S3, E13: What You Need to Know About Summer 2024 Travel

On this week’s episode of Unpacked by AFAR, we explore how to prepare for summer travel.

This week on Unpacked, AFAR’s mighty destination team share where to travel this summer, and more importantly, what you need to do now to make it your best summer yet.


Tim Chester: Yeah. I—my biggest problem is adding it to my reservation. I forget to do that, and then you get to the airport, depends on the scenario.

Mark Ellwood: How do you get your children to do that? I feel like those of you who have children, you have someone to delegate things to.

Aislyn Greene, host: Training, you’ve gotta train them.

Mark: You have like in-house TaskRabbit. Your—how old is your oldest child?

Tim: Eight.

Mark: Perfect. Probably better at the internet than we are.

Tim: Special age, yeah.

Mark: There’s still a way— before you leave town, you just say, “Have you done all our paperwork?”

Aislyn: Exactly.

Aislyn: I’m Aislyn Greene, and this is Unpacked, the podcast that unpacks one tricky topic in travel each week. And this week, we are not, in fact, sharing tips on how to train your children to take care of important travel paperwork, although maybe we should in a future episode. For this episode, AFAR’s mighty destination team joined me. These are the three people who spend their days—and nights, I think—writing and editing stories about where you and I should travel next, and together, we looked ahead to summer. What are their predictions for the season? What do you need to do right now to be ready, and where exactly should you go?

Welcome back to Unpacked. Welcome to another year of talking about summer travel. Well, I would love to kick it off with just a quick round of introductions. Could you just go around, say your full name, and, and what you do?

Chloe Arrojado: Hi, everyone. I’m Chloe. I’m the associate editor of destinations, and I often work with Mark. Um, currently, I’m here with Ais and Tim in this beautiful Toronto loft.

Mark: I’m Mark Ellwood. And, and I write—every month, Chloe and I work on giving you inspiration of where you should go every month.

Tim: Uh, and I’m last. I am Tim Chester, deputy editor at AFAR, predominantly working on destination inspiration.

Aislyn: We met last year to talk about where to go, summer 2023; it was a bit of a crazy year. If you had a crystal ball, what do you think this summer, 2024, is gonna be like for travel?

Mark: Last summer in the peak destination. So when we’re talking about—when we think summer, we think Italy, we think France, hotels hit really record rates. Everyone I have spoken to in the last six weeks, in those kind of places says, “Meh, it’s a little softer.” And I think in that sense that travel was getting frenzied, pricier, and more and more and more. I think this summer, after the crazy weather in Europe last summer, which I think made some people think twice, I think you’re gonna see perhaps a little softening of the prices—not a bargain, but you’re not going to be quite so sticker shocked.

The Greek bookings are really quite down. You know, if you were looking for a five-star hotel in July and August, in the peak Med places. I’m talking sort of Côte d’Azur, Mykonos, Capri, a room was starting to really coalesce around €2,000 a night, for a room.

Aislyn: Wow.

Mark: And whether you can afford that or not, you don’t think that’s good value. And I think there is a little bit of blowback now, that this is in some ways the hotels’ own fault.

Aislyn: OK, how do you think the Paris Olympics will play into all of that?

Mark: I’ve been to the last two Olympics to cover them, and it, it is an interesting experience to be there. And in a developed nation, the Olympics tend to drive out the people who live there. So London was a ghost town because everyone had been told, “This will be terrifying. It will be awful. The traffic will be terrible.” Of course, it was wonderful, but I suspect Paris will follow a same model where all the Parisians will scamper, and then they’ll be like, “Damn, um, we should have just stuck around.” And I think you’ll see some last-minute bargains ’cause I think Paris will be quieter than you think.

Tim: Yeah, I remember—it was interesting when the London Olympics happened. In the buildup, everybody was very cynical, “It’s costing too much. It’s gonna be a disaster.” And then, uh, the day itstarted, the national mood just switched, and everyone was happy, talking to each other on the tube, saying hello. For a month.

Mark: Disconcerting, right?

Tim: Yeah. We can only do it for a few weeks and then it’s business as usual. So I wouldn’t necessarily go somewhere for the Olympics, but having lived through a city that has had it, I think it’s a great thing to experience.

Aislyn: Yeah. Yeah, a reason to go. Well, Tim—Chloe, what, what are your predictions for this summer in travel?

