Every traveller has at some time asked themselves this question. Should I go back to that last place I loved, or go somewhere new? Put another way, is it better to visit one place many times, or many places once? Whether you’re an experienced traveller or just setting out to explore the world, you’re going to need a strategy. Our people are among the most well-travelled around, so we spoke to some with very different ideas to see who’s got it right.
Barbados is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, but in the 1970s when 5-year-old Andy Currey first started visiting the island, it was considered extremely exotic. Back then only the elite could afford to visit the Caribbean. But having a dad who worked for BOAC engineering (the forerunner of British Airways) allowed the Currey family to begin their love affair with the island.
Today, Andy works at our Heathrow hangar and is responsible for all our ground support equipment and engineering tooling. Since his childhood trips, he’s returned to Barbados over 70 times. His children have grown up holidaying on the island, his daughter got married there last year, and now his first grandchild is about to become the latest generation to enjoy Barbados. Visiting the same place repeatedly has many advantages. There’s the comfort of familiarity and the joy of getting to know a place intimately. There’s an understanding of all the different seasons. Andy knows exactly which time of year to take the children (February and March) or when to go kid free (November is hotter and more humid, just how he likes it). He gets to chat with the local Barbados engineering team at the airport and once even sat next to the president on a flight, who promised him citizenship if he got to 100 visits!
As you’d expect, Andy is an expert on Barbados and has seen many changes over the years. Though it’s since been converted to a doctor’s surgery, he has particularly fond memories of ‘The Sweet Life’; Hotel and its bar where he first began a lifelong love of local Banks Beer. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the warm welcome he’s always received from Barbadians, many of whom Andy now counts as good friends.
It’s fair to say our IT innovation manager Tim Graham has a very different travel strategy to Andy. Known throughout the airline for his regular weekend jaunts or ‘Tim’s Travels’, he’s visited 201 cities in 43 countries in the last ten years. His motto when travelling is to ‘pack it in’ and he loves a road trip as much as he dislikes lying on the beach. Often visiting several cities during one trip, people who’ve accompanied him often talk about needing a holiday when they get home – but they’ll have also discovered small towns in the middle of nowhere, stayed at oddball motels, eaten at classic diners and probably stopped by a rollercoaster or two.
“One of the first things I try to do is find the highest point in the city and go there,” he says, explaining how he gets the most out of a city in one trip. “This is usually a skyscraper or viewing platform. From here you can get a good look at the city and understand the layout. I also like to do a walking tour, which are often organised by the city tourist board for free. A church visit or a Sunday morning walk in the park will also give you a sense of the community. I also make sure I eat in an authentic local restaurant.”
Despite all this, London is still Tim’s favourite city. In his opinion, nowhere else can quite match the capital’s great people, fantastic food and drink, and constant supply of new things to see and do. And of all the skyscraper views Tim’s seen, he still reckons nothing can beat the view from an aircraft window as you fly over London on the approach to Heathrow. We tend to agree!
A happy medium
Ellen is one of our customer service advisors in Cardiff. She falls somewhere between Tim and Andy in the debate and has been to New York and Rome three times apiece, four times to Amsterdam, and numerous times to Paris. For her, it’s all about getting to know these incredible cities in more depth, delving deeper into their culture, art, delicious food and awesome nightlife with every visit.
“I think it’s difficult to truly experience a city in a short break,” she says. “Using New York City as an example, you’ll undoubtedly visit the Empire State building, go for a walk in Central Park and see a Broadway show. But once you spend a little longer in such a city, you begin to understand the way people live, the hidden gems in places you wouldn’t have thought to visit while taking pictures on the top of a tourist bus. You can discover underground speakeasy clubs in Lower Manhattan, jazz clubs deep in the Bronx, second hand market stalls in Brooklyn and therefore experience so much more than the surface.
“One ‘strategy’ I use is to research before I travel. I like to look at travel blogs to get an idea of the best things to do and see. I also align my research with the things I’m most interested in. The second is to be social and meet the locals; they always know best. By doing so, you can find something that may be off the beaten path but makes your trip much more enjoyable and unique. It’s great to experience a place as the locals would. This is why I prefer renting an apartment or house as opposed to staying in a hotel.
“To get to know somewhere quickly, walk. I always find you can get (happily) lost by wandering around a new destination on foot. Don’t restrict yourself to guided tours. On a tour bus, or by going straight from A to B in a taxi, you’ll miss the fun of losing yourself in parts of a city, whether a cute little cafe or a beautiful church.
“But I’d also say, some places are far too intense and just plain wonderful to know quickly in a short amount of time. This is why returning to those favourite destinations is a must! But visiting new places every now again does keep the travel bug alive.”
Whatever your strategy, if you’ve got the bug like Andy, Tim and Ellen, you’ll just want to keep on travelling. Take a look at all our destinations and start planning your next trip today.