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Wildebeest river crossing during the Great Migration, Kenya

Don’t miss out: 10 travel experiences to plan ahead

Wildebeest river crossing during the Great Migration, Kenya
15 Min Read

Seeing the cherry blossoms in Japan, or herds of animals on the move during Africa’s Great Migration may be your idea of the trip of a lifetime, but many people worldwide feel the same way.

To be in with a chance of being there in person, in the best setting and accommodation possible, take our specialists’ advice and plan well in advance.

Or, if you’ve already ticked off these incredible travel highlights, we’ve also suggested some interesting, and often just as exciting, alternative events and experiences.

Hike the classic Inca trail to Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, Peru

It’s routinely described as one of the world’s best walks. This 43 km (26 mile) trek allows you to follow in the footsteps of Inca messengers: you’re walking the very path they trod to reach the fabled citadel of Machu Picchu, suspended between two peaks high in the Peruvian Andes.

Camping along the way, you’ll journey through some arresting scenery: dense cloudforest, vertiginous summits, and the remains of abandoned Inca outposts that non-trekkers never get to see. The ultimate reward? Your first glimpse of Machu Picchu (and its surrounding views) will be from the Sun Gate as the site emerges from the dawn mist.

When to book

It’s only possible to hike the Inca Trail with a permit, and they sell out fast. If you’re thinking of undertaking the Inca Trail in 2024, now’s a good time to speak to a specialist and start planning your trip so you get the best chance of trekking the trail on your preferred dates. The best weather conditions for the walk are between April and October.

Have you considered the Salkantay Trail?

Already completed the Inca Trail or were unable to get a permit? This ancient byway through the Andes has good availability all year round, with most trips also undertaken between April and October.

It finishes in Aguas Calientes (you take the train up to the Machu Picchu site the following day). The terrain is challenging; the landscape varied: glacier-fed lakes, tangled jungle, mountain passes, Inca ruins, cloudforest, and fruit plantations. Traversing Mount Salkantay, a sacred peak still worshipped by local people, is the literal and figurative highpoint. There’s also the chance to meet indigenous coffee farmers and weavers en route. And for those who enjoy creature comforts, this trek allows you to stay in comfortable mountain lodges, rather than camp.

Get me there

Read our guide to trekking the Inca and Salkantay trails, or browse our trip ideas like this Incas uncovered itinerary for inspiration.

Spend Christmas in Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa
Spend winter in Cape Town, South Africa

Looking to escape the Northern Hemisphere winter? Step forward, South Africa — and Cape Town in particular.

For the quintessential experience, a visit during the festive season is a great option. New Year celebrations bring South Africa’s ‘Mother City’ to life, plus you’ll likely experience Mediterranean-like, warm, clement weather in December. It’s the ideal time of year to enjoy Cape Town’s active, outdoors-focused lifestyle.

Along the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and throughout the city, you can make like the sporty locals, strolling and cycling around. Alternatively, it’s a great time of year to Alternatively, it’s a great time of year to explore one of the many hiking trails in Table Mountain National Park.

When to book

Christmas visits to Cape Town need to be planned at least a year in advance, with many places and properties unavailable by February. So if you’re thinking of visiting for Christmas 2024, speak to one of our specialists soon.

Why not go to Cape Town at Easter instead?

The weather should still be warm in the Cape at Easter. In fact, some of the city’s hottest days often occur during March and April. If you’re looking to combine a visit to Cape Town with a safari in the Kruger, the Easter period works well too: the Kruger’s wet season will have just come to an end. For travel at Easter, plans should be made three to four months in advance to secure the best guesthouses and family-friendly hotels. However, if you’re more flexible about accommodation, there are sometimes options that only require planning just a few months before.

Get me there

Combine a visit to Cape Town with time in the Winelands, or add a city stay onto a safari in the Kruger and time at Victoria Falls.

See cherry blossom season in japan

Cherry blossom, Kyoto
Cherry blossom, Japan

They’re an icon of Japan, a symbol of transience, and the cause of a huge annual celebration. For a short period of time each year toward the end of March, hanami — literally meaning ‘looking at flowers’ — becomes the national pastime. People gather to admire the blooms, picnicking and relaxing under them as the winter chill gives way to milder spring weather.

