Dare to dream: 10 top brands to help you plan the perfect holiday
Now that international travel is back on the agenda, it’s time to start dreaming and planning for your next holiday.
Maybe you fancy a far-flung adventure, discovering the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands or taking in the Insta-worthy surroundings of a Maldives resort.
You might be craving some laid-back afternoons round a villa pool in Spain or Portugal, or fancy enjoying la dolce vita in the Italian countryside.
Perhaps you’d rather stay closer to home, with an indulgent spa stay or a back-to-nature eco retreat in the countryside. You might even be feeling generous enough to treat someone else to a well-deserved escape from the daily grind.
Wherever your travel dreams are taking you, these ten leading brands can either help deliver the perfect getaway you’re looking for or provide assistance with the all-important practicalities, such as supplying quick and efficient Covid testing or making it easier, cheaper and more eco-friendly to spend money abroad.
Here’s to the happiest, healthiest holidays ever – heaven knows, we’re ready for them!
Barons Eden Hotel and Spa Collection
Never has a spa break seemed more appealing than it does right now, after everything the pandemic has thrown at us.
Whether you want to escape with a loved one, reconnect with friends or just enjoy some quality “me time”, Barons Eden can help, with two luxurious spa and hotel destinations to choose from, both housed in beautiful historic mansions and surrounded by glorious grounds.
At Hoar Cross Hall, in rural Staffordshire, the award-winning spa facilities range from a hydrotherapy pool and Nordic heat and ice suite to a detox centre and even a hair salon. You can make a proper break of it, too, booking into one of the hotel’s elegant bedrooms for an overnight stay.
Or head for the equally idyllic Eden Hall Day Spa in Nottinghamshire. Relax and rebalance in the thermal spa suite, work out in the exercise studio or kick back in outdoor hot tubs with soothing garden views.
Find out more at baronseden.com
It’s no wonder the Galapagos Islands feature on many people’s bucket lists. This volcanic paradise is like nowhere else on Earth, with fascinating wildlife that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Top tour operator Go Galapagos has more than 30 years’ experience of providing high-end, all-inclusive cruises around this unique region. Its fleet of three impressive vessels comprise one boutique cruise ship, The Galapagos Legend, and two expedition yachts, Coral I and Coral II, all manned by highly trained crews.
By night, guests can socialise on the lounge decks and relax in eco-luxe cabins; by day, there are excursions led by a dedicated naturalist guide and no end of adventures to enjoy, both on land and underwater.
Whether you’re trekking through lava flows or photographing sea lions basking on the beach, taking a glass-bottomed boat trip or snorkelling alongside turtles and penguins, one thing’s for certain: you’ll be storing up amazing memories on the trip of a lifetime.
Find out more and get a free quote at gogalapagos.com
If you ever return from an Italian holiday and find yourself daydreaming about what it would be like to live there, it’s time to check out ITS ITALY.
This London-based company (motto: “Don’t just visit, belong!”) works with local authorities in more than 50 Italian municipalities to help foreign buyers purchase affordable properties and refurbish them within set deadlines, and even rent them out remotely. Yet ITS ITALY is not a real-estate agency, but a lifestyle company. The brand aims to promote the repopulation of ancient Italian villages through sustainable investments with a high social impact. For this reason, ITS ITALY also offers the chance to invest in local businesses. This way, the project helps foreigners to fully integrate themselves within the community, creating opportunities to not just visit, but to belong, as the company motto says.
ITS ITALY offers opportunities across the country, from north to south and in the beautiful central regions of Italy such as Lazio, Marche and Tuscany.
Sign up for membership at itsfor.it
Yes, the travel industry has a huge carbon footprint but that doesn’t mean eco-aware holidaymakers have to wave goodbye to global adventures.
Pioneering start-up Biostays is on hand to help those who love exploring this magnificent planet but want to do their best to protect it at the same time.
The dynamic and young Biostays team has pulled together some of the world’s best eco-friendly hotels and experiences, from cute, cosy cabins and secluded treehouses to grand eco-luxe estates.
As well as vetting each one to ensure it meets strict sustainability criteria, the company pledges to save two acres of rainforest for every booking made on the Biostays website. The goal: to save one million acres of rainforest by 2025.
“Travel spend done differently” – that’s the claim at Currensea, and it certainly lives up to its promise.
