By Nick Trend
Money talks, and it is going to have a bigger say than ever on where we travel in 2009. The tumbling pound has sharply increased the cost of holidays in many of our favourite destinations. British travellers will find prices in Eurozone countries up by more than 20 per cent and and in the United States by 25 per cent. Because many currencies are linked to the US dollar, holidays in destinations such as the Caribbean will be dearer.
Whether you plan strategically to travel where the pound is still strong, or decide to splash out anyway, here are 10 destinations that look likely to top the wish lists of many travellers in 2009. All references to currency values refer to comparisons between mid-December 2008 and the same date in 2007.
1 Skiing in the Alps
It has been a fantastic start to winter, with cold weather and heavy snowfalls laying down a near-perfect base for the rest of the season. While the school holidays are heavily booked, there are likely to be excellent bargains on late deals in January and March. To save money, book self-catering and drive to a French resort. Erna Low (0845 863 0525, www.ernalow.co.uk) has the best range of packages for self-drive skiing.
2 Northern France
Even if the pound falls to parity with the euro, the cost of hotels and cottages and eating out in northern France will still be roughly on a par with prices in Britain. Ferry fares are also much better value than they were a decade ago, so a beach holiday on the coast of Normandy or Brittany looks as though it will offer the best value for families who want to go overseas this summer. VFB has a good selection of properties (01452 716831, www.vfbholidays.co.uk).
This is the only traditional beach holiday destination where the pound is (just) holding its own – down three per cent. So the beaches of Antalya, gulet cruises along the coast, and the club life of Bodrum should enjoy a booming summer, while Greece looks as though it may be poor value in 2009. For the best selection of accommodation see the Tapestry Collection (020 8995 7787, www.tapestryholidays.com).
4 Galapagos Islands
With the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth falling in 2009, as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species, it looks as though the Galapagos Islands – where he found crucial evidence for his theory of evolution – will prove a major attraction. The Ultimate Travel Company (020 7386 4646, www.theultimatetravelcompany.co.uk) has some two-for-one offers on some cruises in January and February.
In July 2009 China will see the longest solar eclipse of the century, with one of the best viewing points to the south of Shanghai. Explore (0845 013 1537, www.explore.co.uk) has several itineraries, including an 11-day tour from £1,868 including international flights.
If you have always wanted to go to this extraordinary destination of ice caps and volcanoes, hot springs and waterfalls, make 2009 the year. What was a scarily expensive country has suddenly become affordable – the currency has halved in value against the pound. Discover the World is one of the best specialists (01737 218800, www.discover-the-world.co.uk).
7 South Africa
This is one of the few countries where the pound has strengthened against the local currency – from 14 to more than 15 rand. Air fares have also stayed reasonably competitive, helped by new services from Emirates from London via Dubai. You can buy flights from £629 return to Cape Town through Trailfinders (0845 050 5871, www.trailfinders.com ), which can also put together packages.
8 Britain for beaches
Surely we can’t have another washout summer? Whatever the weather, it looks as though a much higher proportion of holidaymakers will stay at home this year. They will be looking for a safe, clean beach – the Marine Conservation Society’s excellent website (www.goodbeachguide.co.uk) is the best source of advice and information.
9 England for culture
The cultural highlight in England next year is the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII’s accession to throne. This means lots of events and exhibitions at places associated with him. Windsor Castle has an exhibition opening in April, and there is lots going on at Hampton Court, where a restoration of Base Court, one of the main courtyards of the palace, to its 16th-century cobbled layout will be unveiled in February.
10 Scotland for culture
Scotland is also making the most of cultural themes this year. Homecoming is a year-long festival of events celebrating, among other things, the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, golf, whisky and great Scottish inventors. The full programme is on www.homecomingscotland.com.Original here