Overtourism – Coping with the Crowds.

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Come to think of it, we are more than responsible in bringing about a lot of damage on the planet by travelling.

In this age of everybody wanting to travel someplace, overcrowding is inevitable. And it hits you the moment you reach the airport which seems packed to the brim. Mass tourism affects popular cities that are being overrun with short-term visitors, or  beautiful sites that are becoming polluted, or when the pristine landscape of a hill station is being cleared of its natural fauna to find land for hotels, or even when ancient ruins are being pounded by never ending footfalls. You realize then that somewhere we need to stand up and say NO!

What shocked me more than all of these reasons was the fact that even the Mt Everest was not spared.  When you imagine the summit of Mount Everest, you picture a quiet, snowy peak far from civilisation. But a striking photo, taken by mountaineer Nirmal Purja, in May’19 shows how the reality is a lot more crowded.

Experts say crowds at Everest have also increased in recent years because expeditions have become more popular. Many “traffic jams” are caused by unprepared climbers who “do not have the physical condition” for the journey which risks not only their lives, but the lives of the Sherpa’s taking them up the mountain.

But regardless of how often we tell ourselves that we’re “travellers” and not tourists, good intentions don’t change the fact, that we’re all just a part of the huge number. And we are destroying the world by loving it to death.

The question is though: what can you do? I mean I love to travel I gain too much from seeing the world, as I’m sure so many other travellers do. So how do we find a balance of loving the world without destroying it?

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The crowded beach of Maya Bay,Thailand

The government is doing its fair share in controlling overcrowding by  implementing entry and exit timings with managing  footfalls around the world heritage sites and some more listed below;

  • In Italy’s hugely popular Cinque Terre, a phone app is being trialed that shows visitors real time congestion on the trails, and points them in the direction of alternatives.
  • For some places though, like Maya Bay in Thailand, and Boracay Island in the Philippines, the strain of overwhelming visitation has led to the extreme measure of closing the destinations to tourist’s altogether: an enforced time out for clean-up and recovery.
  • In one of the world’s most remote destinations, Easter Island, has recently changed the length of stay for tourist visas from 90 days to 30; an effort to curb the impacts of rising tourism on the tiny Pacific isle.
  • Even though there’s stringent management that includes a pollution-free perimeter zone, and capping the number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal, there’s no improvement outside the tourist attraction itself. With an enormous number of tourists visiting the monument on a daily basis it is slowly falling to the victim of pollution.

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However as an individual, the choices you make about where you go and what you do as a responsible traveller, can actually go a long way to helping ease the pressures of over tourism.

1. Search out Regional Alternatives

How about getting off the tourist trail and visiting destinations with lesser known sights and experiences?

Take the island of Bali. With attracting close to 6 million tourists in 2018, visitors tend to congregate around the island’s south, in heaving tourist centers like Seminyak and Kuta. But outside of Bali’s places such as Munduk, Padang Padang, Amed with some eco lodges in Munduk and Amed is where you can still find paradise, mingle with locals, and experience Bali’s distinctive island culture.

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2. Visit during Off-Peak Periods

When you visit a popular place outside of peak times, you’ll be contending with fewer tourists, and you’ll often be able to take advantage of cheaper flights, accommodation and experiences. For instance, in Croatia, Dubrovnik’s Old Town turns into a tourist crush during the hot daylight hours of the cruise ship season. But a morning stroll along the city walls before the crowds arrive, or an evening wander through its lantern-lit streets after they’ve shipped out? Magic.

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3. Support the Local Community with Your Time and Money

While tourism can bring a much-needed boost to a local community, by staying longer, sleeping in locally owned accommodations, eating at smaller, locally owned restaurants, and joining tours or experiences run by responsible local operators, you can feel more confident that your valuable dollar is going directly into that community.

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4. Explore Beyond the Hotspots with a Local Guide

For many of our over-loved destinations, crowds are often concentrated around a handful of hotspots. Exploring a destination with a responsible local guide who will often take you to places most tourists never get to see, can reveal an entirely different side to the place you’re visiting, and get you away from the over-touristed mainstream.

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5. Be an Eco-friendly, Responsible Traveller

‘Leave no trace’ that’s all there is to it!

