Private travel: avoiding the rat race to the Costa del Sol

Luxury travel agents are beginning to seem like the sensible option, says Chris Carter.

Plane landing at St Barth's airport © Hugh Mitton / Alamy Stock Photo
Why not take a private plane to St Barths?
(Image credit: © Hugh Mitton / Alamy Stock Photo)

The pandemic has put paid to many a travel plan up and down the country. So much so that even a soggy, little caravan in Carmarthenshire is starting to look like luxury accommodation – assuming you can beat back the crowds to get your foot in the door. There is, however, one demographic, at least in the US, that “appears to be more optimistic, making plans and holding onto reservations”, says Kenneth Kiesnoski for CNBC – “the affluent vacationer”. This “resilience” has given heart to a travel industry that has otherwise seen little else besides cancellations. “Affluent travellers tend to be a little more comfortable with the wait-and-see scenario,” Misty Belles, managing director at Virtuoso, a global network of luxury travel agencies, tells Kiesnoski. “Because they’re well-versed at travel and it’s such an ingrained part of their lifestyle, our clients are really more in that sit-and-wait camp.”

Holiday like the Queen

Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral, 1972 © AFP via Getty Images

Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral, 1972 © AFP via Getty Images
(Image credit: © AFP via Getty Images)

Of course, sitting and waiting for your holiday to St Barths is made easier if you can do it in the comfort and style to which you are accustomed. ThirdHome, the “world’s most luxurious home-swapping website”, has seen an “uptick” in enquiries for Reserve, its “most exclusive platform”, Giles Adam, the company’s European president, tells Tatler’s Anya Meyerowitz. To qualify, your holiday home should be worth around £5m. “As well as offering an opulent lifestyle synonymous with their own, and the opportunity to explore properties often out of bounds, this type of holiday offers members the luxury of time,” says Meyerowitz. They are, in other words, “exempt from the The Great (Staycation) Race”.

Perhaps even the Queen could be tempted to give home swapping a try. The Balmoral estate, up in the Highlands of Scotland, “is around 50,000 acres and the good news is that you can visit, or even stay on the estate”, says Camilla Swift in Spectator Life. But even if Her Majesty can’t be persuaded to swap the “big house” with you, there are a number of holiday cottages to rent – although these are being occupied by members of the royal family this year, notes Swift. “But holidaying like the Queen doesn’t have to mean Balmoral.” There are numerous stand-ins that have been used for filming: Ardverikie House, on the shores of Loch Laggan in Inverness-shire, is one that has featured in The Crown and Mrs Brown. The “beautiful turreted” Gate Lodge is available for rent on the estate.

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St Barths calling

But as lovely as the Highlands are, they are not St Barths. Luckily, when the Caribbean island’s siren call becomes too much to bear, “top travel concierge companies are coming into their own and luxury brands are stepping up”, says Francesca Syz in The Daily Telegraph. “Previously travelling was a lifestyle choice, but now most of our clients simply are not prepared to go on public transportation. It has become a necessity,” Ikenna Ordor, founder of Starr Luxury Cars, tells the paper. His company has just launched Starr Luxury Jets to take advantage of the new demand for private air travel. And if you’re a nervous flyer, Ordor can arrange a yacht instead. Luxury hotel and villa firm Oetker Collection, meanwhile, whose properties include Le Bristol in Paris and Eden Rock in St Barths, has partnered with Sparfell Aviation, “so now guests can bypass the conventional airport lounge when going to stay at any of its properties by offering a private charter service from any airport in the world”, says Syz. None of this comes cheap, as Christian Wright notes in The Wall Street Journal. But in these travel-restricted times, “the loonily extravagant world of private jets, cliff-side villas and ultra-exclusive hotels [begins] to seem… strangely sensible”.

Help! My American super-passport doesn’t work!

US passport © Getty Images/iStockphoto

© Getty Images/iStockphoto
(Image credit: © Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A new trend is emerging among wealthy Americans who have been forbidden to travel due to the pandemic, says Natalie Compton in The Washington Post – buying a second passport. “We’ve had Americans contacting us and saying, ‘Listen, I cannot believe that my American super-passport cannot get me into as many countries as it used to before. What can I do?’” Armand Arton, the president of financial firm Arton Capital, which specialises in citizenship through investment, tells the paper.The answer, says Kate Springer for CNN Travel, is shell out for a second passport. Investing as little as $100,000 in Dominica or St Lucia will get you the passports of these Caribbean islands. A US passport will set you back $900,000. A British passport, if you were wondering, will cost you $2.6m.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

You can follow Chris on Instagram.