- United Kingdom
- Rebecca Cairns
The holiday season is upon us – but instead of the same-old ‘week-in-the-sun,’ it’s time for a change. Ever dreamed of getting off the beaten track, but unsure of where to start? Want to learn the local secrets, but lost the nerve to ask them? Maybe you’re too busy to book a vacation. Travelove is here to help. This innovative company has made it their mission to plan the perfect travel itinerary, tailored to you.
With trips in popular destinations like Paris, Rome and Barcelona, and more unusual locations like Palava, Blansko and Jerusalem, Travelove has all bases covered and offers an experience like no other awaiting lucky travelers. With the help of locals, Travelove has the inside knowledge on all of its specially-selected trips – meaning that your last visit to Prague was probably nothing like what they have planned for you!
We chat with Travelove CEO and co-founder Katka Mikulková to learn more about this amazing new enterprise.
You set up Travelove in 2014. What gave you the idea for it, and how did it get started?
Both my sister and I used to travel all the time, especially when we were still in college, before we started working in corporations. When we had kids, plus hectic jobs, the joy of planning holidays was gone as there was simply no time. We thought there have to be more people like us with the same problem. We decided we wanted to combine passionate locals with a love for travel who would be able to plan unique trips, with a professional reliable service that makes the whole thing work perfectly. Our trips make you think, understand and have fun while you learn about beautiful new places.
How did you go about setting up your own business?
I worked in a start-up lab for 3 years before I founded Travelove. Coming from the corporate domain it took me some time to adjust to the chaotic world of start-ups. I then came to realize this was the ideal environment for me. I started one company for a bank investor (Raiffeisenbank) and helped with many other start-up projects. It then felt like the right time to try a project of my own, something I truly believe in and this is exactly how I feel about Travelove.
Having locals at each of your destinations is a unique concept. How did this come about, and how successful has this been?
Local, authentic, homemade, pure… all this is becoming more and more popular. Imagine you go to a restaurant in Barcelona for dinner. Then imagine you meet a Catalan couple and let them take you out to places they like for tapas and wine. Can you picture the difference? You take a guided tour with another 30 tourists around the center of Prague – or Dana meets you over a cup of coffee and gives you a tour. To see how local people live, where they go to eat or have fun, it really enriches you. And it’s also something Google or Lonely Planet can’t help you with.
How many trip designers do you have, and what goes into designing a Travelove itinerary?
Right now we have over twenty Travelove trip designers all over the world. We started with Europe but are slowly expanding. Designing a trip is hard work. Usually the applicants think it will be easy and are keen to get started, but only the best ones finish their work. It takes about 1 month, full time to put the whole trip together. You need to find all the interesting locals, test all the experiences, walk all the walks and pick the best ones, hike all the hikes and so on. It’s impossible to put a Travelove trip together from distance or over a weekend.
What has the feedback been like from those on the trips?
They love it. First they talk about the locals and what they experienced with them. They enjoy the comfort – no worrying or planning, everything is arranged for them. A lot of people don’t open their guidebook until they’re on the airplane to find out what, where, when! But that’s how easy it is. Every day you have exciting activities to do without having to agonize over it. Often people book again or give a trip as a present to their friends and family.
What is your favorite travel destination?
Any destination: I just have an endless bucket list and enjoy every place! Right now I go to Travelove destinations, and test the family trips with my kids. I designed Bavaria, tested Paris, Barcelona and I’m planning on testing Amsterdam and the north of The Netherlands in August. My boys love it, walking around with their own guidebooks. The trip to The Netherlands is not even online yet: we’re still working on it with the trip designer – a very talented one, I must say.
What locations would you like to see added to Travelove next?
We’re adding more destinations in Asia, New Zealand and South America, but as I said before, any destination is wonderful if you know how to explore it. So as long as there is a great trip designer we’ll feature any destination. I believe there is beauty and authenticity in almost every place in the world. For example, we have a trip in the Czech Republic to a coal mine region, historically known for bad air and completely damaged nature. But there is so much beauty, too; the place has been reborn, there are mountains, woods and wonderful locals who love it there and will tell you moving stories, make goat cheese with you, and so on. When Czechs hear about this trip, they say we are crazy, that they would never think about going there for holidays, but when they come back, their prejudices are gone.
What are your top three trips for travelers?
I will recommend Travelove destinations as those I know well! First, I would recommend Barcelona. The city is stunning and there are many locals who are willing to spend time with you -showing you around, taking you on a boat or even making Gaudí’s mosaics with you. A totally different experience would be Israel. Again, there are many friendly people, interesting things to do and most of all interesting stories to hear. Third, for a relaxed trip with good food, I would recommend Prague and the Pálava wine region in the Czech Republic. People might not feel as friendly at first, but if you listen and try to understand, you will fall for the place.
By Becca Cairns