By taking steps to minimise the waste you produce on your travels, and encouraging others to do the same, you can do your bit in helping to ease the pressures on this front. A cloth shopping bag, or a reusable water bottle, will immediately reduce your environmental footprint as you travel.

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What we need to do is to develop the idea of conscious travel and start to imagine a better alternative. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand or silver bullet; change will need to occur at the grassroots level, one destination at a time.

 What about you? Have you ever attempted to give back to the places you visit? Post a comment below.

Madhavi

 

 

 

PC:Thebeautyoftravel:Asean Travel:Agoda:Safareya:VisitBritain:Tripadvisor:Pinterest:IndiaToday

Satisfying my wanderlust -one step at a time

Whenever I travel to any new city, first thing I do after checking in is to frantically figure out my way around town, the use of public transport if any, and  how do I buy and use the oyster/subway cards or on what side of the street do I catch the bus on. But I am always utterly delighted when I discover that I just need my own two feet.

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So, I just want to say a big thank you to some of the world’s walkable cities -I am pleased to meet you, and appreciate you for the fact that you allow me to explore your beauty all on my own.  I love getting lost on your cobblestone streets and quaint bazaars. I love watching the street performers and stop by to listen to them singing or playing funky music on the guitar. I appreciate the quiet privacy I get even when sitting on a busy street bench, enjoying my Gelato and people watching (Something I can never do in Delhi).

Walkable towns and cities offer so much more in terms of sightseeing, something a bus or train ride can never lay claim to. But I have to warn you that not all cities are well suited to pedestrians (I’m looking at you, Los Angeles), and offering my utmost respect for those people that prefer to get around on foot (I’m looking at you New Yorkers).

I’m amazed at just how many miles I walk by the end of my trip (always forget to turn on the app on my phone) and the excitement of exploring a new city always trumps the exhaustion of a long day on my feet.

 While I may not do enough justice by listing out all those cities here, there are some of the few here I have had the opportunity to explore on foot and are just fantastic to walk around.

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New York

This one literally takes the cake. I am amazed at how much walking I can do in NYC even if I do not want to do all of the touristy things. I always look at Google maps and the subway app before I venture out and work out exactly where my must-sees are, in relation to each other. I feel grouping things geographically is by far the best way to maximize my time and minimise unnecessary walking. Using the subway does get you pretty close to most of the sights, such as Highline and Brooklyn Bridge, but exploring all of New York City takes more than a subway ride. Around Central Park, Times Square, the Empire State Building, and Rockefeller Center it is much easier to walk the blocks exploring this frantic city as you go by.

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Philadelphia

Consistently ranked as one of the country’s most walkable cities, Philadelphia is ripe with colorful neighborhoods, great buildings, and cultural sites to explore. Seemingly a world away from Philadelphia’s colonial sites, the South Philly section has a rich history of its own. Cheese, chocolate, spice, and olive oil stands are plentiful at the famous outdoor market, which is open daily and is America’s largest.

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Boston

Smaller when compared to New York City, Boston has its own charm coupled with  elegant neighbourhoods, historic streets, and American landmarks from the Back Bay to Beacon Hill and  the Freedom Trail. Newbury Street known for its trendy shopping, Copley Square for its beautiful open square and the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church give a cool vibe to this city. The Boston Public Garden one of the loveliest green spaces in the city also has one of the most photographed statues — the Make Way for Ducklings sculpture. The North End is a captivating, lively quarter, with its many Italian restaurants and picturesque streets that transport you back in time.

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Washington, DC

One of the best features of Washington, D.C., is its walkability. Not only are many of its major sites and attractions grouped together on the National Mall, but the city is a series of true neighborhoods knitted together, easily traversed by foot. Whether it’s historic or cultural, food- or monument-centric, watching the cherry blossoms in full bloom or taking a tour of the memorials by moonlight, DC has many things to offer its tourists.

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Vancouver

Vancouver is popularly known as the ‘walker’s paradise’, all thanks to the pedestrian way finding maps that encourage a person to walk through the city. Among the most famous walks, False Creek to Granville Island takes the front position where we would stop by and shop at the Public Market for locally grown fresh produce. Downtown Vancouver, Gastown, Stanley Park and the Buchart Gardens which is an easily reachable place from the downtown Vancouver adds to the list.

