What should families expect when planning their 2021 family vacations? Views from parents on international travel during the global pandemic
Every year we ask the parents in our Family Travel Inspiration Facebook community to tell us where they’re headed in the next 12 months, however, even a wish list of ideas for travel in 2021 has little substance without knowing what is actually happening.
We reached out to our global family travel community to see what travellers could really expect in 2021.
NB these views have been expressed as at November 2020 – prior to the release of any wide-spread vaccine programs. These are the views of the individual contributors only and we strongly encourage travellers to check with both their own government and international travel advisories before making any travel plans in 2021.
- Travel in the USA 2021
- Travel to Canada 2021
- Travel to Central & South America 2021
- Travel to Europe 2021
- Travel to Australia 2021
- Travel to the Middle East 2021
- The future of family travel in 2021 and beyond
Travel in the USA 2021
As the country worst hit by pandemic cases and deaths from COVID-19 in 2020, what are travel prospects in the USA for 2021? We have looked at many of the most popular areas for tourism painting a very different picture across the country.
Marcie from Hawaii Travel with Kids
Current travel restrictions in Hawaii as at the end of 2020
Hawaii is constantly updating restriction as we let more tourists into the state. Right now, visitors need a negative COVID test in order to board the plane to Hawaii or else they face a 14-day strictly enforced quarantine. People who break quarantine face arrest.
Masks are mandatory everywhere, including the beach. What’s really important is that each island in Hawaii has their own travel restrictions, so you’ll want to check them out before you go. For instance, Maui allows gatherings up to 10 people while Oahu is limited to 5 people. Bars on Oahu are still closed while they are open on Kauai.
Travel to Hawaii in 2021
Hawaii is definitely encouraging tourism now and in 2021. Hotels are starting to open up and offering deep discounts to get people to book trips to Hawaii. I think it’s important to note that there are a lot of mixed feelings among residents, though.
A lot of people depend on tourism for work, but others are worried about people from the Mainland bringing the virus to the islands, which have limited hospital capacity. Part of that stems from visitors not wearing masks and breaking quarantine.
Officials here in Hawaii are being pretty cautious about opening businesses and aren’t afraid to shut things down when the case number spikes. Luaus were open for a short time and they just got shut down again. I think things will change once the vaccine is available and there’s a chance Hawaii might require the vaccine in order to visit at some point.
Ruby, multi-cultural family of 3, living in Jacksonville, FL
Current travel restrictions in Florida as at the end of 2020
There are no travel restrictions for the whole of Florida. However, every city has their own mask mandate so it’s best to just wear masks if you’re hopping from one city to another in Florida. Pretty much everything is open.
Travel to Florida in 2021
The biggest income driver of Florida is tourism, and since the state has no restrictions, we are pretty much business as usual. There are plenty of ‘deals’ for the theme parks in Orlando for Florida residents, so we are pretty much doing a lot of local trips within the state.
The governor also vowed to not have any lockdown restrictions even as the cases are spiking. The governor also mentioned that there will be millions of vaccines available in 3-5 weeks time for residents, which should hopefully make life go back to normal.
Eileen Gunn, Native New York and founder of FamiliesGo!
Current travel restrictions in New York as at end of 2020
New York State a testing/3-day quarantine or 14-day quarantine mandate for anyone traveling from another country that is level 2 or 3, and for a list of states with high infection rates. The list changes as the situation does, so it’s important to check prior to any travel to New York. Here is that page where you can start.
Travel to New York in 2021
Tourism is a huge part of the economy in New York City and important to several regions in the state, like the Finger Lakes, Hudson Valley, Adirondacks, Niagara Falls. But no one in NYC has any interest in returning to where we were last spring, which was terrible. So we’re not fighting the governor’s guidelines.
In parts of the state hit less hard they might be more ambivalent. Last summer the Northeast, in general, was the safest place in the U.S. so there was a fair amount of regional travel between states.
As long as our infection rates stay low we can probably expect more of that travel to be inbound to this state from other nearby states in 2021 than was the case last summer. The holiday season will be an indicator of how willing people are to come to NYC specifically, stay in hotels, eat out, go to museums, etc.
Kirsten, family of 5, living in Dallas, Texas
Current travel restrictions in Dallas as at the end of 2020
Mandatory masks in all places of business, including restaurants and gyms. Social distancing required in restaurants and recommended in stores. No current travel restrictions.
Travel to Dallas in 2021
In the southern United States, we have seen a lot of interstate travel since the summer. Tourism is encouraged at a local level and with precautions in place (masks, social distancing, etc), The vaccine has little to no effect on closings/openings.
