Holidays: Mike Gooley gives advice on booking travel in 2021
Holidays can be difficult to organise at the best of times as there’s plenty to do when booking a getaway. Picking the right destination is vital – but it’s also important you go there at the right time. Express.co.uk turned to The Points Guy travel pro Nicky Kelvin for his exclusive travel advice about where to go and when next year. And, if covid precludes travel early this year, there’s always 2022 to plan for.
January is one of the best times to visit Costa Rica, thanks to its generally dry, warm and sunny weather. From the wild, jungle landscapes of Uvita to the volcanic pull of Arenal, plus a budding surf culture in Dominical and the luxurious resorts of Guanacaste, the country has something for everyone. Wildlife sightings are common, so expect to share your vacation with howler monkeys, geckos, toucans and a variety of other tropical flora and fauna.
The upside to freezing temperatures and minimal daylight hours is that you may be able to see the northern lights when visiting Finland in January. The lights are visible over 200 nights per year in this Nordic country.
Beachcombers should jet off to the French island of St. Barts this January for some glamour and glitz.
February in Mexico is dry, warm and quiet after the busy holiday season. Nature lovers can expect to the annual monarch butterfly migration when hundreds of millions of monarchs migrate to the country. It also happens to be prime whale-watching season, when grey and humpback whales migrate to the warm Pacific waters of Baja California.
February is a prime month for ball-goers all across Austria; expect Cinderella-esque events in palaces where you can don a gown and waltz the night away.
Who wouldn’t want to spend their February exploring salt flats with wild flamingos? The Salar de Uyuni is one of Bolivia’s most extraordinary natural wonders. It’s more than 4,000 square miles of glittering salt.
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Holidays 2021: Picking the right destination is vital – but it’s also key you go at the right time
And though hordes of tourists flock to Japan to see the famous cherry blossoms, Taiwan is also a great (and far less crowded) place to admire the blushing pink blooms. Seeing them at the Yangmingshan National Park is particularly enjoyable in mid-March, and it’s a quick day trip from Taipei.
With pleasant daytime temperatures and ample sunshine, spring is the ideal time to visit the North African country before the suffocating heat of summer sets in.
March in Nepal means mild weather, making it an ideal month for outdoor activities. Hiking to the Everest base camp continues to be one of the nation’s most popular treks. The most local experience you can have in Nepal is participating in the Holi festival during which people celebrate by dancing, singing and throwing colourful powder and water at each other.
Though a chill will still blow across the island, seeing the emerging greenery of the Irish countryside makes for a special kind of spring holiday. Consider a road trip around the fan-favourite Ring of Kerry: a 100-mile route that guides you through some truly spectacular scenery with harrowing curves, quaint villages and vertigo-inducing sea views. Check out the Cliffs of Moher, which tower up to 700 feet over the sea, or visit one of the 30,000 castles scattered across the rolling Irish hills.
Belize has one of the most impressive reefs in all the world, they’re doing everything they can to protect it. (The nation has also banned offshore oil drilling.) Beyond the standard Blue Hole dive, snorkelers and divers can experience the whale shark migration. Swim alongside these special animals as they feed and migrate a few days before and after the full moon on April 19. Party animals should head to islands such as Caye Caulker, Caye Ambergris or the peninsula of Placencia.
Bermuda is a wonderful destination for a getaway even with the kids in tow, with many family-friendly spots like the Bermuda Aquarium and the National Playground, which features structures like a giant eel and lighthouse that kids can climb and play on.
With Israel Independence Day there’s plenty to celebrate. And getting to and from the country’s two most important cities will soon get even easier, especially since Israel working on a high-speed rail linking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, will which will cut the travel time in half. Tel Aviv is a world-class beach city with incredible food and nightlife, and religious or not, everyone can appreciate the mix of Jewish, Muslim and Christian history and culture that makes Jerusalem one of the oldest and holiest cities in the world.