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Venice, Italy

Probably the originator of the “getting lost” in Europe mentality, (which I have yet to feel) Venice is the ideal place to explore on foot.   Of course, a gondola ride along the canals is a wonderful treat; however, the true magic can be found in the streets along the canals.  Walking on the Rialto square and around St Mark’s square, you will experience the locals going about their daily business shadowed by the city’s historic structures.

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London, UK

London is one of the most foot-friendly cities in the world and one of my favourite too. Its bridges and the London Eye (on a clear sunny day) provide some of the best views in London. Central London has most of the landmark locations which are closer to each other. The City Visitor Trail also known as “the Square Mile” a guided walk maps a route through the heart of the City, taking you past a range of famous attractions on a stroll through the historic heart of the capital to see St Paul’s Cathedral, Guildhall, the Bank of England, Mansion House, the Monument, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge – along with a host of City churches, like the famous St Mary-le-Bow.

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Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam’s flat, compact, and lively streets make the city an ideal place to explore on foot. In fact, walking may be the best way to appreciate gorgeous 17th-century canals, leafy parks, and former industrial docklands.

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Shanghai, China

With clean, wide sidewalks, and interesting sights along the way, Shanghai has lots to offer for a fun walk. The Yu Garden is the number one tourist attraction in Shanghai, and the only example of a Classic Chinese garden left in the city from the dynastic period of Chinese history. The added advantage is that it borders the Yuyuan Tourist Mart, where one can browse through a wide selection of touristy trinkets and test out bargaining skills. There are two parts of Shanghai, worth visiting –one a scenic/cultural part of Shanghai in the French Concession, and the second covers a famous temple and Shanghai’s art district through a more local route.

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Sydney, Australia

The 6km trail from Bondi to Coogee is perhaps the most famous coastal hiking trail in Sydney, New South Wales and perhaps even Australia.  Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach walk treats visitors to some of Australia’s best beaches and most impressive ocean views. Not only tourists but even the local Sydney-siders come to Sydney’s east coast every day to enjoy Australia’s best beaches, stunning ocean views and lots of parks, cafes and restaurants on the way.

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New Delhi, India

If you have ever been to Delhi, you will notice that it is a huge maze, and to manoeuvre it can be a task—especially if you are new to the city. The best way to soak in the rich culture of Old Delhi is to take some guided tours that are a combination of walks and cycle rickshaws rides, as you absorb the street vibe , the historical sites, and bazaars, and experience the various culinary treats and street foods. Although there are many heritage monuments dotted around the city, the Heritage Walk is an excellent way to connect the historical dots, since the guided walks are themed. That way, you learn what one monument has to do with another, as it was intended all those years ago.

Another interesting tour is the Cycle Tour where a group of 8-10 participants is accompanied by a friendly tour guide in bright orange, who will maintain a nice pace as you pedal through Old or New Delhi.

While you will definitely enjoy most of the ‘walking tours’ in some of these places, do note that you need to take heed of the following steps before you do so.

  • Walking tours usually involve long distances with each excursion lasting around two to three hours. While you’re possibly used to walking around your hometown, it is advisable to check out the general terrain of the city where you’re going. I have seen many a person who is part of a group tour getting excruciatingly tired after a few miles of walking that the entire group feels the strain.
  • Condition your body and build adequate stamina so you can enjoy exploring your vacation destination. Wear proper footwear and break in your trekking shoes by wearing them regularly for a few weeks in advance.
  • One of the prerequisites of enjoying a walking tour is keeping up energy levels and hydration. Eat a filling breakfast to fuel your body for the trek and bring bottles of fluids.

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Exploring a city or town on foot is one of the most exciting ways to get a closer view of its inherent charm. Not only do you get an immersive experience of its attractions and people, but you’ll understand it better than any conventional excursions.  Guided walks and city tours are available just about everywhere; to find them, do an Internet search, consult a good guidebook or contact the local tourist office.

Enjoy!

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Visitphiladelphia;Planetware; Touropia;Sydneywalks;Spinmonkey

 

Top of Form

A photo walk through the TWA flight center

 

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The last time the Trans World Airlines (TWA) terminal at Kennedy International Airport saw a weary traveler was in 2001.

