How to travel in 2022: expert tips from the National Geographic Traveller editors

To celebrate the 100th issue, the editors at National Geographic Traveller (UK) share the insights they’ve collected from their travels while making the magazine. Find out how they travel and, more importantly, how they plan to travel in the future.

By National Geographic Traveller UK Editors
Published 3 Feb 2022, 10:30 GMT
National Geographic Traveller (UK)'s 100th issue

National Geographic Traveller (UK)'s 100th issue

Photograph by National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Where do we find inspiration for our trips?
 

// Talk to people. Anyone. Anywhere. Invariably they’re willing and friendly, and you’ll learn something you can’t find on the internet or read in a book. Ask the barman a question, talk to the concierge, politely bother your tour guide, chat to anyone who crosses your path. You don’t need an in-depth conversation, just find out the best way to get from A to B, where the best bar is on a Monday night, how to get tickets for that thing, who has the best pasta… you might get a good answer and you might get a revealing insight into your chosen destination. Pat Riddell, editor

// 
I was 11 or 12 when I first remember getting itchy feet. I’d picked up a dog-eared hardback encyclopaedia at a car-boot sale that documented the wildlife of the Amazon Rainforest. I cut the pictures out and stuck them on the wall next to my bed, swearing to become a zoologist and emigrate there when I got older. The habit lasts to this day — although, screenshots and browser bookmarks outweigh the cuttings now. Guides to the nature of a region and history books — that’s always been my thing. Nora Wallaya, deputy digital editor

// I’d be reading National Geographic Traveller (UK) cover to cover even if I weren’t working here, but it’s lucky I do as it’s the richest source of inspiration for my own travels —much to the amusement of my colleagues. Time and time again, features worm their way into my thoughts and linger there, drumming their fingers, until I book the trip. The most recent example of this is our Rome cover story (Nov 2021 issue). Between the gorgeous foodie stories of Testaccio, reading about the secrets of the Centro Storico, and the sun-dappled photography by Francesco Lastrucci, resistance was futile: flights were booked. Amelia Duggan, deputy editor

// I’m very easily swayed by visuals — if there’s incredible scenery in a film or TV programme I’ll Google it to find out where exactly it is and how I can get there. I’ve had a bookmark on my browser for the Chilkoot Trail, a mountainous trek that crosses the US-Canada border, for more than two years, after it was featured on an episode of Great American Railroad Journeys. That border crossing is currently closed, but once it reopens I’ll be there. Nicky Trup, associate editor

// Film and TV have been particularly inspiring to me over the past two years. Being able to enjoy the majestic landscapes or bustling cities, see attractions or exhibitions on screen — it’s all been much-needed inspiration when we’ve not been able to travel. Maria Pieri, editorial director

// Food, food, food! Whether it’s a dish I try in a neighbourhood restaurant in London; an episode of Chef’s Table; a bustling restaurant scene in a film; or the heady scent of a spice that transports me elsewhere — it’s often food and my urgency to learn more about it, to try all iterations of a dish, or variations of a cuisine that makes me book a trip. The Basque Country, Hanoi, West Sweden and Singapore are just a few of the destinations that I’ll forever be hungry for more of. Josephine Price, digital editor

How do we plan our trips?
 

// If you travel independently, Facebook groups are a priceless resource, where locals or fellow travellers offer real-time, on-the-ground information. On a recent trip to Sri Lanka, landslides tragically tore entire slopes of the countryside down, closing roads and rail lines. Thanks to the help of locals on groups that I’d joined, who lived in the area I was trying to reach, I managed to easily circumvent disrupted roads, and check up on ever-changing train timetables. Nora Wallaya, deputy digital editor

// I tend to switch between Google Flights, Skyscanner and Kayak when searching for flights — identifying routes, dates, prices and variables — before figuring out what seems to be the best option or combination. Ultimately, I prefer to book direct with the airline but, while the days of booking everything separately haven’t gone, using a travel agent or tour operator ultimately gives you more protection if anything goes wrong. And, as we all know, the past two years haven’t been the easiest time to travel. Pat Riddell, editor

// I’m a serious bookworm so it’s no surprise I like to stock up on relevant travel literature while in the planning stages of a trip, and I find it’s best to source local voices as well as outsider perspectives. India is one of the countries I return to again and again (check out my stories of scoping out snow leopards in Ladakh and rhinos in Assam), and I’ve found  National Geographic Traveller contributor William Dalrymple’s books utterly invaluable. If you’re going to dive into his back catalogue, may I suggest City of Djinns (1993), which peels back the layers of Delhi, or The Age of Kali (1988), which explore themes of unrest and spirituality across the subcontinent. For non-fiction fans, Amartya Sen’s The Augmentative Indian (2005) and Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers (2021) are equally worth picking up, too. Amelia Duggan, deputy editor

// If I’m going on a city break and have a lot to cover, I’ll often plot out the places I want/need to visit on Google Maps. It’s an easy way of keeping track of recommendations I’ve had, or things I’ve read about, and I have different colours for places I want to go and others I’ve been to and enjoyed. I’ve even started using the same system at home in London with my restaurant wish list. Nicky Trup, associate editor

// I’m quite obsessive about the weight of items when backpacking so am thrilled that big brands are bringing out lighter and lighter kit for camping, be that down jackets, nifty tents or fold-away stoves. Working at National Geographic Traveller (UK), I’m lucky to often be among the first to hear about cool, new equipment that has an ethical or sustainable back story; we’re keen to bring our readers quality products with a good ethos. Anything with a lifetime warrantee, like that pioneered by Patagonia, is a savvy investment, I feel. Montane, Columbia and The North Face all offer repairs, within reason. Amelia Duggan, deputy editor

How do we get ready for our trips?
 

