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How to plan travel in 2021

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

2020 has thrown a lot of things out of whack, including our travel plans big and small. International travel restrictions, COVID-19 outbreaks, and a general safety concerns have stopped many people travelling. But, with the hope of a vaccine and some travel bubbles on the horizon, travellers are wondering about travel planning in 2021.

While there’s no simple answer, lots of airlines, hotels, and countries around the world have made changes that could see travel being more of a possibility next year. So, if you’re feeling ready for more adventure (a.k.a exploring beyond your backyard) in 2021, we’ll show you how to find the best travel deals, flexible booking policies, and lots more to help make the most of your 2021 travel plans.

Travel guidelines and restrictions are changing everyday, so we strongly recommend staying up-to-date with the guidance at the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Things to know about booking future travel in 2021

Knowing how to plan travel in 2019 and knowing how to plan travel in 2021 are two very different things. While it was once less common to have a flight cancelled or rescheduled, these changes are more recurrent nowadays as airlines adapt to changing government restrictions, border closures, and passenger demand.

Opt for flexible fares

Non-refundable flights and set travel dates used to be a way to save money on flights, but this won’t be an ideal travel planning strategy for 2021 as schedules can change without much notice. Don’t worry though, because there are always travel deals to be had. The catch? Flexibility is your friend. When you book your flight or accommodation, try your best to opt for bookings that with generous change and cancellation policies. This way, if your trip needs to be rescheduled, you won’t lose the money you’ve spent on your booking. Check out our guide on how to plan travel during COVID-19 for more tips and advice on planning travel for 2021.

Man sitting on a bench outside working on his laptop.
How to plan travel in 2021: Flexibility is your friend

Keep an eye on government restrictions

2020 has revealed just how quickly a national or local government can close its border. Before you book any type of travel going forward, always consult local government advice as well as the official government advice to discover where you can travel. You’ll need a green light from both destinations. As time inches towards your departure date, stay alert for any travel restrictions so that you don’t show up at the airport to board a cancelled flight.

Plan with possible layovers in mind

Every destination has its own set of rules when it comes to handling passengers with a layover. Some countries allow travellers to move freely through their airport without any special visa or quarantine restrictions. Others, however, might require a quarantine upon arrival or even ban travellers from passing through altogether. When booking your flight, make sure to check the restrictions of any destinations you’ll be passing through on the way to your final stop. This is especially important if you’re planning a multi-country trip that zig zags across the globe.

COVID-19 vaccine facilitating travel

Although there is no vaccine currently available for coronavirus, health professionals and researchers across the world are making developments. In recent news, researchers at Pfizer and Moderna have stated that their latest vaccine trials look promising.

There’s still a way to go before these—or other vaccines—are widely available. However, the fact that trials are proving to be effective and suitable for human trials shows that there’s hope for an improvement in global health. This means that there’s potential for a return more travel in the future. Until then, it’s important we all stick to the combination of face masks, physical distancing, and washing your hands on a regular basis.

Man guarding a subway car wearing a mask
How to plan travel in 2021

Buy comprehensive travel insurance

While the need of travel insurance always pops up as a travel debate when planning a trip abroad, the insurance factor is bound to be vital for booking that winter getaway or summer vacation in 2021.

How to plan travel in 2021: make sure you get comprehensive travel insurance. hand holding a brochure for travel insurance.
How to plan travel in 2021: Travel insurance

Before you choose a travel insurance plan, always take a close look at the terms and conditions. Many travel insurance companies will not cover any issues that arise from ‘known events,’ like the COVID-19 pandemic. Other policies will only cover travel to certain destinations, typically those considered ‘low risk’ when it comes to COVID-19 community case transmission. While airlines like Air Canada and WestJet have partnered with insurance companies, one-way trips won’t typically be covered. Always comb through the fine print so that you know what the plan is if your trip is cancelled or if you get sick while you’re abroad.

Who can I fly with in 2021?

With many planes grounded in 2020, some airlines have folded or put their flight schedules on pause. Others are facing uncertain times and changing hands when it comes to ownership.

But according to recent news, many of your favourite airlines are ready to help you travel in 2021. Over the past several months, travellers have actually been able to get better flight booking terms than they have in the past. Some of these conditions include:

Airline Booking Terms
Air CanadaTravellers can make a (one-time) change to their flight without a
fee for all new or existing flight bookings made through December 31, 2020, for original travel between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021
WestJetTravellers who book a flight before December 31, 2020 will be able to change or cancel their flight without a fee (one-time policy). Change or cancellation must be made more than 24 hours before departure time.
Air TransatAir Transat’s ‘Book with peace of mind’ flight booking policy means
that all change fees (one-time policy) will be waived for any
new flights and travel booked by December 31, 2020, if the change or flight cancellation is made up to 24 hours before departure.
Turkish AirlinesTravellers who purchase a flight by December 31, 2020 will be offered unlimited changes to their flight until December 31, 2021, without a change fee.
Airline change and cancellation policies

Where can I travel in 2021?

Knowing how to plan travel in 2021 begins with knowing where you can go, and what travel restrictions are in place. Countries are likely to change border opening and closing dates throughout the year, but travel bubbles don’t seem far from forming between countries with similar COVID-19 case rates. Some destinations are allowing travellers in, as long as they have a negative COVID-19 test result in hand. To discover whose borders are open, check out our interactive global map.

skyline of Toronto and Lake Ontario from above
How to plan travel in 2021

Knowing how to plan travel in 2021 may take a bit more time and care, but if everything pans out, it’ll be well worth the effort.

Common questions travellers have about planning a trip for 2021

How do I set up a travel plan?

Setting up a travel plan has a few key factors. Working out a budget is a good starting point. From there you’ll want to look at destinations, flights, hotels, dates and tours. Travel insurance is a must these days. Thankfully, most planning can be done online with Skyscanner’s handy search tools for flexible travel planning.

When can I travel internationally again?

International travel depends on a few factors, most importantly your destination’s border policy. Many countries have talked about opening up borders in 2021 — if they haven’t done so already — but this may change if there are further COVID cases.

How do travel bubbles work?

The idea of a travel bubble is a reciprocal agreement between two or more countries that would see citizens be allowed to freely travel within the bubble without the need for quarantining. Residents of other countries or regions entering the bubble will still need to quarantine as usual.

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