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Travel Inspiration


As we continue emerging from a global pandemic, pent-up wanderlust has many of us looking to 2021 as a year to redeem vacation plans scrapped, or significantly altered, due to COVID-19.

Although travel won’t look quite the same in the near-term, and some popular destinations have yet to re-open to U.S. travelers, wannabe tourists are already finding great incentives to book that much-desired vacation. Hooks include jaw-dropping prices; greater booking flexibility; penalty-free change policies; and proactive health and safety protocols enforced by hotels, airlines, cruises, and tours to put COVID-conscious travelers at ease.

So, where might pent-up wanderlust take YOU in 2021? We consulted travel experts across the country—from travel agents to vacation retailers to travel publishers—to learn where they are guiding would-be travelers. We also reviewed preliminary booking trends and search data. Below are 10 destinations to whet your travel appetite.

Note: All travel is subject to changing governmental advisories and requirements, so check federal, state, and local advisories before scheduling trips.

The wide-open spaces of America’s premier natural settings will continue to beckon in 2021. In fact, lodges, resorts, and campgrounds at some of the country’s most beloved parks, such as Yellowstone, Glacier, Zion, and Grand Canyon National Parks, are already seeing bookings way up for next year. Accessibility is a huge selling point, as most Americans live within 100 miles of a national park, with at least one in every state. String together a few parks while behind the wheel of a recreational vehicle (RV), a mode of transportation that’s turned mainstream thanks to COVID-19. RVshare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, saw bookings surge 650% in 2020 (with 80% of them from first-timers), and it forecasts the RV trend to continue into 2021.


Route 66
The All-American road trip will continue forging its 21st-century renaissance. Iconic drives such as Route 66—which can be done in shortened segments if you’re not up for the complete 1,800-mile journey from Chicago to California—will appeal to vacationers who are wary of traveling by plane, train, or ship. In fact, a recent survey found that 62 percent of Americans surveyed like the freedom of renting a car, with 36 percent considering a road trip for 2021. On Route 66, you not only get to sample colorful parts of our diverse country in the uniquely intimate way that only a road trip can offer, but you’re also helping the small businesses along the route rebound from an economically devastating year.

Morelia Mexico
Mexico is eager to welcome back U.S. travelers. It’s one of the most heavily searched and most requested vacation destinations, largely due to its tropical beach appeal and geographical proximity as an international destination. Combine this with the plethora of all-inclusive resorts scattered across its West coast (Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta) and East coast (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum), all competing for American dollars, and Mexico also emerges as a financially attractive choice.

Travel advisories for Mexico: click here.

U.S. State Department advisory: click here.

Puerto Vallarta
Island vibes are certainly calling many of us—and fortunately, many of the islands of the Caribbean are open to U.S. travelers seeking tropical comfort. Travel experts are unanimous in recommending the Caribbean because of the relatively short flights, the post-COVID resort deals, and impressive safety protocols being enforced. Aruba, St. Lucia, Jamaica, and Barbados were among the first to welcome back travelers, each with its own set of COVID-specific stipulations for entry.

Caribbean travel advisories: click here.

U.S. Department of State advisory: click here.

Key Biscayne Florida
No passport needed to visit this island chain off the coast of Florida. The popular beach destination is eyeing 2021 as a continued tourism recovery year post-Hurricane Irma after losing that opportunity in 2020. Both American Airlines and United Airlines have resumed nonstop flights into the Keys, but this destination is accessible by plane or by car—something appealing to travelers who don’t want to leave domestic soil. A handful of new accommodations have opened across the keys, as well, which will inevitably lead to deals that’ll lure travelers to Islamorada, Marathon, Key West, and beyond.


How about an island that’s a bit more…remote? Booking and search trends show that The Islands of Tahiti, which re-opened borders to all travelers in July 2020, are among the places to top the “far-flung” wish list. The island chain in French Polynesia has obvious appeal as a remote and romantic destination in which to recharge after a turbulent year. Travel experts say if you’ve been wanting to visit a far-flung bucket-list destination, now is an optimal time to go. You’d not only benefit from current travel deals, but also a residual reluctance many may still harbor about lengthy plane flights, which means more leg room for you!

Travel advisories for Tahiti: click here.

U.S. State Department advisory: click here.

Venezia Italy
Italy might seem a curious choice, given it was once the epicenter of the pandemic. However, it’s since shown a respectable recovery, sparking renewed interest from those who crave a European vacation. In fact, both Travelzoo, a global online deals publisher, and visa application firm ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) have noticed an uptick in searches for Italy as a holiday destination. Visiting iconic Italian cities such as Rome and Venice during this rebound year, when tourism crowds will inevitably be slimmer, is indeed attractive, but so is considering lesser-touristed Italian locales such as Sicily and Sorrento, where crowds are sure to be even fewer.

Travel advisories for Italy: click here.

U.S. State Department advisory: click here.

Lake Bled Slovenia
It’s literally one of the greenest countries on the planet. This up-and-coming travel destination in Europe has gained a reputation as an active holiday destination with its growing number of biking, cycling, ballooning, caving, and canyoning adventures, while still offering quintessential European charm in varied architecture found in its coastal harbor towns, pastoral farmlands, mountain villages, and Balkan cities. Another perk: Slovenia is quite cheap compared to the likes of Italy, Austria, and Switzerland.

Travel advisories for Slovenia: click here.

U.S. State Department advisory: click here.

Hiroshima Japan
As host of the 2020 Olympic Games, which have gotten pushed to 2021, Japan should see increased interest for travel in the latter part of the year when post-Olympics travel deals tend to be unleashed. In fact, Google Trends already indicates it as a top destination searched by U.S. travelers for trips in 2021. Exotic and ancient appeal co-mingle with an ultra-modern culture that’s both sophisticated and colorful. Where else can you visit a Shinto temple, feast on fresh sushi, shop for Harajuku fashion, and ride a bullet train all in the same day?

Travel advisories for Japan: click here.

U.S. State Department advisory: click here.

Glacier Bay in Alaska _980x551
Alaska’s already-short cruise season (May-September) was essentially scrapped in 2020, so it eyes this coming year to rebound. (Nearly 90 percent of visitors to southeast Alaska arrive by cruise ship.) Experience glacier-laden coastlines and the wildlife of Denali National Park in this “Last Frontier” state, but book soon, as cruise lines will be sailing at a reduced capacity in 2021. Cruising perks such as free gratuities, onboard credits, and generous cancellation and rebooking policies provide attractive incentives.

Travel advisories for Alaska: click here.