Looking for some family-friendly travel advice? Eager to get away for holiday or reunite with far-flung family and friends now that travel options are opening up again? We spoke with Jodie Robertson, an independent travel agent and a London mum, for some family-friendly travel tips and inspiration.
Please introduce yourself…
Hello, I’m Jodie and I love to travel! Travel addiction aside, I’m also partial to a cold beer, love a sea view, and have way too many pairs of sunglasses and bobble hats for one person…it’s my way of being summer/winter holiday ready.
I was born and bred in Basingstoke, Hampshire but I have been living the SW London life in East Sheen for over 13 years with my husband and 6-year-old son.
I’ve done the backpacking-gap year thing, met my Scottish husband in Melbourne, Australia, travelled extensively as much as work holidays would allow (skiing, safari, beach, island-hopping, etc), got engaged and married in Hydra Greece, honeymooned in South America, baby-mooned in Croatia and now drag our son to as many places as we can in the UK and abroad during those pesky school hols!
In Oct 2020, I decided that (during a Pandemic!!) I wanted to take this passion into a job and started my business with Designer Travel as an Independent Travel Agent, so now I get to research, plan and book other people’s holidays too!
I have 16+ years’ experience in relationship and account management so I love to work with customers to get to their desired outcome.
Please tell us about your travel service, how do you help families from start to finish?
I offer a personalised bespoke travel service; I can save you time, money and stress. If you’re time poor, let me do the hard work for you; after getting to know what you want from a holiday I will present you with 3 defined options. I know how to find the best deals and options that you won’t find online and I take the hassle and stress out of it too – you can book your holiday with me from your own living room.
I look after every aspect from the research, planning, booking and whatever requirements are needed in these current times to get you on that plane – you just need to remember where your passport is!
What is your top travel advice for families looking to get away in August?
DO IT! Travelling abroad will be the quietest you will ever see it. From the airports to the hotel and destination itself. We went to Mykonos in August last year – usually the height of the summer holidays and it felt like we had the beaches and Mykonos Town to ourselves. OK, so not quite. But I didn’t have to fight for that Insta worthy shot! Plus, the locals were SO happy to see you.
Oh, and use a travel agent for the most up to date travel requirements. The number of messages I’ve had from people booking their own travel asking me to double check the current travel requirements speak volumes! I may have to start charging…
Is it still possible to book somewhere in the UK if you haven’t yet? We keep hearing everything is fully booked or mega expensive!
Absolutely! It just might not be exactly what you want – you had to get in there early for that. Naturally there was a lot of demand for the UK this year but also a back-log of people that couldn’t get away through the many lockdowns.
As an example, we’ve squeezed in Pembrokeshire, Norfolk and are now in the Isle of Skye, Scotland. So if you’re looking for somewhere other than Devon and Cornwall, it’s not as mad or expensive as is being reported…
Are you seeing many families booking for October half term and Christmas break now? Are there more people hoping to go abroad during those breaks than usual, as they are waiting for Covid situation to improve?
Definitely – a lot of my bookings in the early part of this year were for 2022 onwards, they are now getting closer and closer. Someone booked just last week for the 4th of August!
People are either happy to book now or are waiting to see what’s what and book a last-minute number. Either way, I offer financial peace of mind as I am ATOL protected so every holiday I book is 100% financially secure.
How can parents ensure their destination will be as covid safe as possible – what should they be looking for and asking about?
In my opinion, they’ve never been safer or cleaner! The hospitality industry is desperate to get customers back in their venue and they will be doing everything in their power to ensure that customers feel comfortable and want to go back again. The processes are all in place from buckets of hand sanitiser to arrows on the floor – full transparency on what to expect during these times is given to the customer from the moment you book.
We’ve just spent 2-nights staying in hotels in Lancashire and Perthshire and both were wonderful – you can’t fault them.
What changes are you hoping to see with travel in the fall and winter?
It’s a big ask, but I just hope that travel requirements are more consistent and that more countries open when it’s OK to do so. As an industry we’ve been through more than enough – as D:Ream once said, things can only get better… (gotta love a 90’s music reference).
Enough about Covid – let’s talk about happy positive things!
Which locations are you seeing gain in popularity for families going on holiday?
We are seeing a trend towards experiential family travel – twin centre or touring holidays, idyllic destinations like Bali are trending as are a number of the Caribbean Islands, Mauritius and we have created some amazing safari options.
We took our son to Bali when he was just 4-years old and it was without a doubt one of the best trips we’ve been on – the culture, the gorgeous islands, the people, the food, the views, the sunsets. We spent 3-weeks travelling around and I cried on the plane on the way home – I think that says it all!
What elements do you think make for an ideal family holiday?
It depends what type of family you are. But generally speaking, I would say it would be whatever makes life easy for the adults! If it’s a kids club so you and your partner have the option to sit and enjoy a cold beer together then so be it. Or ski lessons for the little ones so that you have the freedom to race each other along the red runs…but still have the afternoons together as a family.
For me, it would be visiting and exploring new places and as cliché as it sounds, making new memories together that will stay with you forever. Plus, I’d definitely recommend having a balcony (with a sea view, of course!) so that my husband and I can enjoy a few beers in the evening whilst our son sleeps.
Unexpected locations that you’ve seen clients have fantastic family holiday (UK and abroad)?
Mauritius is an amazing all year-round family destination, yes it comes with a 12-hour flight but there are untold possibilities. California touring for older children has been a big hit. Closer to home our customers have loved multi-centre itineraries like the Greek Islands, Croatia and Morocco.
For us in the UK, Northumberland and Pembrokeshire (Bamburgh & Tenby respectively) were both a HUGE hit. Stretches of unspoilt golden beaches and loads to explore…
Best budget locations for family holidays?
For long-haul you really can’t beat Bali or the Dominican Republic. Turkey has some great all-inclusive hotels with amazing family facilities. There are other options including Bulgaria and classic Spain of course.
And finally …. How are you feeling now? It must’ve been a crazy year being an independent travel agent!
Relieved, mainly! I’ve loved seeing planes back in the sky and customers sharing their holiday pics again, plus we’re now on countdown to our own holiday…