By: Ann Ruppenstein
The ongoing pandemic has left most of us with an insatiable desire to travel again when it’s safe to do so. This week Travel Courier chats with travel experts to see which destinations top their wish lists for future travels and what sets those places apart. Read on for inspiration and ideas fuelled by travel advisors.
Looking at a map of Italy, Monica Millin would be happy to be dropped anywhere in the European nation.
“My place that I would go to is and always will be Italy,” Millin, the Certified Travel Counsellor behind Monica’s Vacation Creations with TPI in Port Moody, BC, tells Travel Courier. “Can I narrow it down to one specific location? That would be difficult. Just pick me up like the little Google Maps person and plop me down anywhere in the boot and I’d be happy.”
For those in search of a unique experience to embark on while in Venice the next time, Millin recommends taking a cicchetti tour, where travellers go around to various local bars (bacari) to eat small tapas-like dishes and drink wine or an Aperol Spritz — we’re talking about the birthplace of the classic cocktail after all.
“The food is local to Venice, items such as Baccala mantecato, deep fried mozzarella, crostini (small toasted bread with a topping), marinated seafood, olives, prosciutto, salami, etc. It is a very affordable way to spend an evening,” she says. “Though you can definitely walk around on your own and find the various bacari that offer cicchetti, go with a guide, they will take you to the best lesser known ones that the local frequent. The cicchetti haven’t been adapted to tourists so you get true local cuisine.”
Teodor Mihail doesn’t grow tired of Mexico.
“It has been my favourite sun destination, and I keep going back there for the wonderful beaches. Also, Mexico has so much more to offer besides beaches, that it would take an eternity to experience it all,” says the Travel Professional from Unravel World Travel with Centre Holidays based in Richmond Hill. “While I’ve gone to the Mayan Riviera many times, I can’t wait to experience other places like Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Guadalajara, the beach destinations in the northwest, and the many hidden spots that exist.”
Mihail recommends clients experience the cenotes that can be found across Yucatan.
“It is a unique landscape which is not found at many places around the world. I’ve even talked to some people who have no idea what a cenote is. Many travellers experience them on a day tour to Tulum or Chichen Itza, but in reality, cenotes are more than a nice sinkhole to swim in,” he says. “The story behind them is fascinating. There are five types: cavern, semi-open cenotes, open cenotes, and cavernous cenotes. And all those drain into the fifth type, which is an ocean inlet that eventually reaches the ocean.”
With Mexican food being one of his favourite cuisines, Mihail also suggests digging into the food scene.
“The best tacos I’ve had were from a food truck in Puerto Aventuras, where you can customize them,” he says. “Whenever I go there, I always want tacos and ceviche, whether it’s at the resort or a local restaurant.”
As for ideas for other travel advisors, he recommends thinking beyond the beach.
“They should recommend visiting the mainland as well,” he adds. “For travellers who are worried about the crime rate, it’s as simple as booking a tour with a top supplier like Globus, Trafalgar or Contiki. There are lots of tours that cover the top sights, and include the Copper Canyon Train as well. And if travellers say they want a combination of mainland plus beach, Puerto Vallarta is one hour by plane from Mexico City and Cancun is about two hours away.”
As the temperatures outside start to plunge, Kimberly McDougall is craving sunshine, a beach and the sound of the surf.
“One of my favourite places to soak up the sun is Cuba,” says the Travel Consultant with The Travel Agent Next Door based in London, Ont. “I last travelled there in January 2019 with my daughter and sister for a girl’s getaway in Varadero.”
During the trip, McDougall did a day tour to Havana in a classic car, something she recommends her clients experience as well.
“That was lots of fun! Our tour guide was knowledgeable and very accommodating —adapting our tour to suit our time frame and interests,” she says.
Overall, she says Cuba is a favourite destination of Canadians for a winter holiday.
“The people are friendly, the hotels are clean, and I have always enjoyed good food,” she says. “I recommend staying in a 4 or 5-star rated hotel or resort, but adjust your expectations, as the 5-star hotel you stay in in Cuba would have a lower rating in North America.”
Dennis Laliberte is looking forward to returning to Huatulco, the Mexican destination which has gone from being a hidden gem to a popular locale over the past decade.
“Two great areas are the seaside town of Santa Cruz and the pueblo town of La Crucecita,” says the President of New West Travel in Edmonton. “There is no crime here and no graffiti… it is an ecological area. There are nine bays with only development on three bays so the day trips to these undeveloped bays are wonderful.”
Laliberte suggests getting off the resorts like Barceló, Dreams and Secrets to take a cheap cab ride into the towns to take advantage of many tasty restaurants.
“There are several nice tours, the Mayan tour we did last year was exceptional,” he says.
Dennis and Lisa enjoying margaritas on the beach in Santa Cruz