Planning our 2021 summer vacation during the pandemic

We have done the unthinkable. We booked a summer vacation to another country. We have flight tickets and a hotel booking. The tickets were booked after weeks of research, looking at data and trying to predict (impossible) potential government responses to the ever ongoing pandemic. After all that work we decided to book a week long trip to the Maldives.

Before we decided to go to the Maldives, we researched multiple different countries and options. We looked at the pace of vaccination as well as the government response to the first and second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. We short-listed countries that remained relatively safe and remained open to tourists throughout or most of the pandemic.

2021 Summer vacation when to go

The first important decision to make was when to go. This turned out to be a difficult decision. The longer we pushed our trip forwards, the bigger the chance was that we would get vaccinated in Europe. However, the virus has proven to be highly unpredictable. We can only anticipate on how the virus will develop and how governments will respond in the near future. Planning a trip last minute increases the likelihood of everything going as planned.

Despite the uncertainty of early planning, we decided to wait until the likelihood of us getting a vaccine is high. The Dutch government has continuously said that by the end of June any person who wants to get vaccinated will be able to get a shot. The EU also made similar statements. Even if we haven’t yet had our second dose, we would feel confident enough to travel. A single shot offers lots of protection and gives us the security we want for ourselves.

Summer 2021 COVID travel possibilities

While protecting ourselves is definitely wanted, it is not what is most important to us. What is more important is that US research shows that the chance of spreading the virus once vaccinated is extremely low. Although the study was later criticized for being somewhat premature, it does show it is unlikely that we would spread the virus once vaccinated and put people at risk as we enjoy the privilege of traveling. With us likely being vaccinated by the end of June and the vaccination also protecting others, we will most likely only bring much needed tourist money to our destination and not the virus.

European regulations currently mandate quarantines when we return to Europe. At the moment of writing, quarantines are not mandatory in the Netherlands where we will travel from. However, we will stick to the quarantine with or without legislation. We did the same thing when we visited our home country from Austria over Christmas.

What countries allow tourists right now in April 2021?

Now we know when to go (July), we need to figure out where to go. First and foremost, we want to go to a destination that is safe. Relatively safe of course since traveling during a pandemic always carries risks. We made short list of that would welcome us and where we wouldn’t be required to quarantine upon arrival in April. This is our shortlist:

United Arab Emirates (Dubai)

Dubai has been open for tourists during most of 2020 and the start of 2021. Restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions haven’t closed. Tourists can enjoy a relatively unrestricted vacation in the United Arab Emirates. Entry requirements are straight forward; you need to test negative before you board your plane and are tested again upon arrival. If all is OK, you can enjoy a careless vacation.

This hasn’t been without controversy. While Europe was suffering heavily under the second wave around Christmas, the city made headlines in many parts of the world as celebrities escaped the dire situation at home to relax in the Arabian sun. Meanwhile, at the time of writing, the vaccination rate in the UAE is amongst the world’s highest with 102 doses administered per 100 citizens. For us, Dubai isn’t the perfect destination in summer. It is simply too hot for us.

Dubai 2021 summer vacation

Two negative PCR tests are all you need for a vacation in Dubai.

You might be wondering, aren’t you trying to do exactly the same thing? That is a fair question and the answer is mixed. If the situation is as bad as it was back in January, we will not go. It wouldn’t be the right thing to do. However, our government is relaxing measures from May onwards. The majority of the population will be vaccinated and the same is the case in the United Arab Emirates. We don’t feel that planning a trip to this destination in July puts ourselves or those at home or at our destination at more risk. If this changes, potentially due to a new variant, we will abandon our plans.

Mexico

Mexico never closed down for tourists. Throughout the pandemic, Mexico has been welcoming sun seeking tourists without restrictions. Visitors could face health screening such as temperature checks but in general the country is fully open for air travellers. Until this week, crossing the border by road was not allowed. CNN did an extensive article on what you need to know about traveling to Mexico right now.

Caribbean Destinations

Caribbean destinations such as the Bahamas are open for tourists regardless of where they come from. Entry requirements include a negative test. Similar rules apply to many other destinations such as Anguilla, Aruba, Dominica and Sint Maarten. On some islands, including Jamaica, guests are not allowed to leave the property of their resorts.

Caribbean 2021 summer vacation covid

While you might be able to enjoy your vacation on Caribbean islands, and they desperately need the income from tourism, we decided not to go. In late March, the situation on Curaçao, a very popular destination amongst Dutch tourists, was very instable. At the start of April, the island had the largest number of infections in the world. In the meantime, the situation has much improved and the island is open for tourists again with different, more relaxed, rules for those vaccinated.

Maldives

Another destination that has remained open since the first wave is the Maldives. This tropical island destination in the Indian Ocean is a luxury travel destination with mostly isolated resorts. The country requires a PCR test upon arrival and guests need to have a booking for one of these isolated resorts. The capital Malé is not open for tourists to prevent the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, the Maldives are on track to vaccinate its entire population outpacing most of Europe. By the end of April, over half of the population was vaccinated against the virus with resort personnel granted priority to safeguard the tourism industry which is the country’s largest industry that accounts for 28% of GDP.

Maldives 2021 summer vacation covid

With isolated resort islands and staff already vaccinated, we feel the Maldives are the perfect destination to book a trip. The entry requirements are clear and the country has stayed open since July 2020. We therefore booked our trip to the island group a few weeks ago.

The Maldives are not a cheap destination. Flights are relatively expensive and most of the hotels are luxury 5 star resorts with complete villas available to tourists. The only way to get to these resorts is by speedboat or water plane which comes as an additional cost. The price of these transfers range between 300 USD and 500 USD and can only be booked at the resort.

How to best book your 2021 summer vacation?

We have booked all our tickets fully flexible. Our flight tickets can be cancelled or rebooked at a low fee. Our hotel can be cancelled. We will soon post a blog on booking your 2021 summer vacation fully flexible.

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