Chloe: Yeah, I think it’s really interesting what Mark said about how, you know, the summer craze over big-name destinations are now putting people a little—kind of pushing them away, um, ’cause I was working with Erica Firpo on when is the best time to go to Italy. And I think the way that people are adjusting to a potential summer craze and the crowding-out effect of like hearing that you know that places could be crowded and now wanting to go anymore is going in the shoulder season. And I was talking to Erica, and I was like, “Oh, what about like, you know, the spring?” And she was like, “There is no spring shoulder season anymore.” Like, there are already so many people coming to Rome during the springtime now. So it’s kind of really just the fall now.

Mark: But I would say to add to that, Chloe, it’s interesting, the Italian lakes used to be incredibly seasonal. When I was a tour guide in Italy, the Italian lakes were just sort of late spring, early summer. Passalacqua, which everyone has heard of, is constantly named the world’s best hotel. The owner’s building a pool indoors so she can stay open year round. And multiple of the resorts in a place like the lakes, which is super seasonal, are trying to future-proof themselves against the fact that the summer may not be as appealing.

Tim: I mean, it’s still gonna be busy though. The popular places will still be busy, right? That’s not going away.

Chloe: Yeah, I feel like going on the off season is more for like, you know, people who’ve already been there, wanting to make a return, but for some people where it’s been their dream to see the Colosseum, you know, I don’t think exactly crowds are gonna deter them.

Mark: The way you can look at this, I—and I agree with you, I think no one who hasn’t been to Venice yet wants to go first in the winter. But when you go somewhere that is super popular in the peak season, you check off the places you must see, but there’s always a neighborhood that’s a little quieter. There’s the Cannaregios in Venice. There’s Dorsoduro in Venice. You can go to Monti in Rome, and it will be quieter, and you will be able to get that moment. So I, I’d never want to scold people for having the temerity to go in peak season because there is a way to still have a great time. You’re not doing something wrong if you want to go to Rome in July. You just have to pivot a little and go left whenever everyone else goes right.

Aislyn: Well, I think we should just get into destinations as a whole. I mean, where would you send people this summer?

Chloe: Well, for me personally, I’ll be in Italy from April until kind of end of July. I’ll be in Bologna. And I think I’m actually really interested in seeing Italy but kind of on a little small-town scale, going to, like, the small food festivals because I know that culinary travel is one of the big trends that a lot of places are seeing. People who are interested in food and going to travel for food, especially since it’s a way to connect with the culture and then seeing that American, Delta are releasing routes from the U.S. to Naples. So going to maybe not, like, main hubs, but small towns in Europe ’cause I think Europe is still gonna be a popular destination.

Tim: In the spirit of travel dupes, you know, that’s so popular these days, I, if you’re in Italy, I would suggest skipping the likes of Tuscany for Umbria. I had a great time there a couple of years ago, uh, you know, the rolling hills, the wine, all the, all the benefits of the neighboring regions, but less people.

Mark: I spent every summer in Versilia, which is the coast of Tuscany. It is, it knocks Capri and the Amalfi Coast out of the water. Why anyone would want to go and stand on a pebbly beach not next to the hotel, uh, surrounded by day-trippers, when you could be on a Jersey Shore–size beach with a gorgeous beach club where someone brings you a glass of wine and then you walk five minutes to your giant, gorgeous hotel, or you cycle around the very flat area, like a chic bohemian in Forte dei Marmi or in Viareggio, I have no idea. I do not understand. So that was—that is my home base in Italy is Versilia.

Aislyn: Last, uh, year, I think Idaho sponsored the podcast. I think this year, Italy has sponsored it. [Laughter]

Mark: So I will make some suggestions that aren’t Europe. Our audience is primarily in the Northern Hemisphere, but remember for the Southern Hemisphere, you’ve got winter. And winter is, is the best time to go on safari. You’ll get empty, barren lands where the animals are pushed towards the watering holes. So always go on safari then. I was just in, in Fiji. I was at Como Laucala last week. The southern South Pacific in their winter is perfection. You have flawless weather and those—you know, you can’t close your eyes and you picture a desert island. That’s what Fiji is like. Go in the winter, no humidity, perfect weather. You want to go to Tasmania.

