- If you’re planning 2021 holiday travel, experts say to book right away for the best deals.
- Many international borders are open to vaccinated Americans and policies are lenient.
- Here’s where travel experts say you should go, where to avoid, and what to know before booking.
If you’re considering holiday travel, don’t wait any longer to book airfare, hotels, and vacations. Experts say right now is the best time to score the best deals.
There are many options for American travelers — including destinations abroad — and cancellation policies are far more flexible than usual.
For help planning a long-awaited getaway, we turned to travel experts who shared their tips on the best places to go and the destinations to avoid.
Book domestic trips to a winter wonderland or a sunny state
This winter, experts say there will be a clear split between sunny escapes and winter wonderland.
“Hawaii is great if you’re not comfortable leaving the United States but still want those warm vibes,” said Sandy Pappas, a luxury travel advisor and founder of Sandy Pappas Travel.
Hawaii requires no COVID testing as of publishing, and while its governor previously asked travelers to avoid visiting, the caseload has since abated and there are weeks to go before the holiday season. Florida is another great option for relaxed policies, great weather, and cheap deals.
If you’d rather ski or cozy up by a fire, Pappas told Insider to strongly consider Colorado, which offers “so much variety with respect to accommodations.” Utah and Montana offer similar activities and amenities.
Choose Costa Rica or Mexico for deals on a tropical vacation
If you’re interested in traveling internationally, Pappas says Costa Rica is the best choice for a tropical getaway.
“Most Costa Rican properties don’t require a minimum night stay and right now, travelers don’t have to get tested for entry, and it’s naturally socially distant,” she said.
She also suggests Mexico. “Mexico has been a shining star during the pandemic. Destinations like Cabo are expensive, but there’s availability in the Riviera Maya for those who don’t want to spend top dollar.”
Brandon Berkson, founder of the hotel curation site Hotels Above Par, agreed, telling Insider, “Instead of heading to mega-resorts and tourist-heavy destinations such as Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, consider cities that pulsate with culture. San Miguel de Allende and Mexico City are two great starting points.”
Now is the best time to visit Europe
While headlines about restrictions might lead Americans to assume Europe is off-limits, vaccinated Americans are permitted to visit most nations.
“Europe is always special around the holidays and there are fewer crowds, which makes tourist experiences much more enjoyable,” Pappas said.
Our experts say to book just before or after the Christmas period for the cheapest deals, or try “trip stacking,” where travelers book multiple trips for the same vacation in case one is canceled due to COVID-19.
Avoid places with heavy restrictions and crowding, and don’t travel if you’re unvaccinated
The CDC advises against all travel — even domestic — for unvaccinated travelers.
If you are vaccinated, our experts urge all travelers to familiarize themselves with local requirements around vaccines, testing, or quarantine before booking, and consider the risks associated with mandatory restrictions or areas with high community spread.
“Some countries won’t allow you in without proof of vaccination like Tahiti, which requires full vaccination,” Pappas said.
And while many European countries are open to US travelers, Belgium, Bulgaria, and Sweden are not as of publishing. The Netherlands requires quarantine and a negative test even if you’re fully vaccinated.
Other places have fewer rules, and as a result, large crowds. “The Caribbean has always been my favorite holy grail holiday destination but there is hardly any availability,” Pappas said, citing its desirable climate and close proximity to the US.