The year that travel forgot: TPG UK’s favourite trips of 2020

Dec 30, 2020

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Remember back in 2019 when everyone was like “2020 is going to be my year.” Yeah, us too.

Turns out that 2020 was the year that flipped the world on its head. Not a single soul on the planet has come away unscathed after the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked complete havoc on travel.

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We had big travel plans for 2020 here at TPG U.K., almost all of which were cancelled altogether or put on hold indefinitely as the global travel and aviation industries changed beyond recognition.

But despite it all, we were all lucky enough to go on at least one memorable trip this year when it was safe and permitted to do so.

Here’s a look back at the year less travelled.

Jean Arnas — Head of UK Video

For Jean, managing to escape to his homeland of Brazil was the highlight of his 2020 travel.

“I went to Brazil on 31 October. I saw Boris Johnson announcing another lockdown in the U.K. live on TV in the First lounge — even though I was flying economy, thanks to Exec Club status. So it felt very surreal to be escaping something that was so bad early in March and April. Being in Brazil in November for two weeks was a bit like experiencing summer in the U.K. again — hot weather, the sun, people taking COVID precautions. But overall, everything was open and running almost as usual. I loved visiting my old friends and family from my town and also managed to do a quick trip to Rio de Janeiro, which never disappoints with its beauty — I highly recommend. It was no doubt the best trip I had in 2020.”

Related: 8 tips to stay safe while visiting Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

My favourite-ever sunset from the wing was captured this year as I flew from Rio de Janeiro (SDU) to São Paulo (CGH) in Brazil. (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

Hayley Coyle — Features Editor

This year, Hayley found herself with more annual leave than she knew what to do with. In October, with whispers of travel becoming restricted again like during the first lockdown, she got out and escaped to Spain while she could.

“Around October time, I still had loads of annual leave left so decided to go and visit my aunt and uncle who have just moved to Barxeta in Valencia. My aunt wanted me to help her look at properties to buy and as a very nosy person who is a bit obsessed with ‘A Place in the Sun,’ this sounded ideal. 

After a very pleasant week, I was due to return to London. I had passed through security at Valencia Airport, had some cava in the lounge and was boarding the plane when I had a stroke of genius, in my opinion — Why go back now? I work remotely, the weather was fantastic in Spain, it was cheap and London was about to head into lockdown number two. No thanks. 

Long story short, I asked to be escorted back through security, rang a friend who lived in the city and ended up staying an extra three weeks. My husband (who was furloughed) flew out the next day and we had the most terrific time nomadically going from hotel to hostel to Airbnb, often booking things that day. It was one of the most spontaneous things I have ever done. Valencia is a bohemian and vibrant city with excellent food, friendly people and tons of cultural things to do. And since there were hardly any other visitors there, we got some amazing deals on hotels and ate out like kings every night for about 20 euros. Obviously, restrictions were always in place like a midnight curfew and mask wearing, and the Spanish take these rules very seriously indeed, so we always felt safe. 

In a year of cancellations and disappointment travel-wise, this impromptu Spanish adventure will be something I will remember always and it’s also convinced me Valencia is my second (spirit) home. Hasta luego!”

Hayley and her husband Ben having an early birthday lunch at Marina Beach Club in Valencia. (Photo by Hayley Coyle/The Points Guy)

Related: 15 of the most beautiful beaches in Spain

Nicky Kelvin — Director of Content

TPG U.K.’s Director of Content Nicky Kelvin had a magical and once-in-a-lifetime Roman experience this summer as he made the most of relaxed travel restrictions and plummeting tourist numbers.

“For a brief period in the summer of 2020, there was a noticeable (and temporary) shift towards normality. Travel corridors opened up, the weather was good and the mood and spirit of the nation was lifted.

I took the opportunity to visit Rome. I had never visited the Italian capital before and after seeing pictures from a friend, I was immediately drawn in. I booked a room for a week at the Waldorf Astoria Rome Cavalieri to use as a base to explore the city. The hotel was perfect, situated just outside town on a hill with incredible views, expansive grounds and a pool to cool down in under the Roman sun.

Even more perfect was Rome itself. All of the major tourist sites, which hold their own on a global level, were even more incredible due to the lack of tourists. I found myself almost alone at the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican and the Colosseum. I’m told that usually hundreds pack into the Sistine Chapel at any one time, but I got to experience it with less than 20 others.”

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Related: Second cities: Destinations to add onto a trip to Rome

Emily McNutt — Global News Editor

Living on the other side of the world from home, on a different continent, in a different time zone during 2020 would not have been easy. Unfortunately, such was the case for TPG’s Global News Editor Emily McNutt who quarantined after arriving back in the U.S. so she could spend some quality time with her family this summer.

“In a year when travel was largely off the table, being separated from family was especially draining, both mentally and emotionally. In August, I flew home to upstate New York to spend nearly a month with my family. After a two-week quarantine period, being able to see my parents and spend valued time with them is something I’ll cherish forever.

We took a holiday week in Cape Cod, Massachusetts — a family-favourite destination. Lounging on the beach, hearing the mighty Atlantic crash against the shore, wandering the streets of Provincetown and eating some of the best seafood all allowed my mental battery to recharge.

In a normal year, I wouldn’t necessarily consider a trip home to be my favourite journey, but like all things, this year was different.”


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Related: UK reduces quarantine period to 10 days

Daniel Ross — Writer and Content Producer

I was determined not to let 2020 completely ruin my travel plans, not least the travel I had planned for my 30th birthday celebrations in October.

“I was lucky enough at the start of 2020 to get a month-long trip in to Brazil. I did some remote working followed by a week’s holiday that sadly had to be cut short after being attacked and mugged on my way back to my hotel after a night out with a friend. I should have taken that as a sign of how things were about to go down in 2020…

Over the last few years, I’ve spent my birthdays abroad as and when I can. Copenhagen, Madrid and Brazil were recent destinations. As the year progressed and the situation continued to get worse, my ambitious plans to celebrate with friends abroad started with South Africa and went to Barcelona, then the Peak District and, for a moment, almost resulted in doing nothing at all.

The saving grace was the U.K. government’s lifting of its ‘non-essential travel’ ban. Of all the countries that remained on the travel corridor list, Greece was sure to be the warmest and easiest to get to for the perfect birthday celebration. Santorini was my new ‘dream’ spot, until it got removed from the travel corridor list. So instead, I went to Glyfada near Athens and celebrated with two of my closest friends.

It was our last night together when I got a text from my friend who owns an Airbnb on Santorini telling me that the paradise island would be returning to the travel corridor list. It was fate! I booked my flight immediately and flew the next day to spend an unforgettable 48 hours. It was the perfect ending to a week of being spoiled by family and friends.”

(Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

We realise how lucky we are at TPG to have been able to do these trips. Travel is good for the soul and in a year of many disappointments, they were a saving grace. Perhaps they inspired you for your next trip? Keep an eye out for all our articles to help make those dream trips in 2021 a reality — we’ll see you there!

Featured photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy

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