There’s a museum that was built in Tasmania—I think the nicest thing to say is he’s a little eccentric, very wealthy man from Tasmania. And he built a museum without any input from other museum people. So he forgot to build the offices when he blasted the museum out of the rock. So all the museum’s offices are sort of not on site. It’s called Mona. He holds very counter-cultural festivals around it. The festival is called Dark Mofo. And essentially you take a ferry out of Hobart, and you sail into it. And it feels like a Bond villain’s lair. And it is intended to feel like a Bond villain’s lair. So I remember Southern Hemisphere in the winter, you’ve got many places that are at their best.

Aislyn: I love that. That’s so kind of unexpected, but fantastic.

Mark: I went to the opening, you know, 10, 12 years ago, and it’s a glorious experience. And I think even ardent Tasmanians will admit that Tasmania wasn’t necessarily Australia’s tourism jewel. But once Mona opened, it had a knock-on effect that has made Tasmania this gorgeous little foodie hub, fantastic microclimate, flawless food, brilliant vineyards, a real sense of sort of low-density, high-end tourism. Absolute charmer.

Aislyn: Well, where are you specifically going? I mean, Chloe, you mentioned you’re gonna be in Italy for the summer. Tim, I think you have some pretty cool travel plans this summer.

Tim: Yeah, I’m going home back to the U.K. for a couple of weeks. And then during that time, I’m leaving kids with grandparents and going over to Serbia, Belgrade, for a couple of days. I’ve got a friend who’s in the, um, foreign office there. So I’m gonna have a very whistle-stop couple of days. You can do this tour of all the communist sites in an old car, great food scene, great sort of tavern or pub scene. So I’m gonna try and cram as much as I can into two days there.

Chloe: I guess I was talking about going to Bologna this summer. I’m just kind of going on, like, more underrated places within Italy and I think that was kind of the whole thing. But I think I’m gonna try to, I guess, stay cool during the summer is gonna be one of the big goals of mine overall. Where that takes me, depends, but I think that’s probably gonna be the main goal.

Mark: I would encourage people, there is a really interesting insurance company called Sensible Weather. And it was founded by a former—by a quant who worked for a hedge fund, who, who’s also a meteorologist. And he combined his two know-hows into this insurance firm that you have—you actually have to buy it as part of a packet when you book with a hotel, it’s a B2B product, so you can’t just re-up it. But he’s long offered these guarantees that if you go skiing and it rains, you get a text saying, “Here’s your money back.”

He has just introduced an anti-sun policy where there will be certain hotels in the Mediterranean who’ve partnered with him, that if it gets too hot, you get your money back.

Aislyn: I think that’s a great segue into a question I wanted to ask you all, which is that, you know, there was this New York Times story last year about the impacts of climate change on summer travel, specifically, you know, the crazy heat waves, fires, floods, things like that. How do you all recommend that people travel or plan for summer travel, given the kind of climate crisis that we’re seeing? I mean, Sensible Weather, that sounds like a great place to start, if you have the option.

Tim: You could start by looking at “safer places,” you know, places less subject to climate sort of emergencies, although they tend to be happening everywhere these days in different ways, whether it’s excessive rain or excessive heat or whatever it may be. I’d advocate for trying Scandinavia. I feel like that could be somewhat one of the last areas to, like, really feel the effects. Oslo in particular, I really liked, um, visiting there a few years ago. I’d say being prepared, obviously, with the right insurance, the right plan B. If you’re going somewhere where you think you might have adverse weather, and especially if you’ve got kids, then maybe focus on hotels that have indoor activities or, you know, other kinds of things to do.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket hoping for a week on the beach in the sun. But also, I, I would say look at the long-term data of the weather in place. Just ’cause Greece was in the news for the fires last year doesn’t mean they’re gonna have a whole hot, fiery season this year.

Mark: It’s actually quite hard because I’ve talked to some climate scientists about this very topic, and almost everyone says it is wrong to think that Europe is getting warmer. We used to call this global warming, we now call it climate change. What effectively is happening is the weather is getting wilder and less easy to predict. And therefore, you’re not necessarily going to have another Cerberus like last summer in the Mediterranean. But unfortunately, you might have to pivot at the last minute. It’s much more a sense of, “Gosh, everything looked fine,” and suddenly it’s gonna rain all next week, which historically may not have happened. So I think that’s the key is give yourself the flexibility. You know, maybe you, you don’t book all your hotels. Maybe you book the first few nights when you arrive, and you give yourself the leeway to move somewhere else. But be prepared for it not to be what you expect.

