2021 might be the most uncertain year of all time for planning a holiday. Countries worldwide are fighting the pandemic and it’s a race against time to vaccinate the entire population. If you’re wondering where to go on holiday in 2021 from the UK, you’re probably also questioning whether a holiday abroad is safe and even possible this year…
Using travel insights from last year, the current pandemic trends and our own incline, we’ve assembled a comprehensive list of 2021 holiday options when travelling from the UK. The list is set to change as more destinations become available. Covid-19 and the vaccination efforts of countries mean things can change at the last minute. Therefore, you should take certain precautions when planning a 2021 trip. Please consider whether it’s safe to travel and consider government guidelines before booking a trip.
Disclaimer: Things are changing rapidly during the pandemic (both positively and negatively). We’ve assembled our list based on last year’s trends and current case levels at the time of writing. Countries may close borders and prevent travel at any time so it’s best to keep an eye on the situation and follow both UK government guidelines and those of the country you’re looking to visit.
Check out Skyscanner’s Covid travel map to see the current destinations open to UK travellers and the restrictions in place.
The top things to keep in mind when deciding where to go on holiday in 2021
- Book your holiday last minute or choose a package that’s cancellable free of charge until the last minute. Most travel companies have flexible policies due to Covid and you can change your holiday free of charge or for a small fee. We’ve found British Airways and Jet2 to be the best for flight changes and Booking.com for cancellable accommodation.
- Monitor the Covid rates of destinations you’re interested in travelling to and opt for countries with low rates of infection.
- Choose a destination with good healthcare facilities. For example, Europe is better equipped for a pandemic and has better hospitals than Africa (in general).
- Check the government travel advice website for the entry requirements for your destination. Some countries will require you to quarantine on arrival, which is not ideal. Others permit entry with a negative Covid test and some destinations have no restrictions at all. This is an ever-changing landscape and entry requirements can change overnight, so be sure to check back often.
- Use the Skyscanner Covid travel map to see the destinations currently open to UK travellers and the restrictions in place.
- Buy travel insurance with Covid-19 cover as soon as you book your holiday. We recommend All Clear Insurance.
- Choose a destination that’s handling the pandemic well and has vaccinated a large amount of their population. These countries will be safer and may have less restrictions than countries slow to roll out the vaccine or take control of Covid. A quick Google search and browse of news websites will give you all the information you need.
- Be prepared to take a Covid test before travel. Most destinations now require a negative Covid test on arrival to enter. Find more info on this at the bottom of this article.
The Canary Islands
Throughout the pandemic, the Canary Islands have been a popular destination for holiday seekers wanting guaranteed sun. Even more-so in the colder months of October to December. Whilst part of mainland Spain, they haven’t enforced the same restrictions as mainland Spain and have generally been easier to travel to. We expect the Canaries to continue to be the hotspot in 2021. They currently have a much lower Covid-infection rate than Spain and safety protocols are already in place.
Wondering what Canary Island to visit in 2021? We recommend Gran Canaria and Tenerife for colder months of the year as they have higher temperatures. They’re also great for families! Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are less-touristic islands, often with cheaper prices. Research all islands to see what suits you best! Beautiful beaches, spectacular coastal scenery, volcanic mountains and lots of tourist attractions can be found, no matter the island you visit.
Greece was successfully able to limit their virus infection numbers throughout the start of the pandemic. It welcomed tourists all summer long in 2020! Although infections numbers eventually increased due to a surge in tourism in July, August and September and it was removed from the ‘no quarantine’ list, cases have since decreased and travel may open up again in the summer. Tourism is an essential industry for Greece and the vaccine efforts will further help the country’s efforts to welcome holiday seekers once again!
We recommend venturing to one of the Greek islands for your holiday. Swap the crowded islands of Santorini and Mykonos, for less visited locations such as Hydra, or large holiday islands such as Crete, Rhodes and Corfu. You’ll experience amazing beaches, traditional Greek food and ancient ruins on every island. There’s something for everyone here! Families, luxury-seeking couples, and budget travellers will all find something they like.
Similar to Greece, Croatia was one of the lucky European destinations that had a successful summer of tourism and low Covid infections in 2020 and only started to see an increase in Covid-cases in September. Since its peak in December, cases have now plummeted again, and we imagine this will continue into the summer months. This makes Croatia a safer place to visit, and the local healthcare is excellent.
