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7 Things You Should Know About Travel in 2021

A female traveler wearing a face mask and looking at flight schedules at the airport.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of our lives over the last year, including travel plans. Many were forced to postpone or cancel trips due to restrictions around the world. If you’re itching to travel again, here’s what we know so far about tourism in 2021.

Some Countries Are Currently Open

While many countries were closed to tourists in March and April 2020, some began reopening soon after. Several European countries began reopening in July, but only to fellow EU residents. Others, like Greece and Iceland, planned to welcome U.S. visitors in the summer, but then changed their plans when coronavirus cases continued to skyrocket.

Since summer, however, dozens of countries have paved the way for tourists to safely enter. You can visit travel experts, like The Points Guy, for an updated list of these destinations. Most places have restrictions in place, however. If you can’t prove you’ve had a negative COVID-19 test before traveling, you might face a mandatory two-week quarantine upon arrival.

Is it even safe to travel right now? This certainly depends. Some people insist it’s irresponsible to do so, while others have said they feel safer at a foreign resort than in their hometown due to the lax local health guidelines.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you know the following:

  • That you’re not carrying the virus.
  • You understand the regulations in place wherever you’re going.
  • Outbreaks or personal illness may leave you stranded in your destination country.

On that last point: You can’t predict what might happen in your destination country. You might intend to only spend two weeks somewhere but local outbreaks or other disruptions might see you stuck in the country for longer. While we’re unlikely to see anything as dramatic as the lockdowns and travel restrictions at the start of the pandemic, it’s worth keeping in mind that for some travelers what was supposed to be a short holiday ended up being a seven-month stay.

The Vaccine Might Play a Vital Role

A male doctor cleaning a man's arm before giving him a COVID-19 vaccination.

Requiring a vaccine to enter a country is nothing new. For example, 17 countries require proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination before entry, while another nine require proof of the measles shot.

Many travel experts are predicting that proof of the COVID vaccine will be required to enter a country and/or to bypass quarantine rules. This may or may not be a long-term deal. It just depends on how effective the vaccine is, and what each country decides is necessary for the safety of its citizens.

Many People Will Be Making Up for Lost Time

While vaccine requirements, financial burdens, and hesitancy might cause some people to postpone any trips for another year or two, a large chunk of the world will be eager to make up for the vacations they lost in 2020.

A survey by GetYourGuide predicted more people will travel in 2021 than in both 2020 (obviously) and 2019 combined.

That’s something you might want to factor into your travel planning. If your intended destination is a historically busy place to begin with, there’s a good chance it will be even busier in 2021 as travel resumes. You might want to pick a more out of the way destination or even wait out the rush of travelers by postponing your trip.

Airline Prices Might Increase

We saw meme-worthy travel deals in the spring and summer of 2020, when no one wanted to get near a plane. However, flight prices trended upward as more people started to feel comfortable with flying again.

Airlines took a beating in 2020, so you’d think they’d be offering dirt-cheap prices to encourage people to travel as soon as they’re vaccinated. However, it appears the exact opposite might happen.

As tourism recovers, airlines know people will pay to travel. They’ll likely bank on the desperation and excitement factor of those who are eager to finally get out of their homes. They also know many will be willing to pay extra to finally take that dream trip to Paris they were planning during quarantine.

Tourism Will Look Different

While this pandemic halted the entire world, few industries were hit harder than tourism. Global companies with large cash supplies will probably come out okay, but many small businesses have been forced to shut down. These include boutique hotels, local tour companies, and restaurants worldwide.

To say this is unfortunate is an understatement. In addition to the significant effect this has had on the business owners and their employees, local guides and accommodations are the best ways to explore any destination.

How will this affect tourism? It’s hard to say. Some small businesses might come back with government assistance or local help. Unfortunately, there will be fewer local options available for a while. When you can, try to stay in local accommodations or book with small travel companies. They need your help more than ever.

Bucket List Trips Will Be Popular

A young woman looking up at the Eiffel Tower.
Alliance Images/Shutterstock

Nothing gives you more of a perspective on life than a deadly pandemic that’s taken the lives of over 1.6 million people. That’s why many folks are planning bucket list trips they’ve been putting off for years.

Online searches for African safaris, luxury yacht cruises, and month-long tours of Europe have skyrocketed. These are trips that should be planned about six months to a year in advance, so if you’re thinking of checking one off your list, start planning now.

There’s a Lot We Still Don’t Know

The clearest thing about travel in 2021 is, well, many things are still unclear. Vaccines distribution is just starting to ramp up and it will be quite a while before we reach a critical mass, both in terms of actual vaccinations and in terms of people’s sense of comfort.

There might also be issues with distribution and storage that we don’t know about until we’re one or two months into the process. A few businesses might be able to rebound from financial loss, while others will shut their doors forever. Some countries could open to tourists right away, while others might wait until most of the world has been vaccinated.

Whatever happens, we can be confident things will be better soon and travel will resume. Keep checking for updates on the countries you’re interested in visiting and try to keep your plans flexible.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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