Where to travel for the 2020 Holidays during the Pandemic
As more destinations open up to tourists, many of you have asked whether it is safe to travel this fall and during the upcoming holiday season. It should definitely be a personal decision based on your level of comfort and health. However, thanks to our increasing knowledge of the COVID-19 virus, better and faster COVID testing options, smarter entry requirements, and new protocols from airlines, hotels, private drivers, and guides, it is now possible to significantly minimize your risk and start enjoying travel again. Yes, there will still be risks, but what does not carry a risk nowadays.
Where can or should you go? We selected several destinations that are currently open to travelers (including U.S. residents) without quarantine and are warm enough to allow you to enjoy your meals outdoors and, most importantly, are fabulous places to visit. Most of these destinations will require you to test negative for COVID-19 within a specified time from the day of departure and require masks be worn on the flights, in the public spaces of hotels, and during your private transfers.
Where will you go for the 2020 Holidays?
Mexico is one of the most accessible international destinations right now – most airlines kept their flight schedules, and the country has no entry requirements at this time. Initially, this lack of entry conditions was of concern but having visited Riviera Maya in September, my fears were assuaged. Anti-COVID precautions were taken very seriously. The three hotels I stayed at had stringent occupancy limits, required all of their employees to wear masks and gloves, and had sanitizer dispensers dispersed through each property.
The destination offers a wide variety of luxurious accommodations – five-star hotels, private beachfront villas, and small boutique hacienda-style hotels with open-air common areas, ensuring that you will be able to find something just for you. And if wellness is what you are after – they have that too! I loved my stay so much; I am going back in November for more sun and mezcal.
Where to stay:
One & Only Mandarina
Zadun, a Ritz Carlton Reserve
A bucket-list destination for many of us and one totally worth the long flight to get there (trust me!), there is no better place to social distance while vacationing than the island nation of Maldives. Fly private or pick an airline such as Emirates and fly in style, and without worrying about the pandemic. The airline requires all of its passengers to test negative for Covid-19. In addition, the island nation of the Maldives, which has been open to visitors since July, recently started requiring all visitors to present a negative COVID test taken no more than 72 hours before the commencement of their flight. Once you get to the Maldives, it is easy to socially distance at the private island resorts with secluded beaches or overwater villas with private pools and open-air restaurants.
Where to stay:
Gili Lankanfushi Maldives
Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi
Six Senses Laamu Maldives
Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru
Velaa Private Island
I visited this hidden gem a few years ago over Thanksgiving when I found a killer deal on airplane tickets. All I knew about the country was the Panama Canal, and went with no expectations at all. Panama City delighted me with all it had to offer, and we spent a memorable five days exploring the city and the area. We saw the Panama Canal, visited an Embera Indian Village, and embarked on a jungle tour to find some monkeys. If you are not ready for city travel just yet – head to one of Panama’s secluded island getaways or charter a boat and enjoy your socially-distanced paradise.
Where to stay:
The US Southwest – Utah, New Mexico and Arizona
When international travel remained a distant dream this Summer, I headed to southern Utah for a bit of adventure travel and quality time with my BFF. I fell in love with the area’s otherworldly landscape, and the wide-open spaces were a balsam to my New-York-apartment-living heart. Utah is a year-round adventure mecca with one of the best accommodations in the world – Amangiri and its brand-new Camp Sarika. A must for any #amanjunkie out there. Arizona and New Mexico are also no slouches in the activities area – make sure to visit the Grand Canyon and stay among Sedona’s magical red rocks. New Mexico was off-limits for a while as it required all visitors to quarantine upon arrival but is now exempting those who bring a negative Covid test performed in the previous 72 hours. Stay at the fabulous Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe and enjoy the holiday festivities the New Mexican way.
Where to stay
Lodge at Blue Sky, Utah
Enchantment Resort and Spa, Sedona, AZ
Sanctuary at Camelback, Scottsdale, AZ
Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North, AZ
Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe, NM
California was one of the earliest adopters of strict anti-Covid-19 measures, and mask-wearing and social-distancing have been taken very seriously, as I experienced during my quick stay in Los Angeles in August. The famous California weather makes it easy to enjoy outdoor dining all year round. The state’s hiking, surfing, biking, and whale-watching are great socially-distanced activities for the whole family to enjoy. Whether you are looking for a city getaway or a beach break, the region offers various luxury hotels that lend themselves to social distancing, as many offer individual villas and bungalows.
Where to Stay:
Rancho Valencia Resor& Spa
Ojai Valley Inn
The Resort at Pelican Hill
Nobu Ryokan Malibu
Rosewood Miramar Beach
Fairmont Miramar – Hotel & Bungalows
Hotel Bel Air
Year after year, the islands are the most popular festive destination. And while some remain closed to us and others require a 14-day quarantine, there are some excellent choices where we can enjoy the sun, beach, and fresh Caribbean air. St Lucia was one of the first islands to open back up. Thanks to its cautious approach to reopening, the island has seen very few COVID cases as a result. At the same, the island allows visitors ample time to get tested for COVID – a whole week before arrival. As travelers must stay at their resort, picking the right one is crucial (see our favorites below). Antigua is another one of my favorite islands to visit and, with hotels opening in October and November, it will be an excellent choice for a holiday getaway. Want a livelier destination? – look no further than St. Barths. The island is opened to visitors and offers fantastic private villas, hotels suites with private pools, and plenty of open-air restaurants to try to remember what life before Covid was like.
