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Oh, The Places You’ll Go (in 2024)

Bespoke travel specialist Tom Barber interviews himself on how, when, and where savvy globetrotters will be heading this year.

TB: Tom, you handsome devil, tell everyone how we’ll all be traveling in 2024. 

TB: So glad you asked. This year, we’ll be ducking off the beaten path in well-trodden destinations or switching to shoulder season to avoid sharp-elbowed and phone-toting tourists and their ubiquitous selfie sticks. Original Travel recently launched a portfolio we call the Secret Series, which focuses on those under-the-radar places in otherwise classic destinations. Calabria, for example, is every bit as glorious as Amalfi in Italy—same sensational food, same perfect weather, same gorgeous people, same glorious landscapes and culture—but minus the hordes.

TB: Why are you banging on about shoulders and elbows?

TB: Sorry, slipped into travel industry lingo there. “Shoulder seasons” are those months either side of high season that are often just as nice weather-wise but without those pesky hordes and sky-high prices. Shoulder season means better availability in the best properties. It’s another example of how you can dramatically improve your travel experience with a bit of strategic thinking. And, of course, some professional travel help.

TB: It’s great to have an unbiased opinion. OK, what are the other trends we should be looking out for in 2024?

TB: One recent trend: the “bonding holiday”, where two members of the family go on holiday without the others. We are arranging more and more of these. They tend to be a parent and teenage child, or a grandparent and younger child. The trip allows them, ideally, to bond over a common interest such as sport, history, bird-watching, or whatever the two may fancy. Full-on family vacations are all well and good, but actually taking the time to travel one-on-one can be incredibly rewarding. 

Examples of bonding holidays we’ve done recently are a father taking his daughter to Kenya to take part in a rhino conservation project because she’s so passionate about rhinos; and a dad and teenage son who went to Jamaica because of a shared love of James Bond (author Ian Fleming wrote most of the books while living there) and Bob Marley. The son is an aspiring singer and we arranged for him to lay down a track at the Tuff Gong studio, Marley’s favorite place to record. 

Two rhinos being watched by safari participants
“Bonding holidays”—where two members of a family go on holiday without the others—are an emerging trend. Barber recently arranged for a father and daughter to take part in a rhino conservation project. Photo by Carl & Ann Purcell via Getty
Tropea beach, Calabria, Italy.
Look for under-the-radar places in otherwise classic destinations. Calabria, Italy, is every bit as glorious as Amalfi—but minus the hordes. Norbert Nagel, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

TB: Sounds great. Maybe you and I should go away together? 

TB: In fact, this is another trend: solo travel. 

TB: Moving from the “how” we’ll travel to the “where”: What are you predicting?

TB: I see a future containing Swedish Lapland and Palau. 

TB: #Random.

TB: I prefer to call them #original, actually, and also perfect in 2024. Here’s why: Everybody knows that seeing the Northern Lights is one of the greatest of all travel experiences, but not everyone knows that the odds of seeing the aurora borealis change from year to year. 2024 is what’s called a “solar maximum”, so it is—in theory—the best year in a decade to see this epic phenomenon. And IMO there is nowhere better to see them than Swedish Lapland where, in addition to the Northern Light show you can also stay in ice hotels and tree houses designed like UFOs, and mush your own team of huskies. And, on the west coast, you can kayak around archipelagos and go out with local fishermen to haul in shellfish and eat it fresh off the boat.

Palm trees on a beach in Palau
Palau, deep in the Pacific—with some of the world’s best dive sites—has always been on the discerning diver’s bucket list. Photo by ito1117, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Interior of a room on the luxurious liveaboard dive boat Four Seasons Explorer
New this year: travel to Palau from the Maldives on the luxurious liveaboard dive boat, Four Seasons Explorer. Photo by Four Seasons Explorer, Palau
Gentle but wide green aurora display over Levi
2024 sees the best chance in a decade to see the Northern Lights—and, for Barber, there is no better place to view this epic phenomenon than Swedish Lapland. Photo by Simo Räsänen, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

TB: And what about Palau?

TB: The definition of the middle of nowhere, Palau is a famously good dive destination and, as of 2024, there is a seriously luxurious liveaboard dive boat (the Four Seasons Explorer) that transfers from the Maldives to Palau deep in the Pacific. Palau has always been somewhere on the discerning diver’s bucket list, but the lack of quality accommodation has been an issue. No longer, as guests can enjoy Four Seasons levels of service on board while accessing some of the world’s best dive sites and islands with fascinating WWII history as well. (Given the White Lotus obsession with Four Seasons properties maybe this will be the setting for series four: Murder on the Four Seasons Explorer?)

TB: So if those are the hotspots, what about the notspots?

TB: It is absolutely true to say that travel is as subject to the fickleness of fashion as, well, fashion. There are places that have been hugely popular for years that now have tumbleweed rolling along the streets. I exaggerate, but somewhere like Oman has really dropped off in popularity, which is a great shame because it remains one of my favorite places. Though ironically this phenomenon is good news for clients because they can then swan in somewhere that finally has availability, brilliant accommodation and activities, and prices that have probably come off a little to lure people in.

The Peoloponnese in Greece was becoming a genuine contender to the islands but has slightly slipped off the radar so now is a good time to go.

And Turkey has had some negative press over the last few years but Istanbul—and the Hagia Sofia in particular—remains genuinely unmissable, while the Aegean coast is gorgeous, especially when explored from a fully crewed and swish gulet liveaboard. For the more adventurous, eastern Turkey is extraordinary, with vast lakes, residual Roman heritage (incredible mosaics), some evidence of what was once a thriving Armenian region and Göbleki Tepe, the oldest yet discovered temple complex—7,000 years older than Stonehenge.

People being led on a camel ride in the desert, Oman
Oman, great for activities like taking a camel ride in the desert, is another destination that has recently become less popular—good news for travelers. Photo by Andries Oudshoorn, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Villnoess St Magdelena in the Dolomites, northern Italy
Barber cites the Dolomite mountain range as “one of the most beautiful places in the world” with its sheer-sided peaks that glow a luscious pink as the sun sets—and some of the finest food in Italy. Photo by Böhringer Friedrich This Photo was taken by Böhringer Friedrich.Feel free to use my photos, but please mention me as the author and if you want send me a message. or (rufre@lenz-nenning.at), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

TB: OK, time for a curveball. Suggest an amazing destination that will blow the socks off a city slicker due to its natural beauty and vice versa, a city with awesome energy that would convert the most confirmed of country bumpkins into an urban warrior.

TB: Well, anyone reading this from the USA has plenty of beauty to admire, but somewhere I always cite as one of the most beautiful places in the world is the Dolomite mountain range in northern Italy. The peaks are sheer sided and glow a luscious pink as the sun sets. The fact that the region is also home to some of the finest food in Italy doesn’t hurt. Conversely, a city with unparalleled energy would have to be Bombay. Few places on the planet feel so alive, especially when you attend a sporting event like a cricket match or race meeting. 

TB: And now a bit more on my favorite subject: Me. What was your/my first truly memorable trip? 

TB: I’m ashamed to say I’d never left Europe before I was 16. Then my Mum and I rather amazingly ended up on Harbour Island, in the Bahamas, way before it got fashionable. I remember walking along that ridiculously perfect pink sand beach with palm trees swaying in the breeze, beer in hand, and there in front of me were four of the most incredibly beautiful models, frolicking around in the shallows being photographed for a swimwear shoot for Elle magazine. As you can imagine I rather fell in love with travel at that point. 

Hero photo of Tom Barber and his daughter courtesy of Tom Barber

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