Wherever you are in the world right now, over the past months your freedom to travel will have been fairly limited. Even in countries where travelling is generally possible. No doubt, you will be looking forward to better times and perhaps even planning ahead for travelling in 2021. 

In normal times, I would be well into my travel planning for the first months of 2021.

But we are still far from normal and to be honest, we still don’t know how travel in 2021 will look like.

To start with, the lessons we are learning right now as travel has resumed in many destinations, either nationally or crossing borders like in Europe, are many and not all are reassuring.

For example, we have clearly seen that COVID-19 restrictions around the world can change almost on a daily basis. This means, you could depart to a place that is open to travel from your home country, with no or limited requirements in place, and just a few days later you might find yourself in a high-risk area. Which means you will now be required to either present a negative corona test or quarantine upon your return.

This makes travel planning quite unpredictable and tricky. Definitely for the rest of this year. Potentially even for parts or the entire of 2021.

Travel will certainly be back in 2021, but not as we knew it.

This unpredictability means, many are still apprehensive about travelling and not ready to commit to booking a trip right now.

That is more than understandable.

On the other hand, the travel industry is already seeing bookings for 2021 ticking up. This coupled with reduced availability due to social distancing requirements means, many destinations are now booking up fast.

When is a good time to make travel plans for 2021

Should you make any travel plans for 2021 already?

When is the right time to make travel plans for 2021, you might ask? Should you already start to book trips for next year, or is it still too early?

Uncertainty around travelling is still high. Especially since the recent end of the summer holiday period saw a new hike in positive Covid-19 cases around the world and a growing number of countries have been declared risk areas again.

As a result, international travel does not seem to be anywhere near to resume.

Does all this mean you should still wait to book your travels for 2021?

Well, the good news is: Flexible booking terms are still very much in order and this is not looking to change anytime soon.

As a result, it is currently fairly safe to book trips for 2021 as most places will allow you to cancel at short notice without having to pay cancellation fees. Only make sure to carefully check booking terms, especially cancellation policies, before you make your booking.

In addition, many places and tour operators currently continue to offer very favourable deals if you commit to a booking now.

However, those deals are likely to vanish soon as social distancing is likely to remain a requirement for some time. Therefore, booking availability will remain tight in many places and some are already starting to fill up. Or at least indeed become more expansive the longer you wait.

Depending on your desired destination, and how early you intend to travel in the year, you should now start to book your travels for 2021.

What to consider when travelling again in 2021

Be prepared that your travel plans might have to change

This might be big or smaller changes.

For example, if regulations are drastically changing at your chosen destination, and you are still in time, you might consider going somewhere else instead. Or postpone your trip. Or cancel altogether.

In most cases, however, changes will be less dramatic but still require you to change your plans on a smaller scale.

For example, some destinations might require testing while you are there or there might be random tests at your arrival, especially when arriving through an airport. If you are the one picked for a test, this means you need to allow extra time for the test and possibly waiting for results.

Public transport might also be affected, with passengers on trains or buses possibly limited so social distancing can be maintained, and some lines might not even be open to tourists, or run on restricted hours.

Thus, do not plan your days too rigidly.

Even in normal times, things will not work out perfectly from start to finish when you travel. Thus, being flexible and dealing with the unexpected is key any time you travel. In times of Covid-19, it is even more so the norm.

How to keep safe while travelling in 2021

Follow the rules and regulations of the destinations you are visiting

That’s obvious, right?

However, we are currently seeing a lot of Covid-19 violations. This includes mostly requirements of social distancing and wearing masks. Just look at some of the so-called ‘party destinations’ where people have come together in large groups for drinks and partying this summer. Or people refusing to wear masks in planes or public transport.

Thus, when travelling (and when you are at home) make sure to keep your distance, and most of all, wear a mask when you are public places.

Maintain a strict sanitary protocol

We all should have developed a routine in washing our hands regularly, as well as use hand sanitizer. Then again, you still see a lot of people who do not seem to bother.

Therefore, try to avoid touching surfaces in public areas such as handrails, elevators and buttons.

Where you can use contactless payments, look for accommodation that allows you to check-in online and with limited personal contact and buy tickets online as well.

Stay away from crowds

I already mentioned social distancing. Well, this will remain a major requirement in 2021 and as we currently see, large crowds are still one of the main risk areas to contract Covid-19.

Therefore, maintain your distance, in particular, when travelling in 2021 you should avoid the so-called party locations.

Personally, I am also currently not planning to attend large festivals (if they actually will take place), and exhibitions. Though I am aware many of these events need visitors and support to survive the crisis, the thought of a food festival with stalls packed with people eating and drinking does is still making me nervous.