The UK’s first direct debit travel card couldn’t be simpler to use. It partners with your existing bank account, allowing you to spend seamlessly anywhere in the world just as easily as you would at home, without needing to pre-pay, top up or open a separate bank account.
Currensea also saves you money on every single holiday purchase, cutting the cost of all overseas FX fees by at least 85 per cent.
The safety-conscious can relax, knowing that all transactions are protected by the latest security and encryption technology. And those concerned about their environmental footprint will be happy to hear that the business is not only certified carbon neutral but also lets you offset the impact of your travels by using some of the savings you make to help plant trees or remove ocean plastic.
Find out more at currensea.com
From the Maldives capital of Malé and its international airport, it’s just ten minutes by speedboat to the award-winning island resort of Kurumba Maldives, where dreams of a tropical holiday idyll come blissfully to life.
Maldivian-owned and managed, Kurumba has eight different accommodation options to choose from, including private pool villas where you can take a dip in your own secluded pool.
If you’re feeling active, there’s a breathtaking house reef to explore, along with a gym, tennis courts, yoga classes and every kind of watersport. On lazier days, you could watch a cookery demonstration, relax on the powder-soft sandy beach that encircles the island, or bliss out at Veli Spa with a tempting array of treatments incorporating traditional therapies and local ingredients.
There’s plenty of choice on the dining front, too – with eight restaurants and three bars to choose from, you can try somewhere different every single night.
Book your stay now at kurumba.com
Haven on Earth
For two decades, the friendly consultants at Haven on Earth have been carefully matching up holidaymakers with villas and apartments in some of the Mediterranean’s loveliest spots, focusing on every client’s tastes and needs to pinpoint the perfect property for each one.
On the Algarve, for example, the consultants might find one family a palatial seven-bedroom villa surrounded by immaculately manicured gardens, or introduce another to a spectacular modern property overlooking a golf course. If you fancy soaking up sea views from a sleek villa on the Costa Brava or cosying up in a cute cottage in the Pollensa countryside, they know just the place to go.
Even when lockdown brought chaos to people’s holiday plans, the team never faltered, supporting customers throughout the disruption, proving endlessly flexible and resourceful in adapting to ever-changing circumstances, and earning themselves plenty of praise in the process.
Browse more stunning rental villas at havenonearth.co.uk
Five Star Greece
If you’re craving an idyllic Greek island escape, check out Five Star Greece. With more than 20 years’ experience and an unrivalled wealth of insider knowledge, this luxury villa company has built up a fabulous portfolio of high-end properties to rent, from the picturesque villages of the Cyclades to the peaceful Ionian islands.
Tell them what you’re looking for and your private consultant will rustle up a list of the very best options. Whether you’re after a remote hilltop villa with a view or a prime beachfront estate just steps from the sea, they know all the best boltholes Greece has to offer.
They can also arrange all those special little extras that make a holiday even more memorable, from chartering a private yacht or arranging a visit to a secret archaeological site to booking beauty treatments and beach picnics.
Britons decluttered on a massive scale during lockdown, so Tinggly’s slogan of “Give stories, not stuff” couldn’t be more in tune with the times.
The company’s concept is simple: you choose from a large range of gift boxes, with different themes and price points, which Tinggly then delivers as an e-voucher or gift box. Your lucky recipient can take their pick from hundreds of experiences or hotel stays in more than 100 countries.
They might opt for a bungee jump in New Zealand or a helicopter ride over New York. Perhaps they’ll choose a food tour of Paris or a session in a Balinese spa, or simply decide on a couple of nights in a country hotel. With no expiry date to worry about, they can take as long as they like to make up their mind.
Until October 31, 2021, there’s 25 per cent off for Times readers: just enter discount code “TheChecklist_25” when you shop at tinggly.com
Travelling abroad has undeniably become more stressful since the arrival of Covid, especially as international restrictions and testing requirements can quickly change from one day to the next.
So it’s reassuring to be able to call on the services of MyHealthcare Clinic, an established and award-winning healthcare group that aims to make the testing process less daunting and help everyone travel with confidence.
Since the start of the pandemic, MyHealthcare has been providing fast and reliable Covid testing services, with an easy-to-use online booking process and one of the quickest turnaround times available (fast-track results are delivered within four hours), to make sure that travellers get to board their flights on time.
The group has more than 20 testing locations across London and the southeast, all staffed by a team of experienced, doctor-led healthcare professionals.
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