It’s been almost a year since COVID-19 restrictions started, and let’s face it, it’s been tough. Our daily routines have been up in the air. Our usual coping mechanisms – like going down the pub, having friends round, and going on holiday – have been taken away. Still, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Especially for those of us who are happy to plan a trip a year in advance.
While 2021 might not be a big year for holidays, we’re feeling confident about 2022. And, although the UK is likely to be in strict lockdown for a good while yet, we can still work on our long-term travel plans. Especially to once-in-a-lifetime destinations.
It is hard to say what will happen next year. While you’re planning, remember that things might not be fully back to normal in 2022. You’ll still need to keep an eye on the government’s travel advice, and COVID-19 rules and regulations in your destination.
These incredible destinations benefit from advance planning. If you want to plan a trip a year in advance, they’re a great place to start.
Where to plan a trip a year in advance
- Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, USA
- The Garden Route, South Africa
- The Golden Triangle, India
- Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
- The Inca Trail, Peru
- Banana Pancake Trail, Southeast Asia
1. Plan a Disney trip a year in advance
When it comes to once-in-a-lifetime experiences, Disney World Resort in Orlando is up there. And, with a year to plan your trip, you can really make it magical. The most avid Disney-goers recommend giving yourself at least six months to plan. After all, the resort is absolutely massive. There are four theme parks to explore: Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. Take time to check out the different features and rides in each park, and decide how you want to split your schedule.
Reservations for dining and special events usually open up 180 days in advance. Some high-demand events, like the Be Our Guest Restaurant, Cinderella’s Royal Table and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, sell out fast. Knowing exactly where you want to eat, and what you want to do, will help you when it’s time to book.
2. Drive the Garden Route, South Africa
The 200km stretch of coastline from South Africa’s Western to Eastern cape makes for an incredible road trip. On the way you’ll pass paradise beaches, lush forests and barren deserts. The route is studded with quaint towns and national parks. Deciding where to stop – and what to do – takes a lot of forward planning. Go mountain biking in the Swartberg Mountains and whale watching in Hermanus, or tackle a luxury multi-day hike in the Tsitsikamma Forest.
There are lots of quirky accommodation options along the route and fun places to stop. A photo op and lunch at Ronnie’s Sex Shop, just outside Barrydale, is a must. Legend goes that Ronnie’s friends pulled a prank on him by writing the word ‘sex’ on the sign for his new farm stand – so he kept it and turned it into a bar instead.
You might also want to consider adding a few days on to explore the winelands and towns like Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, where you can hop between vineyards on a vintage tram.
If you don’t have a car, the Baz Bus offers a door-to-door hop-on, hop-off service between hostels.
3. Explore the Golden Triangle, India
This well-trodden route connects three of India’s most famous cities: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. It’s the perfect introduction to the subcontinent. October to March is the best time to visit, while the weather is slightly cooler and the flowers are in full bloom. Most travellers know this, so booking early gives you a better chance at snapping up the best accommodation. You can either drive between the cities or, for a more authentic experience, take the train.
If you don’t fancy joining a package tour, you’ll need to give yourself plenty of time to plan your itinerary. There are lots of things to do aside from visiting The Amber Fort, Jama Masjid and the Taj Mahal (although those will surely be highlights). You can track wild tigers in Ranthambore National Park, shop for spices in Delhi’s Khari Baoli market or take a class in block printing in Jaipur.
4. Drive the Great Ocean Road, Australia
A road trip along the south coast of Australia is just the tonic after two years stuck at home. The Great Ocean Road drive in Victoria is roughly 249 miles long, so it’s easy to do in a few days. Stop off and lounge on the golden beach at Anglesea, or surf world-famous waves at Bells Beach. Pay a visit to the thriving art community in Lorne, or take a hike through Great Otway National Park with its waterfalls and gorges. Don’t forget to visit the wineries in McLaren Vale – but maybe leave your car at the hotel for that part.
If you’ve always wanted to visit Australia, 2022 could be your next chance. Australia’s border is likely to remain closed for the rest of 2021. This could be a blessing in disguise for travellers. After all, Australia is a vast country. There are so many things to do and see that you’ll need the time to work out what your itinerary should look like. If you’re thinking of taking a gap year for a working holiday down under, you’ll need the time to apply for a visa.