May is the start of Mozambique’s dry season, meaning beach bums should head to the country known as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean” for its off-the-beaten-path shores. Because the weather is unfalteringly warm in May, so are the waters, meaning it’s the perfect time for diving, snorkelling, swimming and boating.
There’s never really a bad time to indulge in Spain’s delicious cuisine or to experience the country’s vibrant culture and ambience. But May is especially ideal because, despite the long days, the extreme heat of summer hasn’t yet arrived.
For travellers heading to Machu Picchu, one of Peru’s greatest draws, there’s more urgency than ever before. It’s being threatened by mass tourism, so the quicker you can experience the bucket-list destination, the better. Fortunately, Peru’s allure extends well beyond the ruins of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Other roads less travelled include seeing condors fly at Colca Canyon, exploring the islands of Lake Titicaca and trekking through less popular, but equally impressive, Inca ruins such as Choquequirao, the so-called sacred sister of Machu Picchu.
June falls within Malaysia’s dry season, though your best bet for a rain-free vacation will be along the east coast. Start your trip on the Malaysian island of Borneo, where you can attend the Gawai Dayak festival in honour of the season’s harvest, in the region of Sarawak. Join the lively parades, visit tribal longhouses and hang with locals all decked out in a traditional dress. Then, travel to central Borneo and join the Lul Bawang tribe in celebration of Irau Aco Lun Bawang: a cultural festival with parades, music, dances and delicious cuisine. You shouldn’t leave Borneo without doing a Malaysian safari in Sabah, where you can view orangutans in their natural habitat.
Kick-off your summer Adriatic adventure by flying to Dubrovnik. Once there, plan to live out your “Game of Thrones” fantasy, visiting spots where Cersei’s walk of shame and King Joffrey’s tournament were filmed.
Sicilian summers are steaming hot, but you can cool off at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Scala dei Turchi (the Stairs of Turk) made The Point Guy’s 2018 beach hotlist for its impressive limestone staircase that juts into the sea. And this year’s selection of best European beaches included Rabbit Beach, on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, which is known for its population of loggerhead turtles.
Over the past few years, Ibiza has started to change. While the electronic music and party scene remain one of the best in the world, many other parts of the island are slowly transforming into high-end, luxury escapes.
Verona is home to Shakespeare’s most famous love story, Romeo and Juliet. Visitors can actually visit Juliet’s home and see the balcony where all the magic was said to have happened. And while holidaymakers are invading the nearby, overcrowded tourist hotspot of Venice, Verona is a wonderful respite from the crowds.
Holidays 2021: August is cool and dry — the perfect time to visit the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Okavango Delta, Botswana
August is cool and dry — the perfect time to visit — especially for game viewing during a safari. There’s less humidity, meaning fewer insects and less chance of insect-borne illnesses like malaria. And the dry season is the best time for spotting wildlife because it takes several months for the waters collected during the rainy season to travel through the vast Okavango Delta, meaning the floodwaters remain on the ground, attracting herds of animals such as buffalo, elephants and antelope.
This southern French city is the perfect alternative to the French Riviera if you’re looking for a less haughty holiday. The city retains a stately, elegant feel, but one that makes all travellers feel welcome.
Newport, Rhode Island
If the thought of a quintessential American summer proves intriguing, head over to the state of Rhode Island. Lazy beach days, afternoon barbecues and balmy evenings spent outside at clam bakes, eating lobster rolls and sipping wine coolers on the lawn is the way to do August in the Northeast. And if you aren’t a beach person, there are still plenty of appealing activities — especially in Newport, where many well-to-do families once escaped to their summer “cottages” (read: mansions). These historic estates frequented by the Vanderbilts and the Astors are now open to the public for tours.
Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is an Asian destination that sees great weather in September — so there’s likely no need to worry about a typhoon or monsoon cramping your holiday plans. The month marks the start of autumn for the city, so plan to visit the hilly streets of Bukchon Hanok Village or the Seoul Forest, which has five different parks.
