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With travel ground to a halt this year, it’s a good time to set your sights on 2021 and use this time to start planning that dream trip. To give you inspiration, Culture Trip has rounded up the dream destinations that require forward planning, advance booking and a bit of extra saving.
Length of trip: 2 – 3 weeks
Save money for: Japan Rail Pass (around £450 for 21 days)
Plan in advance: Once-in-a-lifetime experiences, like staying in an onsen hotel
After just a few days in Japan, you’ll probably start wishing you’d booked a longer trip. An enchanting island country that seamlessly blends ancient tradition with ultra-modernity, there are endless things to do, see, eat and drink here, so make sure to set aside at least two or three weeks to make the most of a trip to Japan.
First things first: if you want to hit multiple cities in Japan, you’ll need a Japan Rail Pass, which gives you unlimited train travel across the country. The JR Pass should be reserved online well in advance of your trip – it’s recommended you order it at least two months prior to travelling to Japan to ensure it comes in time (though the pass is only valid for three months, so don’t order it too early).
Moreover, you should only book your rail pass once you’ve spent some time planning your route, as there are different passes that cover different regions. Where should you go in Japan? Alongside the must-visit cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, Japan boasts plenty of unspoiled natural beauty, charming towns and miles of coastline, so take the time to do some research and plan an itinerary that includes Japan’s lesser-known destinations and unexplored prefectures.
Finally, Japan is by no means the cheapest country to travel to and within, so you’ll want to ensure you give yourself plenty of time to save up some spending money for when you’re there. You’ll need as much cash as possible to spend on sushi, shopping and unique experiences – so get saving now!
Length of trip: 5 days
Save money for: The daily tourist charge ($250/£202.50 per adult per day)
Plan in advance: Your visa and local tour provider
Bhutan, a mysterious South Asian country in the Himalayan mountains, is notoriously difficult to visit. With a few exceptions, Bhutan’s government imposes a tourist charge of $250 (£202.50) per day in high season, making it one of the most expensive holidays you’ll likely ever go on. However, it’s safe to say it’s worth the money, as the tourist charge covers your accommodation, food, transport and your own personal tour guide. Every visitor to Bhutan must book their trip through an official tour operator, who will also arrange for your visa to be issued (you can’t enter the country without one), as well as providing health insurance for your trip.
Once you’ve saved up some money and jumped through the necessary hoops to gain entry into Bhutan, you’re in for a treat. On this once-in-a-lifetime trip, you’ll be able to explore one of the most remote and mysterious countries on earth: a kingdom of cliffside monasteries, dzongs (fortresses) and dramatic mountain vistas.
Length of trip: 2 – 3 weeks
Save money for: Internal flights (varies)
Plan in advance: The islands you’d like to visit
The Philippines is a dream destination for many, known for its pristine beaches, friendly locals and incredible diving, surfing and hiking opportunities. In short, it’s paradise for beach bums and outdoorsy types, but with over 7,000 islands to choose from, it’s hard to know where to begin when planning a trip to the island nation.
Now that you have the time, do a deep dive into the Philippine islands to figure out which you’d most like to visit, whether it’s the secluded beaches of Palawan, the party island of Boracay or the surfing capital of Siargao. Start mapping out your island-hopping adventure, plan your activities and you’ll be heading off on your dream holiday in no time.
Length of trip: 1 month
Save money for: Interrail pass (around €250/£226 for 7 days of travel within 1 month)
Plan in advance: Your route across the continent
If you’ve always dreamt of a summer Interrailing around Europe, now might be the perfect time to start putting that dream into motion. City-hopping around an entire continent requires plenty of forward planning, route mapping and budgeting, so start researching your summer in Europe as soon as possible.
There are Interrail passes available for one-, two- and even three-month trips, offering you a single ticket for train travel across 33 countries. (Note: Interrail passes are only available to European residents, so if you’re not from Europe, get yourself a Eurail pass instead.) Unlimited train travel for a month will cost you around €500 (£450), but if you’re smart about it, you could pay half the price by simply planning in advance which days you’re going to travel on.
Start mapping out the countries and cities you want to visit. Of course, there are the big hitters of London, Paris and Berlin, but the Interrail pass gives you the unique opportunity to check out some European spots you might not have thought of visiting before. Try to make your trip as varied as possible: you could be slurping up cacio e pepe in Rome one day and summiting the Matterhorn the next.
Once you’ve pinned your dream cities on a map, plan your route by checking the travel times between each destination. Decide how many days you’d like to spend in each place and make a timetable. Research the train journeys themselves, too, as rail travel in Europe can offer some seriously breathtaking views; there’s Scotland’s West Highland line, known for the picturesque Glenfinnan Viaduct used as part of the Hogwarts Express route in the Harry Potter films, and Switzerland’s Bernina Express, which snakes through the Swiss Alps.
Length of trip: 7 – 10 days
Save money for: A safari tour (from around $1,800/£1,460 per person for 7 nights)
Plan in advance: The wildlife you’d like to see, your lodgings and your safari tour operator
Whether you’re searching for the Big Five on the vast savannah plains of the Maasai Mara, spotting rows of pink flamingoes on Lake Nakuru and Lake Baringo or getting up close and personal with elephants in Amboseli National Park, Kenya is home to some incredible wildlife and is known for being the best place in the world for safari.
Going on safari is the adventure of a lifetime – with a price tag to match. You could be paying anywhere between $2,000 (£1,610) and $6,000 (£4,860) for a six- or seven-night safari, with some luxury options topping $200,000 (£162,120). That’s why it helps to give yourself plenty of time to research. There are seemingly endless tour operators to choose from, so pick the one that best matches your budget, includes lodging and offers all the experiences you’re after for your trip – whether that’s chasing cheetahs or enjoying a bush bath.