Winter getaways for work and play

 

 

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Hi there, JFC-ers

We’d like to start off by wishing our American readers a very happy Thanksgiving! May your turkeys be pardoned, your dinner-table chats free of politics, and your pies delicious - no matter how conformist you are.

This week, we are giving thanks to the town of Presicce in Southern Italy, which has decided to pay €30,000 to anyone willing to move there. Well, technically it’s a grant designed to help you buy and renovate a house in the town, which is facing a dwindling number of residents. But that’s hardly a sacrifice, given that you'd be in Puglia, famous for its idyllic coastline, gorgeous old cities and - most importantly - pasta.

Trulli houses of Alberobello, Puglia

We’re also thankful that the Portuguese government has announced plans to revamp the country’s rail network, introducing high-speed trains and new rapid connections to Madrid. We’ll have to wait until 2050 to reap the benefits, but any step towards faster, greener connections within Europe is welcome in our books.

Lastly - love it or loathe it - with Thanksgiving comes Black Friday and its circus of advertising. Quite in line with new findings from Which?, we’ve noticed that some of the so-called airline sales popping up this week have been fairly lacklustre, to say the least.

We have found some great deals from Aer Lingus, SAS and Norse Atlantic, among others, but we’re still waiting for a real “wow” moment. In truth, Black Friday is never guaranteed to offer the best fares - those can appear at any time, without warning, and at any time of year. Our Flight Finders put together this handy article to help you make sense of it all.

Since it’s up to us to help you find the amazing deals you're after, it only makes sense that we want to make it even easier for you. We can't give the game away right now … but watch this space for a Black Friday offer that’s sure to save pennies for your holiday piggy bank!

Happy travels and safe landings,

Jack

 

There's More to Life Than Cheap Flights (Apparently)

We’ve got a confession, readers. Sometimes even we at JFC look for more than cheap flights. We love finding a fancy hotel without the hefty price tag, and occasionally we like booking a cool holiday package to save the hassle of doing it all separately.

Our friends over at Travelzoo happen to be experts in exactly that, so we wanted to share a couple of our favourites from their weekly Top 20 to give you a taste of what you're missing.

Bali & Singapore Grand Prix

Whether you’ve been a fan of Formula 1 since Max Verstappen was in nappies or Drive to Survive was your green flag, watching the beads of sweat quite literally roll down drivers’ faces in real life probably sounds like quite a buzz.

That’s how you’ll spend the first four days on this trip. Flights, accommodation and your Grand Prix tickets are all taken care of, so you really do just have to turn up on time.

Away from the track, time is best spent getting lost in the traditional hawker centres selling a huge variety of mouthwatering cuisines. Centuries of changing influence in the country have resulted in everything from laksa to biryani becoming traditional Singaporean dishes. The choice can seem a little overwhelming, so we’d recommend joining a food tour to get your bearings.

Once your four days of thrills are up, it’s time to move on to beautiful Bali. The hotel lends itself to a week of blissful relaxation on the peaceful beaches of Sanur, but you could take the chance to do some temple-hopping, too. You’ll be close to the ancient Pura Blanjong in South Sanur, which houses a pillar with inscriptions dating back to 914 CE, and impressive structures like the Pura Jagatnatha, a temple dedicated to the supreme god Sanghyang Widi.

5-star Turkish Riviera week with swim-up room

Something just a little less extravagant but still serving up complete relaxation - a week on the Turquoise Coast with everything taken care of. The spring dates mean you can avoid the crowds - both on Side beach and when taking in the sunset from the Temple of Apollo. But most importantly, it’ll give you something cosy to aim for during the long winter nights ahead.

There is a selection of delightful European breaks in there this week as well, such as long weekends in Copenhagen, a week in Portugal covering sights from Lisbon to Porto, and a luxury Santorini trip in May.

Subscribe to Travelzoo’s Top 20 round-up, and you'll be ahead of the game when it lands in your inbox each Wednesday. Just trust us when we say the holiday inspiration is real.

 

Winter Warmers

We get the feeling that you've been noticing the temperatures drop over the last week or two, readers, as the requests for winter sun recommendations have started piling up in our inbox. Some of you are just in need of a quick break from the cold, dark winter days, while others are on the hunt for good spots to combine a vitamin D top-up with a bit of remote working.

As a general rule, we’d suggest you head south for extra daylight and temperatures above 16 °C (well known for being the point at which it becomes “Taps Aff” weather). If you want a little more to go on, we’ve drawn up a short-list of exciting spots for winter sun in early 2023.

Cadiz

Winter temperatures - 16-18 °C in January - March

Why should I visit? - It's supposedly the oldest city still standing in Europe, dating back to the 12th century. Beautiful cathedrals, Roman ruins and authentic tapas bars are tucked away around every corner in the narrow alleyways of the Old Town. The locals also know how to throw a party, rehearsing all year for their world-famous Carnival that takes places over 11 days in late February - March (next year it runs from 16th-26th February).

