If you thought Secret Escapes’ Managing Editor Eleanor Cording-Booth would be a prime example of someone who knows her stuff when it comes to all things holiday-focused, you’d be right. We sat down with her to talk travel, from where to visit to what to pack.
Eleanor Cording-Booth may live in the middle of a concrete jungle (albeit London’s very desirable Barbican Estate), but as soon as you step into her apartment, it’s obvious that she has a huge love of travel: little trinkets and souvenirs dot the shelves while polished shells take pride of place on the coffee table. Considering the fact that she works for a company that specialises in discounted – but still covetable – breaks, this is no surprise.
‘I look at luxury hotels every day at work, so the FOMO means I use every single day of my annual leave to travel,’ she explains. Not only does she not have to look far to be inspired, but she also has plenty of knowledgeable colleagues she can tap up for tips and info. ‘Working in the industry also means I’m constantly doing research and I have a team of experts around me who know the travel world inside-out; so I’m a lot more savvy about booking my own holidays. My friends and family tend to use me as their personal travel consultant!’
While Eleanor is no stranger to going on exotic long-haul holidays (more of those later), she is also a big advocate of exploring destinations closer to home. ‘I’m from Yorkshire and it has a lot more to offer than puddings and ex-mining towns!’ she exclaims. Whitby is described by her as ‘a really charming seaside town,’ while Leeds is ‘great for shopping.’ Chatsworth House, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (home to works by Henry Moore) and Salt’s Mill (which boasts a permanent collection of David Hockney paintings) are all other gems she recommends.
But it’s Italy’s Amalfi Coast and Iceland that have both claimed themselves as Eleanor’s best holidays. ‘Back in 2011, I stayed in Sorrento, Positano, Ravello and Amalfi. The dramatic views of the coastline, the food and the hotels we stayed in were just perfect. It was blazing hot and it was the most glamorous holiday I’d ever been on.’ On the other end of the spectrum was Iceland, the highlight of which was a dramatic – and very nearly missed – sighting of the Northern Lights. ‘We headed out in the dead of night on a coach tour and stood outside in the freezing cold for hours but we saw absolutely nothing. We’d started to head back to our hotel when the driver stopped the bus halfway. We piled out onto the roadside and the night sky was exploding with colour. It was red, purple and the most vivid green. I can only compare it to looking through a kaleidoscope. We were all screaming and whooping in the middle of nowhere at about 2am. The tour guide said that a light show on that scale is incredibly rare.’
So where else is currently on Eleanor’s travel hit list? ‘I’m trying to make an effort to see more of the UK, so I’d really love to get the sleeper train to Cornwall and spend a week exploring the beaches down there.’ Barcelona is also up there, as is Canada. ‘I’m hoping to do Vancouver and British Columbia in the next year or two; the scenery looks incredibly beautiful.’
One thing that is very obvious speaking to Eleanor is the amount of research that goes into a trip, from choosing the location to meticulously planning her time away. ‘I’m not really a spontaneous person and I love a good list, so I always travel armed with a map full of restaurants, shops and things to see.’ She also shies away from traditional guidebooks (‘they date from the second they're published’) and instead relies on blogs, magazines, word-of-mouth recommendations and social media. ‘Geotags on Instagram have led me to some of my favourite holiday discoveries!’
Considering Eleanor’s love of planning, it goes without saying that she approaches packing with the same amount of organisation. ‘Don’t just pack items that you like and assume it will work out,’ she advises. ‘Try things on in advance, decide what you can mix and match and plan your outfits frugally - one for each day and a couple of spare tops. If you don't prep whole outfits, you’ll end up taking way too many things that you’ll never wear.’ She describes her own holiday wardrobe as ‘simple,’ ensuring she doesn’t stray too far from her personal style. ‘It’s all well and good orchestrating a holiday ‘look’ for the sake of your photos, but if it’s not what you'd wear at home, you’ll probably end up feeling awkward and self-conscious.’ Her fail-safes include high-waisted jeans, trainers and striped tops for city breaks while leather sandals, dresses and 70s-style tops are musts for when she heads to the beach.
Regardless of where she’s holidaying, there are a few items Eleanor never fails to pack: ‘Travel sickness tablets, earplugs, and a bright red lipstick!’ she laughs. ‘If I had space in my weekend bag, I’d take my slippers too. I’m an old lady at heart and I hate not feeling cosy.’