Slow down, disconnect and reconnect – Here are romantic getaway ideas that are luxurious yet have a minimal carbon footprint

Phinda Mountain Lodge in South Africa’s Phinda Game Reserve provides complete privacy, and allows visitors to switch off from the outside world. Photo: Phinda Mountain Lodge


It wasn’t too long ago that a romantic getaway meant a weekend in a semi-tropical location a short flight away, or splurging on a suite in a fancy hotel at home. But the definition of “romantic travel” has changed in the past couple of decades, especially among discerning travellers seeking meaningful experiences that go beyond trips to classic destinations like Venice or Paris.

For 2020 and beyond, romantic travel will include embracing the same ideas that are sweeping travel: from boomers to Generation Z, the name of the game is transformation, slowing down, disconnecting, and doing it all with the smallest carbon footprint possible.

In 2019, the defining shift in travel came after 17-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg introduced the world to flygskam – Swedish for “flight shame”. Carefree jetting around the world was out, low-carbon, eco-conscious travel was in. As a result, one mode of transport has slowly gained in popularity: trains, especially the luxury kinds, are experiencing a renaissance.

Dozens of train operators have restored classic carriages to evoke the railway’s glory days, with swish dining cars and plush lounges. Besides stellar views, many offer five-star accommodation and fine dining. Leading the pack are Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, VIA Rail’s coast-to-coast The Canadian through the Rockies, The Ghan and the Indian Pacific across Australia, and the Trans-Siberian (a 15-day journey), where a “nostalgic comfort” cabin will have you feeling like a tsar.

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The Belmond Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is an example of a popular trend – train travel, ideal for those wanting a trip that is both exotic and intimate. Photo: Belmond

Also on trend this year is transformational travel, described as “intentionally travelling to stretch, learn and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world”, as Kristie Goshow, chief marketing officer at Preferred Hotels & Resorts, told Even ing Standard in December.

Transformational travel dovetails with eco-conscious getaways and sustainable tourism, and can offer couples a chance to connect, as well as the possibility of an emotional experience. “We sell [people] the ability … to reconnect with nature and, as a result, reconnect with themselves and their partner or kids or whoever they’re travelling with,” Chris Roche, business director of Botswana-based Wilderness Safaris, told digital news website Business Insider last autumn.

“As travellers redefine what they are looking for while on holiday, the concept of a romantic holiday has become more about learning, sharing and giving back together – rather than lying on the beach or enjoying a candlelit dinner,” says Joss Kent, CEO at AndBeyond, a luxury travel company that delivers bespoke holidays at properties like Ngala Safari Lodge in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

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Indonesia’s Bawah Island ranks high among those looking for a paradisiacal destination unsullied by tourist hordes – and with plenty of Instagramable opportunities. Photo: handout

American psychologist and writer Timothy Leary’s famed 1960s mantra to “turn on, tune in, drop out” has never seemed more current, even with a 21st-century twist. Slowing down and switching off are the big travel trends this year, and for couples it means cherishing their time alone.

According to a survey by Booking.com last year, nearly 70 per cent of millennial women were planning trips in 2020 involving total disconnection. Research by Allianz Global Assistance last year found millennial travellers across all demographics were limiting trips to four nights – a micro-cation.

All this news means that in 2020, romantic trips will shape up to be short, relaxing, cosy and even phone-free. So say goodbye to jam-packed itineraries and hello to languid experiences, like a slow river cruise. For example. Belmond’s cruises along the Irrawaddy in Myanmar and Crystal’s Danube experience in Europe are an effective way to slow down and reconnect, a far cry from jostling about with 3,000-odd people on an ocean liner making pit stops at tourist-ridden ports.

Note: This story was originally published on SCMP and has been republished on this website.