a beach with palm trees and blue water

In case you need a quick refresher on what happened while you were drinking egg-nog and practicing your ‘thankful’ smile from those ‘joyous’ presents…

Japan reverted to banning all international visitors, Argentina too, Hong Kong has imposed a new 21 day quarantine in place of 14 day measures, San Francisco and London no longer have a direct flight between them and if you want to go anywhere these days, you will probably need a covid-19 test.

But seriously, don’t let that put you off an amazing trip in 2021.

a beach with umbrellas and palm trees

As odd as it may sound, the smartest travelers are treating the news as just the reason to book trips for 2021. It may be a cliched and over played sports phrase, but following “the big play” is particularly important with covid-19, too. In travel, it’s becoming an art form, and 2021 is going to be the most unique year in travel.

Present struggles are a distraction to a far more promising future.

Things are getting worse, with a new more contagious – but not more deadly – variant of covid-19, and out of an abundance of caution, countries are going to even greater extremes to close off outside visitors than in previous heights of the global pandemic. Many countries plan to keep borders closed, or severely restricted until March of 2021.

But in the meantime, vaccines are making their way into global communities, including the EU, which began distribution of millions of doses all throughout the continent over the weekend. The US and UK already have vaccines in distribution, and doses for much of Asia, Middle East, Africa, South America and beyond are in progress.

As vaccines inoculate the people most at risk, death tolls will finally drop from the wretched highs being experienced, and risk factors will fall thereafter. With vaccination and prevention, covid-19 may no longer dictate border policy, and countries may open once again without “worst case” fears.

And actually, more contagious but potentially less deadly mutations were always fully expected, and are seen as good news in scientific communities. Virtually all viruses in the history of viruses have mutated to become more contagious but less deadly over time, so it’s hardly unforeseen.

For the first time since the very beginning of covid-19 there’s actual hope, and not just hope, but reason to believe that some resemblance of normalcy could return before 2021 times out. Travel is more than just folly, it’s economic opportunity for billions of people.

The first quarter of the year may be a wash, potentially even the first half too, but that still leaves summer, which previous experience would say is less impacted by the virus anyway, and truly widespread vaccination by fall should do the rest. The US expects to have even lowest risk groups vaccinated by June-July, at current marks.

Japan in the fall? Hawaii in September? New York shopping for Black Friday 2021? There’s so much potential for truly better, not just marginally better travels over the next year. Catching travel on the rebound brings the best loyalty program rewards and offers in over a decade, and plenty of sales too.

Huge Sales Pressure

All the “all clear” headlines in the world still won’t get some people back into the skies for a long time to come. Many will wait years to experience the joys of travel again, and others will simply give added time to let the dust settle. In the meantime, airlines and hotels have immense pressure to fill rooms, planes and resorts.

Sales for travel in the second half of 2021 will continue only to be describable with words like “epic”, or “wow”. Things like $999 international business class, and 40% back on hotel stays are the norm for sales now, and as the first quarter of the year proves to be the most disappointing yet, new norms of “wow” will be established, while travel brands trade good deals to restore customer confidence.

For those hoping to make the most of opportunities as countries begin to open up in spring, flexibility policies make it easier than ever to swap flights to different dates, or use points for travel which typically falls under the “unicorn” category, since availability is so limited. Unlike previous country openings before vaccines were emerging, border changes in 2021 should be more measured and predictable.

With most points bookings, hotel rooms or flights can be cancelled at no charge, or a small fee, and all your points returned, so long as you cancel in advance. This presents a fantastic way to optimistically book travel for 2021, with little risk on the table, should plans change.

If you’d like to know more about how GSTP is planning personal travels in 2021, read more here. It’s going to get worse first, but it’s going to get truly better too.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I got a great deal LAX to LHR business class the end of July for 136,000 miles round trip so I’m hopeful.

  2. Borders open or closed…it makes of course a difference; much bigger for all couples living in different countries and apart from months and months.
    I’m an European citizen, in a love relationship since 2018 with my Californian fiancé. The fact is that married couples are permitted to be reunited and unmarried not. It makes all of us feeling discriminated; tourism is completely different from love. It would be very easygoing, permitting enter only to tested negative people. No risk at all, no discrimination. Married couples don’t need negative test, so they are allowed to fly even if positive because no one is checking them in EU or US.

  3. @Gio74, while we are sympathetic to your distant love situation, negative tests do not mean “no risk at all” as even PCR tests have non-negligible count of false negatives.

    You do have a fair point for married people not being tested.

  4. Love the positivity…I need it. I rescheduled two trips from 2020 to 2021…Rome first week of June and France mid September…maybe a third next Christmas in London and Amsterdam when the dates open up to book with Delta. Hope we can enjoy at least two…I am just collecting the points and miles now.

  5. I am in Sydney Australia (28th Dec) and because I have a dog have to go through Singapore to get home to UK it now looks like June – the new strain of Covid, which is much more contagious, has upset the apple cart again – Australia is not intending to start rolling out the vaccine until March.

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