a man standing in front of a wall with art

Greetings from Rome, where a cacio e pepe coma may soon begin. Each year I end up in a similar situation at this time of year, as I celebrate my birthday on February 25th. Each year I ask for one thing, and one thing only: travel. Ok, maybe some wine and socks too. But…

Near, far, wherever you are – travel is such a wonderful gift. While it may sound a little extravagant at first glance, it’s really not. Between, package deals, the record low airfare we’re seeing, innovative new accommodation options and points and miles, travel can be as close to free as it’s ever been.

a fountain in front of a buildingEach year I ask my partner to take me somewhere, ideally somewhere reasonable. This trip cost much less than a gucci bag, and I can promise it’s more enjoyable too. We were departing from London and used one of the new frequent British Airways short haul sales to snag round trip flights under £60 per person. We then used my favorite new app, Sweet Inn, to book an amazing apartment with hotel style amenities for €60 per night, for two nights. These things could easily be split between others too. My main point…

  • Don’t write it off as too expensive.
  • Get involved in points to help prove that.
  • Look at package deals, which cover flights and hotels.
  • Think off season, you don’t need to travel on your actual day.

I should probably note that I’m an absolutely terrible person to shop for. I am almost impossible when it comes to clothes, I’m picky with art, too snobby to buy wine for and generally detest anything which takes up space. Therefore: travel equals good. But side note: February 25th happens to signal the end of winter break in much of the world, and that means Rome is as empty as can be hoped, and 50% off sales are everywhere. Just FYI…

I spent the morning seeing the nearly 2000 year old Colosseum, took a tip on a hole in the wall lunch spot with arguably the best cacio for miles and wandered along the Tiber, wondering how things might have been in the most miraculous civilization of all. The smells, the scenes, the colors and the calories will live with me for years or months to come. The experiences of further exploring one of the best cities on earth is priceless.

Each year I travel for my birthday, and it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. This is a neat example, but getting in a car, a boat or a plane anywhere counts. Even a single night of a staycation and a special meal can bring memories which last longer than any pair of jeans, or especially a great bottle of wine. Speaking of, I even got offered a free glass of birthday champagne on British Airways yesterday to celebrate.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. My wife and I visited Rome in December and it was a real treat to be able to soak in all the history. If you’re looking for some amazing pizza, I recommend Al Forno della Soffitta – their burrata appetizer is incredible, too.

    We have gifted travel to our friends for their birthdays the last few years and leveraged our miles / points to do so. My wife and her best friend went to Iceland for said friends birthday with everything handled by us (my wife wanted to visit the country and I didn’t have much of a desire so it worked out well). In May we’re taking three friends to Peru to see Machu Picchu, all of their respective birthday gifts this year. We’re traveling for my birthday in December, as well – heading to Thailand to hopefully hang out with some elephants and explore a bunch of temples!

    Happy birthday to you! I hope you have a happy year ahead.

  2. Happy Birthday. Thank you for such a great blog and helping me travel more often and in first and business class too.

  3. Love Rome. But Sicily needs to be on everyone’s wish list. Just fascinating, as you say the history all aound you. Unimaginable…

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