THE SUNDAY TIMES TRAVEL MAGAZINE
What’s it about: 'BE INFORMED. BE INSPIRED. BE THERE' - tagline on cover.
Vital statistics: January 2016 issue: 164 pages of 300mm x 220mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £3.90 cover price. Combined ABC of 56,624, all from print. Published by Times Newspapers Ltd in London.
Cover: Sumptuous picture of pool / sea / islands which I learn is in Thailand and one of the 'Best in the world' (see coverline) hotel pools. Four other coverlines, but my copy was sadly badly trimmed losing the bottom of the 'PLUS' cross-ref. Destination count: Eight.
Content: Neat fold-over index of destinations and subjects as part of the cover. 'Take me there' has stunning photography from around the world. ‘Total Guide’ (this issue the Caribbean) for once doesn't feel like an over-the-top boast. Features get enough room - Bali has 10 pages - and just when you think you've finished, up pops 'Instant escapes' - everything you need to know about Amsterdam / Tokyo / Dublin / etc.
Digital: Website suffers from paywallitis as the promoted sundaytimestravel.co.uk takes you straight into the bowels of thesundaytimes.co.uk and a one-page 'Archive' of stories from more than six months ago. That's your lot as a member of 'Public' as The Times continues to protect its content. A healthy 84.7k Twitter followers but just 808 likes and little activity on Facebook.
What they say: “A brilliant photographer, commissioning and organising worldwide photo shoots, picture researching sometimes obscure destinations, you will also have the ability to negotiate with agents / libraries / travel companies,” – job ad for picture editor.
Verdict: A feast for the armchair traveller. Be escorted around the world by knowledgeable guides who seem to know the ins and outs of every destination. Has all the professionalism and verve you would expect of a product from such a well-resourced and experienced publisher.
What’s it about: 'For people with a passion for travel' - tagline on page 2.
Vital statistics: December 2015 / January 2016 issue: 148 pages of 290mm x 210mm. Quality matt paper, heavier cover, perfect bound. £3.99 cover price. Published by Wanderlust Publications Ltd in Windsor, yes Windsor, who report a print circulation of 35,800 and digital sales of 1,005.
Cover: Big picture of a temple in Nepal overlaid by four coverlines. Destination count of 13 from Australia to Vietnam.
Content: Useful global map with contents. 360° - Need to Know - has TV, food, books; ‘Travel hot list’ sends you places you may not consider like Iceland, Rwanda… and Wales. Footnotes full of all that info that you otherwise have to look up. Not just destinations: a headtorch test, cycling guide and photography tips make this much more than just a travel mag.
Digital: 70k followers on Twitter, but posts sadly just puffs for mag, although editor Phoebe Smith does get into the interactive thing with posts like "So here's the BIG question… Bivvy or Bothy - which are you?" Facebook likes 20k.
What they say: “Responsible and sustainable travel is at the heart of everything we do,” from the Wanderlust mission statement.
Verdict: Sumptuous photography throughout. Has a cool, clubby vibe and young feel that makes you remember that travel is not just for the rich or retired.
CONDÉ NAST TRAVELLER
What’s it about: ‘The best beaches, the best hotels, the best views, the best travel photography in the world, as pinned by Condé Nast Traveller UK magazine,’ – blurb on Pinterest.
Vital statistics: December 2015 issue: 222 pages of 285mm x 220mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £4.10 cover price. Combined ABC of 78,067, with 1,551 from digital. Published by Condé Nast in London.
Cover: Aerial picture of poolside in Miami hosting coverlines and a headline - 'The Heat Is On' - draped across the foot of the page looking more like an ad. Destination count of just four.
Content: The ads before the contents on page 7 - Tiffany & Co, Patek Philippe, Chanel and Dior - tell you everything you need to know. Not just a travel mag, but a lifestyle statement. Read up on destinations (Miami, Thailand as well as closer to home in Cornwall and London) plus food, beauty, health and all kinds of imaginable luxury. This issue came in an easy-open poly bag with 42-page cruise guide as an added extra.
Digital: Approachable website - cntraveller.com – welcomes you with ‘Where we love right now’ and ‘Need some ideas?’ although the type does seem a bit big at times. A very healthy 450k Twitter followers (following just 35, including Raymond Blanc and Tatler but not you or me). 104k Facebook likes.
What they say: “Should I ask for my money back if I don't see enough animals on safari?” – question looking for ‘Expert Answer’ on website. (155 word reply = No).
Verdict: Why go to all the expense and trouble of actually going somewhere when you can wallow in Condé Nast Traveller? Lots to see and read plus an effortlessly aspirational ambiance.