Cherry trees bedecked with rose-hued or dusky pink petals are entrancing no matter where you go. Yet certain settings embellish their beauty, such as Kyoto’s gold-leafed Kinkaku-ji Temple. The deer-populated forests and pagodas of Miyajima, a small island off the coast near Hiroshima also make for a great backdrop, as does the traditional small town of Takayama in the Japanese Alps.

If you prefer to avoid crowds, fewer visitors get as far north as Tohoku, where the trees are still blooming as late as mid-April. Black-and-white Hirosaki Castle is particularly striking amid the sea of pastel pink.

When to book

Given the cherry blossoms’ popularity among both national and international visitors, you should begin planning your trip now for the 2024 season. Availability quickly dwindles for Kyoto and other first-choice locations and accommodation, and many places may already be full — in which case, a visit in 2025 is more realistic.

What about seeing Japan in November?

If you’ve already seen the blossoms, or are open to appreciating a different kind of scenery, consider going to Japan during November. It’s less crowded, but nature puts on displays that are just as visually striking. Miyajima Island, for example, has glorious foliage: the leaves of its Japanese maples turn a deep, dark red as the season progresses.

Get me there

Learn more about Japan’s seasons or find inspiration for your trip by browsing our Japan itinerary ideas.


Vineyard in Bordeaux, France
Vineyard in Bordeaux, France

Arguably the most important wine region in France — perhaps in all of Europe — Bordeaux spends it summers basking in the warm golden sun. However, we prefer to visit in September, when the temperatures start to dip and the region’s many vineyards burst into furious action, harvesting the all-important grapes at the peak of ripeness.

Timing your visit for the autumn means you’ll miss the busy summer crowds and instead get a front-row seat into producing the world-famous Bordeaux blend. To deepen your understanding further, you might visit the high-tech La Cité du Vin wine museum or take a leisurely wine-tasting cruise down the Garonne River.

When to book

Though many wine estates shut down for the harvest, some still accept guests. However, those few chateaux fill up quickly, so we suggest speaking with a specialist before New Year to get the best selection. The timing of the harvest is, of course, at the whims of Mother Nature, but if you plan your trip for September, you have the best chance of catching at least part of it.

Have you considered Alsace and the wine trail?

If you prefer white to red, or you just want to experience the wine harvest somewhere else, consider an autumn trip to Alsace. This German-accented corner of France is renowned for its aromatic riesling and gewürztraminer grapes, as well as storybook villages packed with brightly painted half-timber houses. The harvest here comes a bit later than in more southerly Bordeaux, usually in late September or even early October, but there are far fewer visitors.

You can take a guided tour along the Alsace Wine Route, the oldest wine route in the country, to visit some of the local wineries for tastings.

Get me there

Bordeaux is just one of the many wine regions you might visit as part of this oenophile-inspired trip through France. You can read more experiencing France’s wine regions in our guide.


Elephants, Sri Lanka
Elephant in Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a great country for families at Easter. UK families in particular can enjoy the convenience of direct flights to Colombo. Active and animal-loving children will find much to enjoy, from seeing elephants in the wild in one of the national parks, to climbing the steep staircases of Sigiriya Rock. You can explore ancient city ruins or cave temples crammed with Buddha statues, visit tea plantations via a spectacular train ride, or marvel at the waterfalls and views from World’s End.

When to book

Easter is a hugely busy period for family travel to Sri Lanka and all of the best family-friendly hotels will be full for 2024. We suggest that you plan your trip for Easter 2025 before the end of March next year.

Think about visiting Sri Lanka during the summer vacation

There are real benefits for families visiting the country during our summer months. You can relax on the east coast’s beaches, where the sea is shallow, calm, and safer for young swimmers, unlike other parts of Sri Lanka’s steep-shelving coastline.

Cultural attractions like the cave temples, plus safaris and elephant-spotting in the north of the country, are also possible during this period. You can even go off the beaten track and visit Jaffna, which is culturally closer to India and dotted with Hindu temples in very bright hues.

If you’re hoping to visit Sri Lanka in the summer holidays, start planning your trip by November at the latest.

Get me there

Our Highlights of Sri Lanka trip idea, alongside our guide to visiting Sri Lanka as a family, should give you some inspiration when planning your trip.

