Cover (Photo: Courtesy of Lightfoot Travel)

The future of travel may still look uncertain due to Covid-19, but you can still have something to look forward to by planning one of these once-in-a-lifetime experiences ahead of time

With social distancing rules still in place and travel restrictions holding strong, although we've said a hearty farewell to 2020, the pandemic is still very much a part of our lives. While we may not be travelling anytime in the near future as we hoped, with vaccines already being implemented in numerous nations, things are looking more positive when it comes to making long term plans. So, if you're in need of something to look forward to, there's never been a better time to plan a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Though we're sure the days will be back when we're able to book a last minute getaway on a whim, these experiences require careful planning and are best booked in advance––making for the perfect antidote for any lockdown blues

From travelling on the Orient Express, to seeing gorillas in Rwanda and touring the Galapagos, we spoke to the experts at Lightfoot Travel to find out five the once-in-a-lifetime trips to book now.

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1. Europe: Venice-Simplon Orient Express

"I would suggest the Venice-Simplon Orient Express for Europe", notes Lightfoot's European destination expert. "[As a destination it is] always once-in-a-lifetime and books up well in advance––with that going to be even more the case now, with it not running for a significant period of time and so many cancellations and postponements."

"Highlights are the classic ambience, great Dolomites and Alpine scenery (better if you go Venice – London, as you tend to sleep through it if you're going the other way), and especially, the amazing food!"

"Anytime is good to go––there aren't any sightseeing stops so it really is about the onboard experience. It stops for a few months in the winter, and months like June and October tend to be best for availability, price and for some nice spring or autumn scenery, plus it won't be too hot onboard..."

Best time to go: Anytime!

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2. Africa: Rwanda

The continent of Africa has so much to offer, with multiple countries and cultures to experience. For a bucket list trip, Lightfoot Travel recommends journeying to Rwanda, which today has become "a welcoming and friendly destination, with animal-spotting opportunities and fabulous safaris acting as one of the nation’s main draws".

With highlights of this once-in-a-lifetime experience including the opportunity to spot extremely rare gorillas and chimpanzees in their natural habitats, the experts advise to book this trip well in advance for several reasons. For one, the national parks only accept a certain amount of permits per day for visitors, as well as rooms getting booked up way ahead of time.

Along with venturing to the famed Parc National Nyungwe Forest and the Akagera National Park to see the magnificent endangered mountain gorillas roaming freely around the jungle, the destination also boasts the opportunity to spot big game including lions, giraffes and elephants––either from the comfort of a luxurious lodge or from the sky-high viewpoint of a helicopter tour.

Best time to go: July to September, although the offseason from February to June is less crowded 

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3. Latin America: Galapagos

Lightfoot's Latin specialist Ollie recommends heading to Ecuador and the Galapagos for your once-in-a-lifetime trip. Stating that it is "simply mesmerising to see Charles Darwin’s findings in practice (within the islands belonging to Ecuador) as a reflection of his theory of evolution as you can see the changes throughout the islands, which have remained untouched by predators."

He also notes that it's an excellent choice for planning well in advance, explaining "booking while rates are low and well in advance makes sense for this destination as it needs advance planning." Ollie also notes that staying on a boat is the best way to hop around from island to island in comfort––with most travellers booking well ahead to secure cabins on the top luxury expedition yachts.

It is recommended to travel between September and June to avoid the ‘misty season', but December to June is said to be the optimum time to see wildlife is at its best with mating and breeding seasons in full swing. Highlights of the experience include snorkelling with sea turtles, penguins and baby sea lions, zodiac cruises through mangroves, kayaking, scuba diving with schools of hammerheads and hiking to the peak of volcanoes for incredible views.

Best time to go: December to June

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4. The Middle East: Egypt

"From the monumental pyramids of Giza to the colossal Valley of the Kings and the captivating River Nile, a trip to Egypt will appeal to every explorer and lovers of ancient history", explains Lightoot's Middle East expert.

"Start your explorations in the chaotic yet beautiful city of Cairo, with its frenetic streets and bustling souks. Marvel at the pyramids and gaze after hours at the mask of Tutankhamun at the iconic Cairo Museum. Next, a luxury cruise on the River Nile takes you to the heart of the Land of the Pharaohs. Cruise aboard your private Dahabieh, a traditional Egyptian boat converted in a luxury yacht. With your private Egyptologist, explore Luxor’s Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, and visit the mighty Temple of Amun in Karnak. Along the way, catch a glimpse of daily life on the banks of the world’s longest river."

Best time to go: Art d’Egypte, an Egyptian Art consultancy firm, sets up an annual pop-up exhibition that takes place in a historical site of the city. Plan your trip in October and end your trip with a dinner in Cairo at the most exclusive art event of the year.

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5. Asia: Mongolia

If you're thinking of a trip to Mongolia, it's best to book early, with Lightfoot's Mongolian travel expert explaining that "whilst there are dozens of ger camps dotted around the country, the best ones are smaller and get booked up well in advance––with only a handful of Mandala gers around the country that are extremely popular."

Highlights of an epic trip to the region "include visiting nomadic families, taking part in their daily chores, helping with the animals, and learning about their ways of life. While much is remained unchanged for centuries, the country is modernising and change is starting to become apparent even in the furthest corners of the country. Experiencing the different parts of Mongolia through its diverse wildlife––camels in the south, eagles in the west, reindeer in the north, and more horses than you can count just about everywhere! Simply experiencing the vast landscapes, big blue sky and visiting the least densely populated country on earth. The Covid pandemic has made us, now more than ever, appreciate space and the opportunity to get away from the crowds."

Best time to go: May to early September––or late September to October if you want to attend the Eagle Festivals in the West

See also: 8 Travel Experts On How The Pandemic Has Changed Travel––Plus, Where To Go In 2021

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