The experience of booking a holiday is now painfully similar to another, disappointment-riddled institution: fantasy football.
Hear me out. It all begins with the selection process. You know you want Son this winter, but perhaps that’s outside your budget. Then there’s the lingering fear that a weak Sterling will give you less bang for your buck than in previous years.
But you fantasise, and you cobble together a plan. And then, moments after you’ve finally built up the cojones to click “confirm”, what happens? As if from nowhere, your star players (Lacazette, Thiago, Jota/ France, Spain, Portugal) turn “amber” or “red” due to deteriorating health concerns, causing you to make panicked, last-minute transfers.
There’s a league table involved, of course. In the case of travel, it’s ordered by Covid-19 cases per 100,000 over seven days – more than 20 and a quarantine could be imposed at any minute. As I write this, Spain is near the top with 164.3, while Singapore is near the bottom on 1.9. The relegation zone features countries like Italy (19.6), Greece (19.7) and Poland (22.8).
As a result, in many ways, booking a holiday in 2020 is these days less about fantasising and more about catastrophising – a process laced with anxiety and huge scope for disappointment.
But, the sign of any good fantasy football manager, and indeed any determined holidaymaker, is, of course, to do your research and persevere. I may not be qualified as a fantasy football scout (I am currently bottom of La Telegraph Travel Liga), but as your fantasy holiday scout, I can offer a tip or two.
As I write, Italy is open, and requires zero tests or quarantine either end – chichi Cortina d’Ampezzo could be a good bet for a ski holiday. Barbados, Anguilla and Antigua do require a test before you fly, but will guarantee sun over Christmas. Germany is currently open to Britons and erupts with colour in autumn; consider the Moselle Valley or the Black Forest.
Then, of course, there are delights in the UK. There are plenty of unique options, from going off-grid in Northumberland, to undiscovered hills in Worcestershire and escaping civilization in the Highlands. Our writer Sarah Marshall reels off some of her favourite UK experiences in this article.
Plan carefully, with sensible buffers and a sturdy insurance policy, and your fantasy will come true, whether it be a Stockholm city break, an escape to the Caribbean sun, or triple-captaining Patrick Bamford.
And my word, it will be sweet when it pays off.