Observe the Great Migration in Kenya's Masai Mara

Airborne wildebeest, Kenya
Wildebeest during the Great Migration, Kenya

It’s something all wildlife lovers dream of seeing. A cyclical annual phenomenon, herds of wildebeest, gazelle, and zebra move between the plains of the Serengeti in Tanzania and the grasslands of the Masai Mara, Kenya, following the rains in search of pasture and to give birth to their young. Their movement attracts predators in turn: lion, leopard, cheetah, and hyena follow the migration.

One of the highlights of the Great Migration is the river crossings, which take place in the Masai Mara in August or September. This is when herds reluctantly ford the rushing Mara River in a mass stampede. Crocodiles lie in wait in the water, and big cats stalk the banks. Witnessing a crossing can take patience, but our guides know the best spots. It’s nature at its most elemental and dramatic: animals risk their lives to cross, while others fight for their own survival by hunting their next meal.

The Masai Mara’s range of camps, plus the excellent English language skills of its guides, makes this one of the most in-demand destinations for wildlife enthusiasts in Africa.

When to book

To be in with a chance of going on safari in the Masai Mara during the Great Migration, you’ll need to plan your trip at least 12 months in advance. Any later than that, and availability in our preferred camps and lodges is limited.

But what about observing the Great Migration in the Serengeti instead?

You can also see river crossings in the northern Serengeti between July and September. This area draws fewer visitors than the Masai Mara, so you’ll have a greater sense of wilderness. You may even prefer to visit the southeastern Serengeti during December to March, when herds calve and graze, as the next generation prepares to make the epic voyage north. Again, for both experiences, travel plans need to be made a year in advance.

Get me there

You can experience the Great Migration as part of a luxury trip combining Kenya’s best safari and beach areas, or use our Classic northern Tanzania safari idea as inspiration if planning to witness the migration in the Serengeti.

See the tulips in Amsterdam

Tulips in Amsterdam's Keukenhof, the Netherlands
Tulips in Amsterdam's Keukenhof, the Netherlands

Spring arrives with an explosion of vivid blooms in Amsterdam, a city known for its tulip mania. From narrow window boxes to vast public gardens, a trip to the city gives you the chance to marvel at the huge array of crayon-bright flowers in a fanciful range of shades and shapes.

If you share the Dutch passion for these brilliant blossoms, we can also arrange a visit to a working tulip farm where you’ll chat with the growers over petits fours and coffee. Or you might take a guided tour of Aalsmeer Flower Auction, where you’ll watch the frantic chaos that goes into shipping cut flowers from the largest flower market in the world.

However, the highlight of any spring trip is a visit to Keukenhof, the city’s sprawling showstopper of a public garden. There, you can see well-manicured beds bursting with millions of bright spring flowers.

When to book

The peak bloom is usually in April, though it starts in late March and can stretch to mid-May, depending on the vagaries of the weather. This is a popular time to visit Amsterdam, so it’s important to book right away if you want to have the best choice of hotels.

Maybe instead Belgium?

With wonderfully preserved medieval architecture and plenty of canals, Bruges and Ghent have much the same charm as Amsterdam but with far fewer fellow visitors. It's a great alternative destination if you prefer monk-brewed ale to fields of tulips — or if you simply want to visit during a season other than spring.

Get me there

Spend time in Amsterdam as part of our suggested Grand tour of the Netherlands itinerary or combine the best of both worlds and see Belgium and the Netherlands in one trip.

Witness the Black-necked Crane Festival in Bhutan

Black-necked cranes, Bhutan
Black-necked cranes, Bhutan

It’s a trip of a lifetime for any enthusiastic birdwatcher. Bhutan’s annual festival celebrating the arrival of endangered black-necked cranes, which come to spend winter in the country’s Phobjikha Valley, is a momentous occasion.

Every year in November, the courtyard of the Gangtey Goenpa Monastery comes to life. Local people gather to watch or perform folk music and plays around the theme of conserving and protecting the cranes. With children singing and masked dancers (often in the guise of cranes), there’s a jovial atmosphere and you’ll get a fascinating glimpse into this little-known, isolated Himalayan kingdom.

When to book

Due to Bhutan’s low-volume travel industry and its limited accommodation options, make your reservations a year and a half in advance. Next year is already filling up, so planning your trip soon is essential if you wish to go in 2025.

Or how about seeing black-necked cranes in their natural environment in winter?

