For our latest travel mag interview we meet Lucy Thackray, commissioning editor at the monthly Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Since completing her postgraduate diploma at Cardiff University, Lucy’s career has been absorbed by travel journalism, so it was only natural that we picked her brain about her ideal holiday and her magazine’s approach to travel.
Where are you today?
I am in grey London Bridge, in our offices! Sorry to disappoint – but I am counting down the 13 days until the blazing sunshine and crystalline bays of Corfu.
What was the first magazine you remember enjoying?
I was a devout reader of adolescent favourite Shout magazine – I was dying to be the subject of its makeover page, and I still appreciate how frank it was about everything from bad skin to boys and periods.
Tell us about your first holiday.
I can’t remember it! I know I was turning one, and that it was by a pebbly beach in the South of France. We used to go on lovely, low-key driving holidays into France, Spain, and Italy, often staying in family-friendly campsites such as Eurocamp and making loads of friends.
‘Sometimes my desk is like this’
Are you a beach holiday or city break person?
I love both equally, so ideally I’d combine them. My absolute favourite place in the world is Manhattan; conversely, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do on holiday than lie on a quiet, sandy beach with a good book. Next, I’d love to go to Cuba or Rio (both brilliant for combining the two).
What has been your worst holiday experience?
It’s an unpopular opinion, but I’ve never liked Paris. I find the sights over-subscribed, the people spectacularly unfriendly, and the food and drink both average and overpriced. It was all summed up on my last trip by one bar hostess looking us up and down before telling us there was ‘no room’ in the empty cocktail bar behind her…
What is your magazine’s approach to travel?
We’re the realistic, authentic holiday magazine. Our readers don’t just want to play it safe with a big, gated, all-inclusive resort near the airport – they may want to drive a little further and find a quirkier or more prettily-situated indie hotel. They love venues or hotels with a story behind them and learning unusual facts about the local sights – the ones you’d never find in a guidebook.
They have a million and one different holiday needs (bargain city breaks for spring; three-generation family hols; that bucket-list trip to India or Japan) and we try to pre-empt every holiday query or fantasy they might have. On top of which, our writers are seasoned regional experts who really know their stuff – they (and we) don’t shy away from pointing out things to skip when they’re poor value, time-consuming or simply underwhelming.
Which holiday/trip from your magazine would you most like to experience?
Our next issue (October) has 20 pages of expert features on Brazil, and it definitely had me Googling flights and tours to Rio, Trancoso and the Amazon.
Which magazine(s) should people be taking away with them this summer?
Ours! One issue will give you solid ideas for your next UK mini-break, European city weekend and sun holiday all in one go. Culture wise, I also have a deep personal love for Vanity Fair, which I think is doing a brilliant job of reinventing itself and moving with the times while still staying glamorous and insider-y.
How closely tied is the magazine to the Sunday Times newspaper?
We are published by the Sunday Times but operate quite separately to it in terms of generating ideas. The brilliant Travel section you get inside your Sunday Times newspaper has more immediate travel news and offers; we’re more about long-term planning, with glossy photography and lovely leisurely reads. Readership-wise, it’s a very similar picture to the paper: 86% are ABC1 adults; the largest age bracket for us is 55-69 (34%), but that’s closely followed by 44-54 (24%) and 35-44 (21%).
Where will you be taking a break this year?
I’m going on a real holiday to Thailand with my parents and sister – still, at 31, my favourite people to holiday with. We’re going to eat a lot of massaman curry, swim in the sea and swap books. Bliss.