Marcie, American family of 4, living in Seattle, WA
Current travel restrictions in Seattle as at the end of 2020
Currently, we have a 14-day travel quarantine for domestic and international (but travel is strongly not advised.) Masks are mandatory anywhere outside your home.
We just started a 4 week “almost” lockdown where restaurants are only for take-out and grocery stores are limited to 25% capacity. Thanksgiving is limited to people in your household and it sounds like that’s the plan for Christmas, too. Most events are canceled and non-essential places are closed.
Travel to Seattle in 2021
Washington State is pretty vigilant about being proactive when it comes to COVID-19. I don’t think we’ll be actively encouraging tourism until probably summer 2021. That should coincide with people getting the vaccine and being able to enjoy lots of outdoor adventures here in the Pacific Northwest.
My guess is that masks will still be required here after the vaccine. Road trips will still be popular next year for families, so I bet more small towns in Washington will be promoting themselves for staycations or RV stops.
Nicky from Little Family Adventure Adventure
Current travel restrictions around Route 66 as at the end of 2020
Route 66 spans over 2440 miles across 8 states. Currently, there are no travel restrictions when traveling state by state. Mask wearing is mandated statewide in Illinois, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, and California. Several larger cities in the remaining states like Oklahoma City do require masks.
Travel on Route 66 in 2021
A sharp rise in car travel is expected as many travelers are opting for road trips and vacations closer to home. Route 66 is the “Mother Road” of all road trips and this famous stretch of highway will regain popularity as visitors look to get out again to travel.
The state of Oklahoma, which at 400+ miles has the most miles along the route, is promoting Oklahoma Route 66 to state residents and visitors from nearby states.
Overall, larger cities like Tulsa, OK, are encouraging visitors by promoting their dedication to increased safety protocols. Yet small communities along or just off the beaten path aren’t quite so welcoming to tourists. Plus those communities with no statewide mask mandate may be laxer with safety protocols.
Tanya from Rad Family Travel
Travel restrictions in Colorado as at the end of 2020
As of the end of November 20, 2020, Colorado is open to visitors. However, visitors should know that masks are required in all indoor public spaces throughout the State for ages 11 and above, and some counties require the use of face coverings in outdoor spaces when social distancing cannot be maintained.
As of this writing, Colorado is in the phase called Safer at Home and in the Vast, Great Outdoors, which allows Coloradans and out-of-state visitors to enjoy outdoor recreation in Colorado’s great outdoors while maintaining a sustainable level of physical distancing.
Know which Colorado counties you are traveling through and stay on top of latest conditions regarding travel and COVID-19 here
Travel to Colorado in 2021
Colorado residents livelihood and well-being revolves heavily around outdoor recreation and tourism throughout many parts of the state. In my opinion, Colorado wants to stay open as much as possible in a way that’s as safe as possible for everyone. Each county is at a different level and therefore on different restrictions.
As a state Colorado strongly encourages families to cancel gatherings with people who don’t live with you, most recently including Thanksgiving. Wear a mask when you must go out. Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
In Colorado Springs, as of November 30, we are on Level Red: Severe Risk. However, there are no travel restrictions OR quarantine requirements when traveling to Colorado Springs. Restaurants are open for curbside pick up and delivery only.
This month, the ski resorts have been opening up slowly, but their restaurants and indoor facilities are running in a very limited capacity.
Also, for example, Summit County, home to Breckenridge Ski Resort and others, is on Level Red: Severe Risk with regard to Covid-19. You can ski and ride the lifts, but please know that all on-mountain indoor dining is closed. Guests should plan ahead for outdoor grab-and-go food options only and limited access to indoor facilities. In town and throughout the Summit County, restaurants will be limited to grab-and-go options only. Indoor dining at restaurants is closed.
However, counties like Pitkin, Gunnison, and Chaffee are on less restricted levels in yellow or orange. You can easily know each county’s current levels here.
Mel, TravelingMel and YellowstoneTrips, living in Montana, USA
Current travel restrictions in Montana as at the end of 2020
Currently, there is a mask mandate in Montana for counties with more than four active cases of Covid-19, but some cities and counties have enacted their own mandates regardless of the number of cases. The mask mandate includes any time in public indoors or when you can’t maintain 6-feet distance outdoors.
Travel to Montana in 2021
- Capacity in all restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries, and casinos must be limited to 50 percent of normal operating capacity to allow for adequate group spacing.Tables must be limited to six people per table.
- Establishments must provide for 6 feet of physical distancing between groups and or tables by:
- Increasing table spacing, removing tables, or marking tables as closed.
