claim for a reason. 26 of its cities made Tourlane’s rankings for solo female travel, which was more than any other continent. The highest scoring overall was Ljublijana, the capital city of Slovenia. The small and safe country is easy to navigate and even easier to find adventure. Head to the train station and a ticket will take you to neighbouring Vienna, Dubrovnik, Prague and Budapest, all of which also made the list.

Show-stoppers like London, Paris, and Amsterdam where also given the green light for solo females, along with Ireland’s Dublin, and the Greek capital Athens. Barcelona is another bustling city to consider, with 82.5% of women recording feeling safe walking alone a night.

 

Asia

With laws so tight you can get fined for discarding your chewing gum inappropriately, it’s no surprise that Singapore has been considered one of the safer cities in Asia. Cosmopolitan capital city Kuala Lumpur was also high on the list with a strong sense of gender equality making women feel safe when traveling alone.

Aussies’ favourite, Bali, saw over 5.8 million posts on social media from solo female travellers last year – unsurprising as it increasingly becomes a destination for digital nomads, making connecting with fellow travellers commonplace.

 

Oceania

Australia’s Harbour City, Sydney ranked fifth on the list overall, scoring a 9.73 out of 10 in regard to female perceived gender equality. Just across the ditch, Auckland, albeit surrounded by volcanic craters and packed with adrenalin-pumping activities, has the tick of approval for solo travellers.

 

South America

Surprisingly, there were more South American cities than North American on the list. These included Ecuador’s Quito, Argentina’s Buenos Aires, Colombia’s Cartagena, Chile’s Valparaíso, and Peru’s Cusco, which is also the highest city in the list, sitting at 11,152 feet above sea level. The locals welcome travellers with open arms and smiling faces, but it is still recommended that the further you stray from the tourist track, the higher degree of caution you exercise.

 

North America

It may be the concrete jungle, but New York City is a jungle you can navigate sans guide, and sans anyone else if that’s what you want. In the last few years, there has been a lot of effort put in to cleaning up the city and reducing crime, making it an ideal spot for solo travellers. It’s easy to get around, easy to connect, easy to find accommodation, and easy to fall for.

Smaller San José in sunny California is home to Silicon Valley and is understandably a hive of activity. Attracting people from all over, it’s a melting pot for the like-minded, and overly open to outsiders.

Canadian city, Vancouver, on the other hand is a place where travellers can unwind and unplug. Famous for their friendliness, it’s little surprise this city made it to the list for solo female travellers.

Read more about women-only travel and solo female travel.

Alice Springs’ Festival in Light to Host VIP Dinner Experience

Parrtjima - Festival Of Light VIP Dinner
Parrtjima - Festival Of Light VIP Dinner

Guests have the chance to treat their taste buds at two VIP dinners, set amid the globally renowned, other-worldly Parrjima – A Festival in Light

Parrtjima – A Festival in Light, is set to stir up all the senses in Alice Springs this April. The only authentic Aboriginal light festival of its kind, Parrtjima will bring the stories of Australia’s oldest living culture to life through a range of music, art and light shows, including spectacularly lighting two kilometres of the 300 million-year-old MacDonnell Ranges.

Along with similarly impressive light displays, it has just been announced that guests will also have the opportunity to treat their taste buds at two VIP dinners hosted by celebrity chef Mark Olive from The Outback Cafe television series, and globally renowned bushfood supplier and owner of catering company Kungkas Can Cook, Rayleen Brown.

Together, the pair have crafted a menu available only at Parrtjima, that brings together their individual takes on their culture’s food, heritage and storylines. Guests can enjoy the menu while sipping on premium wines and being entertained by both traditional and contemporary performances.

As an extra special treat, the pair will be hosting an interactive bushfood masterclass taking guests through a once-in-a-lifetime lesson on harvesting bushfood, its storylines, and the songs that connect each ingredient to its country and people.

“The masterclass and dinners will help to educate people not only about our magnificent bushfoods but also the wonderful history of meaning and culture that is such an important part of the mix,” Northern Territory Major Events Company Director Engagement and Culture Paul Ah Che explained.

The free festival will run across 10 nights, from 3-12 April. The VIP dinners will be held on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 April. Tickets are priced at $250 per person for the dinner and $150 per person for the masterclass.

 

parrtjimaaustralia.com.au

The Best Hotel, Restaurant and Spa in the World

Twin Farms, Vermont, USA

The best of the best, according to Forbes Travel Guide

For the first time in its 62 year history, Forbes Travel Guide has announced the best hotel, restaurant and spa of the year. Recipients of this accolade were chosen, as told to Forbes by CEO Filip Boyen, based off of a series of criteria that matches Forbes Travel Guide’s “well-known commitment to integrity”.

