As we head into a new year, the promise of a return to travel seems within reach. Now is the time to start daydreaming about (and even low-key planning!) next year’s trips and get inspired about places to spend those long-overdue vacation days. Here are some ideas to help you plot out next year’s adventures.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
Japan spent years preparing for the tens of millions of travelers expected to arrive on its shores for the 2020 Olympic Games. That preparation and investment means better tourism infrastructure and English-language resources: good news for visitors in 2021, whether they plan to attend the rescheduled games or not.
While the world’s attention will be on the capital, Tokyo, it’s an easy trip by Shinkansen (bullet train) to the ancient capital of Kyoto — home to the new Hotel The Mitsui Kyoto, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa, which has its own thermal spring spa, ideal for relaxing after exploring the temples, gardens and teahouses for which the city is known.
When “Parasite” swept the 2020 Academy Awards, it cemented what savvy travelers have known for years: South Korea is hot. Home to a population of just 50 million, the country has become the capital of pop culture, exporting everything from K -Pop to athleisure and on-trend beauty products.
After spending much of the past year cooped up and tense, the lush landscapes and laid-back pura vida philosophy of Costa Rica are more appealing than ever. Costa Rica packs a lot into its diminutive size. It’s one of the world’s most biodiverse areas, where you’ll find tropical rainforests, pristine beaches and steaming volcanoes. And you can fit a lot into a short visit, whether you want to spot diverse wildlife, from sloths to colorful macaws; surf some of the world’s best waves; zip line across the forest canopy; or chill on the beach.
Due to the rise in working from home (and drop in tourism) brought on by the global pandemic, some destinations are luring long-term visitors with special programs for remote workers. If you fancy taking your next Zoom meeting from a tropical beach, consider the 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp, which lets you live, work and enjoy a new lifestyle on the island for one year.
British Columbia, Canada
With its strikingly beautiful setting and easy access to nature — allowing for a convenient escape from crowds — Vancouver is surely one of North America’s most appealing metropolises. After exploring the city’s cosmopolitan streets, lush parks and fascinating museums, extend your trip by heading over to Vancouver Island and diving deeper into nature and the region’s First Nations’ history and culture.
Indigenous-owned and operated Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours takes you on a deep dive into that landscape with boat trips from Campbell River into the spectacular wildlife-filled wilderness of Bute Inlet. The traditional stewards of the land, the Homalco First Nation have successfully raised the once critically low salmon numbers in the area, which in turn has led to increased numbers of grizzly bears: You can spot them fattening up on the shore from mid-August through October.
Amid a global reckoning on race, Tulsa’s Greenwood District will be at the center of attention in the U.S. Next year marks the centenary of the Tulsa race massacre in which white mobs attacked Black residents — murdering around 300 people — and destroyed the prosperous district of Black-owned businesses known as Black Wall Street.
The long-awaited UEFA Euro 2020 will finally arrive in June 2021. For the first time, the quadrennial European men’s soccer championship will be held in 12 cities in 12 countries, with the final taking place in London’s Wembley Stadium.
Summer is always a special time to visit the English capital, but next year will particularly appeal to sports fans, with the Wimbledon tennis championships taking place over the same dates.
Helsinki’s art scene has long been overlooked in favor of that of its Nordic neighbors and its own, far-better-known, design scene. That’s all changed since the 2018 opening of the major new art museum Amos Rex, and next year the inaugural Helsinki Biennial of contemporary art will further cement Helsinki’s standing as a world-class cultural city.
Held on the island of Vallisaari (a 15-minute ferry ride from the mainland), the biennial should also inspire visitors to escape the city and soak up the fresh sea air of the more than 330 islands that make up the Helsinki archipelago.
With the pandemic forcing a pause on tourism, many destinations are focusing on how to make travel more sustainable. Rwanda provides an outstanding model for other nations to follow.
The country invests profits from tourism into conservation programs that have helped save the critically endangered wild mountain gorilla, which you can spot among the misty peaks of Volcanoes National Park in the north.
To the southeast, Akagera National Park offers the chance to see the lions and eastern black rhinos that have successfully been reintroduced, making it a Big Five destination once again.
Ghana’s 2019 Year of Return tourism campaign welcomed Black Americans “home” to commemorate the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first recorded enslaved Africans in Jamestown, Virginia.
That campaign has evolved into the 10-year-long initiative Beyond the Return, which invites all people of African descent to discover the rich culture and energy of the country, from its cosmopolitan cities and bustling markets to wildlife-filled parks.
By Kane Gardiner Marriot Bonvoy Traveller