Your first trip after lockdown
On 22nd February Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the roadmap out of lockdown. We round up the top 12 destinations we're likely to be able to visit hassle-free when lockdown ends.
You can see the details of the post-lockdown roadmap, and what it means for travel here. But in summary - the government will be reporting back on April 12th on when we can fly overseas for a holiday again. May 17th is the magic "earliest possible" date for the planes to start flying again. The EU just agreed to a vaccine passport rollout. So where we'll be jetting off to depends on where's going to be open.
We've picked 12 of the holiday destinations we're confident of being able to visit this year, with some guidance on what local officials have been saying about admitting British visitors, to come up with a combination of classic European beach breaks, citybreaks, long haul and a few curveball exotic destinations fairly close to home but that you may not have thought to visit before.
1. Balearics (Spain)
4 hours May Planning a UK travel corridor
Spain's Balearic islands - the most popular of which for holidays are Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza - want to be the first place to welcome British tourists back.
On Friday 19th February, Minister of Economy and Tourism for the islands Iago Negueruela said the islands were lobbying the Spanish national government to be first to test out the vaccine passport once it's authorised by the EU and Spain. "We want to be the first destination where it is authorised". Reyes Maroto, Spain's Tourism Minister, confirmed the islands have the measures in place to set up travel corridors with other countries.
The islands also have the third-lowest Covid rate in Spain (below 100/100k), perhaps because islands have the opportunity to control more closely who comes in and out. There's only two places in Spain with lower infection rates and prospects of a travel corridor - and one of those in the Canary islands.
2. Canaries (Spain)
4 hours May Planning a UK travel corridor
The Canaries - Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote et al - are consistently our customers' favourite holiday destination, year after year. It's the reliable, year-round sunshine, the food and culture but most of all the combination of European facilities and North African weather that brings us back again and again.
35% of the Canarian economy is made up of tourism, so the islands are determined to get the planes landing again. Even now, the islands are open, via a PCR test, to visitors wiling and legally permitted to travel - but with most of Europe in lockdown visitor numbers are inevitably negligible.
The Canaries are likely to be second to roll back out the red carpet to visitors from across Europe, as soon as vaccine passports have been agreed and safety protocols hammered out to keep visitors and the islanders safe.
4 hours 30 minutes May Planning a travel corridor
Cyprus says it will be reopening to visitors who can prove they've had the vaccine from March 1st. Initially restricted to a short list of low-risk countries (and we're not on it), Cyprus plans to expand that provision to more countries as soon as infection rates go down. Since we're not flying until May at the earliest and our vaccine programme should have reached most of us by then, it's looking very likely our holiday plans and Cyprus's holiday plans will nicely align.
Cyprus is also already signing travel vaccine corridor deals - the first one, with Greece and Israel, goes live on 1st April so by the time we're flying again, Cyprus will be well-versed in safely welcoming tourists.
2 hours 40 mins Now Already admits vaccinated travellers
The beautiful Baltic nation of Estonia has long been a favourite for citybreaks. Less than three hours from London, Tallinn is a spectacular medieval city only a short hop from both Helsinki and St Petersburg. Estonia is also noteworthy as a world model for open internet with good, free, public wifi from border to border and a thriving tech sector.
Estonia already allows anyone who can prove they've been vaccinated to enter without quarantine, so once vaccine passports are in place it'll be well-prepared to accept UK visitors.
3 hours 35 minutes May Planning a UK travel corridor
Greece is so keen on travel corridors it's already signed up to three, with Serbia, Cyprus and Israel for vaccinated travellers to pass freely from country to country. These come into effect from April and May, so there's nothing actually running yet - but the Greek islands, as a fundamentally tourist economy, are keen to get things moving in time for an early summer season.
Harry Theocharis, Greece's tourism minister, is therefore pressing the EU to accelerate the approval of vaccine passports to let visitors in by May, and Greece is keen to sign a deal with the UK for another vaccine passport travel corridor. But he also confirmed that British travellers who have not had the vaccine will be able to enter with a negative test taken before they fly.
