What’s the antidote to a lonely 2020 holiday season? Planning a trip for 2021! No really: A recent study found that 97 percent of people say having a vacation planned boosts their mood. While we can’t advise you to buy tickets just yet, there are no cancellation fees for fantasizing about feeling the sun on your face, seeing your friends and getting back out in the world. Today’s Sunday Magazine is a deep dive into what’s next for the world of travel in the year ahead. We’re also laying out the 25 places you’ll (hopefully) go in the new year — stunning hotels for your bucket list, wild paradises and all the places you should make time for now. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s carpe diem.
Remote work will remain the new normal in 2021 — but that doesn't mean people need to stay at home. That’s the calculus driving an increasing number of nations, mostly island states, to offer pandemic-era remote-working visas and travel packages aimed at the work-from-anywhere crowd. These nations know they're unlikely to draw traditional tourists in large numbers anytime soon, so they’re counting on remote workers to at least partly fill that void.
Forget cruises. After a year of not seeing the ground disappear below them, people who are used to traveling regularly have begun getting on planes again. Only these planes just fly around and return to their origin without ever reaching a new destination. With a new wave of border closings this month, such flights may gain even more purchase … and perks, like Eva Air’s in-flight speed dating.
3. New Passports
Get ready to pack a new set of documents as you travel: verification of vaccination and/or a negative COVID-19 test. About half of states require negative tests if you're traveling within the U.S. while several airlines are requiring negative tests for any travelers arriving in New York from the U.K. And as the vaccines roll out, many countries are likely to require international travelers to prove their COVID-19 status, with apps like CommonPass taking on new prominence.
4. Road Trips
Still waiting on your shots and feeling uneasy about boarding a plane? Join the crowd. A majority of American travelers say they’ll choose driving over flying next year, and that they’ll focus on the great outdoors over cities. That means 2021 may be the perfect opportunity to take the road trip you’ve always wanted to.
The year is almost over. Don’t look back on it wishing you hadn’t missed out on the best styles of 2020.
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We like a hotel with history, and this one has the most. No, really, this ryokan — a traditional Japanese inn — is certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest hotel: It’s been open for more than 1,300 years and operated by the same family for 52 generations. It sources water from local hot springs for luxurious baths while offering beautiful mountain views and lavish Japanese dinners.
2. Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland
Maybe what you want after all this isolation is … more isolation? At least as long as it’s at this hotel on a remote Canadian island. The enormous windows give you an unparalleled view of the wild, cold ocean. Nature!
OK, technically it’s a trailer park. But it’s unlike any trailer park you’ve ever seen: These seven Airstream trailers perched atop one of Cape Town’s most beautiful boutique hotels are like something out of an Instagram dream, each with a different theme (rooftop safari, anyone?). If you get claustrophobic, choose from among the hotel’s regular rooms.
4. Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico City
An art nouveau treasure, this building boasts an extraordinary Tiffany ceiling that you may want to stare at your entire vacation. When you do eventually venture outside, make sure to take a day trip to Mineral del Chico, a tiny former mining town now known for its stunning waterfalls.
5. The Witchery, Edinburgh, Scotland
This sumptuous Gothic building near Edinburgh Castle will make you feel like you’re in an interactive and very well-funded production of Macbeth. Which is why we stay in hotels, isn’t it? Dripping with brocade, candelabras and opulent bathtubs, every suite is unique — so you might want to book a night in each one.
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Though the hills of this country were until recently the territory of militant rebels, recent peace treaties have opened them up for a thriving mountain-biking culture, as athletes rediscover the rustic Andean trails.
Is it really a vacation if you’re not on a remote island, tramping through deserted tropical forests? We’ll get back to you once we return from Praslin, one of the sleepier islands in the Seychelles archipelago. Kidding! We aren’t coming back.
3. Scale Sheer Rock
Malaysia’s Batu Caves are a pilgrimage site for Hindus all over the world. But just a couple of miles away, you’ll find eight limestone walls beloved by climbers: Chalk up your hands and scale the walls for unbeatable views.
Maybe you want a tiny bit of civilization with your wilderness. Maybe even … a train? Australia’s West Coast Wilderness Railway originally opened to help with local mining in Tasmania, but it’s been reincarnated as a way to explore the island’s rainforests and countryside. You can book routes that take a whole day or just a few hours. Then sit back, stare out the window and do a little daydreaming.
Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp is a pop culture icon, the home of Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip and the setting for a Burt Reynolds classic. But it’s also an extraordinary adventure — camping, canoeing and stargazing are all part of exploring the country’s largest blackwater swamp. Yes, there are alligators.