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The flight centre has since been closed until May 2019 , when it reopened and transformed into the lobby of the new TWA hotel , the only on site airport hotel.
Offering an homage to a past era of aviation, today the terminal’s twin corridors lead you to the TWA hotel with 512 rooms.

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What was once an ‘Arrivals hall’ , is now the reception area of the hotel . The check in desks of the terminal serve as the reception desk .

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Lining the walls are the many pictures of the cities TWA  once flew to.

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Hotel guests will feel like they’re stepping back in history — with the old flight board on display, model cars in what will be a restaurant, rotary pay phones and red plush furniture. There are more than 500 guest rooms, dozens of meeting rooms and even an infinity pool on the roof.

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Walking into the Flight Center, you are greeted first by a vintage Lincoln in the porch. As you enter you see a ticking departures board and a hostess dressed in a purple polyester TWA uniform. Moving on the graceful staircase, the Sunken Lounge, huge window panes, and a view of a restored TWA plane on the long-abandoned runway..

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A cocktail lounge in a repurposed Lockheed Constellation L-1649A from the 1950s stands outside the new hotel. Four large sofas and eight vintage airplane seats reupholstered with a retro pink and orange plaid seat the guests .

 

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The display of TWA uniforms and luggage through the decades is just one taste of history in the brand new hotel.

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There are multiple places to eat throughout the TWA Hotel, such as the Paris Cafe, located on the mezzanine level of the historic building. The 200-seat restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and serves food inspired by in-flight menus from TWA.

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For quick meals, what was once the ‘Departures Hall ‘ now has a mini food-court style offerings and coffee carts.

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Located through the terminal are the multiple memorabilia reminding you of the aviation era gone by.

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Whether you’re an avid plane spotter or just love rooftop bars , the Pool Bar at the TWA Hotel is worth visiting . Looking out over JFK’s Runway 4, you can watch JetBlue and Delta planes take off while sipping a cocktail at the bar or while swimming in the infinity edge pool.

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The TWA hotel at JFK Terminal 5 takes you down memory lane with a marketable “story” and some absolutely wonderful ‘Instagrammable’ photos.

 

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Personal;TWA Hotel;

 

 

 

Living the ‘Luxe Life’

Luxury Travel is all about personalization. Whether you are looking at intimate experiences or personalized services, gourmet meals, or beautiful surroundings- it could be anything that promises a maximum of pleasure and a minimum of stress.

Today luxury travellers need new ways to be pampered. Personalized travel itineraries, individually curated experiences, top class amenities, they want it all.

A chauffeured Limousine pick up from your home , first class air travel, a welcome champagne at your hotel , a Michelin-starred restaurant in the lobby, a king-size bed and marble-lined bathroom or a butler to pack and unpack your luggage –the whole enchilada.

According to a research report by Reuters the Luxury travel market today is expanding faster than it did five years ago. The growth rate over the next five years is expected to register an 8.5% CAGR in terms of revenue; the global market size will reach US$ 8460 million by 2024, from US$ 5200 million in 2019.

Growing inclination of people towards unique and exotic holiday experiences, rise in middle and upper middle class spending and the increasing impact of social media on travel industry are the key factors that drive the market growth. Emerging new destinations coupled with rising service standards in the travel industry, is anticipated to further drive the demand for luxury travel, globally. Although the key developed countries such as the U.S. hold a higher share of the luxury travel market, there has been a rise in demand for international luxury travel in developing countries such as China and India. The drift is due to the increase in the per capita income of middle class travellers in the developing countries.

So if you are looking for something to inspire you to get up and book the next flight out, below are some of the few tip of the iceberg ideas for you to indulge in the ‘Luxe Life’

Luxury camping, also known as glamping, is redefining what it means to be one with nature, and roughing it has nothing to do with it. Glamping, is an experience-based kind of travel that allows guests to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors, but without the hassle of traditional camping. With five-star amenities and unbeatable outdoor access, glamping is where luxury meets simplicity.

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Aman-i-Khás- A safari outpost on the threshold of Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, India , Aman-i-Khas opens minds, and hearts, to the outlook of living well in the midst of incredible nature. Daily Jeep safaris promise glimpses of tigers amongst other myriad wildlife encounters.  Back at the camp, spa therapies, sleeping and dining take place under soaring, candlelit canopies inspired by the Mughal hunting parties of the days gone by. Each tent is assigned an experienced batman-your own private butler, who accompanies guests into the jungle, along the River Chambal and to temples and cultural sites. All this inspires an exquisite storytelling session at nightfall when the fire pit glows under a magical starlit sky.

Experiential travellers are looking for an ‘off the beaten track’ destination, away from the crowds;

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Allowing guests to explore unchartered territory, The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain is launching a series of boat trips designed to discover the hidden enclaves and sandy inlets of the Kingdom of Bahrain, along with gourmet picnics and a personal butler. One of the most delightful experiences is on Jarada island – or the ‘hidden island’ – an enchanted, deserted strip of pristine, white sand, only accessible for two hours per day before the tide gently washes over and covers it completely.

Water has always been a magnet for travellers seeking beaches and water sports but now travellers are seeing H2O in a whole new light. Wellness through water is one of next year’s big trends.

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Hurawalhi Island Resort in the Maldives are launching Ocean Healing Retreats which incorporate wave meditation, sound healing on Dream Island (a beautiful and deserted patch of white sand a couple of minutes boat ride from the resort) and underwater yoga at their submerged restaurant, 5.8 meters under the sea.

If you fancy having some cash to splash on spectacularly luxurious hotel accommodation, The Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel President Wilson in Geneva is just the place for you. Famous for being the largest suite in Europe at 1680 square metres, the suite is located on the entire top floor of the hotel and has a panoramic terrace with breathtaking views over Lake Geneva. The terrace comes complete with a telescope for stargazing on clear nights. The opulent suite has floor-to-ceiling windows with a view of Mont Blanc, as well as features like a panic button and bulletproof glass – surely one of the reasons why it attracts heads of state as guests. It’s also the most expensive in the world at about US$80,000 (€68,290) a night.

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Amongst the many stunning island beaches in the Maldives, Cocoa Island is one of the most expensive islands to visit. Its mesmerizing beauty and pristine sand beaches, staying over the turquoise water to experience the beauty of nature costs around $750 (INR 48,670) for a night. Iconic sunsets, sugar white beaches, world-class spa facilities, unparalleled snorkeling and diving, Michelin-starred restaurants and stunning overwater villas – It’s not difficult to see why the seductive islands of the Maldives rank among the world’s best and most romantic destinations for couples and newlyweds.

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The Instagram effect continues unabated – travellers are looking to find the most captivating backdrops and luxurious vacations. Photos are no longer just for memories – they are to ensure bragging rights across half a dozen social media portals. And when it comes to luxury, it’s easy to think ‘big’. Bigger rooms, bigger budgets, bigger experiences, private jet planes, spas, special menus, private island rentals, and private yachts –the list is endless.

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Luxury travel market epitomizes most unique and desirable destinations, luxurious accommodations, convenient transport facilities, and authentic travel experience giving an exotic experience to its travellers.

-Madhavi

OS: Luxury travel magazine; travel wire Asia;Conde Nest; PC: Aman-I- khas ;Tripoto; Trip Savvy;Luxury travel expert; Lonely Planet.

Your place or mine?

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The first time I heard about Home swapping or Home exchange was via the Hollywood flick ‘The Holiday’ starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, the story about two lovelorn women from opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, who arrange a home exchange to escape heartbreak during the Christmas and holiday season.

What a brilliant idea this was!

Swapping homes could be the perfect way to expand your horizons and holiday for free in exotic locations.

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Jetting off and arriving at your own ‘home away from home’ is an appealing thought. But since most of us can’t afford a foreign holiday home, the trend for house swapping, where holidaymakers move into one another’s homes – saving the expense of paying for commercial accommodation – is becoming increasingly popular. Home exchanges make an ideal base for one-day or weekend excursions.

People who have gone in for home swapping have made good friends along the way. You get to live as they live, shop where they shop since the exchange partner will often leave insider information about the area. What’s so fabulous about home swapping is it’s not just a holiday, it’s a lifestyle. And you get the most out of an intercultural experience.