Chloe: I feel like we’re living in a topsy-turvy world right now, because, like, Mark, you’re advocating for flexibility, and as the free-spirited traveler myself, like one of my tips is planning ahead.

Mark: This is like travel Freaky Friday, right? This is like travel Freaky Friday.

Chloe: I know, I know. This is like—my body’s tensing up to saying this—but planning your day and, you know, especially when it’s, it’s gonna be super hot, having some museums in mind that you want to visit, places where, you know, the environment is more controlled, and you’re not gonna have a heat stroke in the middle of it. I mean, I was thinking about this a lot because I was also talking with Ais and Tim about it and I was researching the Paris Olympics and how that would affect crowds and everything like that.

And I came across a really interesting study that they did in 2019. They were interviewing people who said that they would come to the Olympics in Paris or, or still come to Paris despite the Olympics happening. They’re not gonna be going to the museums, they’re going to the more big-ticket places. So there’s an even bigger plus to look for maybe underrated places because they might even be less frequented [chuckles] with the big crowds and can be better for potentially crazy weather.

Mark: I would also say—I’d encourage—if you’re going into Europe this summer and you’re a bit worried about the prices, I always think that one of the cleverest ways to get from North America to Europe is go to Google Flights. You put your origin airport and then you put Europe as the destination. What it will pull up is a map of Europe with prices for a flight to all the different hubs. You can click nonstop, if you’re lucky enough to live near somewhere, there might be nonstops and it will tell you how to get over to Europe. And then within intra Europe, you could take a train, you can take one of the budget airlines, you can drive.

But I think if you’re looking at plans for the summer, the one thing I would do the plan ahead with the flights—and just because you want to go to Copenhagen, maybe you don’t look at flights to Copenhagen, you look at flights to Frankfurt and, oh, gosh, you can take a nice train to Copenhagen after a couple nights in Branford.

Tim: That’s really interesting. One thing I’ve learned with Google Flights is the longer you can have between when you decide to go somewhere when you actually book, the better. ’Cause I’ve been tracking a family of five from L.A. to the U.K. ticket price, and it’s gone from $4,500 to $7,000 over that time. So it’s, like, you know, you got—you get these regular updates, and these prices do fluctuate a lot.

One last thing on climate travel is I’m a bit torn because having spent a night in, um, Cabo in Mexico last summer with my family the day before flying home, watching a hurricane track up the coast, wondering if it’s gonna, sort of, ruin our trip back and have me stranded in a hotel I can’t afford for a few more nights. I’m quite keen to make sure where I take my little kids, especially, it’s more of a safer bet, but I also don’t like that kind of fearful approach to planning. So I’m a bit torn there.

Mark: Tim, I don’t think you are wrong. I remember I had a wedding to go to in the Caribbean just before Maria and Elena that season. And, you know, when a hurricane bubbles up into the sort of ecosystem, I don’t think it makes you fearful to go, “You know what, I’m not gonna take the risk and just hop on a plane to where that hurricane’s heading for.” I think that makes you reasonably smart because also if you get stranded there, you’re a strain on the local infrastructure. So what you’re doing is saying, “Let me not be one more thing you’re gonna have to deal with.” So I, I think you’re being a little unfair on yourself.

Aislyn: I like that we are—it seems to be a very pro-planning group here this year. You know, last year I think we had a little bit more of, like, the Chloe versus Mark, you know, no planning versus extra planning. [laughs] Since you seem to have your summers completely planned out, are there other logistical things that you think the travelers should be thinking about right now? Like, “Make sure your passport is renewed,” or, you know, “Book those flights because they’re gonna spike in the next three months.”

Mark: I just renewed my U.S. passport because it filled up, and I used ItsEasy, which is a visa expediter that I swear by, and they can also expedite your passport and, yes, you pay for it, but they’re basically someone to hold your hand. I always think when you deal with government bureaucracy, the one thing you want is someone to act as the intermediary. And I didn’t want to mail my passport in, have someone at the end of a phone line say, “We have no updates.” I wanted to say, “Here’s $200, please take care of this. Oh, it’s so great, you can guarantee it’ll back in 10 days and you’ll just problem-solve if there are hiccups.” So if anyone else is in that position, there are other visa—and there’s a CIBT, there are other visa expeditors who also do passports, they are worth every penny of sleepless nights.