The cranes stay until February, so for a few months it’s possible to observe these tall, elegant birds in their natural habitat. If you visit Bhutan’s bowl-shaped Phobjikha Valley, you’ll see them stalking in the patchwork farmland, and among wetlands of bamboo stubble on the valley floor. Local farmers believe that the birds bring luck when they fly over their fields.

Visiting Bhutan in its winter months still requires forward planning and you’ll need to book a year ahead.

Get me there

From visiting Tiger’s Nest Monastery to guided hikes through Himalaya scenery, our itinerary idea covering Bhutan’s highlights and shows you what a trip to this country could look like.

Explore the living-rock ruins of Petra in Jordan

The Monastery at Petra, Jordan
The Monastery at Petra, Jordan

Beyond a narrow passage in multi-hued sandstone cliffs lies the ancient city of Petra. Hewn from living rock over 2,000 years ago, this Nabataean metropolis was known only to local Bedouins for many centuries. Today, you can spend hours exploring its meticulously carved tombs and temples with an expert guide by your side.

Petra is deceptively vast and you’ll likely spend a lot of time on your feet, especially if you want to climb the 800 or so steps to the cliff-top Monastery. So, unless you’re comfortable with soaring temperatures, we recommend going in the cooler months of March to May or September to October.

When to book

You’ll need to book around eight months before you travel to get the best selection of hotels near Petra and the opportunity to go with a private guide. But, if possible, it’s wise to book even further in advance. You may still find some last-minute spots for March to May 2024, if you’re lucky, but we recommend planning now for September or October.

Why not add on a visit to little Petra?

Just ten minutes’ drive away from the main Petra site is Siq al-Barid, affectionately called ‘Little Petra’. While officially part of the Petra Archaeological Park, these smaller-scale Nabataean ruins are often overlooked by visitors to Jordan, so they tend to be much quieter.

Much like Petra, this supposed suburb encloses temples, tombs, and houses intricately carved from slabs of living sandstone set against dramatic desert-mountain scenery. While there, we can also arrange for you to enjoy a private dinner in a cave once used as a Bedouin dwelling.

Get me there

From Nabataean ruins to Roman remains, you can discover ancient cities on an eight-day trip through Jordan.

Spot wild orangutans in the Danum Valley, Borneo

Orangutan, Borneo
Orangutan, Borneo

If you’re looking to escape the everyday, look no further than the pristine primary rainforests of the Danum Valley. A lowland conservation area that stretches over 43 sq km (almost 17 sq miles), it’s one of the most isolated places you may ever visit. Untouched by humans until it became a protected area, its canopy soars to around 70 m (around 230 ft) in places.

Families of orangutans and proboscis monkeys swing through the trees, while in the understorey, hundreds of species thrive: wild cats, tarsiers, and the endangered pygmy elephant, to name just a few.

Being so remote, accommodation options are limited. By far the best way to experience the valley is by staying at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. This ecolodge not only has comfortable accommodation (think Jacuzzi pools and fresh, Malay-style food) but also offers some great activities to help you explore the rainforest in depth.

Canopy walkways lead away into the trees from the lodge. You can also take part in guided walks to viewpoints, visits to tranquil natural pools, or night safaris for spotting nocturnal wildlife.

When to book

If you’re looking to travel to the Danum Valley in the summer of 2024 and are hoping to stay in Borneo Rainforest Lodge, you’ll need to be quick off the mark. Due to the lodge’s popularity and its small number of rooms, it can only welcome a finite number of people. To stay there, aim to have planned your trip by December of this year at the latest.

Have you considered visiting the Tabin Wildlife Reserve instead?

Although the accommodation at the Tabin Wildlife Resort is more basic, this eastern Sabah reserve still offers superb wildlife-viewing opportunities and the chance to be immersed in tropical lowland rainforest. The landscape includes brackish springs and mud volcanoes, which act as a magnet for local wildlife coming to drink from them. You can explore this ecosystem on guided walks and treks, looking out for pygmy elephants, orangutans, many other primate species, and tarsiers.

While not as well-visited as the Danum Valley, Tabin Wildlife Reserve is still in demand during the summer. Book by Easter 2024 at the latest, especially if you’d like a room overlooking the river.

Get me there

Read our Borneo highlights guide for tips on making the most of your time in the country, and browse our Borneo trip ideas as you start planning your visit.

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