Our Experts Share Their Planning Tips for Future Travel

Travel in 2020 has been a bit like the video conferences that now occupy our days: there are moments where the connection is perfect, and you make strides on a clear path forward—maybe you even book your plane ticket. But then someone’s internet connection drops. Or the screen freezes. Or a country closes its borders and enforces a quarantine.

Much like our digital world, it’s been a glitchy year for travel.

Needless to say, we weren’t able to run many trips. But with those intrepid travellers who did hit the road, we learned invaluable lessons that will shape the way we plan in the future.

The measures we took to make sure our travellers were safe while still having fun brought us to a whole new level of meticulous attention to detail (who knew it was even possible?). We heightened our ability to make tweaks on the fly in an ever-changing situation and honed in on some innovations and new trends.

What’s clear to us is that how we travel has fundamentally changed. We’ve had to hit a reset button, but we’re confident we will emerge from this more focused and committed to what we do, how we do it and with whom we work to deliver extraordinary experiences around the world.

Below are stories from our Experience Designers that share how 2020 has elevated their trip planning and their takeaways for future travel.

The Seclusion and Freedom of Boat Charters

Experience Designer: Tom Abraham

As our travel expert for coastal countries like Croatia, Greece and Turkey, Tom has long been showing his travellers these areas by sea, opting for small ships and yachts to serve as your floating accommodation. While he’s always felt that cruising along shorelines is in an incredible way to experience a destination, these boat-based trips are starting to make more sense than ever. 

Gathering your group off-land gives you freedom and peace of mind. You don’t need to worry about moving around between hotels while still getting the opportunity to see all a place has to offer. 

Basing your trip on a small ship also offers you more control in a time where that feels increasingly challenging. One traveller who went on a boat journey with us this year mentioned that he enjoyed having control over meals and the dining experiences onboard, rather than having to be concerned with dining out in public. Another benefit is being able to do a variety of different events: you can hop off in a port town if you want to check out the sites on land or veer to a secluded bay for a crowd-free beach day. 

As for his trip planning, Tom recognizes the importance of having good cancellation terms and the prospect of a no-hassle refund or, at the very least, the flexibility to change. (This lesson came from a last-minute yacht trip switch due to a sudden border closure, where Tom was able to save the traveller from any financial penalties and rebook them elsewhere.)

Coming up, Tom has a few boat trips on deck for 2021, including a private group of nearly 20 people taking to the coast of Croatia.

In Search of Open Spaces (and Open Borders)

Experience Designer: Orsolya Kako

Iceland was one of the first places to reopen their borders to international travellers, and our Experience Designer Orsolya Kako was eager to do research for new trips. Even though Orsolya had everything prepared to go—proper documentation, plane tickets, booked accommodations and, most importantly, a clean bill of health—she quickly realized the situation is not as simple as somewhere being open for business.

Despite perfect planning, the trip fell through due to a flight that kept getting bumped back to the point that it no longer fit into other plans. But not all was lost, as Orsolya learned first-hand the bumps in the road that may occur in this uncertain climate.

The good news is the situation confirmed just how solid our on-the-ground Iceland team is. They were always in touch and quickly adapted to whatever adjustments were needed, proving that when it comes to welcoming you back into their country, they’ll be ready whenever you are.

Until then, Iceland continues to manage the situation in stride. And with travellers yearning for more natural landscapes and wide-open spaces that make social distancing easy, the Land of Fire and Ice looks promising for travel in 2021.  

There are some new properties set to open that Orsolya is confident will work well for staying safe. One is the 360 hotel, a small property with a limited number of rooms (and therefore fewer guests) and the Torfhus Retreat, which features self-contained turf cottages and private outdoor geothermal hot tubs. She’s also looking at curating bespoke trips in even more remote regions like Eastern Iceland—a place few people go—that offers stunning hiking routes and mountain biking.  

Perhaps Orsolya’s biggest takeaway was being reminded of the emotions involved with travel planning, the incredible rush you get from booking your next trip and having something to look forward to—a feeling we’ve all missed and are longing to get back!

Finding a Home Away from Home

Experience Designer: Courtney Mundy

Experience Designer Courtney Mundy resides in Italy, one of the most hard-hit countries of COVID-19 in Europe. But thanks to the country’s strict security measures and a months-long lockdown, it was able to gradually open back up (you can check out this video of Courtney re-discovering Florence with her family to see what it’s been like).

Courtney continued to spend her summer exploring her adopted home safely and comfortably with her family, venturing to parts of Italy she hadn’t yet discovered. She went rafting with her son in the Garfagnanaa wildly adventurous, lesser-visited part of Tuscanyand spent close to a month in Sardinia, where they enjoyed the tourist-free turquoise beaches.