- Providing for a physical barrier between tables.
- Note: back-to-back booth seating provides adequate separation.
- These businesses will be required to close their doors and have all patrons out by 10:00 p.m.
- Businesses may reopen after 4:00 a.m.
- Any public gatherings or events where it is not possible to practice social distancing or where social distancing is not being practised must be strictly limited to 25 people or fewer.
I think restrictions will loosen in Montana in January. Even though cases are the highest they’ve ever been (percentage-wise we have more cases than California), and people are flooding into the state from other states (people seem to think Montana is “safe,” though we have small rural hospitals with low capacity and so many people with Coronavirus) we are getting a new governor that will likely disregard public safety.
Travel to Canada 2021
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Kathryn from KathrynAnywhere, single mom of two children, living in Toronto
Current travel restrictions in Toronto as at end of 2020
In Toronto, we are in a lockdown zone until December 21, 2020. What that means here is that it’s not recommended that we travel outside our zone, but we are not restricted. Travel that is not essential is discouraged. Anyone coming into Canada has to self-isolate for 14 days, residents included. All gyms and restaurants are closed except for take out, indoor gatherings between those not in your household are banned.
Travel to Toronto in 2021
Our border has been closed to the USA since March. I’m predicting that will reopen in the coming months, there’s been too much separation. With a new President being sworn in, relations between the two countries will get better. Also, I am predicting that the USA will get it’s Covid problems under control once the vaccine rolls out. Canadians have been exploring domestically, but once we dip into our polar freezes, we’ll all be lining up to get some sunshine and warm temperatures.
Travel to Central & South America 2021
Cancun/Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Corritta from It’s a Family Thing, family of 3 currently living in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, after their family gap year was cancelled.
Current travel restrictions in Cancun as at the end of 2020
There aren’t many restrictions in terms of restricting movement in and out of the country. There isn’t a requirement to quarantine or provide a negative test, but precautions are being taken throughout the city to reduce the spread of the virus. Hotels, restaurants, beaches, and bars are open but can only operate at 60% capacity.
Masks are required indoors, but most people wear them outdoors. Temperatures are taken before entering every building, everyone is required to use the hand-sanitizer provided, and you have to sanitize your shoes upon entry. Recently, stores are only allowing one person per family into the store at a time to reduce the number of people inside at a given time.
Travel to Cancun in 2021
According to Expedia’s annual Travel Trends report for 2021, Cancun is quickly becoming a preferred destination for travelers. Since the requirements here have lacked travelers are choosing to vacation throughout Mexico, with Cancun being one of the top destinations.
Since borders (through air travel) have remained open, the government is trying to make plans to encourage tourism in the Yucatan. The main tourist area is currently undergoing renovation, which they are hoping will draw more families to 5th avenue.
I see tourism here increasing due to the lack of travel restrictions, close proximity to the US, reduction in hotel prices, and more tourist activities being offered. Overall, Mexico is working to try to regain the tourism that was lost in the region because of the impact it is having on local communities that depend on tourists.
Ariana from World of Travels
Current travel restrictions in Peru as at the end of 2020
Peru opened its borders internationally at the beginning of November 2020 to flights from 25 cities throughout the Americas. Currently, all incoming travellers must have proof of a negative COVID test no older than 72h prior to departure, with no quarantine period on arrival.
Travel to Peru in 2021
Machu Picchu has opened at 30% capacity, and the Short Inca Trail, which requires no camping, has also opened up at restricted capacity. There are a pile of recommendations to follow around compulsory mask-wearing and social distancing. While attractions are open, the bulk of hotels and restaurants in Cusco are not, so we feel that it’s probably a bit too early to visit (though not to plan).
There is a macabre saying in Peru at the moment; if you don’t die of covid, you’ll die of starvation. With government relief limited, vast numbers of people in Cusco are desperate for the return of tourists; and it appears that tourism will be tentatively encouraged. A vaccine will make it safer for travellers and for the locals, and given the high season opens in May 2021 we are hoping that people can freely arrive after that date.
Travel will change; I believe that there will be a switch to small customised groups, travelling in private transport to less commonly visited places. For example, there are plenty of opportunities for remote trekking where you are unlikely to see other people. As Peru has typically had a very informal tourism structure, we are hoping that more regulation and emphasis on quality and responsible travel will help Peru – and its people – in the long term.
Travel to Europe 2021
Jurga from Full Suitcase travel blog, Belgium
Current travel restrictions in Western Europe as at the end of 2020
Country borders are open within the European Union at the moment and people are allowed to move freely between EU countries. However, there are many restrictions in different countries and regions, requiring to quarantine and/or test on arrival. Every country has different rules in place for travelers, depending on where you are coming from.
