Travel may be difficult, or even off-limits, for now – but that doesn’t mean we can’t make plans for the future.
Here’s our top recommendations for the places to consider when the time is right.
Let the wanderlusting begin!
Making Magical Memories
Dream family trips to Orlando are set to be big next year. While memories of toilet paper shortages will last a lifetime, 2020 didn’t provide many chances to create magical experiences. Parents will find plenty of ways to make it up to their little ones in the theme park capital of the world.
Kids can meet their favorite cartoon characters at Walt Disney World, ride thrilling roller coasters at Universal Studios and take part in interactive movies at Legoland. And that’s just scratching the surface: there are more than a dozen theme parks in Orlando, and each one takes days to fully explore. Since the pandemic started, all of Florida’s theme parks have upped their sanitation game, introduced social distancing measures and encouraged mandatory mask-wearing.
Been to Disney World before? Don’t worry, there are loads of new attractions coming in 2021 to make it as new and exciting as the first time. For 2021 Universal Studios is planning to open its dinosaur-themed Jurassic World VelociCoaster, while Walt Disney World Resort is introducing the TRON Lightcycle Run – a ride that’s already had rave reviews in Shanghai. Speaking of Disney, next year will mark the park’s 50th birthday, so expect some extra special celebrations. Outside the theme parks, the new SKYPLEX entertainment complex is set to bring the world’s tallest roller coaster and drop-ride to Orlando, with the Skyscraper ride weaving around the building on coaster-style tracks.
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Beyond the City
Flights to major cities are always popular, with city life dramatically altered by Covid, many are now looking beyond the urban sprawl to gems nearby.
We all deserve a treat after 2020, and Napa Valley Wine Country is the place to be for an indulgent break. It’s just a short drive from San Francisco and is home to 400 vineyards producing world-class wine. The region is famous for indulgence, with luxurious resort hotels and gourmet restaurants. Try local food at the Oxbow Public Market or take a ride on the vintage Napa Valley Wine Train.
Or why not jump across the pond to South West England instead, just a few hours’ drive from London. The coastal city of Plymouth has a jam-packed schedule of events to look forward to Including the postponed 400th anniversary celebrations of the Mayflower.
The city has planned a whole host of festivities centered around this iconic moment. The largest will be the ceremony on July 11th, featuring a one thousand voice orchestra telling the Mayflower story.
Further west, you’ll find Fistral Beach – one of Britain’s best surf spots. Big international competitions have taken place here, but during summer the waves are calm enough for even the most board-shy of beginners.
Flying into Barcelona doesn’t need to mean tapas and Gaudi architecture: it could mean heading into the Garrotxa Volcanic Zone Natural Park and escaping the bustle. The mountainous landscape is made of 40 extinct volcanoes, so it’s perfect for hiking, biking and horse riding. Ruined churches, peaceful hamlets and roaring waterfalls pepper each route, and there’s always the chance of spotting wildlife like mallards, otters and grey herons.
WFP: Working from Paradise
Why work from home when you can work from The Maldives? Many companies have announced that working from home will continue through 2021, so pop your laptop in your hand luggage and jet off to somewhere a little more scenic.
We weren’t joking about the Maldives. The island nation is perfectly set up for social distancing – many hotels have their own private islands, with private bungalows making it easy to isolate. Just double-check that your resort has a good and reliable Wi-Fi connection before you fly.
Many countries in the Caribbean rely on tourism, so they’re making it easier for people to base themselves there.
Barbados was the first to offer a remote work visa for up to a year, and the Cayman Islands have followed in their footsteps by offering their Global Citizen Concierge Program: allowing people to stay for two years.
Mexico has an established digital nomad scene, and the resort town of Playa del Carmen has some excellent co-working spaces where you can make friends for those all-important post-work margaritas. On the weekend you can dive in bright blue cenotes (swimming holes), snorkel with sea turtles, or visit Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza.
After a year of empty stadiums and fans suffering from FOMO, 2021 is set to be a huge year for sports travel with some incredible options.
First up is Japan the ever-popular Asian country will host the biggest sporting event in the world next year with four additional new sports: climbing, karate, skateboarding and surfing. When you’re not cheering on. When you’re not cheering on Team USA, sports fans can head to Tokyo’s Ryōgoku neighborhood to watch sumo wrestlers practice. An all-rounder of a destination, Tokyo offers something for everyone, including quirky attractions like the Cup Noodle Museum.
