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23 Dec 2019

Five moments that changed travel in 2019

We look back over an eventful year that has shaped the way we holiday

From the collapse of Thomas Cook to ongoing Brexit uncertainty, a lot happened has happened in the world of travel in the past 12 months.

Still it shouldn't dampen our spirit of adventure.

Here we look back at the key moments of 2019 and arm you with everything you need for the year ahead.

1. Brexit uncertainty

The deadline has been pushed back several times, but that hasn't stopped Brexit affecting the way we travel.

The plummeting value of the pound has prompted some of us to look for holiday destinations where our money will go further.

Others have been nervous about booking holidays altogether. In a Which? Travel survey, a third of flyers said they were worried that European flights could be disrupted once Britain leaves the EU.

While Brits shouldn't be deterred from travelling in the new year, it's essential we understand the new rules that might be introduced.

This includes checking your passport will still be valid and making sure you have all the right documents for driving abroad.

Prepare for every eventuality with our complete guide to travelling after Brexit.

2. Thomas Cook goes bust

Britain's oldest travel firm collapsed in September after last-minute negotiations failed to secure a multi-million pound bailout.

It prompted the biggest-ever peacetime repatriation with more than 150,000 UK passengers stranded abroad.

Many speculated that Thomas Cook's demise signalled the death of the package holiday altogether.

Yet paying for flights and hotels in one bundle still provides the most protection for consumers.

Prepare for the worst: What to do if your holiday company goes bust.

3. Venice bans cruise ships

Large cruise ships are no longer allowed to dock in central Venice amid environmental fears.

The ban was introduced by the Italian government last August after two major incidents caused havoc in the popular tourist spot.

First the MSC Opera collided with the dock, ramming a small tourist vessel and injuring four people. Just weeks later a cruise liner, the Costa Deliziosa, had a near miss on the Giudecca Canal.

Local protesters have long feared that overcrowding on the narrow canals and walkways is damaging the fragile lagoon system.

It's likely to set a precedent, with large liners banned from other Unesco World Heritage Sites in future. But, when it comes to vessel size, the environment isn't the only consideration: Which? Travel readers have repeatedly told us they prefer the small ship experience.

See which brands came out on top in our survey of the best and worst cruise lines.

4.Hotels promise to ditch plastic

Plastic straws are largely a thing of the past and those mini toiletries in hotel rooms could be going the same way.

Thanks to Sir David Attenborough and his stark warning for the world's oceans, many global hotel brands have vowed to limit their use of single-use plastic.

Among them is Marriott, which will ditch mini shampoos and body washes by December 2020. It predicts that this effort alone will prevent 500 million bottles ending up in landfill each year.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which owns Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn, plans to follow in 2021 - affecting 843,000 rooms across 5,600 hotels.

Holidaymakers can do their bit by looking for hotels with good green credentials and travelling with a reusable water bottle.

5. Carbon emissions is on the agenda

plane taking off

There's no denying that flying is carbon intensive and the flight-shaming movement has prompted many of us to look at our own habits.

But a recent Which? Travel investigation found that you can slash your carbon emissions simply by switching which airline you fly with.

Other ways to reduce your environmental impact include packing light, flying economy and choosing direct flights where possible.

Passengers can also pay to offset the environmental impact of their flights using a carbon calculator.

British Airways and Ryanair already invite passengers to make a contribution during the booking process, with other carriers promising to introduce their own schemes next year.

Which? Travel has now pledged to offset all future flights taken by its writers.