The Covid situation and what’s open or closed is changing all the time at the moment and it’s impossible to predict how it will evolve even a few weeks in advance. Some countries/regions limit the movement of people, others have curfews, etc. Masks are mandatory in many public places all over Western Europe.
Travel to Western Europe in 2021
Travel within Europe should remain possible this winter, but quarantine and testing will play an important role at least until April-May 2021. As long as quarantine and other strict rules are in place, incoming and outgoing tourism will be minimal in Western Europe.
I think that Europe will start easing the restrictions when covid cases get under 50 per 100,000 again, but we are far from that at the moment. It’s expected that vaccines will not be available to the wide public at least until late spring/summer, so planning any travel in Western Europe in the first half of 2021 will still be risky.
We are hoping that somewhat normal travel within Europe will be possible by summer 2021. However, while many European countries are eager to reopen to tourism, it’s not a priority at the moment.
Devon and Cornwall in England
Claire, UK family of four living in Devon, England
Current travel restrictions in Devon & Cornwall as at the end of 2020
The UK is currently in its second national lockdown. Domestic travel and overnight stays are only allowed for essential work, education and childcare reasons. Travellers into the UK from some countries must quarantine for 14 days.
The Government is updating a list of exempt countries weekly. Some airlines and airports are offering testing when you depart the UK but there is no requirement to have a test on arrival. When the UK’s current lockdown ends on 2 December 2020 each county area or city is likely to have different restrictions based on the local infection rate.
Travel to Devon & Cornwall in 2021
The tourism industry in Devon and Cornwall in England is desperate for tourists to return and, outside of lockdown, has been actively encouraging people to visit within the latest government guidelines.
Regardless of a vaccine, if the government allows people to travel, Devon and Cornwall will be open. This has been at odds with some of the local population’s feelings. People are concerned that holidaymakers will bring the virus with them. However, the summer season had minimal impact on infection rates.
Throughout the pandemic, the South West has had a low infection rate compared to other areas of the country. But the local economy depends on income over the summer season to get it through the winter and has effectively been closed during a large chunk of its most profitable time of year. If things don’t improve soon many tourism businesses will fail in 2021.
Marta, Italian mama of 2, blogger at Mama Loves Italy
Current travel restrictions in Italy as at the end of 2020
Italy is currently experiencing a second wave of restrictions that are affecting travel to the country as well as movement within Italy. The exact rules for entry depend of the country you are traveling from and range between a simple self-declaration, to the need of showing a negative covid test and to rules that state only essential travel is allowed.
Once inside the country, the situation is more varied as Italy is embracing a regional approach. At the national level, currently, all museums and attractions are closed, restaurants are closed for dinner service and many places have an evening curfew in place.
Travel to Italy in 2021
Italy relies immensely on tourism so the restriction are in place but there is strong desire to get the situation back under control, be able to loosen them up and allow visitors back in as soon as possible. It is not possible to foresee when this will happen but the intention is to be ready for the next tourism season, that for the country is usually spring and summer.
Testing is strong in Italy and testing facilities are already available on arrival, for visitors from specific European countries facing especially high number of cases.
Testing will probably be the first line of defence to allow tourism to start again however, it is easy to imagine strict rules will be in place especially for visitors from countries struggling to contain their numbers and anyway only after Italy will have succeeded lowering their own numbers once again.
Region Valais / Wallis, Switzerland
Corina from Packed Again a Family Adventure & Travel Blog, Switzerland & Beyond
Current travel restrictions in Switzerland as at the end of 2020
Switzerland, at the moment, is in a very bad state, where 1.5 in a thousand are infected, which is very high for such a small country. Due to these statistics, Switzerland has changed the quarantine rules for the moment and decided that visitors arriving form destinations that are lesser infected no longer need to quarantine when arriving in the country.
The restrictions within Switzerland are different from Canton to Canton (counties). The most affected parts like the west and south have strict measures, such as restaurants, bars and some non-essential shops are closed. Whereas in the north-east region these can still operate. Masks are mandatory throughout the country, and gatherings of more than 10 persons in public and private are forbidden.
No restrictions for internal travel, although the government is asking that the Swiss are only travelling if necessary. It feels pretty free and safe despite all the restrictions.
Travel to Switzerland in 2021
Travelling within Switzerland will probably be the same for 2021, which is pretty free and no restrictions. Whether the quarantine rules for foreign visitors will be re-imposed when the infection rate has sunk, to protect Swiss Citizens is for sure a question to be asked. Nobody knows.
