Not all holidays are created equal. From backpacking in Asia to five-star splurges in the Caribbean or South Pacific, the world is alive with possibility for the eternally curious. And yet, with the world seemingly shrinking, finding a truly out-of-the-ordinary, swashbuckling adventure can be a real head-scratcher. If your holiday planning is stuck in the doldrums, fear not: follow these tips to bring the sense of adventure back into your travels.
Consider an emerging destination
With travel insights moving at the speed of the internet, this can be tricky. By the time your trip is booked, the off-map will be on-map, the secret hotel won’t be secret and any bragging rights will be drowned out by social media noise. Didn’t you know Cuba was so last year? That said, this year does have some alternative standouts: Malawi, home to three on-the-up safari reserves Majete, Liwonde and Nkhotakota; Tunisia, deservedly back on the tourist radar following the tragic 2015 terrorist attack in Sousse; and Sierra Leone, an adventurous destination for the hardcore.
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Save your pennies for somewhere new
Spain. India. Greece. We all have our tried and tested destinations, but there's an exciting, irresistible world out there waiting to be explored. Skyscanner's 'Everywhere' feature lets you see the cheapest flights for your date, destination non-specific. The site generates hundreds of different options, from short half-hour flights to Jersey to fifteen-hour long-haul journeys to Japan. You might find yourself a new go-to or at the very least explore something that you never knew existed - just put your trust in the Skyscanner gods.
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Ditch your family
It takes nerve, but in order to fly solo, you’ll have to add your partners, friends and family to the travel ban list. But please hear us out. Going it alone means you can pick and choose your dates without fuss, benefit from last-minute deals and single supplements, and revel in somewhere that ultimately suits you. No questions asked. Just want an easy flop-and-fly? Fix up a cheapie to Corsica, or a bang-for-buck Greek island like Crete.
Sure, they’re hardly exotic on most people’s radar, but if you’re not used to traveling by yourself, by the time you’re leaving the arrivals hall you’ll already be out your comfort zone. The first night in any unfamiliar environment amps up the excitement and your sense of vulnerability – whether it’s in Berlin or Bamako – but by morning your destination will feel far more intimate than it possibly could otherwise.
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Go overland with an open-jaw ticket
Often the best moments in travel come when you least expect them. Be it a fleeting conversation on a desert road in Iran, then invitation to a family dinner in your honour. Or when seeking out a chicken bus station in Nicaragua and stumbling upon a restaurant that becomes the highlight of your trip. To travel overland is to fully immerse yourself in the destination, to meet people you’d never normally mingle with. And not only will it save you time double-backing to where you started, but the costs are often marginal. You’ll be kissing standard, off-the-shelf holidays goodbye for something with real depth.
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Pack as lightly as possible
A trip to somewhere new is not diminished by taking less with you. Trust us, it’s a bonus. Without the shirt you packed for emergencies, or the beach dress you’re not quite sure of, you’ll be far more inclined to sniff out local markets and just-recommended boutiques for souvenir items to wear along the way. Imagine some of the world’s great temples to shopping – like Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar or Tokyo’s mammoth department stories. Then think about leaving empty-handed.
That’s not all: traveling light reduces stress at the baggage carousel, increases your flexibility and gives you a sense of freedom that’s the envy of other travellers. The only caveat? Make sure to pack a trusted guidebook, of course.
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Gamble on holiday pot luck
This can be a hard sell, but nothing adds more thrill to a holiday than playing roulette and booking somewhere you’d never normally consider. Fan of a splash and snorkel in Spain? Grab a deal to India for a lick of unknown tropical sun. Love wandering Parisian boulevards? Explore a Paris of the East, namely Baku, Beirut, or Bucharest. One quick hack is to sign-up for Jack’s Flight Club, which scours online airfare systems to find fare errors and dangerously tempting discounts, before sending them to your inbox for review.
A free service, it’s a hive of cheap flight knowledge, and could land you a return flight from London to Tokyo from as little as £248. Or perhaps £239 from Inverness to Hawaii is more your scene.
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Live like a local
Staying in a hostel is nothing new, but why not take it one step further and book yourself into a homestay? Nothing says cultural emersion like brushing your teeth next to a Colombian farmer. Homestay websites like Homestay.com, Couchsurfing and Airbnb let you book a room in a local family's house (or boat), offering you an insight to the daily life of the country's residents. Sweet-talk your hosts for some advice on escaping the tourist trail or offer to take them out for dinner at their favourite spot. You'll be amazed how many will take you up on that offer.
Yes, you are going to have to give up the room service treatment and maybe you'll have to queue for the toilet, but, hey, you might just meet someone who makes you happy you traded hotel for homestay.
Top image: Daxiao Productions / Shutterstock