Aislyn: We’ll link to a couple of those in the show notes. That’s a great tip.

Tim: If you’re heading abroad, make sure you’ve got Global Entry if you can. For five years, it’s around about a $100. Makes you breeze through. I, I love coming back to LAX now and, uh, I don’t even talk to anyone. In the past, I’d be taken to a little room by someone for a chat and just left there. Yeah, it’s facial recognition, which is a bit creepy, but  just straight through, but that can take a while to get the interview. I don’t know what the wait times are these days, but in the past I used something called, um, Appointment Scanner. It just bombarded me with texts when people canceled their appointments for the Global Entry interview, so I could get in a slot the following day, instead of six months later. It was $29 for a month.

Mark: You will also find Global Entry now offers, uh, interview on arrival. When, when most of us who work more in the business did that, it was more logistically complicated. Because it’s a moneymaker, they want to make it easy and there are way more ability to arrive, get a very bleary-eyed picture of you with like jet-lagged eye bags and all that.

It goes on your record but still comes through fast.

Aislyn: Does anyone here use Clear in addition to TSA PreCheck?

Tim: No.

Mark: So my Clear is a freebie with my Delta status. What I, I think what’s worth knowing about Clear is it is only a decisive assistance at the hub airport. So, for example, somewhere like Atlanta, if you have TSA PreCheck, that’s just, like, normal. But if you have TSA PreCheck and Clear, you speed up. Now, Delta is now trialing digital ID. And digital ID blew my mind because it is a biometric identification. And at JFK and at LaGuardia, you use your digital ID and you breeze through ahead of Clear. So there is now one status higher than Clear. And digital ID, I didn’t have to pay anything extra for it.

Aislyn: So now TSA PreCheck, you’re gonna see two different types of people cutting in front of you. [laughs]

Mark: Uh, like, uh, I will be one of those people. And I apologize in advance. Say hello if you see me.

Chloe: I’ll be looking with fists clenched.

Tim: Mark, I’m curious. Do you play the points and miles game? And is there a way to—is there anything—any tips for that in the summer travel space?

Mark: I do play the points and miles game, but not in the way—I think some—you know how there’s champion tennis players and then people who bash it around at the beach?

I’m definitely the bash it around at the beach person because honestly, life is too short to spend that long worrying about points and miles. I always think that the simplest thing to do is to remember that the airline miles are kind of worthless, and they’re deliberately making them hard to spend. The credit card miles are like stem cell points. The AmEx points, the Chase Ultimate Rewards, they’re really valuable because you can transfer them into any program whenever you need to, often with bonuses.

So you’ll get 25 percent extra value just for doing it then. And get an expert to book it for you. There’s a company—I use Award Magic, but there are a lot of them. And you can find them on any of the, the points-obsessive sites and Twitter feeds. I love David [Grossman’s] MilesTalk. He has very good recommendations. And you say, “Here’s $150, here are all my points, get me the best deal you can.”

Aislyn: It’s just a smart business idea because I think, you know, most of us collect these points, but I just cannot—I don’t want to be that person, but I do wanna maximize my points. So that’s a really, uh, that’s a really brilliant idea. Well, I’d love to move us back to events. We talked about the Paris Olympics, some of the pros and cons of, of traveling for that. Anyone wanna add anything else?

Tim: One thought I had about Paris for the Olympics is if you’re going, extend your time afterwards, or, or go just afterwards, you get all the benefit of the new infrastructure and the investment but people have moved on.

Mark: And the first Olympics that I covered as a journalist was Sochi. And I arrived a couple of days before the Olympics because I was there for the whole time. And what I learned was that Olympic pros are like, “No one does week one.” Because week one is when it—the heats— week one is when all the wrinkles are being ironed out. You don’t wanna be there for the opening ceremony, you wanna be there for the finals and the closing ceremony. That’s what the vets always plan on doing. They do not arrive before the Olympics start. They arrive once everything is, is underway.

Aislyn: Love it. Well, the other event that’s taken over the world is a person, Taylor Swift. We’ve seen how she’s changed local economies. Any Swifties here? Are you traveling for any events? Do you have tips for kind of handling this type of travel? I know you’re not going to see the city. You’re going to see the, you know, the event or the person.

