Special Reports
A special report is content that is edited and produced by the special reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report but do not have editorial control.

Flying the empty nest: the joys and variety of grown-up travel

Sylvia Thompson on travelling as a couple again after years of family holidays

One of the greatest freedoms of travelling as a couple once your children have grown up is that you are no longer tied to travelling during school holidays. As long as your work schedule allows flexibility, the world awaits.

Sara Rivero Lopez from the Spanish Tourist Office in Dublin says that tourist operators are also keen to encourage travel outside of the peak holiday season. “Off-season city breaks and food and wine itineraries (wineroutesofspain.com) are very popular among couples and groups of adult friends,” says Lopez.

Spanish cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Bilboa and Seville are popular choices, but the southeastern Spanish city of Valencia has particular appeal for 2023 when it will host the awards ceremony for the world’s 50 best restaurants. While this event will celebrate the city’s own gastronomic delights, Valencia will also mark the centenary of the death of Spanish painter, Joaquin Sorolla in 2023 with tours of significant places and an immersive exhibition, Sorolla Through Light. With new pedestrian areas and an extensive network of cycle paths, Valencia is also gearing up for 2024 when it will be designated European Green Capital.

Caroline Quigley from Keith Prowse Travel in Dublin says that after the Covid pandemic, people are very keen to get back to sporting and cultural events abroad. The agency organises packages to Premier League football matches across the UK as well as tickets to the Wimbledon tennis championships, taking place in July. Their packages include flights, hotels and tickets to games. You can choose between watching the early matches on Centre Court during the first week of the tournament or opt to watch some edge-of-your-seat action at the Ladies or Men’s Singles Finals (a non-refundable deposit of 50 per cent is due on booking for Wimbledon with the balance due by February 28th, 2023).


Keith Prowse Travel (keithprowseattractions.com) also organises concert breaks which are attractive trips for couples travelling without children. These include André Rieu in Krakow in June and Andrea Bocelli in Vienna in November. Attending the Verona Opera Festival to witness Puccini’s Madame Butterfly in August is another enticing offer for opera buffs.

And for those who are interested in joining a group of like-minded people on holidays, the guided itineraries organised by the Travel Department are worth exploring. In Italy, you can choose between Sicily and the Aeolian Islands, Puglia, the Adriatic Riviera, the Sorrento coast or the northern lakes.

For those interested in something a little bit different, how about a guided trip across the Pyrenees by train, bus tours through the Austrian Alps or a river cruise on the Danube, Seine, Douro or Rhine?

Claire Doherty, product director with the Travel Department says that “bucket list” places such as the Norwegian Fjords were very popular in 2022 as were iconic sights like the Alhambra which are part of the company’s Highlights of Andalucía tour. “Trips on the Bernina Express which customers can take on the Travel Department’s Lake Como tour were also popular in 2022. In 2023 we are seeing demand for our Little Trains of the Pyrenees tour and parts of Tuscany are also getting a lot of interest due to the accommodation being located in more remote areas yet with visits to the well-known sights still included.”

Sylvia Thompson

Sylvia Thompson

Sylvia Thompson, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about health, heritage and the environment