Despite the pandemic, Switzerland has actually had a surprising positive outcome in the tourism industry this summer as the Swiss stayed at home and visited their own country. I believe this will happen again in 2021, people are still too worried with cancellation policies and restrictions which may incur when travelling abroad.
I believe travelling to Switzerland if allowed, can be safe and a good option. Switzerland offers a lot of nature and one can easily get away from the crowd. Especially when you choose the lesser touristy places.
Travel to Australia 2021
Katy, Untold Travel, family of 4 living in Melbourne, Australia
Current travel restrictions in Melbourne as at the end of 2020
Currently, Australia and our state Victoria is open for domestic travel within Australia only. There is a 14-day quarantine requirement in place for Australian citizens arriving from overseas. Australians are not able to leave the country without prior approval from government authorities.
In Victoria, masks are mandatory in all public places for adults and children over the age of 12 and there are restrictions in place for dining out and attractions. Online bookings for all activities is recommended.
Travel to Melbourne in 2021
We expect domestic travel to increase gradually and get busier over the summer break although this may be impacted by local outbreaks if they occur. Our government is actively encouraging tourism to regional areas with financial incentives to assist the tourism industry.
Australia will open to countries with a similar virus profile first and proof of vaccine will be required. A viable vaccine program is key to any international travel in 2021.
Perth, Western Australia
Sally from Tips 4 Trips living in Perth Western Australia
Current travel restrictions in Perth as at the end of 2020
We have been able to freely travel within Western Australian for 7 months and it has been bustling. As of November, the WA controlled border opened to QLD, NT, Tas. Travellers from NSW and Vic must self-quarantine for 14 days.
At the moment we cannot travel to SA without a special exemption due to a recent outbreak. International travel is not permitted.
Travel to Perth in 2021
I expect we will be able to freely travel within all of Australia and possibly to New Zealand if there is no vaccine. As Australia has so few cases the government and health authorities are learning the best ways to keep the virus controlled so that our lifestyle and economy can continue to thrive.
Travel to the Middle East 2021
Keri Mum of 3 from Dubai Travel Planner
Current travel restrictions in Dubai as at end of 2020
Dubai reopened to tourism back in July 2020 with only the requirement to have a negative COVID test before flying, and for some nationalities, again on entry. There are no quarantine requirements in Dubai, just the need to wear masks in public and maintain social distancing. Most dining, leisure and retail outlets have capacity restrictions but are, for the most part, open again ready to welcome tourists.
Travel to Dubai in 2021
Dubai is an economy heavily reliant on tourism and is very strongly encouraging tourism to return despite a fairly consistent number of daily cases – though daily testing numbers are also very high.
The city will look to continue encouraging the arrival of tourists in 2021, with the local airline Emirates getting close to returning services to all routes, fly-through visitors are also being encouraged. A vaccine will simply speed up the full return, and hopefully, open up domestic and regional borders.
Abu Dhabi, UAE
Australian Family of 5 living in Abu Dhabi, UAE
Current travel restrictions in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2020
The UAE closed its borders to all international travel by late March 2020. Abu Dhabi emirate (state) further closed their border to neighbouring emirate Dubai in June 2020.
Whilst officially issuing visit visas again, all international travellers to Abu Dhabi must now complete a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine, and domestic travellers from Dubai must show a negative COVID test result at the border.
It is much more restrictive here still than in Dubai; masks in public, max tables of 4 at restaurants, no group gatherings, social distancing.
Travel to Abu Dhabi in 2021
Abu Dhabi will continue to keep tighter controls on its borders than it’s neighbouring Emirates, I don’t think the 14-day self-quarantine will be dropped for some time.
The economy is not as reliant as Dubai on travel and tourism with the safety of their residents foremost. I believe they will be early adopters of the vaccine once available though and things will significantly open up if/when this is widely available.
The infrastructure is still here and new tourism projects continue to be built – including a new airport waiting to open – as soon as people can travel more freely.
The future of family travel in 2021 and beyond
It is clear that 2021 will still be far from smooth sailing when it comes to planning family vacations.
Many families are still feeling the sting from cancelled holidays, lost refunds and inconveniences suffered during the disruption of 2020, let alone navigating international health issues and vastly varying rules, even within states and countries.
It seems pretty routine (and frankly sensible) to expect ongoing mask-wearing and social distancing will remain throughout 2021 for the vast majority of countries. A vaccine by no means will be the only solution; families need more reassurances.
Wherever your travel plans may see you in 2021 we wish you luck with continuing your worldwide adventures with kids.
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