Chloe: Well, my sister is a big Swiftie. I think she was like in the 0.1 percent on Spotify top Taylor Swift listeners, which I think is a crazy feat in itself. And she’s traveling to Miami to see Taylor Swift. And I think that’s kind of what you mentioned is, is like, you are traveling for a person. And especially with an event as big as Taylor Swift, I would kind of make that the main thing. And if you wanted to do any destination-specific stuff, anticipate staying before or after ’cause during is gonna be really full.

And I’ve definitely traveled for concerts. I’ve traveled internationally for different musical events, and I think it’s really helped coming, like, a day earlier. And definitely don’t go day of and having your bearings there and also taking into account venues. They have, like, different, you know, policies about bringing things in and making sure that you understand, like, the layout of the transportation. Because I think a lot of people, they’re just like, “Oh, yeah, we’re just gonna get there, and then that night we’re gonna go to the concert.” And then just realized that maybe you do need to prepare a little bit.

Mark: See, I have a friend who went to Brazil to see Taylor Swift, and she was due to see the concert that were canceled. And I think exactly as Chloe said, you need to build in buffers. Just like a cruise ship, the concert doesn’t wait for you if your flight’s delayed [the] same day, so you need to arrive the day before. And I would also say build in a day in the backend because my friend was fortunate, she was there for a few days, and she’s like, “Great, my boyfriend and I will just go the next day.” If they’d been flying out the next day, they’d just gotten refunds on their tickets, and the trip would’ve been a bit of a bust.

Tim: And Chloe, were you telling me that some people are traveling to just be in the same city that she’s playing in without a ticket? Just to sort of soak up the atmosphere like we would with a sporting event. I’d never heard of that before.

Chloe: I think that might’ve been someone else.

Aislyn: Maybe you dreamt it, Tim. Or it’s gonna be the new—the next trend.

Mark: I’d love to hear if anyone is listening and is doing that. I’d be really curious if you’ve decided the tickets are too expensive, but you sort of want Taylor osmosis. Is that something? Because I can imagine, I feel stupid that I didn’t get tickets for Taylor Swift. Not because I’m a particular super Swiftie, I love Taylor Swift, she’s great. But because it feels like a cultural moment, I think it’s very rare that anything pop culture-y has quite the power that Taylor Swift does right now. I do feel like I’m missing out on something cultural.

Aislyn: Being in the Bay Area, you know, I really saw the impact that we had. One night we were driving down the highway or getting close to the highway, and there was just a line of hundreds of people all dressed up, like sequins, you know, full Swiftie uniform. And they were waiting for a bus to take them down south, but they—this bar had organized an event. And so you could actually go participate in this, dress-up, and not actually go to the concert. So I think there actually is possibly an argument for this.

Mark: It’s quite a lovely, there are worse things. You know, I always— I think of, of all the things to take over the world, Taylor Swift is a very benign cultural dictator.

Tim: Yeah. Depending on who, who she says we should vote for ’cause we’ve gotta follow that.

Chloe: [chuckles] Yeah, I think, I mean just seeing the impact of her in the Super Bowl and how everybody just all of a sudden getting into football. [I would] not [be] not surprised if there was a significant amount of people who were traveling to places just for the Swiftie atmosphere.

Tim: I’ve often advocated against going places where there’s a big event on, like New Orleans at Mardi Gras or that sort of thing because it’s not the place at its usual self, but this is sort of different to that, it’s sort of a place celebrating, isn’t it, for various reasons. And it’s quite a joyful way to travel.

Aislyn: Well, and I think that a lot of the things that we are talking about in terms of not wanting to do kind of event travel is the lines, the logistics of getting there. But there is something really incredible about being in a city or being in a place when everyone is kind of sharing in one particular moment. So I think it’s just about the getting there and the dealing with the ins and outs of it. It’s not about the event itself necessarily, right? Because Mardi Gras is amazing.

What about any kind of new offerings, you know, new flights, new options for people who are looking for summer travel?

Mark: Uh, I’m about to book the JetBlue flight from New York to Edinburgh. I think that’s a game-changer. I love that JetBlue is doing that. I will use my nice little Mint certificates, and get comfy seats. I think that’s a really, really lovely thing. The Scottish countryside in the summer is horrific. I spent a lot of my childhood there. It’s full of midges, and you will get eaten alive, but the cities are absolutely fine.