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But home swapping is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some folks love to swap and do it several times a year because it allows them to experience new places without paying for hotels, restaurants or, in many cases, transportation (the use of the family car is included in many home exchanges). However, some travellers are turned off by having to cook and clean on their vacation, while others feel uneasy about having strangers living in their own homes.

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However there’s more than one way to do a home swap:

  • You can stay in your exchange-partner’s home while they stay in yours (a “simultaneous exchange”).
  • You can stay at a home-swapper’s second home or vacation home (a “non-simultaneous exchange”).
  • Or you can stay as a guest in a home-swapper’s abode while they’re also in the house (a “hospitality exchange”).

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There are various home-exchange sites online that cater to different types of exchanges. Usually with the companies listed on a home exchange program  buying a membership is mandatory.

A lot of footwork is necessary. Both the owner and the holiday maker have to do their homework well before getting into such agreement. Check references, find them on social media or /and ask your home-exchange company for more information about prospective home exchange partners.

Home swapping is more or less a safe way to arrange a stay, with none or few cases of reported theft or vandalism. In the end, when it’s a simultaneous exchange, mutual trust is fundamental.

Here’s some pointers on how home swapping works.

  • By joining a reputable company via an annual membership. You’ll be able to list your property on their website and make contact with other owners to arrange your exchange.
  • Most house-swap firms don’t visit properties, so it’s imperative to study photos carefully, and look at feedback and definitely ask the owner questions.
  • Most of the companies have a guest points system where you earn guest points when you host and spend guest points when you stay as a guest.

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For many travellers, a home exchange /home swapping is an economical, comfortable and fascinating way to vacation far from home. The possibilities for home exchanges could be endless.

Madhavi

 

 

 

OS: Daily Mail UK /  PC:Shespeaks;Readers Digest;Hitster;Froodee;TripSavvy;

Continue reading “Your place or mine?”

#TravelGoals

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Younger consumers today inspire the future of almost every tech dominated industry, and it’s no different in travel either.

Where they often demonstrate their love for Avocado on Toast, the millennial and ever so often their parents too, are currently driving the concept of the aspirational travel.

Today the focus of travelling for them is not just about choosing the destination anymore. It is more about creating memories and awe-inspiring experiences. They turn to their friends, co-workers, and influencers within the growing social media world to find travel and vacation insights, and deals to support their newly discovered destination.

More often than not ,it is all about going to a place your friends have visited and clicking photos that are of the same place but different than theirs. It’s like an obsession, almost bordering on showing off!

Today the focus has shifted with splurging on food and drink experiences, followed by events and festivals and not to forget extreme or adrenaline sports. Culinary experiences for example are a major draw for younger generations. Infact there is actually a huge demand for such travel experiences.

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Foodcations aka food vacations are the best way to experience a destination and are becoming more and more popular among travellers. Tasting your way through local cuisines and dining with locals are culinary experiences that can easily become a travel highlight.

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Travellers are forever searching for unique experiences such as undersea accommodations, or culturally enriching activities. And how can we leave out Destination Weddings.

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Taking a big bite of the MICE segment, destination weddings are literally eating the cake, and are considered a major travel induced experience. For instance in the context of the Indian tourism segment, it’s not rare today to see a family from the southern states of India selecting a location either in the Northern states or particularly in Rajasthan for hosting a destination wedding. In fact the fad is so contagious that many event planners are constructing replicas of Rajasthan palaces in the southern states hometowns/villages of the brides/grooms.

Innovations in transport, more flight routes, easy on-demand car rentals, as well as real-time public transport insights, the holidays are getting more varied and curated making vacations and other trips more personal and rewarding.

Social media use by the millennial has provided a significant boost in the travel and hospitality industry.  High end travel companies are curating a destination and providing a unique rooted in “something real”  travel experience for the millennial.

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Travel makes us wealthier. When we see new places, meet new people and indulge in new activities, the experiences make us a different person. Travelling isn’t merely about stepping foot on a landmark, but also inhaling the essence, the culture and beauty of the place.

Have you ever had a unique travel experience?  Or have some unusual travel goals? Do share in the comments.

Madhavi

 

 

PC: Pinterest; TravellerAU; Luxconcord; Luxury Travel expert: