What makes a great trip? Inspired by our interviews with travellers over the past year, we take an attempt at distilling the key elements that make the difference between a good trip and a great one.
From the early days of Whisk Away, we have always asked ourselves: what makes a great trip? Not just a good one, but a great one – the kind you share with friends and colleagues before they’ve even asked and you can’t help beaming the whole time you’re telling them about it. Time and time again, we have been told that travel is highly personal and subjective, that it is simply not possible to pinpoint a few things that define a trip one way or another. As a travel company on a mission to reimagine the way we travel, we were only more intrigued and set out to investigate further.
True, no two travellers, destinations, and trips are the same. Within our own social circles, we know for a fact that the perfect trip to some is to jam in as much as possible over a few days, while to others, it is to lay on a beach and do absolutely nothing. Equally, one person's off-the-beaten-path gem could turn out to be another’s nightmare. But throughout our interviews with friends, family, and potential customers over the past year, what we have learnt is this: for all the differences and quirks we have as travellers, there are also common threads that emerge across the board, transcending budget, destination, and trip type. We’re not talking about the kinds of hotels to stay in or restaurants to eat at. Instead, we believe it boils down to five functional and emotional elements which make up a great trip. Here’s our take on each one.
A SEAMLESS JOURNEY
“I just like it when it’s easy.”
When it comes to travelling, there’s a lot that can go wrong, which is why getting the basics right is essential. The logistics alone can be overwhelming: when to go, how to get there, where to stay, how to get around. From talking to travellers, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that seamless logistics are never the highlight of a trip, but logistical missteps can quickly ruin one. While things like airline delays and lost luggage might be out of our control, there are a lot of things we can do to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. For one, be realistic. If you’re not an early riser, don’t book a 7am flight just to get a few extra hours in a city – you’ll just be miserable all day and end up needing a nap. If the 10am is just too pricey, then consider requesting early check-in at your hotel so you can recharge before hitting the town.
“I felt at ease knowing the lay of the land.”
There will always be something a little scary about going to a new place for the first time. Getting recommendations that are vetted by someone you trust can make an immense difference, but you don’t need to overdo it. Travellers tell us that even a few solid tips from a good friend can turn a big “unknown” into a source of comfort. If your friend was in Prague just a few months ago and stayed at this exact hotel, or visited this same bar, chances are you’ll feel a lot more at ease walking into it. You’ll never get all of your choices vetted, nor should you, because part of travelling is about stepping outside of your comfort zone. Still, having a few recommendations sprinkled throughout your destination will give you enough of a safe space for you to feel comfortable to wing the rest. And it’ll help you avoid those tiny moments of panic when you’re not sure if the place you’re about to wander into is a bit dodgy, or worse, a tourist trap (gasp).
“I need to be doing more than just ticking boxes.”
You may have heard of the 80-20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, which suggests that 20% of the effort and time gets you 80% of the results. We think there’s truth to this in travel, too. Let’s face it – there will always be more museums, restaurants, monuments, and shops than we have time for when we visit a place. Much like Goldilocks and her “just right” porridge, we found that travelers were happiest when they managed to strike a balance between doing too much and too little, and more importantly, finding their 20% that they would get most enjoyment out of. Whether it’s sights to see, things to do or places to eat, it’s about being honest with ourselves and more intentional with the way we choose to spend our time during a trip, not blindly following what TripAdvisor tells us to do. So the next time you find yourself in say, Munich, if ancient castles aren’t your thing but microbreweries are, don’t be afraid to veer off-course and find that perfect pint.
“It was exactly what I needed at the time.”
In an age of abundant choices and constant competition for our attention, the one thing we all lack is time. As with juggling every other priority in our lives, we are constantly battling trade-offs with the way we spend our time. On any given day, our time is precious, but when it comes to travel, it is downright sacred. This means when we do go away, we tend to expect a lot out of it, so that we can justify forgoing other potential plans or procrastinating on work that we could have done instead. Whether it’s to recharge, spend quality time with a significant other, or eat your bodyweight in the freshest of pasta, we found that people express most satisfaction with a trip when they feel they’ve achieved what they wanted out of it. Needless to say, this requires you to know what you are looking for in a trip in the first place (which we know is half the challenge). The next time you travel, try your hand at some pre-trip introspection so you can be more purposeful with your time away and get more out of it.
“There was just something special about it...”
In travel, the real magic happens when you’re least expecting it. In virtually all of the conversations we had, we found that every “great trip” had a secret ingredient, a little something extra that made it truly special. For one traveller, it was a charming dinner spot recommended by a local at a bar which turned out to (quite literally) be a grandmother’s kitchen. For another, it was meeting a couple while waiting in line at a museum and spending the rest of the afternoon with them. Some travellers can’t even quite put their finger on what it is, but if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a certain twinkle in their eye when they start telling you about “that time we were in…“. Regardless of the experience, it came down to making surprise connections or discovering something unexpected about a place. And while it’s not guaranteed that you’ll find this in every place you visit, we can promise it’s worth a try. So from time to time, take yourself off autopilot and allow for the occasional wrong turn or casual small talk with locals at the bar. Give yourself a reason to believe in magic again.