5. Hike the Inca trail, Peru
By 2022 we’ll have spent the best part of two years sitting on our bottoms. What better way to get moving again than with a hiking holiday? The Inca Trail is one of the most famous multi-day walks in the world, but it needs advance planning. Mainly for practical reasons. Machu Picchu is a designated World Heritage Site, and it’s in a protected area. The number of daily visitors is limited. To visit, you’ll need to get one of the highly sought-after permits or book onto a group tour. The busiest months are August and September.
Another reason to book the Inca Trail in advance is to make sure you have plenty of time to train. You’ll be walking for upwards of six hours each day, and a lot of it is uphill. Over the next year you’ll want to spend some time breaking in your hiking boots. Once lockdown restrictions in the UK lift, consider some short breaks to regions like the Lake District and Scottish Highlands to practice your hill-walking.
6. Follow the Banana Pancake Trail, Southeast Asia
If you want to see some of the most iconic places in Southeast Asia, follow the Banana Pancake Trail. This loosely defined route covers the main backpacker hotspots across Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. It gets its name from the sweet breakfasts served in hostels across the region. As well as UNESCO-listed heritage spots you’ll also find party towns, sometimes a stone’s throw from each other. Siem Reap in Cambodia is the gateway to the Angkor Wat temple complex, and is known for its buzzing bars.
The Banana Pancake Trail is popular with long-term budget travellers for a reason. There are lots of cities, villages and islands to visit. It would be impossible to see everything during a two week holiday. Planning your trip a year in advance makes deciding which places to visit feel a bit less overwhelming. It also gives you time to decide what you want to do. Tubing the rivers of Vang Vieng in Laos? Earning your scuba diving license on Thailand’s Koh Lanta? Taking a cruise through the otherworldly landscape of Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay? With a year to plan, it’s easy to build your dream itinerary.
7. Cruise around Antarctica
The seventh continent is the final frontier for many travellers. One of the last unspoiled corners of the Earth, it’s a natural pardise. Cruises sail through mirror-flat waters and between towering mountains of ice. At night the sky is lit by the aurora australis (southern lights). By day you’ll see troops of penguins, whales and seals in their natural environment.
Cruises are expensive but the best prices can be secured if you book nine months to one year in advance. Despite the high prices, they usually sell out. Getting in early makes sure you can get on board the voyage that you want. Some cruises offer optional extras like the opportunity to go kayaking. Again, these excursions are very popular so booking in advance is the best way to secure your space. Booking early also means you’re more likely to get a good deal on your flights to Ushuaia. This resort town in Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego is where most cruises leave from.
Discover where you can go
Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.
Plan a trip a year in advance FAQ
While you can easily plan a trip a year in advance, booking is another matter. It all depends on your airline and hotel. As a rule of thumb, most airlines and hotel chains open their calendars around 11 months in advance, but obviously it varies. Still, having your plan in place will let you get in there first when they do go on sale. Plus, the earlier you book, the more likely you are to snap up a bargain.
It depends. The main things to think about are availability, complexity and group size. Some sought-after cruises and destination hotels sell out well in advance, so the earlier you book the better. If you have a complicated itinerary with lots of moving parts, your entire trip could be ruined if just one element has no availability. For large groups, booking ahead makes it more likely that you’ll be able to get rooms in the same hotel, spaces on the same tours and large tables in the same restaurants.
With the vaccine rollout well underway, and the travel industry well-versed in new hygiene measures, it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic. Then again, it’s worth erring on the side of caution. We’d say leave the big international trips to 2022. This year, it might be best to stick to domestic travel or closer to home in Europe. Always look for flexible options while booking your trip, so if something does happen (e.g. your destination being removed from the travel corridor list) you won’t be out of pocket.
In terms of maximising your health, happiness and productivity, experts recommend spending 30-45 days per year on holiday. The best way to split this is into two longer trips (14 days or more) with a few short breaks to split up the year. Obviously it’s up to you how often you want to travel, and up to your work how often you’re able to. But these stats are based on studies, and who are we to argue?
Want to read more?
- Coronavirus travel advice: the latest information and guidance about travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic, updated regularly
- Best all-inclusive hotels for a relaxing post-lockdown break: if being waited on hand and foot while soaking up the sun sounds like a dream right now, add these hotels to your list
- 10 adventure holidays in the UK and abroad: add some adrenaline to your future trip-planning with these ideas for adventure holidays, both at home and overseas.