To be seen in 2018: part II

Sydney Harbour, AustraliaSydney Harbour, Australia

In the second of a series of articles, local travel advisor Jack Leaf offers his destination suggestions for the year ahead, including Sri Lanka, Cuba and non-stop flights from London to Australia.

At this time of the year, when you are planning your holiday schedule for 2018, allow me – as an independent travel agent with 25 years of experience – to help you with some ideas.

I'm looking forward to my own first holiday of 2018; yes, a paid holiday instead of an agents' work trip! We're travelling with Cox & Kings to Cuba on one of their small group tours and, when the other 11 tour participants return to London, we're flying to Miami to enjoy two nights in the Gulf Coast resort of Naples before crossing the Everglades to enjoy a final two nights in Key Biscayne on the Atlantic coast.

The end of March will see the start of a non-stop flight (17 hours) from London to Australia, when Qantas begins flying from Heathrow to Perth. What an excellent way for you to start your trip down under, instead of wasting time in the Middle or Far East when it's actually Australia you want to see. I have been to Australia myself five times and covered many parts of this vast country during those trips.

I was the lucky winner last summer of an eight-night stay in Sri Lanka. Good fortune was still with me the following week whilst attending a travel agents' lunch hosted by Anantara Hotels, where I won the star prize of a four-night stay at Anantara Kihava Villas in the Maldives, perfect to combine, and I added two extra nights in Sri Lanka to experience a beautiful train journey and visit Yala National Park, where I hope to view leopards. I'm going in April and look forward to telling you about it later in the year.

And breaking news: Emirates Airlines is launching a daily service from Stansted to Dubai, so no more trekking to Heathrow or Gatwick for us east London and Essex-based holidaymakers wanting to enjoy the United Arab Emirates or make our onward connections to the Far East and Australasia. And since Emirates code shares with Qantas Airlines, this has already enabled me to quote a trip for clients to visit friends and family down under and enjoy a three-night stopover in Tokyo to visit their nephew on the way home. What a fantastic month they will experience later this year.

I've now been guaranteed a place on a travel agents' familiarisation trip to Cape Town and the Garden Route – plus a two-night safari in the Eastern Cape – at the end of May, and my close working relationship with the sponsors has enabled them to exceptionally permit me to extend the ticket, so I look forward to a weekend in the Winelands with friends I haven't seen for several years, and another experience to share with you all.

Jack is an independent travel advisor based in Snaresbrook. For more information, call 020 8989 6764 or visit

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