Tim: And Edinburgh in August as well, they’ve got multiple festivals happening. Books, comedy, drama, like—it’s—again, really comes alive in August especially.

Mark: And I will say, the one thing I will say to everyone, if you haven’t bought AirTags to put in your bags before the summer travel season or any off-brand, I’m sure you can get like Dollar Store AirTags now, please, please buy them. They are game-changers for your anxiety if you have to check a bag. Or frankly, you take a screen grab and email the lost property people and say, “My bag is here, I can see it.” And it will transform the challenges.

Aislyn: I wanted to ask two more questions. We didn’t talk much about either domestic travel, so, like, maybe we’re talking about kind of American travelers, North America, or cruise travel. Do you guys have any suggestions or things that you’re excited about in either of those categories?

Mark: I’m going on a cruise in the summer. I’m going on a Windstar cruise in, uh, French Polynesia. I love French Polynesia. Please avoid Bora Bora. It is honeymoon factory hell. Everything else about French Polynesia—and the Olympics are taking place partly in French Polynesia because, of course, if you need to surf, can’t do that in Paris, you can do it on Tahiti-Iti, which is a lovely little bit of the main island, which no one bothers going to. And is—to me is my favorite bit of French Polynesia.

Tim: Domestically, I would advocate for San Diego. Talk about climate, like, pretty reliable there, probably famous last words for this year. But, you know, beautiful weather. I really love kayaking among the sea caves and the leopard sharks in the La Jolla area. It’s also [the] design capital sharing that title with, um, Tijuana. So both coun—both cities across the border are design capital for the year, events happening and architecture to see, um, massive stuff. So that would be my pick if you wanted to stay close to home.

Aislyn: What about traveling for something like Comic-Con?

Tim: Aren’t you doing that, Mark? Didn’t I hear . . .?

Mark: I mean, obviously, you haven’t seen me until you’ve seen me in spandex. I think something like Comic-Con, even as someone who couldn’t care less about superhero movies, I think there is a joy in watching people let their freak flag fly and letting it all out. I think Comic-Con is the sort of Las Vegas of events where people get to go and just be their true selves. I’m sure it is just the most fun. Even if you look at all the people in spandex, you’re like, “I don’t know who the heck you are.”

Aislyn: I will say that I did go to—this was maybe a decade plus ago—I went to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Star Trek convention, because I’m a big Buffy fan, and I had to go in and meet, my meet my idols. And it was, it was amazing because people are just fully so in character so in love with their, their passion.

Tim: I love it.

Mark: Easy to sneer, but, you know—easy to sneer, but I think, I think joy, joy by proxy is wonderful.

Aislyn: How, how can you be cynical about that, right? That’s what we need this year.

Tim: Exactly. Especially, like, how divisive the end of the year will be—it’s like let’s celebrate Taylor Swift and Buffy and the Olympics and sailing.

Chloe: Yeah.

Aislyn: Basically, we’re saying go travel to these crazy events. That’s, that’s kind of our net. Be joyful.

Mark: And talking of joy. I have to bring a little bit of sadness in because I have to go.

Aislyn: Wonderful note to end on. More joy. Thank you so much, everyone, for being here today. It’s been a treat.

Mark: Thank you. And I’ll see you at Taylor Swift. I’ll see—I mean, I should get those tickets.

Tim: I’ll see you there. Spandex.

Aislyn: Well, are you traveling for any big events like Taylor Swift or Comic-Con this season? Let us know. We will link to Award Magic, the points resource Mark mentioned in the show notes, as well as AFAR’s suggestions for summer travel.

In the show notes, you’ll also find a link to our episode about travel insurance where we talked about Sensible Weather, as well as social media handles for Mark, Tim, and Chloe so that you can track them on their summer journeys. We’ll see you next week.

Ready for more unpacking? Visit afar.com and be sure to follow us on Instagram and X. We are @AFARmedia. If you enjoyed today’s exploration, I hope you’ll come back for more great stories. Subscribing always makes that easy. And be sure to rate and review the show on your favorite podcast platforms. It helps other travelers find it. And if you ever want to ask a question or suggest a topic for coverage, you can reach out to us at afar.com/feedback or email us at unpacked@afar.com.

This has been Unpacked, a production of AFAR Media. The podcast is produced by Aislyn Greene and Nikki Galteland. Music composition by Chris Colin. And remember: The world is complicated. We’re here to help you unpack it.