Aside from the Covid considerations, we encourage anyone to visit this beautiful country at least once in their lifetime. The Croatian coastline is full of vibrant seaside towns. Here you can eat fresh seafood with a view and watch the world go by. Its waterfalls, beaches and ancient towns are the filming locations of movies, giving you an indication of how impressive they are!
Visit towns such as Split or Dubrovnik, or plan a multi-stop island hopping itinerary. The islands of Hvar and Brac are idyllic and remain some of the best places we’ve visited in the world! Check out our Croatia travel guides here for more information.
We travelled to Cyprus during the pandemic in September 2021. It was like a completely different world compared to the rest of Europe. With the exception of wearing a face mask in public spaces and enhanced distancing and cleaning measures, our visit to Cyprus made us feel like Covid was something of the distant past. The island’s strict Covid measures and compulsory tests before arrival helped keep cases low all summer. Cases have since increased; however, we’re hopeful that the local authorities can control infections in 2021 and open up to tourism once again.
If you’re searching where to go on holiday in 2021 and love a traditional beach holiday with plenty to do, Cyprus will be perfect for you! It suits families, couples and singles of all ages. Relax in a luxurious hotel by the beach, tour the island by car to discover scenic mountain ranges or snorkel in a beautiful bay. The island’s rich Greek history is apparent everywhere, from quaint winery villages to medieval castles and the so called ‘birthplace of Aphrodite’. You’ll have plenty of things to do in a 2-week trip!
Check out our Cyprus travel itineraries and guides here for more inspiration.
Long Haul 2021 holiday ideas
If you’re looking for an exotic, faraway destination to visit in 2021, these options look the most promising. Like our European 2021 holiday ideas close to home, the following places all have good Covid protocols and have been successful at controlling the pandemic. They’re also big on tourism and are keen to welcome visitors as soon as possible.
Many Caribbean islands were quick to adopt Covid limitation measures in order to reduce cases appearing in the region. This included mandatory Covid tests before arrival and quarantine on arrival for non-citizens This has meant that Covid cases have largely remained low throughout the pandemic and travel has still been possible.
Some islands require you to quarantine on arrival, which can put a spanner in the works. Others don’t require quarantine but will need to you have a negative Covid test before you arrive. Browse a selection of the Caribbean countries that we think we be available to travel to safely in 2021.
Kick back on the beach with some rum punch and let the good times roll… Life in Barbados is peaceful by day and electric on an evening. Well…maybe not as lively this year. But it’s still a great place to escape the 9 ‘til 5 life for some guaranteed sun. Stay in a nice all-inclusive resort and base your holiday around relaxation or rent a colonial-style apartment in town and embrace the culture of the island.
Barbados is one of the most popular islands to visit in the Caribbean and attracts A-list celebs and budget backpackers alike. There’s activities, accommodation, and experiences for all budgets.
If you’d like a quieter Caribbean island to pass time away in the sun, look no further than Antigua. Each corner of the island is occupied by lush green forestry, paving way for some excellent hikes and adventure activities. Fancy bathing under a waterfall or going on an off-road on an ATV tour?
When you’re not getting lost on the winding roads, check-in to a nice hotel by the beach and enjoy the relaxing Caribbean life that has become so famous. Antigua is becoming an increasingly popular destination and has been open to tourism throughout the pandemic.
St Lucia is a honeymooner’s paradise with exotic, tropical viewpoints at every turn. Gorgeous white sandy beaches surround an inland of jungle terrain and it’s a place where you can wind down and escape your busy life at home. Being a luxurious holiday destination, prices can be a little expensive. Nevertheless, the experience you get is one of the best in the Caribbean!
Spend your days sipping cocktails by the beach, going for a tour around the island, kayaking, snorkelling and any other activity you can expect on a tropical island. Flights are readily available from UK airports.
Similar to the Caribbean, The Maldives has remained open for travel throughout most of the pandemic and 2021 should be much the same (fingers crossed). A mandatory Covid test before arrival and lots of Covid measures have kept cases low on these magnificent tropical islands. Because of this, you can enjoy a ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday during these uncertain times.