// Call me old-fashioned but I’m a big fan of a bona fide guidebook. I love filling those quiet moments on trip by reading the back sections about history, language or wildlife; it gives you a brief overview of the destination and puts everything into a much clearer context. Connor McGovern, commissioning editor

// Pack a travel bag of toiletries so that you’re always ready to go. It just makes it easier not having to pull it together every time you want to travel. Of course, it always needs an update every trip, but not having to constantly remember your toothbrush can be handy for early morning travel plans. Maria Pieri, editorial director

// Spend some time with a map. Digital maps are an endlessly useful resource, but I do still strive to get myself a physical map before setting off. Ordnance Survey maps are great for hikes in the UK, but make sure you check out the smaller maps on offer in a guidebooks if you don’t want to spend any extra. I feel safer and more liberated in a destination when I’ve got a sense of the layout and the geography. I know I can wander and if I hit that lake, or stumble across that monument, for example, I can work out that I’ve headed, say, east in a city and that I might want to orient myself a bit more towards the north if there’s something there that I’d like to see. Our phones act like such crutches with the instant availability of maps and directions (indispensable and I’m grateful for them) but there’s nothing like making yourself roughly aware of the layout of a place and feeling the tangibility of it with a physical map. Josephine Price, digital editor

// While travellers’ cheques are a throwback to the last century, even changing money seems a little antiquated now in this digital world of smartphones, apps and global interconnectivity. Pre-paid travel cards have developed hugely in the past decade, and I’ve used Revolut for several years now. You can not only transfer money and exchange into numerous currencies quickly and easily, but you can withdraw cash from ATMs, pay via the card or with your phone. Plus the charges, if you use it carefully, are next to nothing. Pat Riddell, editor

How do we immerse ourselves in a destination?
 

// I find food tours, immersive dining experiences or supper clubs throw me into a destination like nothing else. Going into someone’s kitchen or following someone around a city and learning from them is so bonding. For me, food transforms all awkwardness into a unifying experience. Some of my favourite moments include a soda bread-making workshop in a light-filled kitchen in a former church in Galway and discovering Seville’s best tapas spots with a true expert, learning more than I could’ve ever imagined if I’d been on my own with a guidebook. Often, you’ll be taken to the places with the best stories. And best of all, they’ll often order for you, too! Eat With and Airbnb Experiences are some mainstream ways to book onto such experiences, but you might just find that chatting to locals gets you there just as quickly. Josephine Price, digital editor

// Cooking classes are a must. Food? Good. Alcohol? Good. Chatting? Good. Then of course, there’s the learning of a new set of culinary techniques that you can take home with you, allowing you to remember your trip for the rest of your life. Not bad. Put in the research and invest in the best-rated one you can find. Nora Wallaya, deputy digital editor

// A few times when I’ve travelled solo I’ve used couchsurfing.com to meet local people (usually other women, for safety reasons) — not so I can stay with them, but to go for a drink or dinner, or even just pick their brains for local tips. It can feel a little odd, but I’ve been introduced to so many great people and places that way. Nicky Trup, associate editor

How do we get around and make the most of a destination?
 

// When visiting cities, just walk. Follow your eyes, ears and nose. Don’t always stick to the same path; detours always bring up surprises. Look up, down, all around — those extra moments spent admiring a building or discovering a local park mean you’ll have absorbed even more of the destination than you think. Connor McGovern, commissioning editor

// Local transport is almost always the best way to go if you have the time and the curiosity. Buses in Addis Ababa threw me in with local commuters, while long train journeys in Vietnam meant I had time to play cards and drink (too much) with strangers who then became friends. Ask for help — it’s a great way to get to know people, too. Josephine Price, digital editor

// The sure-fire way to get to grips with a new place — and have a local expert to bombard with questions and ply for restaurant tips — is to book onto a walking tour or hands-on class. I love AirBnb Experiences for this reason: launched in 2016, the platform makes it so easy to meet welcoming locals and share in their knowledge. On my last trip to Rome, I ended up making pasta and gelato in a Roman chef’s home kitchen (thanks, Fortuna!), and spent a day snacking my way through Trastevere’s historic eateries with a charismatic local foodie. Amelia Duggan, deputy editor

// Walking. Walk everywhere. Get lost, get found and just amble and enjoy the vibe. If you’re able, always plan a morning run wherever you are – 30 minutes in one direction one morning, and then in the other direction the next. Take some cash or a form of payment with you so you can pay for a taxi if you get lost! Maria Pieri, editorial director

// Don’t over-plan. Balance wanting to see and do everything with spending some quality time in a destination. With family, plan a one day on, one day off itinerary to give yourselves a chance to relax, too. Not that you do nothing on the down day, more that’s it a spontaneous day for all, where you can decide what to do based on how you feel. Maria Pieri, editorial director

// Through the website Trusted Housesitters, you can offer your services as a house- and/or pet-sitter in exchange for free accommodation while the owners are away. It really is that simple — add your dates, choose the pets you’re comfortable caring for, then send through your application. It’s a hard-pass on the snake-sitting, though… Nora Wallaya, deputy digital editor

How do we document our trips?
 

