Design Your Travel Blueprint for 2024 and Beyond

Plan Japan
Daigo-ji Temple | Kyoto
Discover the Land of Endless AllureThis year, Japan is a standout in the travel scene. While the cherry blossoms often steal the limelight, each season in Japan presents its charm. Kyoto’s heritage sites radiate tranquility, Tokyo’s avenues hum with life, and Hokkaido’s landscapes captivate — a tapestry of experiences awaits every traveler. Sakura SeasonCherry blossom season is beautiful wherever you find a thicket of the spring-blooming beauties – but the most famous destination for this is Japan. The trees hit their peak in Tokyo from the end of March to the beginning of April. Himeji CastleKyoto
Himeji Castle, Hyōgo | Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto
Sakura,” as the blossoms are called, are a sign of renewal, and their quick blooming season is a reminder of the transience of life, both of which are important tenets of Buddhism. It’s why the blossoms are so revered and sought out by the Japanese – and why visitors who want to take part in the annual ritual need to book far in advance to see it for themselves. Gastronomic WondersBut flowers aren’t the only reason you’ll visit Japan. The food culture is strong thanks to the high quality of ingredients and the attention to detail and presentation that make every meal an exceptional one.

Amanemu - Bento BoxTea Ceremony - Aman
Amanemu – Ise-Shima | Tea Ceremony – Aman – Kyoto
And the fine dining is unforgettable. Japan has 411 Michelin-starred restaurants and another 428 that boast Michelin’s Bib gourmand ranking, noting excellent meals for under $50. Build a trip around food, and you’ll never go wrong. Watch the Netflix documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi to get you excited about your mouth-watering trip. Echoes of Tradition immersing yourself in Japan’s deep-rooted culture is at the heart of your journey. Make Kyoto your first stop: walk through the torii gates of the ancient Fushimi Inari shrine, enjoy the ceremony and ritual found within a traditional wooden teahouse, admire the colorful kimonos of the geisha, and slow down and find your Zen in the famous raked gardens.

 Fushimi Inari ShrineNara Deer
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto | Kasuga Taisha Shrine, Nara Park
A popular day trip from Kyoto is to Nara, Japan’s first capital, full of historic treasures, including UNESCO world heritage sites. Wild deer are considered sacred in Nara Park and have become the symbols of the city. Buy a bag of deer crackers to feed them, and you’ll become fast friends. Winter Wonderland Hokkaido, the northern jewel of Japan, is a winter enthusiast’s dream. Blanketed in powdery snow, this region transforms into a picturesque wonderland. Beyond skiing and snowboarding on its renowned slopes, travelers can marvel at the Sapporo Snow Festival’s grand ice sculptures or take a tranquil walk in the snow-laden Otaru Canal. And when the cold gets intense, there’s nothing more comforting than a bowl of Hokkaido’s signature miso ramen to warm your spirits.

Park Hyatt - HokkaidoTakayama
Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono – Hokkaido | Takayama

Another great spot is Takayama, a stunning small town near the Japanese Alps with an old town full of traditional wooden homes and shrines. Refuel on the go by picking up some mitarashi dango (rice balls grilled in soy) from a street stall. Takayama is often voted one of the most beautiful cities in Japan. Another top experience is onsen, and there’s lots to choose from: Japan has over 3,000 hot springs. Taking part in the hot spring ritual allows visitors to soak up more of the local culture. Onsen’s are oases of calm, and most will insist visitors strip down to their birthday suits before slipping into the hot baths.

 OnsenRyokan Onsen

Onsen, Yamagata | Ryokan Onsen, Kawaguchiko Lake(Good to know: you’ll need to cover up tattoos with a sticker patch, but some onsens are beginning to allow tattoos. Check before you go.) While gaijin, or foreigners, may find the art of communal bathing odd, in Japan, it is a beloved part of everyday life. Might as well dive in!
The food, the culture, the natural settings – what’s first in your Japan trip?
Your Travel Blueprint
Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
Dreams to Destinations – The Power of Planning AheadThe perfect journey begins with the perfect plan! As we edge closer to another year, it’s the ideal time to start laying out your “blueprint” for travel in 2024 and the years that follow. And why navigate the vast world of travel alone? When you team up with me, you’re unlocking more than just bookings. Dive into hidden gems, exclusive travel perks, and local insights that aren’t readily available to most.
Tenerife, SpainCorsica, France
Top: Puerto de Santiago, Tenerife, Spain | Bottom: Porto, Corsica, France

If you’re a creature of habit (St. Barts again?), let’s find you something incredible in the Canary Islands, Tenerife perhaps? If you like your Italian-influenced Mediterranean islands (try Sardinia) or French – then Corsica may be your next favorite destination. A long-term plan not only unveils hidden gems and my exclusive perks but also elevates those monumental life events.

Wilderness Chitabe - BotswanaHotel Grande Bretagne - Athens, Greece
Top: Wilderness Chitabe – Botswana | Hotel Grande Bretagne – Athens, Greece
A significant milestone or important holiday deserves something special – sing happy birthday with a sundowner on safari; toast the years while standing amid Greece’s marvels, basking on its sun-kissed shores, or getting lost in the vibrant rhythm of Athens. Or what about heli-skiing down the champagne powder of the B.C. backcountry? Those are experiences no one forgets. And those big trips are ones to book a year or two in advance with me. This gives your travel family something to look forward to, and the advance-plan document helps us keep an eye out for better pricing and availability. Now, that’s definitely worth nailing down a two-year plan for. Dream trips aren’t left to chance. Use your travel blueprint to uncover the best of what the world has to offer.
Last-Minute Magic
Christmas Market | Salzburg, Austria
Need a Festive Getaway? I’ve Got You CoveredI understand life’s whirlwind pace – work, family, day-to-day chores. So, it’s only natural if you momentarily forgot to book that festive trip you’ve been dreaming of. If you’re now pondering, “Where should we ring in the holidays this year? What choices do we still have?” – you’re in the right hands. With the festive season on the horizon, it’s prime time to lock in those travel arrangements. While early planning usually ensures the best rates and options, my insider expertise means I can still find those secret spots even at the last minute. Late bookings might indeed have a slightly higher tag, but the delightful experiences and hidden opportunities I can access are well worth it. And remember, the sheer excitement of a last-minute festive escape? Absolutely priceless. Be it for the upcoming festive season or any other time of the year, let me chart your journey.
Carrie Mandala
Happy Travels,
Carrie Mandala
ElmRock Travel
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