As we welcomed in 2020, many of us will have been eagerly anticipating our travel plans for the year ahead, blissfully unaware that within a matter of weeks we would be in the midst of a global pandemic that would change everything.
With trips initially cut short and subsequently cancelled, travel was well and truly off the radar as the world locked down, waited and tried to keep its citizens safe.
As 2021 starts to emerge from the debris and the promising signs of a vaccine are in sight, borders are beginning to gradually re-open, families and friends are starting to look forward to much needed holiday breaks abroad next year and travel is set to make a return - and it needs to, with so many jobs and communities dependent on it.
It feels like a fresh start is required and hopefully post-Covid, travel will no longer be taken for granted and people will be far more mindful about where they are travelling to and how this impacts the environment.
Travellers are also more likely to seek out lesser-known and less-populated locales to avoid crowds.
One of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic has been being unable to see loved ones in person as much as we like, which is why we won’t be taking any time spent with them for granted in 2021.
As bubbles begin to expand, time with family and friends will be even more important to us once this period of separation is over and we will be wanting to reconnect on multi-generational trips making new and lasting memories.
Small, close-knit groups travelling to more remote destinations will become the new norm in addition to private celebratory gatherings in exclusive destinations around the world.
In the coming months, we can also expect an appetite for sustainable and responsible travel, as well as the need to give back to local communities, both far away and closer to home.
So, whether you are looking for sustainable travel options, to reconnect with loved ones somewhere exotic or tick off that bucket list item, which holidays have convinced us of their merit, safety and appeal for post-pandemic travel in 2021?
With low client volumes and plenty of social-distancing space, island destinations are going to be in demand, especially closer to home.
Corsica can still feel like something of a hidden gem. An island abundant in natural beauty and fascinating tradition, blessed with an incredible diversity of beaches from intimate hidden coves to magnificent bays and 1000km of coastline, it’s a beach lover’s dream.
Sicily is a wonderful island influenced not just by Italy but the rich civilisations of the Greeks and Moors, all of whom left their mark on its culture. It offers a highly favourable climate, delicious food and wine, stunning beaches, beautiful and diverse landscapes, and an intoxicating mix of fascinating attractions. Plus, the fabulous new 5-star hotels, the Grand Palladium Garden Beach Resort and Sicilia Resort & Spa open in the summer.
Among the 3,000 inhabited islands of Greece, there is a small group of seven, known as the Eptianissa or Ionian Islands, located just off the western seaboard. One of the world's most enduring and romantic epic stories, Homer's Iliad, is centred on these captivating landscapes of rugged mountains, green hills, and the ever-present turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea. Over the centuries these islands have developed their own culture and identity, partly through their periodic occupation by foreign powers but also as a result of their rich natural environment and the intimate association of their inhabitants to the land and the surrounding sea.
Greece is also a fantastic consideration for groups of friends or family members wanting the seclusion of holidaying together or perhaps celebrating a special milestone in a home away from home - the peaceful sanctuary of a private luxury villa. There are some magical properties in Mykonos, Santorini, Crete and Paros amongst others that we highly recommend.
The experience of lockdown for families, particularly through the warmer months of 2020 opened many eyes to the opportunities for outdoor fun and trying things together they may not have previously considered. There are some brilliant adventure and outdoor-based holiday options that will tick boxes for those who have become inspired by the great outdoors.
The Adriatic gem Montenegro is smaller than Northern Ireland, cheaper and less visited than neighbouring Croatia, yet bursting with snow-capped mountains, jewel-box lakes, flowing rivers, quaint beach towns and amiable locals. It is nigh on perfect for bikes, hikes, zip-wire adventures and mountain-based holidays for all ages with some excellent itineraries from top activity holiday specialists.
Neilson Active Holidays
We are huge fans of Neilson’s portfolio of holidays for doers. If family cycling holidays are on the agenda, whether leisurely pedallers or competitive cyclists, this is a fantastic way for children and teenagers to discover favourite routes in Spain, Croatia, Greece and Sardinia. An impressive range of beach clubs, sailing and ski options across Europe are alternative all-you-can-do holidays.
