The last year has thrown a lot of things into turmoil, including the travel plans of many. Government restrictions, COVID-19 outbreaks, and a general wariness have stopped many people from traveling, but with vaccine distribution and more travel bubbles on the horizon, travelers are wondering how to plan travel in 2021.
While no one has a crystal ball, many airlines, hotels, and countries have made changes that could see travel being a possibility next year. If you’re itching to explore somewhere new, we’ll show you how to find the best deals, flexible booking policies, and more to help make the most of your 2021 travels.
Travel advice and guidelines are changing rapidly. Be sure to consult official government advice before your journey. Find the latest U.S. travel restrictions on U.S. Department of State website and advice from the WHO and CDC.
Things to know about booking future travel in 2021
Knowing how to plan travel in 2019 and knowing how to plan travel in 2021 are two very different things. While it was once relatively rare to have a flight canceled or rescheduled, these changes are more common as airlines adapt to government restrictions, border closures, and passenger demand.
Opt for flexible fares
While non-refundable flights and set dates used to be a way to save money on bookings, this won’t be an ideal strategy for 2021 as travel plans can change without notice. Despite this, there are plenty of deals to be had. The catch? Flexibility is key. When you book your flight or accommodation, opt for bookings with generous change and cancellation policies. This way, if your trip needs to be rescheduled, you won’t lose the money you’ve spent on your booking. Check out our guide on how to plan travel during COVID-19 for more tips and advice.
Keep an eye on government restrictions
Time and time again we’ve seen just how quickly a national or local government can close its border. Before you book, consult local government advice as well as the official government advice to discover where you can travel. You’ll need a green light from both destinations. As time inches towards your departure date, stay alert for any restrictions so that you don’t show up at the airport to board a canceled flight.
Plan with stopovers in mind
Every destination has its own set of rules when it comes to handling stopover passengers. Some destinations allow travelers to move freely through their airport without any special visa or quarantine restrictions. Others, however, might require a quarantine upon arrival or ban travelers from passing through altogether. When booking your flight, check the restrictions of any destinations you’ll be passing through on the way to your final stop. This is especially important if you’re planning a multi-country holiday that zigzags across the globe.
COVID-19 vaccine facilitating travel
In recent news, Pfizer and Moderna have started distributing their vaccines to the public — healthcare providers and the most vulnerable populations are the first to receive doses.
There’s still a way to go before the full population is vaccinated against COVID-19. With that, there’s hope and the potential for a return to safe travel. Until then, it’s important we all stick to the combination of face masks, social distancing, and regularly washing hands.
Buy comprehensive travel insurance
Before you choose a plan, take a close look at the terms and conditions. Many travel insurance companies will not cover any issues that arise from ‘known events,’ like the COVID-19 pandemic. Other policies will only cover travel to certain destinations, typically those considered low risk when it comes to COVID-19 community case transmission. Comb through the fine print so that you know what the plan is if your trip is canceled or if you fall ill while you’re abroad.
Who can I fly with in 2021?
With many planes grounded over the past year, some airlines have folded or put some of their flight schedules on pause. Meanwhile, others are facing uncertain times and changing hands when it comes to ownership.
However, many of the large airlines are ready to help you travel in 2021. Lately, travelers are able to get better booking terms than they have in the past. Some of these conditions include:
|Delta||Blocked middle seats will continue through to at least March 30, 2021; Change fees are waived for domestic and international flights.|
|American||If you want to cancel or change a flight you’ll have no change fees for all ticket types through the end of Jan 2021. Pre-flight COVID-19 testing is being offered to select destinations.|
|Frontier||Change and cancelation fees are waived for travel through end of Feb 2021. Terms and conditions apply.|
|United||For travel within the US, Mexico, and the Caribbean, change fees are permanently waived for certain cabin classes. For international flights and Basic Economy domestic tickets, change fees are waived until 31 March 2021.|
Where can I travel in 2021?
Knowing how to plan travel in 2021 begins with knowing where you can go. Plan a staycation in the U.S. or keep tabs on your desires destinations, as they are likely to change border opening and closing dates. Some countries, like those in Europe, are allowing travelers in as long as they have a negative COVID-19 test result in hand or are willing to quarantine for 14 days. To discover whose borders are open, check out our interactive global map.
Knowing how to plan travel in 2021 may take a bit more time and care, but if everything pans out, it’ll be well worth the effort.
Common questions travelers have about planning a trip for 2021
Setting up a travel plan has a few key factors. Working out a budget is a good starting point. From there you’ll want to look at destinations, flights, hotels, dates, and tours. Travel insurance is a must these days. Thankfully, most planning can be done online with Skyscanner’s handy search tools.
International travel depends on a few factors, most importantly your destination’s border policy. You can travel internationally now, just not as freely as before — most countries have some sort of travel restrictions or requirements, such as a negative COVID test, health screening, or quarantine.
The idea of a travel bubble is a reciprocal agreement between two or more countries that would see citizens be allowed to freely travel within the bubble without the need for quarantining. Residents of other countries entering the bubble will still need to quarantine as usual.
- Coronavirus travel advice: Stay up-to-date with the latest government advice and airline information.
- Coronavirus travel questions: Your COVID-19 queries answered: We answer the questions you’ve been asking about travel during COVID.
- How to plan a multi-destination holiday during COVID-19: Maximize your summer 2021 holiday with a multi-destination trip.
- Plan travel, even for later: We cover why planning a trip for 2021 might help with coronavirus fatigue.