Covering 76 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, each year Forbes Travel Guide’s highly trained inspectors visit properties as objective mystery guests, evaluating and verifying their quality based on up to 900 objective criteria. The evaluation covers both service and facilitates as well as service, judging what kind of impression the property leaves on guests, how it makes them feel and what they remember most about the visit.

Without further ado, here are Forbes’ travel standouts for 2020:

Hotel of the Year

Located in the Vermont town of Barnard with a population of less that 1,000 people, the 20-room boutique hotel known as Twin Farms received this honour for its achievement of 98.24% on Forbes’ scoring card.

When prompted as to what makes Twin Farms unique, managing director John Graham told Forbes, “in part it’s a beautiful Vermont setting, in part wonderful design and art, in part great culinary and wine, in part memorable activities, but in whole our team truly dedicated to serving, really serving.”

With just 20 rooms spanning 300 acres, Twin Farms’ secluded adult-only property provides an intimate escape among the trees and mountains of Vermont. Visitors to this secluded boutique hotel can venture further afield—about a 1.5 hour drive—to Burlington, the capital of Vermont. Back at Twin Farms, services include such amenities as same-day laundry service, staff members to pack and unpack luggage, fully stocked refrigerators and local craft touches.

twinfarms.com

Chalet Bedroom at Twin Farms, Vermont
Chalet Bedroom at Twin Farms, Vermont

Restaurant of the Year

Inside Wynn Palace in Macau, sits the five-star Sichuan Moon by Andre Chiang, which received a score of 99.22% on Forbes’ rating scale, leading the restaurant to undeniable victory. The 15-course degustation menu aims to reacquaint the public with Sichuan food—shifting perceptions of the local cuisine as only spice to include the wide variation of flavours presented in Macau.

In an interview with Forbes, Wynn Palace chief operating officer Frederic Luvisutto stated, “Our goal is to reinterpret the flavours of Sichuan dishes and present them on a global stage, by introducing creative new culinary techniques and pairing dishes with extraordinarily rare specialty teas from around the world.”

wynnpalace.com

Sichuan Moon, Wynn Palace Macau
Sichuan Moon, Wynn Palace Macau

Spa of the Year

Neighbouring Forbes’ Restaurant of the Year sits another of 2020’s outstanding destinations: the Morpheus Spa at the City of Dreams complex. Receiving a 99.50 score when compared to Forbes’ criteria, this six-room spa was created b architect Zaha Hadid. According to Forbes, it’s the first spa in the world to feature real snow. Additional amenities include the spa butler and platinum mask.

Chief operating officer of Macau Resorts and property president of City of Dreams, David Sisk, told Forbes that “The globally renowned Forbes award is a tribute to their talent and dedication. With its imaginative guest experiences, iconic design and exceptional amenities, Morpheus redefines high-end hospitality.”

cityofdreamsmacau.com

Morpheus Spa at the City of Dreams, Macau
Morpheus Spa at the City of Dreams, Macau

The Top Family Travel Trends for 2020

Multigenerational Family travel

From Michelin-starred restaurants to custom safaris, Virtuoso’s expert advisors share the top family travel trends for 2020

It’s no secret that travellers are increasingly seeking out culturally immersive experiences, but what what is new is that the kids in the family are often the ones suggesting these experiences – and influencing their family’s holidays. Virtuoso’s travel advisors that specialise in family travel have revealed that authenticity tops the list of emergent trends, with children driving travel decisions in second place. The influence of the younger generation on family travel is reflected across the board—from destinations and trends to experiences and travel choices.

Below are the findings from the 2020 Virtuoso Family Travel Community survey:

While classic European destinations such as Italy, England and France remain popular with families, other less traditional places are on the rise. Generation Z is involving itself in planning trips, and they want to explore places such as Croatia, Morocco and Antarctica.

 

Top Family Travel Destinations:

  1. Italy
  2. Hawaii
  3. England
  4. Costa Rica
  5. France

 

Top Family Travel Destinations on the Rise:

  1. Croatia
  2. Belize
  3. Kenya
  4. Morocco
  5. Antarctica
Croatia aerial view
Croatia aerial view

Multigenerational travel remains the most popular family trend and multiple generations are the second most frequent travel companions behind the immediate family. Virtuoso advisors said they typically design custom itineraries that encompass other key trends like experiential travel and adventure trips, such as a last-minute safari for 10 people including grandparents, children and grandchildren. Celebration travel is also growing, too, with one Virtuoso advisor even designing an Alaska trip for a grandfather who helicoptered his triplet grandchildren to a glacier for their 13th birthday – complete with cake.

