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What you need to know about traveling in 2021



A female traveler wearing a face mask and checking flight schedules at the airport.
DimaBerlin / Shutterstock

The COVID-1

9 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our lives over the past year, including travel plans. Many were forced to postpone or cancel trips due to restrictions around the world. If you feel like traveling again, here’s what we know about tourism in 2021 so far.

Some countries are currently open

While many countries were closed to tourists in March and April 2020, some started reopening soon after. Several European countries started reopening in July, but only for fellow EU citizens. Others, such as Greece and Iceland, planned to welcome American visitors in the summer, but changed their plans as coronavirus cases skyrocketed.

Since the summer, dozens of countries have paved the way for tourists to enter safely. You can visit travel experts, such as The Points Guy, for an updated list of these destinations. However, most places have limitations. If you cannot prove that you have passed a negative COVID-19 test before traveling, you may be required to undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine upon arrival.

Is it even safe to travel now? This certainly depends. Some argue that it is irresponsible to do so, while others say they feel safer in a foreign resort than in their hometown because of lax local health guidelines.

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

  • That you don’t have the virus with you.
  • You understand the regulations in force wherever you go.
  • An outbreak or personal illness can leave you stranded in your destination country.

On that last point: you cannot predict what might happen in your destination country. You may plan to spend just two weeks somewhere, but local outbreaks or other disruptions can make you linger in the country longer. While it’s unlikely we’ll see anything as dramatic as the lockdowns and travel restrictions at the start of the pandemic, it’s worth bearing in mind that for some travelers, a short vacation ended up being a seven-month stay.

The vaccine can play a crucial role

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

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

Many travel experts predict that proof of the COVID vaccine is needed to enter a country and / or to bypass quarantine regulations. 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 make up for lost time

While vaccine requirements, financial burdens and hesitation can cause some people to postpone their trip for another year or two, much of the world will be eager to make up for the vacations they lost in 2020.

A GetYourGuide study predicted that in 2021 more people will travel than in 2020 (obviously) and 2019 combined.

That’s something you may want to include in your travel planning. If your intended destination is a historically busy place to begin with, chances are it will be even more crowded in 2021 as the journey resumes. You may want to choose a more remote destination or even bite off the crowds of travelers by delaying your trip.

Airline prices can go up

We saw meme-worthy travel deals in the spring and summer of 2020, when no one wanted to get close to a plane. However, flight prices went up as more people began to feel comfortable flying again.

Airlines took a beating in 2020, so you’d think they’d be offering dirt-cheap prices to encourage people to travel once they’ve been vaccinated. However, it appears that the exact opposite can happen.

As tourism recovers, airlines know people will pay to travel. They will likely count on the despair and excitement of those eager to finally get out of their homes. They also know that many will be willing to pay extra to finally take that dream trip to Paris they planned during quarantine.

Tourism will look different

While this pandemic brought the entire world to a halt, few industries were hit harder than tourism. Global companies with large cash stocks are likely to be fine, but many small businesses have been forced to close their doors. These include boutique hotels, local tour companies and restaurants around the world.

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

How does this affect tourism? It’s hard to tell. Some small businesses can come back with help from the government or local help. Unfortunately, there will be fewer local options available for a while. If possible, try to stay in local accommodations or book with small tour 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 perspective on life than a deadly pandemic that killed more than 1.6 million people. That’s why many people plan bucket list trips that they have been putting off for years.

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

There is a lot we still don’t know

The most obvious thing about traveling in 2021 is that many things are still unclear. The spread of vaccines is just starting to increase and it will be a long time before we reach critical mass, both in terms of actual vaccinations and in terms of people’s sense of comfort.

There may also be issues with distribution and storage that we only know about one or two months into the process. A few companies may be able to recover from financial loss, while others will close their doors forever. Some countries may open up to tourists right away, while others may wait for most of the world to be vaccinated.

Whatever happens, we can be confident that things will get better soon and that travel will resume. Stay tuned for updates on the countries you want to visit and try to keep your plans flexible.




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