Expert Q&A with Travelbag’s Paul Hopkinson: Luxury Long-Haul Travel

Paul Hopkinson, Managing Director at Travelbag, the long-haul travel experts, shares his expert insight into luxury travel.

With over 20 years’ experience in travel marketing, Paul knows a thing or two about what makes a holiday great. Here, he shares with us how to enjoy luxury travel off the beaten track, where to go to avoid crowds in popular destinations and the long-haul locations that you just have to visit.

How many countries have you travelled to?

I really enjoy travelling, as you’d expect with my job, and over the years I’ve been to approximately 40 countries and counting.

What’s the best long-haul destination you’ve ever travelled to?

The world is filled with so many incredible locations that it’s hard to pick the best one. I’d have to say, though, that Kenya is probably the most memorable for me, based on the people, culture and wildlife.

What are your top three luxury long-haul destinations and why?

You can experience luxury in any country in the world, relative to that location, but for me, I’d say South Africa for luxury value for money, Thailand for a luxurious level of service and Australia for its unique property locations.

Each of these destinations holds a special place in my heart and I’ve visited them many times. What I find interesting is that whilst they are popular tourist spots, they probably wouldn’t be the first to spring to mind for luxury and long-haul – but that’s almost what makes them so great.

What is the best time of year to travel to Indonesia?

Indonesia is warm all year round, with daytime temperatures ranging from 20 to 33 degrees. October to April is monsoon season, and along with high humidity, you can expect heavy showers in the afternoons during this time.

I’d say that the wind is more problematic than the rain in the wet season, but even at this time of year you can certainly still expect plenty of sunshine.

The dry season lasts from May to September, with the peak being from May to July for somewhere like Bali.

Have you been to Australia? What advice would you give for luxury travel down under?

I’m a big fan of Australia and Travelbag is one of the leading Australia experts. If you’ve never been, I most definitely encourage you to venture down under.

For luxury travel in Australia, I’d recommend staying at a Luxury Lodge of Australia; you’ll be spoilt with stunning views and unrivalled experiences in these lodges’ unique locations throughout the country.

What’s a great travel location that not many people go to?

Thailand, but undiscovered Thailand. There are so many coastal and inland areas of Thailand that are still relatively undiscovered and these are the places to visit if you want a unique trip that isn’t saturated by tourism.

Which luxury long-haul destination would you recommend for a family?

One of the best family holidays I have ever been on was to South Africa, so I would definitely recommend that destination to anyone. It’s a must-visit location.

Do you have any advice for travelling on a long-haul flight?

Wear loose clothing, drink lots of water – more than you would on a normal day at home; you could even take dehydration sachets with you to keep your electrolytes topped up. I always take an eye mask to help me get some sleep and start adjusting for the jet lag; I put some lavender oil on it to encourage relaxation, too.

Other than that, a good book, some comfy socks and a tablet filled with downloaded TV shoes and movies to keep me entertained.

What’s the most extravagant trip you’ve ever booked?

That same family trip to South Africa springs to mind. We stayed in five-star properties and ate at Michelin-starred restaurants. Thankfully, the exchange rate was good and so it was welcomingly affordable; the restaurant pricing was on a par with a mid-range London venue.

The accommodation and resorts in South Africa were very family-friendly and geared towards kids – even the luxury properties.

Would you recommend travelling to one destination at a time or hopping between multiple locations?

This depends completely on you and what you want from a holiday. If you put relaxation at the top of your holiday must-have list, staying in one place might be best for you. However, if you’ve travelled that far, seeing as much as possible (without jeopardising the quality) is something I would suggest. The beauty of going to long-haul destinations is that, more often that not, another luxurious, exotic and intriguing island is a short plane, boat or train ride away, so why not make the most of that while visiting by island-hopping?