 

Top Family Travel Trends:

  1. Multigenerational trips
  2. Beach resort stays
  3. Active-adventure trips
  4. Celebration trips
  5. Experiential trips

 

Top Emerging Family Travel Trends

  1. Authenticity
  2. Children driving travel decisions
  3. Wow amenities for children
  4. Visiting less touristed places
  5. Skip gen (grandparents and grandchildren)
Lion on Family Travel Safari with VIrtuoso
Lion on Family Travel Safari with VIrtuoso

Children today are also travelling at younger ages to more distant destinations. Virtuoso advisors report arranging family adventures with infants in tow, including a baby who stayed in Japanese monasteries while accompanying its parents hiking and cycling and a one year old who tagged along for a camel ride and dinner in the Moroccan mountains. The leading family travel experiences include:

  1. Active experiences
  2. Relaxing on beach/poolside
  3. Classes or lessons
  4. Animal viewing/interactions
  5. Exploring local culture via food
Camel riding on Family Travel with Virtuoso
Camel riding on Family Travel with Virtuoso

Young globetrotters expect active immersion in local cultures, but still want downtime. Virtuoso advisors say junior foodies have asked for Michelin-starred restaurants. Another advisor created a 10-city, 10-day family tour of European car museums. Other rare family experiences advisors have arranged include front row viewing at Siena’s Palio and closing a New York City pizzeria for family fun. One advisor reserved a seaplane to pick up a young woman from a yacht in the middle of the ocean so she would be home in time for a college interview.

The potential appeal of a destination to social media followers is also a frequent driver of young travellers’ decisions. Aiming to maintain and increase their online influence, young travellers want picturesque destinations that they can showcase to their followers.  Generation Z is now:

 

  1. Involving themselves in planning trips
  2. Requesting culturally immersive experiences
  3. Looking for visual trips for social media
  4. Looking to influence others online
  5. Wanting trips that are personalised to their interests
Travelling for New Experience and Influencing Followers
Travelling for New Experience and Influencing Followers

While the immediate family remains the most popular group for family travel, the addition of other generations, friends or a combination of family relations are highly ranked companion choices. In order they are:

  1. Immediate family
  2. Multigenerational family
  3. Family and friends
  4. Multiple families
  5. Mother/daughter or father/son
Destinations for Virtuoso's Travelling Families
Destinations for Virtuoso's Travelling Families

Virtuoso specialists have also shared that family travel sales are strong for 2020. 57 per cent expect sales to increase from 2019, while 42 per cent envision sales will remain steady from last year. Just one percent foresee a minor dip for the coming year.

virtuoso.com

A Look at the World’s First ‘Wandering Hotel’

700'000 Heures
700'000 Heures

700’000 heures is a journey rather than a room for a night – although it does include that, too…

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of a ‘wandering’ or ‘ephemeral’ hotel – there is only one of them in the world, and before 2018, they didn’t exist at all. Besides, it’s probably not quite what you think it is. Named for the apparent average number of hours human beings spend on Earth, 700’000 heures is a journey rather than a room for a night – although it does include that, too. Every six months founder Thierry Teyssier and his 700’000 heures team take an exclusive group of travellers to a new destination, where a locally-engrained and ultra-exclusive itinerary unfolds. These destinations and experiences exist for just a few months, and are never repeated.

“Time is precious. Too precious to miss out on experiences that can transform how we see the world. This is the raison d’être of 700’000 heures: a pioneering adventure that elevates communities while transporting you to an utterly new way of travelling. One that is more memorable, more meaningful and more humane,” the 700’000 heures website reads.

But there’s a catch. To be invited to these once-in-a-lifetime journeys, you must be a member of the private, members-only community, Cercle des Amazirs, which requires you pay a joining fee along with an annual fee of minimum €2,000 euros. On the plus side, that fee goes towards your future 700’000 travels, and members can reserve their stay for the dates and duration they wish.

On each journey, a collection of custom ‘travelling trunks’ travels with the group so impromptu lunches and dinners can be sprung upon guests at any moment; on 700’000 heures journeys, surprises are guaranteed on the daily. On each journey, Thierry and the team work behind the scenes with the locals of the destination to create completely unique spaces and moments tailored to guests’ desires.