A little further afield, Canada is the epitome of the great outdoor family adventure, especially in a campervan or motorhome. From the coastal scenery of Alberta to the Prairie Provinces with their wheat-filled fields and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, this country is extravagant in its diversity. Each area has its own charm; exceptional wildlife viewing, exciting cosmopolitan cities, remote lodges, resorts, ranch stays and rail journeys. The sheer size of the country limits what you can sensibly see and do, without constantly moving around, but our expertise will help shape the perfect itinerary.
Travel brings you face to face with the world’s stunning scenery and beautiful wildlife, but it also has the power to transform entire regions and the lives of people who live there (for better or worse). Sustainable travel has been on the rise, even more so in a post-Covid world and there are a variety of ways to make a positive impact while you travel.
Excellent companies like G Adventures and Intrepid Travel operate under the belief that travel is an exchange, not a commodity; your experiences could give back as much - if not more - than what you take away with you. Imagine authentic accommodation, exotic cuisine and local transport as a way to introduce you to the highlights of a destination while offering the freedom to explore it on your own.
We are also fans of G Adventures' range of Wellness tours created to “recharge the body and nourish the mind, and that offer the perfect balance of awe-inspiring destinations (such as Bali, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Iceland and Nepal), rejuvenating activities, and healthy food experiences, helping you return home feeling even better than when you left."
For the more traditional family summer holiday, Turkey remains terrific value and the Gloria Golf Resort in Belek is hard to beat. It remains the resort of choice for Abbotts' staff and many of their friends and families, and they have provided an impressive safety-first approach with procedures throughout the pandemic. Don't be misled: this is not just about golf, but a brilliant all-inclusive and award-winning family location in the mild climate of the Turquoise Coast with a unique natural landscape and view onto the Taurus Mountains.
Long Haul Destinations
Finally, with some people fortunate to have unused holiday days accrued and carried over, what about those tempting long haul destinations where having a little extra time to explore or to consider a multi-centre adventure can be put to good use...
From river rafting through the jungle and spying sloths in the leafy trees, to zip wiring through the canopy, the abundance of activities makes Costa Rica a family playground. Coined the happiest nation on earth, it’s not hard to see why - dense rainforests, hundreds of colourful bird species and the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans lapping on its shores. The warm climate and beautiful beaches produce the perfect cocktail for a superb year-round destination.
Pristine beaches, a dazzling array of activities, an abundance of wildlife and some of the world’s friendliest people make Sri Lanka an exciting destination to visit year-round. A string of exciting new hotels, alongside the blissful tropical climate, laid-back vibe, fantastic surf and scenic landscapes makes touring this small island irresistible.
Japan’s unique mash-up of modern culture and ancient tradition make it a highly desirable family destination and there are a variety of wonderful small group and self-guided tours available. 2021 not only sees the delayed summer Olympics in Tokyo but also the opening of Super Nintendo World in Osaka’s Universal Studios. For film fans, Studio Ghibli is found in suburban Tokyo, where tours include an exclusive short film and an hour’s bullet train ride from the city of Nagoya is the brand new Studio Ghibli-inspired campsite Hygge Circles Ugakei, a Nordic-Japanese sustainability-focused nature park with glamping cabins.
Made up of around 1,200 islands, the Maldives is a place which guarantees making memories and collecting moments that will endure. It's highly accessible, with direct flights, a climate that proves welcoming all year (although the very best time to travel is between November and April) and stunning accommodation options. For many, as soon as they set foot on the enchanting coral islands, they have a thirst to explore the turquoise Indian Ocean lapping all around. For active travellers and water babies, there is some of the world’s finest diving and snorkelling.
Africa can boast the world’s greatest safari destinations with South Africa providing options for both independent and group travel. If trying to socially distance in a tour group is a concern, then self-drives around the Big Five in wild sanctuaries such as Kruger and Addo Elephant National Park are safe options. The Samara Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape has introduced fly-camping experiences for guests travelling in groups of one to six, where a guide and wildlife tracker cook dinner over the fire.
Cruise ships are booking for late 2021 and beyond but for those who may still be a little anxious about the bigger vessels, river cruising on smaller boats is an ideal alternative and a great way to see some of Europe’s great cities.
There will be new requirements post Brexit for European travel - details can be found on our website. Our staff are well versed with all the latest travel guidelines and restrictions, and will ensure with all bookings that you are in safe hands and financially protected.
The value of a reputable travel agent has never been more apparent than through this pandemic.
We wish all our clients and readers a happy and brighter year ahead.