Where to stay?
Eden Rock St Barths
Hotel Le Toiny
Le Barthelemy Hotel and Spa
The Viceroy Sugar Beach, St Lucia
Jumby Bay, Antigua
Cotton House Resort Mustique
The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas
While Hawaii has been opened to visitors for a few months now, it required a rigorous 14-day quarantine upon arrival, making the Hawaiian islands an inaccessible destination for most of us. Finally, on October 15th, the state got rid of the quarantine requirement. Travelers arriving with a negative COVID test performed within 72 hours from arrival no longer have to quarantine. Not sure where to get tested? United, Hawaiian, and Alaska Airlines will assist passengers get a pre-flight test for a fee. Some of the most popular hotels are fully booked at this time (in general, Hawaii fully books up almost a year in advance), but with the COVID pandemic in full swing this year, it is still possible to secure a hotel or villa for the holidays.
Where to stay?
Four Seasons Hualalai
Four Seasons Hotel Lanai at Koele, A Sensei Retreat
Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection
Timbers Kauai Ocean Club and Residences
Montage Kapalua Bay
One of the most accessible destinations to enter at this time – no testing or quarantine required, Turkey is an excellent choice for your holiday travel. Head to Istanbul and enjoy exploring this historical city with your private guide (all guides must get COVID tests regularly). Worried about social distancing while visiting some of the city’s landmarks? Let us arrange an after-hours tour of the Hagia Sophia!
After enjoying all that Istanbul has to offer, head to magical Cappadocia, and hike the stunning lunar landscape in solitude. End the day with a dinner in a private wine cellar in your boutique hotel for a truly distanced experience.
Where to stay?
Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul
Kempinski Hotel Barbaros Bay
D Maris Bay
The Bodrum EDITION
Mandarin Oriental Bodrum
Argos in Cappadocia
Costa Rica has been slowly opening up to visitors for the past few weeks. As of November 1st, the country no longer requires visitors to quarantine or obtain a negative COVID test before arrival.
If you decide to visit Costa Rica, you will have plenty of space to enjoy yourself in the country’s beach hotels and jungle lodges. Fall and Winter are also the best times to visit this stunning country, weatherwise. Make sure to visit Arenal for the stunning views of the volcano and diverse jungle life.
Where to stay
Four Seasons Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo
Nayara Tented Camp
El Silencio Lodge
The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos is one of those bucket list destinations that usually requires advanced planning as it limits the number of visitors each year. Usually, you would have to book more than a year in advance to secure a spot over the holidays. But you are in luck this year – with the country just reopening to tourism, there are some last-minute opportunities to jump on. Why go over the holidays? The weather in December is a mild 70’s and 80’s, and you will get the chance to see seal pups and observe the mating green turtle in its full glory. Combine your trip with a stay at the Sacha Lodge for a combined Galapagos/Amazon experience and live your best social distanced life with private guides and open-air dining.
Where to stay
Galapagos Safari Camp
Finch Bay Hotel
Luxury expedition yachts
Bora Bora, French Polynesia and Tahiti
There is nothing that screams social distancing more than a secluded South Pacific island. Tahitian islands were among the first to open to travelers. In fact, some of our lucky clients have already taken advantage of this in the Summer. You may also have heard that recently Kim Kardashian chose this part of the world for her lavish birthday celebration.
Visitors need to have proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of their flight and will be required to self-administer a second test on the fourth day of their trip. The flight may be long, but once you arrive on your island, there is nothing to think about, but whether you will enjoy your private plunge pool or jump straight into the clear water off the terrace of your overwater bungalow.
Where to stay
The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
Four Seasons Bora Bora
Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa
I may be prejudiced because my life partner is from Morocco, and I fell in love not only with him but with his country’s culture, design, warm people, and the yummy food, but Morocco consistently stays on top of travel bucket lists. It is one of the few destinations that manages to remain exotic despite attracting more and more visitors each year. And the same time, Morocco screams luxury – the hotels are stunning, lavish, and designed to allow as much privacy as space (and thus social distancing) as possible. The pleasant winter weather is perfect for enjoying outdoor dining, hiking, and camel trekking and desert adventures.
Where to stay
Mandarin Oriental Marrakech
Royal Mansour Marrakech
Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay
An African Safari
I am a firm believer that everyone needs to go on at least one safari (and once you do, you will want to go again and again). It is an unforgettable experience that will bring you and your family joy and allow you to step out of your comfort and experience the unexpected. Safaris have become extremely popular lately, and securing space over the holidays at the last minute used to be practically impossible. This year brings a unique opportunity to head on a safari even at the last minute and experience the incredible wildlife in solitude. Which countries can you visit? You can enter Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe with a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours of arrival. In addition to taking a test before departure, Namibia and Rwanda will require you to test negative once you enter the country. With the right itinerary and lodges, you will have a seamless and very socially distanced experience. Check back next week for an example of a perfect Covid-era travel safari itinerary.
Where to Stay
Royal Livingstone Anantara
Mahali Mzuri, Kenya
Loisaba Tented Camp, Kenya
Victoria Falls River Lodge, Zimbabwe
One&Only Nyungwe House, Rwanda
Singita Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
One&Only Gorilla’s Nest, Rwanda
Which adventure cis calling your name? Contact us to plan Your Perfect Winter getaway.