Imagine if you couldn’t eat chocolate for a whole year and then one day someone gave you a box of chocolates and told you to pick whatever you liked. And this is no ordinary box of chocolates. Inside are all your favourites as well as all those chocolates you’ve ever wanted to try. What do you choose first? Deciding where to travel in 2021 will be like opening a box of chocolates just like this – and it will feel extraordinary.
Without a crystal ball it’s hard to imagine what travel in 2021 will look like. Will we still be nervous about flying? I haven’t been on a plane since flying back from Bordeaux over a year ago and I have no desire to get on a plane for the rest of this year. But in a few months’ time, who knows?
And what about crowds? Will we still want to avoid busy places? When we’re trying to decide where to travel in 2021 will we look for destinations that are more remote, cities that aren’t so well known and beaches that aren’t thronged with other tourists?
Some of us will still feel safer staying local. The long lockdowns this year have given most of us a better appreciation for the beauty of our own backyards. Rather than going abroad many of us chose to spend the summer in our own countries and found it glorious. The staycation trend is set to continue in 2021 with lots of people choosing to play it safe and booking ahead for next year already. UK holiday cottage companies are reporting a huge increase in advance bookings for 2021.
Take a look at all the best places in England to avoid the crowds and discover some real hidden gems.
But with the news this week of the success of the Pfizer vaccine trials, there’s a very real chance that life could return to normal by spring. It feels that there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. Our Covid-19 nightmare could be about to end.
After nearly a year without any travel at all, our family is slowly starting to think about travelling again. We’re having those family discussions round the dinner table, the ones where we all talk about the best holidays we’ve had together – and everyone lists the places in the world they’d most like to visit. It feels hopeful – and exciting.
It’s like that box of chocolates. There are Walnut Whips and stem gingers, bars of Dairy Milk, Flakes and Cadbury’s Caramel. Purple Quality Streets nestle next to After Eights, Rose and Violet Creams beside Reese’s Pieces. Then there’s a whole layer of exotic treats – the ones you’ve been saving up for a special occasion.
So do you go for the reassuring comfort of a much-loved favourite or do you pick that chocolate you’ve heard so much about, the one everybody seems to rave about?
When the world has been closed to us for so long it will feel simply incredible to have all these travel experiences open to us again. The possibilities are endless – and a little bit daunting. How on earth will we choose where to travel in 2021?
I think a lot of us will start with a familiar comfort. An old favourite that’s not too far away. We’ll book trips to the places that mean most to us. We might hop on the Eurostar to Paris, stay in our favourite small hotel in the Marais and spend a few days going back to much-loved restaurants and museums. We’ll picnic beside the Seine and walk along the Coulée Verte, wander along the Canal St-Martin and ride the number 69 bus.
For more inspiration on visiting Paris, read my Love Letter to Paris, take a look at the Ultimate Guide to Visiting Paris with Kids and then find all the best Hidden Gems in Paris so you can avoid the tourist crowds.
The next temptation will be to book holidays to the places we dreamed about in lockdown. I found myself longing for the smaller, more laidback Greek islands, the ones that are never overcrowded – even in the summer. Somewhere like little Folegandros where you can wake up to a sublime breakfast with a view like no other on the terrace at Anemomilos before spending the day on a boat trip around the island searching for the best swimming spots.
Or pretty Sifnos where you can eat octopus while watching fishing boats bob up and down in the harbour and drink cocktails while the sun sets behind the most picturesque church in the whole of Greece.
If anybody else has been dreaming of Greece, be sure to read our guide to the best Quiet Greek Islands to Escape the Crowds, a lowdown on the Best Greek Islands for Families as well as island guides to some of our favourites which include Koufonisia, Sifnos, Schinoussa, Folegandros and Crete. Our guide to the Most Beautiful Greek Islands for your Bucketlist is definitely worth a look too.
How many of us were dreaming about lying on a beach in the Maldives while sunbathing in our gardens over lockdown? I still find myself fantasising about a return trip to Soneva Fushi, where the villas come with private beaches and they take your shoes and mobile phone away from you when you arrive.
And what about all the travel experiences you missed out on in 2020? The ones you had to cancel or were just about to book before the world went into lockdown? Everyone has their own list of missed holidays. I had plans to celebrate the end of our eldest son’s GCSE exams by taking him to Paris and Istanbul. Back in March we were in the early stages of planning a family summer trip like no other. Inspired by the Swallows and Amazons books we were going to learn to sail and hire a yacht of our own to explore the coastline and islands of Croatia.
Perhaps 2021 is the year to do those trips we missed out on? I rather like the sound of Original Travel’s 11-day family trip to Croatia, which includes a sailing trip around the Elaphiti Islands, kayaking around Dubrovnik’s city walls and a rafting trip down the Cetina River.
Just as lockdown gave us nostalgia for all our travel experiences of the past, it also made us want to seize the day, to take advantage of as many opportunities to travel as we can – while we can. Choosing where to travel in 2021 is just the start.
My husband and I keep dreaming of the amazing holidays we had before children: of backpacking around India, snorkelling in the Gili Islands of Indonesia and diving off the coast of Zanzibar. These are the kind of travel experiences we’d like to have with our boys – and they’re growing up fast. I’m increasingly conscious of how many holidays we’ve got before they get to an age where they might not want to come away with Mum and Dad anymore.
It was this need to have those big travel experiences with our boys that led us to book our trip to Vietnam last year – and thank goodness we did. It was an experience of a lifetime. We explored some of the biggest and most beautiful caves in Asia, went hiking in the jungle, kayaked in the spectacular Lan Ha Bay, cycled past temples and paddy fields and rode cycle rickshaws through the narrow streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
For inspiration on travelling to Vietnam, take a look at our Complete Guide to Vietnam with Kids, read more about Lan Ha Bay in Halong Bay Without the Crowds and discover the Incredible Paradise Cave.
So I think that some of us will see 2021 as the chance to make up for all the travel we’ve missed by planning a big trip and going on a really special family adventure, perhaps next summer when we’ll hopefully be a lot less cautious about long haul travel.
Top of our wishlist is Costa Rica, even more so because it’s been praised for its success in managing the virus. On a two week trip here, we could spot humpback whales, sleep in a rainforest lodge, take night hikes into the jungle and zip line back to our hotel through the trees. We’d go whitewater rafting and practise surfing on the Caribbean Coast.
Or should we head instead to Madagascar and trek through rainforests to find lemurs? Or what about a safari? I’ve always fancied taking the kids to Botswana, where you can explore the waterways of the Okavango Delta in a dugout canoe, take quad bikes through the Kalahari Desert and go on game drives to look for lions, leopards and elephants. Now that would be a travel experience worth waiting a year for!
And what about next Christmas? In a post pandemic world I am absolutely determined to go back to one of the traditional Christmas Markets in Northern Europe. I want to drink mugs of steaming glühwein and shop at little wooden stalls for beautifully painted Nutcrackers and sheepskin slippers. Our family trip to Innsbruck in Austria was so magical that we’re desperate to do it all over again.
Have you thought about where to travel in 2021? What’s the first place on your list? As for me, I want every chocolate in the box. I’d like a year of travel experiences big and small. So hurry on up with that vaccine!
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post. All words and opinions are, of course, entirely my own.