Even as domestic destinations reopen for weekend getaways and spacious day trips, wanderlust remains high and planning future travel has become a hobby while sticking closer to home.
As leisure travel resumes and international borders reopen, frequent travelers are already thinking of their next big bucket list destinations. While it’s been somewhat possible to get out of town on a scenic drive through Texas wine country or retreat to Mexico for a quiet beach vacation, the new year brings hope of traveling without restraint.
Once the coronavirus vaccine becomes commonplace, where will you go in 2021 and beyond? Keep reading for bucket list getaways to inspire your own big travel plans for the year to come.
Alaska’s Midnight Sun, Northern Lights, Coastal Charms
As leisure travel resumes, Alaska once again becomes a bucket list destination for many first-time visitors.
To aid in the travel planning experience, Explore Fairbanks has recently released the Official 2021 Visitors Guide, a free 65-page, full-color booklet viewable online or available for print delivery.
Fairbanks attracts visitors year-round with its vibrant food and contemporary arts scene, while seasonal attractions include the Midnight Sun and Aurora Season for viewing the Northern Lights. Aurora Season takes place between August 21 and April 21 annually when darker skies allow better aurora visibility. Midnight Sun Season takes place between April 22 through August 20 with the most sunlight occurring between mid-May through late July when Fairbanks experiences 70 straight days of light.
The annual travel guide illustrates attractions specific to the region while also sharing journey ideas for visiting Denali National Park and Preserve, the Arctic and Interior Alaska. New to this year’s guide is also information about visiting Fairbanks during the pandemic, and how guests can explore the area responsibly.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find abundant activities ranging from wildlife viewing and birdwatching to hiking, skiing and snowmobiling. Culture seekers will find useful information in the guide about exhibitions, performances and attractions focused on the Alaska Native peoples and pioneers.
Photo: Blaine Harrington III/Getty Images
For travelers who prefer to town-hop and take in several destinations during one trip, an Alaska cruise with Holland America may be on the bucket list. Adding to its 2021 lineup, the cruise line has recently added its 2022 Land+Sea Journeys. These sailings combine the traditional coastal cruise with land tours of Denali National Park, the Yukon Territory and luxury stays at the McKinley Chalet Resort, located at the gateway to Denali.
For the cruise portion, Holland America visits Alaskan towns like Skagway, Haines, Juneau and Ketchikan. Seven-day roundtrip cruises from Seattle are also available with day visits to Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka, along with a scenic cruise through glaciers and Stephens Passage.
Australia often tops traveler wish lists for its cultural cities and rugged outback. Yet there are also some incredible natural phenomena specific to Australia that will make your next visit extra special.
“Australia is home to some of the most unique landscapes and incredible natural wonders in the world,” said Phillipa Harrison, managing director of Tourism Australia. “From the wonders of our peculiar wildlife to the spectacular bubble-gum coloured pink lakes, these are some of Australia’s most intriguing natural wonders that are guaranteed to kick-start travellers’ dreams of their next Australian holiday.”
Three hours outside Sydney, Jervis Bay is known for its sandy white beaches, but this is also an incredible destination for night visits thanks to the presence of bioluminescent plankton. Visitors at night are able to see the blue glow from plankton year-round, though the phenomena is more common in warmer waters of spring and summer months.
Photo: NOAA / Getty Images
In Australia’s winter months, particularly May through August, the Southern Lights put on a wonderful display with the Aurora Australis. While the aurora is visible from several locations across the country, Tasmania is known for the best viewing spots in Bruny Island, Bathurst Harbour and Cradle Mountain.
Even more colorful nature is found with Australia’s pink lakes. In Western Australia, Lake Hillier is known for its bubble-gum pink hue against a lush green forest background while Hutt Lagoon shifts between red to pink and sometimes even lilac purple coloring. In South Australia on the Eyre Peninsula, Lake MacDonnell has one of the most intense pink colors due to its high salt concentration.
Then for a mesmerizing experience, visit Horizontal Falls in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The site features two horizontal waterfalls that result from some of the largest tidal movements in the world. One waterfall is about 20-meters wide while the other is approximately 10-meteres wide, with water flowing in reverse twice daily, creating a stunning waterfall phenomena.
For first-time visitors to Northern Europe, a Baltic cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line provides an easy vacation for experiencing two weeks of cities. With a cruise package, a vacation becomes an all-in-one getaway with accommodations, dining, entertainment and town-to-town transportation included, with guests never having to think of where to stay or how to get from one place to another.
With a two-week sailing through the Baltics, visitors will spend a day in capital cities like Tallin, Estonia; Helsinki, Finland; Stockholm, Sweden; and Copenhagen, Denmark. Plus, with a two-day visit to St. Petersburg, Russia, cruise visitors have time to immerse themselves in a brightly colored cultural city with tours of architecture, historical sites and regional foods.
Photo: Www.christophefaugere.com/Getty Images
Norwegian Cruise Line sails mid-size ships through the Baltics, so guests have plenty of dining and entertainment options yet won’t feel overwhelmed. Plus, right now is an excellent time to plan ahead for future cruises thanks to seasonal sales. Keep an eye on special offers with NCL like included airfare, two-for-one deposits, and reduced or free fares for the kids.
Prefer a single destination for your European getaway? Consider a unique stay at Ciragan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul, a former sultan’s palace turned luxury five-star hotel. Originally built in the 1800s, the palace features baroque stone architecture on the outside with lush wood, ivory and ceramic interiors.
For a royal indulgence, a stay at the Sultan’s Suite features ornate doors, Ottoman motifs and antiques dating back to the palace origins. Accessible to all guests, the onsite spa features traditional Turkish baths, signature massages and reflexology treatments.