Shifts in the pandemic and other global circumstances have led to a unique travel landscape this year, from which unusual opportunities are emerging. We spoke with a selection of destination specialists on The WOW List to help you pinpoint how and where to get a better travel experience in 2022.
New Zealand – Sarah Farag
The Opportunity: Go now because demand will soar soon.
After a closure of more than two years, New Zealand finally reopened on May 1. Given how long the country was off-limits, how famously successful its pandemic response was, and how outdoorsy it is—New Zealand is a country of vast landscapes with more sheep than people and open-air adventure thrills galore—travelers are expected to flock there fast. Go before international flights restart in earnest and more long-haul nonstops are announced. Wendy’s already bought tickets on the Air New Zealand nonstop between New York/JFK and Auckland that will begin service in September.
Israel – Joe Yudin
The Opportunity: Go before the big bus tours and religious groups from around the world return. You might even consider a trip that combines Israel with Morocco!
More nonstop flights are now available from U.S. cities to Tel Aviv (see New Nonstop Flights To Make Your Travels Easier in 2022). Most sights and monuments in Israel are open-air, and outdoor dining options have expanded a lot during the pandemic. Indoor museums and other indoor activities are relatively Covid-safe, not just because Israel’s vaccination rate is high and all travelers entering the country have just had a negative PCR test, but also because these museums have implemented capacity restrictions. That’s why museums and other activities must be reserved in advance. The same holds true for National Parks such as Masada, Tel Dan and Ein Gedi and all museums including Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum.
There’s another opportunity too, created by the recent Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and Morocco (as well as the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan): There are direct flights now between Morocco and Israel that allow for combining them in one trip.
Austria, Germany, Poland – Gwen Kozlowski
The opportunity: Take advantage of two side effects of the war in Ukraine: fewer tour groups, and opportunities to help refugees.
Giant bus tours have not yet returned to the small, charming villages along the Danube and the Rhine. There are even seats left for bucket-list experiences this summer, most notably the Salzburg Music Festival and the Oberammergau Passion Play. For those looking for opportunities to volunteer to help refugees from Ukraine, Gwen can work with her team in Poland to arrange meaningful volunteer moments. If you prefer to wait till the fall, you can expect Central Europe’s Christmas markets—many of which were closed in 2021 due to Omicron—to be back in full swing in late November. They typically start around Thanksgiving.
Italy – Andrea Grisdale
The opportunity: Go this fall, a time of availability and relatively reasonable pricing sandwiched between the frenzy of spring/summer 2022 and the high demand we’re already seeing for spring/summer 2023.
If you’ve been shut out of spring/summer 2022 in Italy, thanks to sold-out accommodations and stupefying prices, think October or November instead. October is a good time almost anywhere in Italy: The temperature is lovely, there are fewer tourists, cities are less crowded, the cruise ships have left, and hotel prices, nature, and wine experiences are optimal. On the Amalfi Coast and in Puglia and Sicily, the water is still warm enough for swimming, and there are wine festivals and fall colors in Tuscany. In November the Piedmont region is ideal, what with its truffles, wine, mushrooms, and cheese festivals, and its hiking and cycling opportunities.
Malta – Jason Camilleri Allan
The opportunity: It’s an historic Mediterranean island that stays sunny and warm into December, and nearly every activity is in the open air.
The archipelago of Malta, a little south of Sicily, did an excellent job fending off Covid and now has a full-vaccination rate of 93%. Malta is beloved by Europeans yet still under-the-radar for many U.S. travelers who instead are flooding Italy to the north. It’s easy to fly to Malta via London, Frankfurt, and other European hubs. Not only does Malta have a fascinating history, charming villages, and ornate architecture, but it’s also got a variety of other islands for off-the-beaten-path exploration or beach time. Jason can arrange unique experiences that involve meeting noteworthy local characters, from sustainable farmers and food producers to pipe organists and Knights of Malta.
African Safaris – Cherri Briggs
The opportunity: Go in 2022 to avoid next year’s price hikes.
Throughout the pandemic, one of the safest trips you could possible take has been an African safari (Brook went twice: in 2021 and just recently in April 2022). That’s because you’re outdoors all day and, at night, you’re in your private luxury freestanding bungalow or plush tent. Airports are not nearly as crowded in Africa as they are in the U.S., and many African countries have dropped their entry requirement of a pre-flight Covid test, which makes multi-country safaris easier again. There is tremendous demand for safaris both this summer and for Christmas/New Year’s, so date flexibility is key. October and November are great months because it’s the dry season in most of the safari countries, so animals are flocking to the watering holes. Cherri says the biggest advantage of taking a safari in 2022 is pricing, which she expects to go up substantially for 2023. For now, a few new lodges are opening this year with substantial discounts good until next year.
The Galapagos Islands – Allie Almario
The opportunity: The wildlife viewing is off the charts, thanks to fewer human visitors during the pandemic.
“It’s almost as if the sea lions have missed having human friends visiting them,” jokes Allie. The incidence of Covid in the Galapagos archipelago has been very low throughout the pandemic, creating a great bubble of safety. Now that the word is out about the safety and the wildlife, the islands have become very popular, and there is little availability left for this summer or the winter holidays. The main opportunity left for this year is the fall. Availability is limited in the Galapagos—visitation to each island is strictly capacity-controlled, and there is only a handful of small luxury ships available—so it’s key to book far in advance. Spring break 2023 is nearly sold out already. Allie is seeing new types of sailing opportunities starting up in the Galapagos, including superyachts at $25,000/week and the archipelago’s first-ever cruise geared toward families with autistic children.
Morocco – Hicham Mhammedi Alaoui
The opportunity: Travel itineraries today can include places that, before the pandemic, were too overtouristed to enjoy.
Morocco has stayed open through most of the pandemic and has an excellent Covid-safety record, probably partly because it’s easy to be in the open air all the time: Almost all your sightseeing is outdoors, you can eat every meal al fresco, and it’s easy to find accommodations (such as freestanding private riads) that are very airy and distanced from other hotel guests. Places that were suffering from overtourism before the pandemic, such as Chefchaouen, are much less crowded now and thus able to be enjoyed again. Also, there are the aforementioned new direct flights between Casablanca and Tel Aviv (a consequence of the Abraham Accords) that make it possible to combine Morocco and Israel in one trip.
Egypt and Jordan – Jim Berkeley
The opportunity: Emerging from the pandemic are more open-air experiences, from desert oases to dahabiya cruising to glamping in Lawrence-of-Arabia landscapes.
New and unusual outdoor experiences abound in Egypt: Siwa Oasis has opened again after a five-year closure, and the opening of the Lazib Inn at Fayoum Oasis means you can explore Egypt’s Western Desert and birdwatch at the same time. The number of dahabiya cruises on the Nile has grown rapidly, and there’s now plenty of outdoor dining on boats, from the Four Seasons’ First Nile Boat restaurant in Cairo to private dining aboard Jim’s yacht in Aswan. A private tented dinner for two under the stars at the Pyramids is possible too (crazy expensive, but possible). Next door in Jordan, new open-air experiences include culinary walking tours of Old Amman and glamping in the red-hued desert of Wadi Rum at the Bespoke Hideaways Bedouin-style camp. As for indoor museums, there are a couple in Egypt that shouldn’t be missed: Later this year (probably November) the new Grand Egyptian Museum is finally expected to open, to much fanfare. The new Royal Mummies Hall at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization is a must-see too.
Here are links to some of the useful resources that we mentioned during the Zoom: