Welcome to the new Grantourismo and a new year of travel and food. We’re kicking off 2019 with a fresh new design that is more user-friendly and much more mobile-friendly, with comprehensive new travel destination guides, and other features to better help you plan your travels.
If you’ve dropped by Grantourismo since the New Year, you may have noticed that we quietly launched a new design with a cleaner look and feel and the introduction of new travel destination guides that we hope better serve both regular readers and new visitors to the site. Here’s why and here’s what’s new.
Welcome to the New Grantourismo
If you haven’t explored the new Grantourismo yet, we’d love you to poke around and take a look and let us know what you think. I also thought I’d highlight some of the new features for you.
While the old Grantourismo served us well in most respects, we were continually hampered by the WordPress theme developers we used to develop the site. It’s been frustrating, but looking at it from a wider lens, their inadequacies were not the only element that prevented us from giving you an optimal experience. We rethought both aspects.
We’ve also swapped our hosting service from one that I was not happy with in terms of speed, reliability and service. They had a service called ‘Managed WordPress Hosting’ which just meant that whenever you asked a question about WordPress they managed to find a way to ignore it. We’ve been hosting with Flywheel for over 12 months and speed, reliability and service are top notch and exclusively hosting WordPress sites is their business. They’ll even migrate your WordPress site for free.
A Mobile Friendlier Site
Although the old Grantourismo site worked fine on mobile devices, it never really felt that the tablet and phone users’ experience was on par with that of desktop users. As our traffic is from more mobile devices than desktops/laptops we knew we needed an outstanding mobile experience. We also found during research that mobile users were more inclined to spontaneously look up ‘Things to do in Siem Reap when it rains?‘ while their in town on their phone/tablet than a laptop.
With the new design, I’m proud to say that it really has great usability on mobile and better reflects the Grantourismo brand I originally envisioned when we launched the site nine years ago. Try it on your phones and tablets and let us know what you think.
New User Friendlier Navigation
When we first launched Grantourismo on New Year’s Day in 2010 with our 12-month global grand tour and our ‘slow, local and experiential travel’ quest, we started the site from scratch. That was the year we spent 356 days on the road, settled into 36 holiday rentals in 34 places around the world, and travelled 88.417 km / 54,940 miles – a quarter of the way to the moon!
During the year I took 57,000 photos and we wrote 424,150 words to create some 499 posts, including 40 recipes for our series on Weekend Eggs and The Dish. After our grand tour ended, we continued travelling and posting and after a few years it all became a bit unwieldy. The first re-design was partly aimed at re-organising all of the content we’d created into a more manageable form.
During the first year of Grantourismo, visitors to the site found us on social media or met us in the real world and followed our grand tour, engaging with us along the way. But as our travel changed in the years following, becoming less structured (we were no longer heading to a new destination every two weeks) and we were settling into places for longer, so, too, did our readers change.
As our visitor numbers have continued to grow, users have increasingly been arriving on Grantourismo having searched for something specific and so have a purpose in being here – generally to do destination research or they’ve arrived having searched for a recipe. Interestingly, the recipes remain some of our most visited posts. I have a feeling – supported by interactions with our visitors who cook our recipes – that our research in a particular destination has been as fruitful as I had hoped.
New Destination Travel Guides
Every destination now has a travel guide. There are basic travel guides for places we’ve spent just two weeks in, for which we might only have a dozen posts, such as the 34 places on our 2010 grand tour, from Mexico City to Marrakech, Paris to New York, Buenos Aires to Berlin to Budapest.
And we’ve created comprehensive travel guides for places we’ve lived or spent a lot of time, which have a great volume of content, such as Bangkok, Siem Reap and Bali. These offer itineraries, stories and guides organised into sections such as Stay, Eat, Drink, Explore, Experience, Absorb, and Shop.
We’ve also created sections on Festivals and Events, Local Knowledge and Resources. The Local Knowledge section contains the many Local Knowledge interviews we’ve done with locals in each place since the 2010 grand tour, as well as posts offering insider advice.
As authors of travel guidebooks (and as the designer of Australia’s first travel websites in a former career), this makes more sense compared to the form blogs took when we began blogging over a decade ago and better suits Grantourismo’s transition from a travel blog to travel site.
Also born from our guidebook backgrounds, as much as reader questions, is a new Essentials section at the end of each comprehensive destination guide. This cover practicalities, such as when to go, health and visa information, currency used, language spoken, basic transport info, and the power plugs to take (complete with an image). You can also check local time and current weather, get an idea of Daily Costs, and see our curated Reading Lists.