Located in the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka, the Maldives are an archipelago of gorgeous islands. Pristine white-sand beaches surrounding layers of rich jungle. It truly is the postcard picture destination for those that like luxury and relaxation on the beach. One major thing to note is that holidays to The Maldives don’t come cheap. The majority of accommodation is made up of 5-star luxury bungalows on the water and high-end restaurants and activities.
Saying that, like every destination, you can see the country on a budget too, just expect to pay more than elsewhere.
Most of Central and South America is off limits for where to go on holiday in 2021 due to being on the government’s ‘red list’. However, Mexico has avoided this list and it continues to be a place for guaranteed hot weather and amazing beaches. Covid regulations in the country have kept cases fairly low throughout the winter months and hotels in the popular Riviera Maya region have remained open.
You can jet off to Mexico any time without needing a Covid test to visit (at the time of writing). Social distancing and compulsory mask wearing is evident, so you have some level of confidence of being safe whilst you travel. Hotels are also limited to lower capacity.
Covid aside for a second, Mexico really is an all-in-one destination. It combines rich culture with beautiful beaches, great food and cool hotels. Go for the all-inclusive experience in a 5-star Playa de Carmen resort, stay in Tulum for boho beach vibes or find a quiet spot on the island of Holbox. Activities include diving, nature parks, theme parks and ancient ruins, to name a few.
Other destinations that may open up soon
As the vaccination programme is in full swing around the globe, by the time summer 2021 comes around, there’s a good chance that many more destinations will soon be available for safer travel. Covid regulations will be in place across the planet but that’s a reality we’ll have to live with. Watch travel news and monitor the situation for destinations as time passes. There’s a possibility the place you want to travel to will open up later in the year!
Based on pandemic trends and vaccination efforts so far, we imagine that Europe, North America and Asia will be safer continents to travel to in 2021 Countries such as Africa and South America are a bit more risky, where cases are still high, Covid variants are apparent and vaccination efforts have been slower.
The following destinations may soon become available for travel:
- Spain, Italy, France and other popular European destinations
- South East Asia hotspots such as Bali, Thailand, Malaysia and Japan
- All other European Union countries
If you’re still unsure where to go on holiday in 2021, a staycation in the UK is still a great option. In fact, many people surveyed have said they plan to stay in the UK for their holiday this year. Visit our UK staycation guide here for ideas on the best places to visit, from sandy beaches to national parks and quaint towns.
Demand for UK holidays will be huge in 2021 so we recommend making a decision ASAP and booking soon. Remember though, only book if it’s a cancellable option. That way, you have a backup plan if you don’t go abroad and can always change your mind.
Destinations on the UK ‘red’ list
Due to highly contagious strains of the Coronavirus popping up around the globe in countries such as South Africa and Brazil, many countries have travel restrictions and have been added to a government ‘red’ list for UK travellers. When visiting these destinations and returning to the UK, you must quarantine in a hotel. This will cost you £1750 per person!
We’re sure you’d agree that this is a huge expense and inconvenience (and safety risk) to experience after your holiday so we don’t recommend travelling to any destinations on this list. You can find the latest version of the list here.
Note, popular destinations such as Portugal, the UAE and Cape Verde are currently on this list.
Covid testing for your holiday in 2021 (from the UK)
One of our predictions that is almost certainly likely to be true for 2021 holidays is that you’ll need to get a Covid test in the UK before departing for your destination. In most cases, countries require your test to be taken at least 72 hours before the departure day and time of your flight.
We’ve taken a few Covid tests for travel ourselves and have found them to be quick, easy, but somewhat expensive. NHS tests can’t be used for leisure/ travel purposes , so you’ll need to book a private test.
Private clinics throughout the UK are now offering Covid tests for travel and prices vary between £100 and £200 per test. Aim to pay no more than £140 per person.
To find a PCR test centre near you, simply Google ‘private Covid test in **insert town name**’. We personally recommend high street pharmacy ‘Boots’. Their service is competitively priced and we’ve found it to be reliable.
Browse the official Government travel website here. You’ll find up-to-date information on where and when you can travel as a UK citizen. Updates are made every day so be sure to check back!
Thanks for reading our guide on where to go on holiday in 2021 (from the UK). This year is one of the strangest in our time for making travel plans and it’s important to be well informed and stay safe if you do decide to go on holiday. If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this article, get in touch! Like you, we’re keen to travel as soon as possible! 😊
By RickyAuthor bio:
An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.