Where to travel in 2021: What are the safest places to travel in 2021

Oh well. Tricky question.

I had plenty of exciting travel plans for 2020, and all of them were put on hold. Therefore, the most logical thing would likely be to visit those places I had to put on hold this year.

For sure, those trips are only postponed, not cancelled.

However, many of my travel would have involved long-distance flights and included destinations where you could expect a fairly high number of visitors. Which is not what I am currently envisioning when travelling in 2021.

From the current perspective with a lot of uncertainty remaining, my travel planning for 2021 is looking different than it usually would.

First of all, where I am going to travel next year will be largely determined by the requirements and restrictions placed upon different destinations.

For example, currently most borders in Europe are open and travelling is generally possible. However, whilst some destinations might only require you to follow the general precaution measures (wearing a mask, maintaining social distance, limiting the number of people that are allowed to enter a particular site, etc.) others might require you to quarantine upon arrival or when you return home or providing test results.

Where you will be able to travel in 2021 will be defined by the various degrees of requirements and restrictions put in place in any given destination.

Different levels of requirements and restrictions are likely to remain in place at least for the early part of 2021, if not for the entire year.

Travel requirements can change at lightning speed and countries that look like safe destinations today could come back into the ‘risk’ group tomorrow. Therefore, it is important to remain flexible and continuously monitor the situation.

Five safest travel ideas for 2021

Staycations – Explore your own country

As we can expect that lots of safety requirements and restrictions will be still in place at least over the early months of 2021 (if not longer), and going abroad could mean you need to quarantine on your return, travelling nationally will remain a favoured option for many.

This might not be what you usually looking for when travelling. On the other hand, if you think about it there might be a huge number of places worthwhile to be explored that you’ve always neglected in favour of further away destinations.

In my opinion, 2021 will be the perfect time to explore closer to home. Once you do, you will probably ask yourself why it has taken you so long.

Check out my post Best things to do travlling in your own country for more inspiration.

Plan a road trip to a remote region

Road trips are an amazing way to discover a new country or region. Personally, I have made some of my most amazing travel experiences while I was on a road trip.

Whilst a road trip requires a bit of planning before you go, there are some great benefits. Most importantly, going on a road trip means you will be in your own car, thus avoiding planes or public transport.

I recommend you plan a road trip in your own region. For example, a trip through parts of Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, or Asia based on where you live. And ideally, plan the trip to start right from your home so you do not have to take a train or plane to arrive at your starting point.

Where you go on your road trip will really depend on your starting point and how much time you have. Just a few days or a couple of weeks, everything is possible.

For more tips planning a perfect road trip, read my post How to plan your perfect road trip.

Rent a cottage in the countryside

I love spending time in the countryside, staying at intimate places with just few visitors. There are typically many small country hotels with just few rooms to be found anywhere. Indeed, those places have become more popular in recent years and their number has risen significantly around the world.

Yet, next year why don’t you even go a step further and find yourself a cottage for rent avoiding other people altogether?

There are plenty of opportunities to find your dream cottage.

For example, if you live in the UK (or it is safe to travel to the UK from your home) check out the English country cottages website.

Find the lesser known spots

Big cities or other destinations famous for tourist attractions are usually getting the headlines. However, 2021 is the year to look for those destinations you might never have heard off before. Or you have but would have never thought they were the place you’d ever consider visiting.

There are under-the-radar destinations in every country and 2021 is the right year to finally go and explore them further.

Tough over the last few years a large number of the secondary or lesser known cities have become quite popular themselves – think Porto in Portugal which is now a highly tourist city – there are still many more places not yet on the radar you should have on your list for 2021.

For example, have you ever considered visiting Bamberg, Regensburg or Ulm in Germany? Or Brescia, Ferrara or Vicenza in Italy?

That list goes on and on for every country in the world. You just have to dig beyond the well-known.

In 2021, you should continue to travel virtually

Virtual travel has been a thing on the rise for some time, but it has definitely shot through the roof in 2020 when we were more or less confined to our homes.

Though we are all itching to go out and explore the world again, even with newly opened borders in 2021, improved virtual travel offers will continue to provide a world of opportunities to explore new places from the safety of our homes.  

I am definitely planning to make the most of new virtual travel portals. For example, I intend to check out new cities before physically going, using the ongoing offers to tour some of the worlds most amazing museums virtually, or explore National Parks.

The opportunities of travelling virtually will only increase and this is a perfect way to learn more about the places you want to visit in future.

Have you already made plans for 2021? What destinations do you intend to visit? Or do you feel it is still too early to book your travels for 2021?