Where to go? What to do there? These are the big questions you need to answer when it comes to booking a trip away. But whether you’re planning a weekend city break or you’re on the hunt for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, here at Ape we’ve put together a list of ways you can upgrade your travel in 2019.
Stay in an eco-hotel
Wherever you end up travelling to this year, it’s worth having a look around to see if there’s an eco-hotel option. You’d be surprised, from luxurious island retreats to inner city boutiques, more and more hoteliers are offering an eco-friendly accommodation experience for guests conscious about their carbon footprint.
Whether constructed with eco-friendly materials (everything from organic plaster to eco-paint and recycled timber), using only locally-sourced ingredients, minimising waste or powered by renewable energy, due to its very nature, eco-friendly accommodation often provides a refreshingly different type of stay.
Our personal favourites include Jalakala, situated on India’s Andaman Islands and Borgo Pignano, Tuscany. The former is an island paradise with 7 rooms tucked away on a former banana plantation. A haven from plastic and chemical cleaning products, the boutique hotel boasts a rainwater pool, locally-sourced food (think tropical fruit for breakfast, fresh seafood for dinner) and pure relaxation. Borgo Pignano meanwhile, offers a sustainability-minded retreat among rolling hills, with added biodynamic Chianti and organic focaccia.
Take The Train
Let’s face it, airports – unless you’re travelling within the more expensive class brackets – are horrible places. And flying in general is a pain. It’s uncomfortable, tiresome, irritating… and that’s before the added baggage allowance fees, delays and the odd last-minute complication that renders your seat taken because you didn’t check in a month prior to take-off.
This year, consider the train instead – especially the Eurostar to mainland Europe and beyond. Once you’ve taken into account the time taken to get to an airport, the baggage checking, passport and security queues, then similar waits on the other end, the time difference associated with train travel doesn’t seem as vast. That’s without mentioning the added comfort, stunning scenery and subsequent walk-on-walk-off ease associated with landing bang in the centre of a city.
A train may even save you time in the long run: for country-hopping trips in Europe, for example, sleeper trains provide a fantastic opportunity to comfortably get a night’s sleep in whilst covering long distances, allowing you more time when you reach your destination. Don’t let the British rail network put you off – it’s much better on the continent.
Take The (Luxury) Train
More unbridled luxury than practicality this time. If you’re after world-class food and drink, majestic accommodation, an ever-changing panorama of stunning scenery and, in some circumstances, Baz Luhrmann-levels of sheer old-school glamour, you need to consider a luxury rail journey. With services now running on most continents, companies like Belmond are putting on once-in-a-lifetime trips that epitomise the concept of first class travel.
Whilst award-winning services operate in Peru, South Africa and India, for a unique trip closer to home, consider the Belmond Royal Scotsman. Edwardian elegance meets the comfort of a country house, the train even boasts a spa car with a range of relaxing treatments. Excursions are also available, allowing for a mix of unbeatable relaxation and discovery.
For pure unadulterated glamour however, look no further than the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. Channelling 1920s indulgence and style, the train is not only an art deco design but a truly once-in-lifetime experience, imploring guests to dress to the nines whilst enjoying decadent surroundings as the train zips between some of Europe’s most enchanting cities.
Go To The Extreme
A relatively new trend within the sector, “extreme travel” is about visiting places that are a little more off the beaten track, making for a truly one-of-a-kind travel experience. Usually operated as group tours, these unique excursions offer travellers the chance to see places that don’t regularly make the travel section of the newspapers.
Lupine Travel is a great example of a tour operator offering travellers the chance to experience truly unrivalled trips to some of the world’s most hidden of gems. The company originally offered tours to Chernobyl, Mongolia and North Korea (the definition of “extreme”), but has since diversified their offering with trips to every corner of the world – from Central Asia to Iraqi Kurdistan, Somaliland to Transnistria.
Expert guides lead trips that take in awe-inspiring sights, engrossing local cultures and some of the most remote places on earth. A must for keen photographers and travellers looking to experience something they will never forget. Also worth considering for those looking to engross themselves in a slightly tamer destination such as Georgia or Cuba.
The Last Supper (Club)
If you’re looking to up your foodie game next time you go on holiday, consider a more novel way of dining in the form of a supper club. Combining local expertise, a warm and friendly social atmosphere, great food and local insight, supper clubs are the perfect opportunity to learn more about the place you’re visiting whilst getting in a good feed.
Ranging from foraging expeditions capped with forest banquets in Norway to hearty long table dinner parties in historic Budapest tenement homes, supper clubs rarely throw up the disappointment so often associated with a badly researched or impromptu restaurant booking. Expert hosts may even teach you a thing or two about the food they’re cooking, offering recipes and expert advice to take away.
Travel as a group
If you want to stay somewhere truly unique this year, consider a group booking in order to experience accommodation with a difference. Services like Airbnb Plus and exclusive house share network Stay One Degree offer larger groups the chance to stay in extravagant homes that for the solo traveller or couple would be beyond budget. Gather together a few friends however, and a world of castles, luxury villas and countryside boltholes awaits.