Atlanta is often spared many of the hurricanes and severe storms that hit the southeastern US, so if you’d like to visit the region in September, your trip should be low-risk. Plus, ‘Hotlanta’ is much less hot and humid in September than the previous summer months. A walk through Piedmont Park is a great way to enjoy the nice weather, and if rain does strike, visit the High Museum of Art.
You may not realise from the name, but Oktoberfest, Germany’s famous beer festival, often begins in September.
Holidays 2021: Factoring in your budget is always key when picking a destination
This burgeoning tourist destination nestled amid Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Austria is one of Europe’s most affordable destinations, especially during the shoulder season. It offers an underrated wine region, skiing (the country borders the Alps) and a stunning network of caves to explore. For nature lovers, about half of Slovenia is covered in forests. In October you can visit one of the most popular attractions, Lake Bled, and admire the iconic castle framed by gorgeous fall foliage and the clear-as-glass lake without battling other tourists for the view. If Lake Bled is too mainstream, Lake Bohinj, a 30-minute drive away, sits a little more off the beaten path amid alpine scenery.
New York City
October still has pleasant autumn weather without the humidity and blistering heat of summer. Beat the snow and freezing temperatures with a weekend in New York City, strolling around Central Park in an oversize wool sweater, sipping a fragrant pumpkin spice latte and admiring the brilliant foliage.
October marks the dry season in most of Tanzania, which practically guarantees you’ll be able to spot animals congregated around watering holes. It’s the very end of the season before the rains hit, meaning you’ll likely get better lodge and safari deals too. Travellers wanting to catch the wildebeest migration should head to the very north of the Serengeti in the Lobo area close to the Kenyan border or the Mara River area near Lake Victoria. It’s also a great time to see elephants cooling off.
This desert enclave is a dream for travellers of all stripes — foodies, hikers and anyone wanting a warm, sunshine-filled November holiday with virtually no chance of rain. Though Scottsdale is the more popular choice for a luxury resort escape, Tucson has a quirky, small-town vibe with Native American and Chicano cultural influences. This means you can relax to an outdoor country-music concert in a public square or spend the afternoon exploring the colonial Spanish San Xavier del Bac Mission on the grounds of the San Xavier Indian Reservation in the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Though the area will definitely be crowded and hotel rates likely higher during the busy lantern festival time, seeing thousands of lanterns set into the sky and floating down the river under a full moon, complete with traditional ceremonies, dance and song, is an unforgettable way to experience Thai culture.
This former stop along the Silk Road is one of the world’s oldest cities, dating back to 4000 B.C. Affordable, rich in history and home to thermal baths, ancient caves, street markets and an array of architectural styles, Tbilisi offers plenty to do and see during a visit — if you can take a break from eating and sipping the wine, that is. Make sure to try khachapuri (savoury pie made of melted cheese and eggs) and khinkali, or hearty meat dumplings, with a glass of Akhasheni or Kvanchkara — both semisweet red wines.
Miami in December is a dream, with abundant sunshine and average daytime temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius. And while an afternoon of sandy beach bliss is a given, lately, Miami’s intrigue lies beyond the typical too-trendy South Beach haunts. Consider exploring some of the more up-and-coming neighbourhoods like the Miami Design District and Little Havana, both seeing an uptick in new hotels and buzzy restaurants like Cafe La Trova alongside revered relics like Máximo Gómez Park and Versailles.
This tiny nation is nestled between France and Spain — and has some of the best skiing in the Pyrenees. Resorts like Vallnord, Arinsal and Grandvalira are some of the most popular.
Beach bums will love Western Australia in December. This is the region’s summer season, with warm temperatures, light breezes and very little rain. Beautiful sandy shores are within easy reach, starting with the crystalline waters of Mettams Pool, just a 20-minute drive north to the tranquil coves of nearby Rottnest Island, an easy ferry ride away from the mainland.