Another destination primed for sports fans is South Africa, where you can experience one of the world’s best horseracing at the Sun Met, attend the 2021 Masters Hockey World Cup, or cheer on world-renowned rugby teams (like the British and Irish Lions and South African Springboks) at the biggest rugby championship.
After cheering on the human Lions and Springboks why not take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go on safari at Kruger National Park and see the real thing.
If you want to see the ‘Big Five’ up close there are plenty of options – from wildlife rehab centers to luxury camps. For something a bit different, sign up for a 7 or 14-day wildlife tracking course with EcoTracker and learn the ancient art from expert Shangaan guides.
2021 is set to be an exciting year for new openings in South Africa, from quirky luxury accommodation to gastronomy.
Kruger Shelati is a brand new boutique hotel set inside 13 historical train carriages on Selati railway bridge in Skukuza Camp. As for city-based exploring, foodies will enjoy strolling around Makers Landing; a brand new incubator launching at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront to foster young talent, celebrate local produce and showcase South Africa’s diverse food history.
At first, quarantine felt like forced isolation at first, but now we feel the need for solitude – blame the “always-on” mentality of constant video calls. Going off-grid and heading off into the wilderness is set to be a big trend in 2021, and where better to start than the Atacama Desert in Chile?
Head to South America for dramatic night skies. The dream combination of low light pollution and a high altitude makes it one of the best places in the world for stargazing. Lots of observatories are located here, and many offer tours – so you can get up close and personal with nebulas, constellations and galaxies billions of light-years away. There are lots of glamping sites where you truly can sleep beneath the stars and appreciate the vastness of the world we live in and our place in it.
Or, if you’re really itching to head overseas, why not set your compass to the Scottish Highlands? It has the lowest population density in
the country – and good luck getting a mobile data signal. Hire a car, pack a tent and take on the North Coast 500.
The circular driving route starts and ends in Inverness, passing through some of the most remote corners of Scotland. Locals will proudly tell you that Scottish beaches rival the Caribbean with their pure white sands and crystal clear waters. At Sandwood Beach, there’s also the possibility to see the Northern Lights.
For the perfect tonic to a year spent surrounded by four walls, it’s hard to beat the unspoilt crystalline tropical water of The Abrolhos Islands National Park. Located 60 kilometres off the Western Australian coast, the archipelago is made up of 122 islands, surrounded by tropical coral and marine life. Often described as the Galapagos Islands of the Indian Ocean, there are few places in Australia wilder and more biodiverse. You can make day trips to marvel at the natural beauty, with bird watching; marine and wildlife spotting, such as sea lions, dolphins, wallabies and lizards or simply relaxing in the pristine surrounds.
Covid-19 has decimated some tourist economies, so 2021 will be the year that many consider how their travel can impact those communities that rely on travelers. Destinations like Jamaica, where the majority of the population rely on tourism for work, are highlighting how travelers can be conscious of their impact. Consider staying in locally run guesthouses or independent hotels, you’ll be helping keep money in the local economy and enjoy an authentic experience as well. If you choose to stay in a resort, going off-resort to eat and drink doesn’t just help support local businesses, it also gives you a chance to rub shoulders with locals and try dishes like Ackee and codfish, curry goat and authentic jerk chicken. What better way to experience a new culture whilst also ensuring Jamaica remains a vibrant place for its residents, not just its tourists.
What’s more, sustainability should and will feature highly on the future
agenda. More than a quarter of Costa Rica is protected from development, making it one of the most eco-friendly destinations in the world. Stay in the depths of the rainforest in an eco-lodge and watch as colorful parrots, toucans and quetzals fly by your balcony. For a touch of luxury, immerse yourself in volcano-heated thermal waters at one of the country’s many natural spas.
While in Europe, The Azores are considered to be one of Europe’s best destinations for a sustainable holiday. On the main island, São Miguel, there are flower-covered hills and crater lakes to explore but things get really wild when you head out to the more remote islands in the archipelago. Head to Flores for green cliffs with plunging waterfalls, and volcanic Pico for dramatic moonscapes.
Many are looking East for a glimpse of what the road to recovery might look like. South Korea‘s speed to transition to a model of “distancing in daily life” led the way in 2020.
In the high-tech city of Seoul, social distancing is made easier at cafés where robots make (and serve) your coffee. Try the best street food at Gwangjang Market, then join a guided tour around the peaceful Changdeokgung – a UNESCO World Heritage listed palace.
With its lush countryside and buzzing cities, Vietnam has been a bucket-list destination for years. Its success at controlling the outbreak – twice – makes it one of the safest places to be in 2021.
The country is eager to begin to welcome tourists back, and recently launched an app to help travelers get around safely. There are lots of remote villages to visit, but no trip to Vietnam is complete without a 2-3 day cruise around the otherworldly Halong Bay – which reopened to tourist boats in May.
Also consider Taiwan, where you can eat Michelin star dumplings at Din Tai Fung in the morning before cycling the winding Route 64 mountain road in the afternoon. Mind the monkeys, and head to the nearby hot spring town of Ruisui for a post-cycle soak.
Greece is the Word
Greece has always been a top choice for international vacationers, but 2020 was absolutely its year – it even overtook Spain to become the most popular destination during summer 2020.
Greece’s popularity is likely to continue into 2021, as people crave a bit of sun, sea and culture and this year saw how much Greece could offer.
Instagrammable islands like Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes have been in our dreams throughout lockdown. Think whitewashed buildings with blue-domed roofs, spilling down towards sandy beaches with crystal clear waters. Many of these islands depend heavily on tourism, so it’s worth giving them some support once they open back up again. When you’re
not relaxing on those postcard-perfect beaches, take a hike.
The route between Fira and Oia on Santorini is particularly breathtaking, passing alongside a volcanic caldera. Locally sourced seasonal produce can be enjoyed throughout the country, in socially distanced outdoor terraces.
Athens is a must-visit destination if you’re interested in history: you can barely take a few steps through the Monastiraki neighborhood without stumbling across an ancient monument (sometimes quite literally). There are also plenty of buzzing pavement cafés where you can sit with a frappé (iced coffee) and watch the world go by.
Swell Times Ahead
We’ve spent the best part of a year on our sofas – we reckon it’s time to swap channel surfing for actual surfing, as the sport makes its way into the Olympic arena for the first time in 2021. Where better to catch a break than in California? One of the most laid-back states in America has taken its response to COVID-19 seriously and its tourism board is putting a big emphasis on safety – with that cool Cali twist, of course. There are lots of excellent surfing beaches in California, but the chilled-out surf town of Santa Cruz is one of the best places to immerse yourself in the culture and the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum is the perfect place to learn more about the history of the sport’s pioneers.
If you’d rather stick to dry land, head to the Pebble Beach resort. Just between Monterey and Carmel, it’s the number one public golf course in The States – with three top 50-rated courses stretching along the coast and a new 9-hole, designed by the legendary golfer Tiger Woods, set to open in 2021.
California isn’t just famous for its easy-going sports – it’s also the home of Hollywood. If you managed to get through your backlog of films to watch during lockdown, a trip to Los Angeles is essential. In spring 2021, the much anticipated Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open in the city.
Don’t Forget the Classics
Rain or shine, pandemic or not, some destinations such as New York will always remain popular. If you’re worried that visiting the Big Apple in 2021 means missing out on an authentic New York experience then think again as many hotspots having already reopened with limited capacity.
You can still enjoy sweeping views of the city skyline from the Top of the Rock viewpoint at the Rockefeller Center, or stay down to Earth with a stroll around Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Famous shops – like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue – are open, so you can get that quintessential New York department store experience. Supporting local businesses is key for 2021, so head to arty enclaves like the East Village.
This quirky Manhattan neighborhood is lined with a wide range of independent shops selling everything from vintage clothes to eco-friendly homeware. Covid-necessary innovations in 2020 have super-charged NYC’s burgeoning outdoor dining scene, with many new eating spots set to offer something new to even the most seasoned visitors to NYC.
Across The Atlantic, Spain’s Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza) are consistently one of the most popular beach destinations for Europeans. Search volumes for the Balearics have remained high – so it’s likely that people will head back in their droves once the islands reopen in 2021.