It's time to get excited about travel -- Here are the 6 trips I'm planning in 2021
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After a few months of lockdown in 2020, my family cautiously traveled some starting in the summer of 2020. Then, in November, as cases started to really spike again, we went back to canceling trips and stayed close to home once again.
But now, it feels like we are about to come out of the long, dark, scary, exhausting tunnel. With the vaccine rollout underway and case counts dropping, it feels like we can finally start to dream, plan and, perhaps, travel.
We all know by now that any plans you have can quickly and ruthlessly be erased by forces much larger than ourselves. So, while I am actively planning -- and even booking these six trips -- I've learned by now to dream big but act cautiously by leaning into refundable and changeable bookings as much as possible. We very well may not take all of these trips this year, but we for sure won't take them if we don't dream and plan.
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Here's where we hope to travel in 2021 and how we plan to do it.
Back to the snow
Last spring break, we were skiing in California as the world was starting to change rapidly. Two days after we got home in mid-March, the ski mountain we were at closed for the season and my kids never went back to their classrooms they left for that spring break trip.
Part of me is very nervous about reliving last year's timeline by again going skiing this March spring break, but the other part of me wants to do it exactly because it might serve as our own mental reset. If we can take this trip without coming home to a drastically changed existence, perhaps it will be our own emotional escape from the hole we crawled into last March.
But aside from the symbolic nature of this planned trip for us, skiing is also just a winter-friendly, naturally distanced outdoor activity that we all enjoy. We used hotel points to stay right on the mountain so we can use our room as a place to eat lunch, have bathroom breaks and avoid indoor shared public areas as much as possible. Our Epic Pass will be the ticket to lift reservations and mountain access -- as well as a few other discounts along the way.
"I'm going to Disney World"
Disney World makes my family happy. We spent the first few months of lockdown watching virtual ride-through attraction videos of our favorite Disney rides, tried our hand at making Disney churros and Dole Whip at home and watching Disney vlogger YouTube videos almost every single night. It made us smile when smiling was tough.
We also went to Disney twice in the pandemic -- once for just a day to cover the reopening in July and then again for a long weekend in October. That trip was taken by "camping" in a rented RV at Disney's Fort Wilderness to aid with social distancing.
But now, we are almost ready to go all-in on Disney World.
Later this year, we want to stay at an amazing Disney resort (or two), ride all our favorite rides, eat all our favorite Disney foods and stay a bit longer than we did in 2020. Just talking about this trip recently made my family look and feel visibly lighter, happier and more animated -- surefire symptoms of a genuinely good idea.
Disney resort reservations are generally refundable until just before travel, and we already have park tickets booked with points from a December trip that we canceled due to rising cases. This means there won't be a huge financial gamble to go ahead and get this trip fully booked.
The great outdoors
The first big trip cancelation we faced in 2020 was a planned June trip to Banff with my family, parents and sister. It was going to be a big, exciting trip to the great outdoors. Unfortunately, even though we delayed the trip a full year to June 2021, it doesn't look guaranteed that Canada will be ready for Americans to partake in leisure travel based on current progress.
So, it's very likely we will change that trip and instead travel to some beautiful spots just this side of the border, such as Glacier National Park and the Grand Tetons. This means I'd also get to check out the soon-to-open new Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel: the Cloudveil in Jackson. You can book a stay here with an up to 50k annual Marriott certificate available with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card.
My daughter's 5th grade free National Parks pass will do the trick to get us into those parks at no cost! My parents are now fully vaccinated, and while they haven't stepped foot on a plane since 2019 at this point since their age put them at higher risk with COVID-19, they seem like they will hopefully be ready to again take to the sky in a few months.
Because of the pandemic, we haven't seen my husband's parents, brother or my kids' cousins since 2019. In fact, by the time we hope to see them this coming summer, two years will have passed since we all got together. We had previously never gone longer than a few months without a visit since my kids were born.
We hope that all adults in the family who wish to be vaccinated will be fully vaccinated by the summer, and so we are planning for a long-overdue family reunion in the 30A area of Florida. I absolutely fell in love with this beautiful section of the Florida Panhandle on a trip last summer and look forward to the cousins splashing about in the water and telling stories in the bunk beds of a rented home near the ocean.
Last year, we rented via Marriott Homes & Villas and plan to book a similar house for a family gathering this summer. Many homes on that platform have quite generous change and cancelation policies compared to the typical home rental rules. Florida is an easy state for us to pick, not only for the beautiful beach but also since there are no quarantine or testing rules upon entry.
In an alternate timeline, we were booked to sail with Royal Caribbean in the fall of 2020. Obviously, that didn't happen. We took advantage of a "Lift and Shift" offer from the cruise line to simply push our cruise back a year with no other changes. However, it's possible that cruising won't be back to full steam by fall 2021. If it is all-clear for sailing then, and we feel it's a safe choice for us, you'll find us at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island.
But, if not, we are still going to be ready for a resort-style beach vacation that may replace that cruise if necessary. Once it feels safe for us (likely after we are vaccinated), some top contenders on the list for us are the Conrad Punta Mita, Andaz Mayakoba or perhaps even the Baha Mar complex in the Bahamas that has really been an industry leader in COVID-19 testing and contingency plans for when guests do test positive.
Imagine how amazing it will be to sit by the pool or ocean once again and have a frozen drink brought right to you. Oh, to dream.
This trip idea is one of the reasons I have once again earned Hyatt Globalist status. We will likely lean into hotel points and perks to book one of these beach resorts in 2021 if the situation continues to move in the right direction.
Into the unknown
Last but not least, we dreamed big and booked a really big trip. Christmas 2020 was a bit of a bust.
We had to visit Santa by Zoom, our tiny family gathering was done outside and the official holiday meal was eaten alone at home in our respective dining rooms. We didn't see extended family members and skipped virtually all of the normal holiday happenings in the interest of staying safe as cases were really spiking.
We want a holiday redo before our kids, already 5 and 11, get much older.
So, for the end of 2021, we planned a trip to go see Santa at his house above the Arctic Circle -- in Finland. Santa's Lapland has been on my travel wish list forever, and there's no time like the present. We booked the trip in United Polaris business class using ANA miles for just 88,000 miles per round-trip. The actual time in Santa's Village isn't cheap, but you don't own the bulk of the cash until fall 2021 and even then, you can change your mind if it isn't going to work out.
Entering the U.K. and Finland toward the end of the year isn't guaranteed, but we should have our vaccine passports and winter coats at the ready. With some luck, we will end the year with reindeer, northern lights and enough memories to make up for a few years of Christmas celebrations.
It's not only free to dream -- I'd argue it's essential.
Whether or not you are ready to actually make any travel reservations is a call only you can make, but I was ready to start the process. I have leftover flight credits to use, hotel points I've been banking and plenty of places I can't wait to see and experience that aren't my four walls at home.
We're still very cautious, mask-up and are anxiously awaiting our opportunity to get the vaccine. But with my parents now fully vaccinated, and as long as COVID-19 cases are on the decline, we are ready to venture back out -- one step at a time.
Photo by Marc Flury/Getty Images