1. Salta, Argentina
Stuffed with gorgeous colonial architecture, the city is known as a departure point for renting a car and driving off to explore Argentina’s northwestern wildernesses. But you should spend some time here too — at the very least, it’s one of the best places on the planet to enjoy Quechan and Andean food.
An intoxicating mix of modern buildings, classic temples and green landscapes, this northern city is also a great place to check out local elephant sanctuaries. (Skip the ones where you can ride an elephant: That’s inhumane, no matter how the resort owner tries to spin it.) Northern Thai food may be a little different from what you’re used to, but its spicy, funky flavors are unmissable — you’ll be craving khao soi for months after you leave. Oh, and did we mention elephants?
3. Boise, Idaho
This mountainous American outpost will be the new Denver in 10 years. Or is it the new Portland, Oregon? Either way, get to know it now while it’s still under the radar. The hiking is unbeatable — make sure to explore Table Rock — and if you time your visit right and the pandemic is over, you can catch a play at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
4. Krakow, Poland
Like its hipper big sister Warsaw, Krakow is a bustling city. But it’s less Soviet-cool and more Prague-glamour, with incredible Gothic architecture and beautiful churches. Grab a plate of pierogi at Jama Michalikacafé (think of it as Poland’s version of Paris icon Les Deux Magots) and eavesdrop on your fellow diners’ intellectual conversations.
5. Accra, Ghana
The best place to start in the Ghanaian capital is Skybar because it gives you a panoramic view of the city. It’s also a great place to make new friends — and one thing we can almost guarantee is that in Accra, you will make friends — who will show you their favorite corners of this lively, generous city.
1. Become a Paleontologist
Maybe you spent weeks of lockdown watching and rewatching Jurassic Park. Maybe you spent it doing some other, less fun thing. Either way, dinosaur hunting is everyone’s dream — and you can sign up to help out, even if you have no scientific training or are a child! Sign up for a week or just a few days to help contribute to research expeditions in the fossil-rich Bighorn Basin in Montana and Wyoming.
2. Raft the World’s Largest Waterfall
One of the most spectacular places on the planet, Victoria Falls, which straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, is home to leopards, antelope, hippos, otters and honey badgers (remember them)? Pretty much any trip to the falls is worth it, but if you really want something to write home about, try a rafting trip for a day (or several).
3. Surfing’s New Frontier
Say goodbye to the overcrowded shores of Porto, grab your wetsuit and head for the new surfing hot spot of … Northern Ireland? Centered on the town of Portrush, the cold-water surfing scene here is heating up (metaphorically, not in a global warming way) with legendary waves and surf shops lining the beaches.
4. Be a Nanny to a Penguin
Hoping to reverse the decline of seabird populations around the world, the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds in Cape Town needs your help — and your hands. Take a volunteer vacation to help rear baby penguins hatched from abandoned eggs that have been brought to the center.
You want jazz? Head to India. Goa — known for its golden beaches and yoga retreats — is also historically the center of India’s jazz scene, thanks to a thriving traditional music culture, Portuguese influence and colonial schools that forced everyone to learn a musical instrument. Today, you can soak it in at an annual jazz festival.
Frozen in time by a volcanic eruption around A.D. 630, this Maya village in Mexico is an archeological time capsule. So why isn’t it as famous as Pompeii? Maybe because it wasn’t discovered until the 1970s, when bulldozers building grain silos unearthed the houses.
3. Instead of Buenos Aires, Try … Salvador, Brazil
Colorful and vibrant, with gorgeous classical architecture, Salvador, in Bahia state, has it all. Plus, it boasts unmatched cultural heritage and significance as the center of Afro-Brazilian life and the place where its religions and festivals are most preserved.
4. Instead of Lake Tahoe, Try ... Issyk-Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan
With its seemingly endless shoreline and pristine views, this central Asian lake — the second-largest saline lake on the planet — is an established tourist destination for Russians. That means along with breathtaking scenery, you can find great beach parties and boating options.
All the Instagram influencers are in Split, Croatia, doing the yachting thing. But you don’t want to see influencers, you want to see scenery — and Slovenia has the superior version. More than half the country’s land is protected wilderness, more than any other country in the world.
Recent decades have seen flying economy become increasingly uncomfortable, with once-standard features like meals, headphones and even bottled water slashed for those who can’t afford business class. But with airlines in dire straits, they’re brainstorming strategies to make economy seating more luxurious, with bunk beds and jet-lag-reducing lighting.
Walking tour guides have seen their business dry up in 2020 as travel decreased. So they’ve pivoted accordingly, moving online and guiding the curious and homebound on virtual tours via the internet. That could mean a whole new income stream for these travel industry gig workers, who will likely see their in-person customer base return — but now have the resources to cater to faraway clients as well.