The accommodation in each destination is a selection of unique and authentic private homes, and 700’000 heures recently launched The Constellation, opening select, local houses from the various journeys to the general public for holiday rentals. 700’000 heures also gives back to the communities where they operate temporarily through DAEM, a non-profit training program in hospitality and environmental protection, named to support those who live in these remote locations far from the throngs of traditional tourism.

“The world is too rich to settle for trips which all look alike… It’s time to invent a new way to discover the world, which is more authentically connected to people and cultures, more enriching and more humane for all. It’s time to become independently minded,” the company’s brochure reads.

The first 700’000 journey took place in 2018 in Salento, in Southern Italy’s trending Puglia region, and since then, Cambodia and Brazil have played host to the 700’000 Heures family. Most recently, over Christmas, the adventure took place at Place Vendôme in Paris, and come April the ephemeral hotel will ‘open’ in Japan – unsurprising given 2020 seems to be the unofficial Year of Japan in the tourism world.

So what exactly is so special about the ephemeral hotel, and what can you expect? Read on for an idea of the Salento journey, where guests were housed in a romantic, long-forgotten palazzo…

  • Saunters on the cobblestoned lanes of Cinquecento
  • A picnic perched atop the coastal bluffs
  • A freshly- and locally-caught sea urchin tasting experience
  • A surprise dinner in an abandoned train wagon temporarily converted into a masterpiece
  • A Vespa ride to magnificent boulders
  • Lunch under olive trees facing the sea
  • Brunch in a waterside grotto
  • Relaxing in a Leccese café on the village square
  • Sitting in for watercolour portraits
  • Sunset cocktails at a impromptu outdoor living room above the ocean
  • Exploring the Parisi brothers’ warehouse filled with a kaleidoscope of traditional Pugliese luminarie fairy lights
  • A musician serenading guests as they arrived home each night

As for Japan, the locations will be Ine, a traditional Japanese house in a fisherman’s village on the Sea of Japan, and Koyasan, a historic temple that just celebrated its 1200th birthday. Guests have the choice of staying in just one or both places, and it will set you back 2,500 euros per night for two guests in a double room, or 2,000 euros per night in a single room. Children are also welcome, at 750 euros a head. All meals, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks are included, along with activities, excursions and workshops, all accompanied by a Japanese culture specialist and tea master.

Where do we sign up?

 

700000heures.com

See the Northern Lights from a Hot Air Balloon with New Swedish Lapland Experience

Lapland Ballooning with Off the Map Travel
Lapland Ballooning with Off the Map Travel

Off the Map Travel will offer hot air balloon experiences in the Swedish Lapland to search for the Aurora Borealis from December 2020

Travellers visiting Swedish Lapland in the hope of seeing the Northern Lights can now take the viewing experience up a notch, with a new hot air-balloon concept by the founders of the Aurora Safari Camp. Jonas Gejke and Fredrik Broman are starting hot air balloon operations in Swedish Lapland along with ballooning expert Andrew Peart, who has been flying hot air balloons for more than 25 years over the African savannahs.

“This is a first,” says Jonathan Cooper, founder of Off the Map Travel and Arctic Travel expert. “We’ve never heard of anything like this before and everything is pointing to this being the region’s next big highlight Aurora experience.”

The first aurora flight will take off in December 2020 and will be available through to April 2021 – with bookings due to open for guests in May 2020. The experience will see the balloon take off and ascend up to 40 metres into the air, where it will hover while remaining anchored to the arctic ice below. 

For those more interested in the Arctic landscapes, the Lapland Ballooning team will also be running daytime expedition flights from its home base in Gunnarsbyn, Råneå River Valley over the Arctic wilderness.

“To experience the Northern Lights from the tranquility of the balloon in a remote wilderness region of Northern Sweden is a very special experience and one that will serve as a highlight for any luxury Arctic adventure,” Off the Map Travel’s Jonathan Cooper said. “Although the Aurora is never guaranteed, what better place to hunt for it than by ascending into the stars yourself.”

The full board 4-day 3-night Aurora in the Sky itinerary costs from £2,275 per person, not including flights. The cost includes meals, private transfers, accommodation at the Outpost and Aurora Safari Camp, snowmobile adventure with lunch on the Arctic circle, Aurora Hot Air Balloon experience and a Snowmobile adventure to the “meet the locals” experience.

The Lapland Ballooning experience is available for groups of up to six people and is recommended for guests over six years old. As flights will be weather dependent, it is also recommended that the experience be included as part of a multi-day stay to allow guests flexibility for their flight. Those keen to experience the new Aurora ballooning are advised to contact the team at Off the Map Travel for information about itineraries for next winter.

 

www.offthemap.travel