While there are plenty of travel websites that offer this information, including the websites of the big print travel publishers, we’ve tried to present it in a more user-friendly format. Let us know what you think and if there are other things you’d like to see added.
The basic travel guides feature all their posts on one page for now. Click ‘load more’ to see all posts and we ask that you be patient during these early days as it may take a few seconds to display all the stories the first time you visit that destination. It’s something we’re working on with our developers.
And if you don’t see a destination that you’re looking for in the main drop down menu, search for it: just click on the looking glass icon to the right of the list of continents and a Search Box will appear. We have an abundance of posts that are currently not listed by destination that will gradually get their own guides and appear on the main destination menu.
If the destinations are not listed yet, it means we’ve been too busy to add posts (Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia are all destinations we’re way behind in posting stories on) or we don’t quite have enough posts yet (cities in Australia such as Darwin fit in this category, along with the Western Australian region of Margaret River).
New Destinations to Launch in 2019
We’ve launched the new Grantourismo with comprehensive travel guides for Siem Reap, Bangkok and Bali, but over coming weeks and months we’ll continue to gradually launch more complete destination guides for all of our Southeast Asia and Australia destinations, from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, to Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh, and Luang Prabang.
We’ll also add Dubai, where we lived for nearly eight years before we took to the road in 2006, which was not only the first destination we wrote about as travel guidebook authors, but we were also some of the first travel writers to write on Dubai, just as tourism boomed in that region.
After that, we’ll look to the rest of Asia and other destinations that are popular on Grantourismo, from European destinations such as Italy and Spain to destinations in South America and beyond. In the meantime, if you’ve never browsed our back catalogue, we invite you to peruse a few destinations that you dream of travelling to this year.
More Flexibility and Special Sections
The new homepage displays the Latest Stories on the site, as well as better highlighting the forms of travel that have been our focus since we launched Grantoturismo in 2010: Slow Travel, Local Travel and Experiential Travel.
Before you could only access those from the top tool bar, but now you can find them on the main page, beneath Latest Stories. Some of those thematic posts are also filed under their relevant destination but others, such as tips to learning local languages or how to eat like locals when you travel, might only be filed here.
The new homepage gives us a lot of flexibility to add special temporary sections such as our current Holiday Guide featuring stories on everything from chefs’ holiday cooking tips to cocktail recipes. This has been heavily utilised since we put it up before Christmas but we’ll take it down soon. From time to time we’ll feature special sections themed by season or showcasing a destination we’ve visited or journey we’re undertaking.
This section may also feature sponsored content from time to time, as this is one way in which we can earn income to pay for our time to create the information, inspiration and advice we provide. We will declare this as sponsored, just as all publishers do, from The Guardian to National Geographic Traveller, but you can trust that we’ll maintain the same critical, opinionated “tell it like it is” take on travel and food that we’ve always had.
How You Can Support Grantourismo
When you visit the destination guides you’ll notice that we’ve punctuated sections, where relevant, with search boxes for accommodation via Booking.com, tours on Get Your Guide, and insurance quotes from World Nomads, and we have Reading Lists with links to Amazon.
We’ve endeavoured to place these where they make sense and present them in a way that is not only aesthetically pleasing and in keeping with the design, but in a way that we hope is not disruptive to your experience of the site.
We have affiliate partnerships with all of these sites, which means that if you click through from Grantourismo and you book or buy something, we earn a small commission, but you don’t pay any extra than if you’d gone to the site directly.
If you’ve used Grantourismo and found our content inspiring, insightful and informative and it has helped you to not only better plan your travels but to have a better trip, we ask you to consider booking your accommodation and tours through us and buying your insurance, books and resources via the site, to support the work that we do here.
If you’ve discovered Grantourismo after you’ve made all your bookings, we hope that you’ll return next time you’re planning a trip and that you’ll recommend Grantourismo to your friends and family. Some readers have also asked how they can donate to the site, so we’ll be adding a donations link soon.
Grantourismo is a labour of love but it’s also a business and the income we make from the site enables us to pay our rent as well as continue to travel to update the existing content and undertake new research and experience new places that we hope will help you to travel more meaningfully and more memorably.
Pictured above: Pho ga in Hanoi, Vietnam, one of the destinations we’ll be adding more content to soon.