Is it suitable for remote working? - As of 2022, Spain’s internet connection is 7th fastest in Europe, so that’s a good start for making sure you can still dial in on Teams when necessary. There are a couple of coworking spaces available - La Cooperativa, in a historical building close to the Old Town, and the more modern Omniwork Center, near the train station. Both charge €25/day for a desk, so you may prefer to work from your Airbnb or hotel lobby.

The Azores

Winter temperatures - 16-17 °C in January - March

Why should I visit? - You’d find it hard not to rush outdoors and breathe in the Azores’ fresh mountain air. The islands are made for hiking, with trails leading you to waterfalls, around volcanic craters, and along the craggy coastline. And although you may never have heard of a lava tube, we bet you’ll want to snoop around inside one now that you know it’s possible on São Miguel Island. We’d also recommend visiting a local winery or two - just for science, of course. Despite the extreme growing conditions out there in the middle of the Atlantic, wine has been made there for hundreds of years.

Is it suitable for remote working? - The largest island in the chain, São Miguel, is well-equipped as a hub for digital nomads and remote workers, and has several shared offices available. If you fancy trying a whole new lifestyle during your trip, you could try out Novovento or Dwell, both of which offer accommodation and coworking spaces. Room prices are fairly reasonable, but are they worth the flashbacks to 3-week-old lasagne in our shared university accommodation?

Banjul, Gambia

Winter temperatures - 32-34 °C in January - March

Why should I visit? - For one thing, the people of Gambia are famously friendly, earning it the nickname “The Smiling Coast of Africa” (okay, that may have something to do with the shape of the country, too). Despite being reliant on tourism, the country’s beaches remain uncrowded, and you don’t have to hike for hours to find a secluded spot. You can have all the luxury of a Caribbean resort for much less. Then again, it’s easy to immerse yourself in local life by staying in eco lodges and making your way to beaches like Tanji, which host fish markets. Word to the wise: if you’re not into fish guts and strong aromas, sit this one out.

Is it suitable for remote working? - Broadband in Gambia is expensive and slow, so don’t expect too much from hotel Wi-Fi hotspots. It’s the perfect excuse for leaving your camera off during a meeting, really. There is an emerging start-up scene in the country, though, meaning coworking spaces are beginning to pop up. Disruptive Lab is located in Bakau, just a stone’s throw from Kachikally Crocodile Pool - simultaneously an incredibly significant site for local women looking to conceive and the biggest tourist trap in the country.

Studies abroad

This sure is something close to our hearts, reader - many of us here at JFC were lucky enough to spend time abroad as part of our studies, and we want everyone else to have the chance as well!

Since flights to China came back on the market, they’ve varied wildly from £500 rtn to £9,999 rtn (we suspect whoever chose the price that day just made it up). We had hoped to see fares become less erratic by now, but with COVID restrictions still coming and going, and tourist visas impossible to come by, travel to China remains limited - and with it, the flights opportunities.

However, as you may have heard, it’s Black Friday Week, and that could mean sale fares to Shanghai or elsewhere in China. There are no guarantees, of course, but watching sales from airlines such as Etihad, Cathay Pacific and SAS could pay off.

These were the best priced routes we could find at the time of writing for one-way trips in January:

Fingers crossed you and your fellow students make it over there ASAP. We wish you the best of luck with your studies!

Our Pick Of The Clicks

All the important (or silly, or strange) travel news from across the web this week.

There’s been more sad news from abroad this week, as rescuers in Indonesia continue to battle with the aftershocks of a deadly 5.6 magnitude earthquake. If you or anyone you know is currently in the region, we hope you are safe and well.

Flashing your passports at the gate could soon be a thing of the past. BA announced this week that they’ll be trialling biometric boarding on their flights between London Heathrow and Malaga over the next six months.

Passengers who sign up to take part will use their smart device to scan their face, passport and boarding pass before travelling. They will then verify their identity on a special camera once they arrive at the airport before swanning onto their flight without talking to anyone.


If you’re planning a trip to the Champagne region of France, make sure to leave time between all those vineyards for a spot of angling at Bluewater Lakes, where an English holidaymaker got more than he bargained for when he caught a 30 kg goldfish.

Which? have been researching again, and this time they’ve noticed what many of you have been saying for ages - older travellers are getting a raw deal when it comes to essentials like travel insurance. Those aged 75-84 are seeing policies cost around 60% more than pre-pandemic, while over-85s are being slapped with a horrific 169% increase.

Anyone travelling in or out of the UK over the festive season should prepare for potential delays, yet again. This time, you may find yourself waiting longer than usual to get your passports checked, with the UK Border Force set to strike as part of a larger industrial action among civil servants. Fingers crossed their dispute can be resolved before then!

And finally, San Francisco airport has taken the crown as the USA’s all-round best airport. The Wall Street Journal weighed up factors such as restaurants, other amenities, the efficiency of security checkpoints and noisiness.

Aside from San Fran’s reliable flights and generally quiet waiting areas, the recent $2.5 billion upgrade seems to have done the trick. Seems like an awful lot just to win a trophy, though...