As someone who highly values being with family, Courtney knows it’s one of the top things everyone is longing for. And when it comes to your next adventure, you’ll want to make up for any lost time with those you hold dear. Italy is ideal for a multi-generational family getaway and Courtney has put together a roster of incredible villas that you can use as a base while you fill your days with events suited for both the young and young-at-heart.

She already has a handful of these villa-style trips on the books for next year, including a few at the incredible Podere Panico, as well as at other properties in Tuscany and Amalfi. Activities she’s curated around these stays include biking, hiking, private boating excursions, a private gardening experience at Francesco Illy’s award-winning Podere Le Ripi winery, blending sessions, a visit to a pecorino cheese farm, cooking classes and more.

What Courtney has learned from working with villas is to act fast. Most 2020 events and reservations were postponed to 2021, and villa availability is already limited for next year. For more ideas of where you can book a home away from home with your family and friends, take a look at our Singular Stays program for opportunities to both seclude and immerse yourself in exceptional settings.

Ready to get started on your next trip?

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Travel with Personal and Community Impact

Experience Designer: Christine Tucker

During this year’s slow down in travel, our Africa Expert, Christine Tucker, shifted her focus to strengthening relationships with our local partners in order to offer our travellers even more meaningful connections with the places they visit. She’s also been working on ways she can ensure as much money as possible stays in local communities on future trips.

One such way Christine has tackled this is through an initiative she’s started outside of B&R with her business partner, Gadi Habumugisha, called Two Fires. Together, they’ve created a social enterprise for East African creatives to provide photography services for corporate and NGO sectors in Rwanda. A portion of the agency’s profits will be donated to funding a gallery being constructed in Musanze, the hub Gorilla-viewing tourism in Rwanda, to further bond travellers with where they’re visiting. You can learn more about Christine and Gabi’s project here

Africa has started to welcome visitors back across its borders. Almost all of the eastern side of the continent is now open, including countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. Nowhere in the world has endured challenges from the loss of tourism quite like the African continent. So If you’re looking for your next trip to make a lasting impact—not only on you but on the destination you visit—then Africa’s the place to consider. 

With all 2020 bookings moved to 2021, in addition to everything that was already booked for 2021, space is tight, so start planning now if you’re looking ahead to 2022. Christine has colleagues who have seen first-hand how Africa has taken impressive measures to ensure the safety of their guests, with new protocols and rigorous attention to detail.

A Rise in Domestic Travel

Experience Designer: Annik Boulva

Based in Utah, Annik has been our go-to resource for trips to the American Southwest for over a decade. However, doubling as our expert for our most popular regions in France, the United States often took the backburner as travellers preferred to venture across the Atlantic rather than explore their own backyard. 

But because of travel restrictions imposed by the European Union, that wasn’t possible in 2020. This meant more Americans opted to explore their home country instead.

Recently, Annik orchestrated a family stay at the Lodge at Blue Sky, a luxury private ranch in the mountains of Utah, outside Salt Lake City. The group took over the property for a secluded vacation in the heart of nature. 

Guided by her expertise, Annik helped facilitate daily excursions and activities for the family and acted as a personal concierge and liaison between the travellers and the property, ensuring important details like babysitters, dinner reservations and tweaking events to make them suitable for children were all taken care of. 

Annik is now looking at more ways of showing Americans a new side of their home country, such as a private houseboat charter on Lake Powell or luxury camping on the secluded North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Travel Tips: Things to keep in mind when planning your next trip

Meticulous planning under the current global circumstances is more important than ever. Relying on spontaneity is not really an option with most things requiring an advanced booking. The upside, however, is that there is bound to be fewer people, allowing for a potentially crowd-free holiday. Here are a few of our tips to consider for your next trip.

Get started earlier than you think you should

With everything from 2020 being postponed, there’s a pent-up demand for future travel. Hot times for travel like the Holiday Season of 2021 and even 2022 are already filling up. 

Consider back up options

Something to be mindful of when you plan early is that unpredictable changes can occur. New regulations could have destinations closing their borders or implementing a quarantine at the last minute, so you’ll want to be flexible when it comes to the possibility of going somewhere new.

We saw this happen this year with a self-guided trip to Burgundy switching to Puglia after the UK imposed quarantine restrictions for citizens returning from France. Our team jumped into action by rebooking all their events just a week before departure.

Remember the finer details

With many new measures in place to ensure social distancing, you’ll have to be diligent about booking everything from a dinner reservation to an elliptical at the gym and time at the pool. (Or, let us be diligent about the details for you!)

Book with confidence

From your airline tickets to your in-destination activities, booking services with flexible cancellation policies and updated terms of service to ensure your safety is a top priority. Take a look at this page for more information on how we’ve responded to COVID-19, and for any other questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch

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