// Keeping a casual diary and writing down your thoughts and observations at that moment is always worthwhile. You don’t have to be a writer to do this; rereading your words at a later date brings back memories and feelings you’ll have otherwise almost certainly forgotten.  Connor McGovern, commissioning editor

// Write little notes on business cards, receipts, postcards, leaflets — I find a paper trail of sorts can act as a romantic reminder of the things I really want to remember. It’s a good way to complement the notes and photos that exist in mostly a digital format these days. I’ve got a business card in my bag from a taxi driver in Austin who spent the whole journey telling me about the city’s taco scene. His recommendations — which quickly became my favourite spots — now live on that business card. Josephine Price, digital editor

// I’ve gone from film to digital to DSLR over the years before wanting something smaller — a compact camera that fits in my pocket — and then reverting to something that can change lens as required. I sold the DSLR, zoom lens and compact during the first lockdown and upgraded to a Micro Four Thirds camera, which almost ticks all the boxes for me — it’s not too cumbersome, you can change lenses at will and there’s a hugely improved quality of image. The wi-fi capability means shots can be on your phone or laptop in seconds. Pat Riddell, editor

How do we plan to travel in the future?
 

// While this has been clear to me for years, the rail networks have taken a while to catch up — for short-haul journeys, taking the train is far, far easier. Skiing in the Alps? The Eurostar Ski Train is an absolute doddle. Heading to Amsterdam? The train might take five hours but work out how long it takes to get to the airport, check in, wait for the flight, the actual flight, collect your baggage and then transfer to the city centre. Pat Riddell, editor

// I’m keen to see more of the world by train, and not only for the environmental benefit. The sense of expectancy you get in a train station, before boarding with ease and watching the world flicker past you through the window — it all beats hanging around an airport. Connor McGovern, commissioning editor

// The indefensibility of travel’s carbon footprint is on everyone’s mind. So how can we make our trips worth the guilt? I plan to travel with good purpose — not just for the sheer thrill of exploring — and certainly, no more overseas weekend getaways. My next trip is to western Portugal, where I’ll embark upon a two-week, outdoors-based permaculture design course, gaining a qualification in the sustainable living practice, all the while experiencing the local landscape and culture. Nora Wallaya, deputy digital editor

// It’s never been easier to stick to vegetarianism or veganism abroad, or at least reduce your intake of meat — there are so many destinations where the veggie culinary scene is one of the most exciting to explore. National Geographic Traveller Food (UK) has been championing plant-based dining abroad since the magazine’s launch, and you can find loads of tips in the back catalogue, from a weekend-worth of dining tips for Berlin to an amazing long read on the vegan curries of Bengaluru. Going forward, I aim to plan trips to places where veggie dinning is simple, delicious, and part of the fabric of the destination. Any zero-kilometre or farm-to-table restaurants with seasonal menus are a bonus, and I’d I love to sample these five low-waste restaurants across the UK. Amelia Duggan, deputy editor

// I’m trying to fly a lot less. If I’m able to get somewhere without flying I’ll do that, and only get on a plane as a last resort. It’s no great loss, as many of my most memorable travel experiences have been on night buses, trains and boats — both thanks to people I’ve met and the views I’ve admired along the way. Nicky Trup, associate editor

// The pandemic taught us all to better appreciate our local area, and that’s something that’s stuck with me. I hope to see even more of the UK in the future — the Ribble Valley, Lindisfarne, the Lizard peninsula and York are all on the list — and take things just slightly more slowly. Connor McGovern, commissioning editor

// In the future? Slower, longer more considered trips — thinking about how we book, how we travel and what we do when we get there. Do we need to fly? Can we buy local? Can we dine locally? Should we be doing what we are doing? What can we give back? Maria Pieri, editorial director

// It’s an uncomfortable truth that we’re all reckoning with. Travel has a very big impact, on the planet, on destinations and on communities. But let that uncomfortable feeling propel, rather than paralyse you. If you haven’t already, it’s time to truly consider the impact of your travels and where you are spending your money.  Community tourism is no new concept, and you’ll find that in 2022, certain companies are incredibly transparent and proud of what they give back. You should be looking for something that is community-owned, led and run. Intrepid Travel, Responsible Travel and G Adventures are all actively putting care into making sure the local communities in a destination are benefiting from what they do, from guiding to accommodation to gender representation.  Josephine Price, digital editor

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