Last summer, the Greek islands were one of the most popular destinations for British tourists as Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes, and Zakynthos remained on the travel corridor list long after France, Spain, Italy and other destinations came off.
3 hours 15 minutes TBC Already admits some vaccinated travellers
Iceland is one of our top picks for 2021 breaks. Overseas holidays from the UK won't start until spring when Iceland - unless you're hoping to see the Northern Lights - is at its relative warmest and most accessible.
During the Brexit negotiations of 2016 onwards Iceland was always amongst the first to sign deals with the UK ensuring our holidaymakers could come and go unimpeded by the wrangling in Brussels, so we know they're keen to have us in.
And best of all, during the Covid crisis this year and last, Iceland was always pragmatic about letting visitors in. Right now, Iceland will let in visitors from the EU or Switzerland (but not yet the UK), without an onerous quarantine, who can prove they've either recovered from Covid or had the vaccine. So given the success of our vaccination programme, the short flight times from London to Reykjavik and Iceland's record of prioritising access for British tourists, we can't be far behind and we're confident we'll be back by this summer at the latest.
4 hours 50 minutes TBC Planning a UK travel corridor
Israel has the single most successful vaccination programme in the world and has already jabbed almost all of its adult population. It has signed a travel corridor deal with Greece and Cyprus, starting in April, and is avowedly keen to sign something similar with the UK.
Holiday Extras Travel Guides YouTube Channel
At Holiday Extras we like to travel. Our video team visits and reviews all of the most popular holiday destinations for our original video travel guides. As a company, our "wanderlust" perk lets everyone on the team spend two weeks a year working overseas, on top of their holidays. And every year, we help eight million UK travellers have a better trip by sorting out their airport parking, hotels, lounges and other holiday extras - more than anyone else in the business
4 hours 40 minutes Now Open to vaccinated travellers
Since January, anyone who can prove they've had the vaccine can visit Lebanon without a quarantine (though they do also administer a back-up PCR test).
Lebanon may not traditionally be one of the UK's top tourist destinations, but once upon a time Beirut was one of the world's great cosmopolitan cities and as a meeting point between east and west it has much the same energy as Istanbul with unique sights and culture.
3 hours 15 minutes Now Open to vaccinated travellers
Like Poland, Romania is happy to admit vaccinated visitors, and but for lockdown you could fly there today. A shade over three hours from London or Glasgow, a little more than four from Manchester and Birmingham, Romania may prove one of the most popular citybreak destinations once lockdown comes to an end.
We visited Romania in 2018 - check out our guides below.
10. The Seychelles
10 hours Now Open to vaccinated travellers
One of the great long-haul tourist paradises, the Seychelles expects to have vaccinated 70% of its population by the middle of March and, as an extremely tourism-dependent economy, is keen to keen visitors back in. The islands are therefore waiving quarantine requirements for anyone who can prove they've had the second dose of the vaccine, and once international travel resumes from the UK it's likely to be one of the most convenient long-haul destinations for vaccinated UK holidaymakers.
Seychelles is currently on the UK government's red list, so if you visited you'd be required to quarantine when you got back - but with the success of the local vaccination programme that's likely to change by the time we can fly again, so we expect the Seychelles to be open for business by spring or summer 2021.
11. Sri Lanka
10 hours 45 mins direct Now Holiday in a secure bubble
Sri Lanka is the latest holiday destination to announce it is open to visitors again, without restrictive quarantine requirements.
If Sri Lanka's on your bucketlist, check out our video guide from our visit in 2018.
11 hours 25 minutes October Planning to admit vaccinated travellers
Thailand has experienced a number of false starts in reopening to tourists. Trying last year to encourage visitors willing to stay for longer than a normal holiday, visitor numbers dwindled almost to nothing. Now the country is debating how to restart tourism to the islands, notably Phuket which relies heavily on foreign visitors.
According to the Thai press and local hoteliers, it's likely Thailand will start accepting vaccinated holidaymakers from around October - good news for long-haul travellers, since Thailand's cooler high season begins in November and most people like to visit then to skip the European and American winter.
We visited Thailand in 2019 - have a look at our guide below.