The past year has a lot of things into turmoil, including the travel plans of many. The current lockdown, COVID-19 outbreaks and travel bans are keeping people home right now, but with vaccine rollout and more travel bubbles on the horizon, travellers are wondering how to plan travel in 2021.
While no one has a crystal ball, many airlines, hotels and countries have made changes that could see travel being more of a possibility next year. If you’re itching to explore somewhere new, we’ll show you how to find the best deals, flexible booking policies, and more to help make the most of your 2021 travels.
Travel advice and guidelines are changing rapidly, and holidays are off the cards until mid-February earliest. Be sure to consult official government advice before your journey.
Things to know about booking future travel in 2021
Knowing how to plan travel in 2019 and knowing how to plan travel in 2021 are two very different things. While it was once relatively rare to have a flight cancelled or rescheduled, these changes are more common as airlines adapt to government restrictions, border closures and passenger demand.
Opt for flexible fares
While non-refundable flights and set dates used to be a way to save money on bookings, this won’t be an ideal strategy for 2021 as travel plans can change without notice. Despite this, there are plenty of deals to be had. The catch? Flexibility is key.
When you book your flight or accommodation, opt for bookings that have generous change and cancellation policies. That way, if your trip needs to be rescheduled, you won’t lose the money you’ve spent on your booking. Check out our guide on how to plan travel during COVID-19 for more tips and advice.
Keep an eye on government restrictions
2020 has revealed just how quickly a national or local government can close borders. Before you book, consult local government advice as well as the official government advice to discover where you can travel. You’ll need a green light from both destinations. As time inches towards your departure date, stay alert for any restrictions so that you don’t show up at the airport to board a cancelled flight.
Plan with stopovers in mind
Every destination has its own set of rules when it comes to handling stopover passengers. Some destinations allow travellers to move freely through their airport without any special visa or quarantine restrictions. Others, however, might require a quarantine upon arrival or ban travellers from passing through altogether. When booking your flight, check the restrictions of any destinations you’ll be passing through on the way to your final stop. This is especially important if you’re planning a multi-country holiday that zig zags across the globe.
COVID-19 vaccine facilitating travel
The UK has approved the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines, and both are currently being rolled out among vulnerable groups in the UK. The coronavirus vaccine should have been made available to all by Easter 2021, meaning that despite the current situation, a more normal summer next year (and perhaps post-coronavirus travel plans) looks increasingly likely.
It’s important that we don’t get ahead of ourselves, though. Every country needs herd immunity for travel to resume the way it did pre-pandemic, and roughly 70-80% of people will have had to have a vaccine for that to be the case. Until then, it’s important we all stick to the combination of face masks, social distancing and regularly washing hands.
Buy comprehensive travel insurance
While the necessity of travel insurance always pops up as a travel debate, it is bound to be vital for planning that winter getaway or summer holiday in 2021.
Before you choose a plan, take a close look at the terms and conditions. Many travel insurance companies will not cover any issues that arise from ‘known events,’ like the COVID-19 pandemic. Other policies will only cover travel to certain destinations, typically those considered low risk when it comes to COVID-19 community case transmission. Comb through the fine print so that you know what the plan is if your trip is cancelled or if you fall ill while you’re abroad.
Who can I fly with in 2021?
With many planes grounded over the past year, some airlines have folded or put their flight schedules on pause. Many airlines are currently not operating from the UK, in line with travel bans from the UK to a large number of countries and the UK’s current lockdown.
However, many of the large airlines are ready to help you travel in 2021. Lately, travellers are able to get better better booking terms than they have in the past. Some of these conditions include:
|British Airways||Certain flights booked up to the end of August 2021 can be changed (destination, dates or both) with no fee.|
|easyJet||The airline has waived all change fees up to 14 days before departure. Any cancelled flights can be refunded or switched for a voucher valid until summer 2021.|
|Ryanair||The airline has dropped its flight change fees for new bookings until 21 March 2021.|
|TUI||If within 14 days of your departure date you’re not able to travel, you can choose a different holiday for free (although you’ll have to pay any difference in fare). You will get a refund if your holiday is cancelled.|
Where can I travel to in 2021?
Knowing how to plan travel in 2021 begins with knowing where you can go. Until lockdown lifts in the spring, UK travellers can’t go anywhere, unless for essential reaons.
Countries are likely to change border opening and closing dates throughout the year, but regional travel bubbles don’t seem far from forming between countries with similar COVID-19 case rates. Some destinations are allowing travellers in, so long as they have a negative COVID-19 test result in hand. To keep an eye on when borders will re-open, check out our interactive global map.
Knowing how to plan travel in 2021 will take a bit more time and care, but it’ll be well worth the effort once it’s possible again.
FAQs: Planning a trip for 2021
Setting up a travel plan has a few key factors. Working out a budget is a good starting point. From there you’ll want to look at destinations, flights, hotels, dates and tours. Travel insurance is a must these days. Thankfully, most planning can be done online with Skyscanner’s handy search tools.
Currently, the UK is under lockdown and there are travel bans in place between the UK and many countries worldwide. These are due to lift in mid-February, earliest, but the next few weeks are critical for quashing local coronavirus infections and rolling out the vaccine.
The idea of a travel bubble is a reciprocal agreement between two or more countries that would see citizens be allowed to freely travel within the bubble without the need for quarantining. Residents of other countries entering the bubble will still need to quarantine as usual.
- Coronavirus Travel Advice: Stay up-to-date with the latest government advice and airline information.
- Coronavirus travel questions: Your COVID-19 queries answered: We answer the questions you’ve been asking about travel during COVID.
- How travel planning can help with mental wellbeing: We cover why planning a trip for 2021 might help with coronavirus fatigue.