We’re all trying to choose travel destinations that are Covid-safe, relatively easy, and well worth it. But some of us are looking for something even more: places that will deliver a better experience and greater value this year than next. We travel opportunists are focused on those locales that are uncrowded and affordable now, relative to what they will be in 2022 and 2023 once millions more prospective tourists have been vaccinated and the bus tours and cruise groups return. Such locales include many popular Mediterranean coastlines and islands, as well as certain European cultural capitals and iconic UNESCO World Heritage sites. If you’re comfortable with international travel this year, here are ten of our top picks for locales we think you’re better off experiencing now rather than waiting.
The Amalfi Coast, Italy
To experience the Amalfi Coast properly is to drive it without tour buses blocking your views and jamming traffic on the hairpin turns, to awaken each morning to breakfast on your own private balcony with panoramic sea views, and even to have your own dock so you can get around the traditional way—by boat. Normally it’s not possible to get all that for less than 1,000 euros per night, so go while you can.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands
As it has grown into a hub for European river cruises that start and end there, Amsterdam has gotten more and more absurdly crowded. Go when you’re not shut out of tickets to the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House, and every charming boutique hotel.
Barcelona is normally a major gateway for Mediterranean cruises, with tens of thousands of passengers embarking and disembarking daily. But here’s what Billie found when she was there in June: Barcelona Without the Crowds and Cruise Ships. She was rewarded with rare experiences like this.
This tiny, walled, medieval city is normally inundated in summertime with cruise-ship crowds. Since Dubrovnik, Split, Hvar, and virtually all of Croatia is one big outdoor museum, it feels Covid-safe in addition to being cruise-free right now, and that’s why travelers are loving it this year.
The pyramids and tombs along the Nile are usually jam-packed with tour groups from around the globe who’ve come to see the last remaining wonder of the ancient world. Billie is planning to get there before the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum, now expected in late 2021 and sure to draw a big international crowd.
Santorini and other iconic Greek islands are blissfully peaceful this summer without the usual flotilla of cruise ships. Billie was there in June and also in Athens, where logistics at the Acropolis are much easier than usual. Read her article What Athens Is Like Right Now, as well as The Time to Go to Paros is Now and Naxos is the Greek Island You’ve Been Looking For. For more ideas, read recent Greece trip reviews.
Normally you’ll find tourists from around the world standing in line for hours at the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum. Today, such lines don’t exist. Read Billie’s article Paris Is Having a Moment. Don’t Miss It and check out recent traveler reviews describing how uncrowded the city’s sights are now.
Machu Picchu, Peru
The ancient Incan citadel is currently seeing 900 visitors per day, versus 2,500 pre-pandemic (it’s at 40% capacity). I personally know three very well-traveled people who have enjoyed spectacular trips to Peru in 2021 and felt safe throughout. Contact us at Ask Wendy for information on how to do it.
The sinking island city is the place in Italy that is most threatened by masses of tourists all disgorged at once from cruise ships. The good news is that large cruise ships have been banned. Tour groups are likely to come in droves again in 2022, though, and space in Venice is always at a premium, so carpe diem!