LONELY PLANET TRAVELLER
What’s it about: ‘We want to go EVERYWHERE, and we really think you should come with us’ - Twitter profile.
Vital statistics: December 2015 issue: 132 pages of 298mm x 230mm. Quality gloss paper, heavyweight matt cover, perfect bound. £3.90 cover price. Combined ABC of 47,130, with 4,083 from digital. Published by Immediate Media for Lonely Planet Group in London.
Cover: Familiar masthead, six coverlines and a familiar shot of that bridge and that opera house. As the editor points out on page 5, they have commissioned 'thousands of photos' so seems a strange choice to pick one from the stock photo library. Destination count: 13.
Content: A neat destination index complements the contents spread on pages 6 and 7. Neatly constructed ‘Postcards’ (submitted pictures) and ‘Globetrotter’ (news) are followed by more in-depth features such as a complete up and down of the American Rockies. ‘Best in travel’ has a listicle feel (10 best…) although ‘Best Places to Elope’ may have a specialist appeal. Followed by ‘19 reasons to love Zhangjiajie’ (middle of China, nowhere near anywhere you've heard of) which disappointingly turns out to be an ad feature.
Digital: Doesn't have its own website but shares lonelyplanet.com with the other LP offerings. Does have its own Twitter account with 23k followers and Facebook has several likely looking accounts, but nothing officially linked.
What they say: "10 days in Nicaragua and the fifth time I've heard 'Lady in Red' on the radio," - award-winning writer Oliver Smith on Twitter.
Verdict: If you love the Lonely Planet books, you'll like Lonely Planet Traveller. Bright, lively but maybe a little too sophisticated for its own good. Finishes up with ‘Mini Guides’, a tear out and fold up companion to useful topics from ‘Architecture in Hong Kong’ to ‘Budget Prague’ - a welcome sign of publishing innovation.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELLER
What’s it about: ‘Award-winning travel magazine. Inspiration from photographers across the world, every day’ - blurb on Instagram.
Vital statistics: December 2015 issue: 132 pages of 297mm x 212mm. Gloss paper, heavyweight cover, perfect bound. £3.95 cover price. Combined ABC of 34,282, 1,500 from digital. Published by APL Media Limited in London.
Cover: Four parrots, sorry macaws, five coverlines and a destination count of 12. Oh, and a stamp that says 'AWARD WINNING'.
Content: Carrying on the photography tradition from the parent publication but also thoughtful writing, more like essays, and in-depth destination pieces, such as six pages of 'Sleep' in London. Cover story on the Amazon is enough to make one want to get up and go now, while those little touches such as ‘sporting breaks’ and ‘language holidays’ provide an extra dimension.
Digital: Clean and easy website - natgeotraveller.co.uk - with obvious links through to social media, where there are 32k followers on Twitter, 40k Facebook likes and also Flickr which houses 57,000 photos.
What they say: "Anybody know why there's never a petrol station just before the airport? Nothing like refuelling a hire car when you should be checking in," - editor Pat Riddell on Twitter.
Verdict: Larger page dimensions than the regular - dare we say iconic? - National Geographic. Natty size but uses the extra acreage to great effect. Not just the super photography we've come to expect from the franchise but a wide variety of writing, information and opinion.
What’s it about: 'The UK's biggest independent travel magazine' - tagline on cover.
Vital statistics: Issue 24 (no date): 98 pages of 282mm x 210mm. Gloss paper, self cover (although heavier card on wraparound ad), stitched. Distributed free around London. Combined ABC of 100,613. Published alternate months by Square Up Media in London.
Cover: One masthead, one tagline, one headline (tiny), one cross-ref (tinier), one picture (no caption anywhere). That's it. Destination count: zero.
Content: A run of full double page pictures up front sets the tone for a well-designed publication that treats images with ingenuity and respect. Divided into sections - Departures, Experiences and Checklist – complemented by innovative items like ‘Just Landed’, ‘Weird World’ and ‘Instant Anorak’. All written with pizzazz in easily digestible chunks.
Digital: Clean website - escapismmagazine.com - with easy link to digital version of mag. Some way to go on social media with just 5,619 Twitter followers and 8,189 Facebook likes.
What they say: "30 degrees and bright sunshine in a small Italian town - the tanning salon's open but the supermarket isn't. How do they live like this?" - tweet from editor Jon Hawkins.
Verdict: With its natty design and well-written headlines and pull-outs, it’s difficult to imagine that this magazine costs, well, nothing. Giveaways have come a long way this decade and escapism is a worthy proponent of the genre.