What did you miss out on in 2020? Maybe it was going to be the year you checked that epic adventure off your bucket list. Or the year you would finally gather three generations for a family trip. Or maybe you and your soulmate had been looking forward to time away—just the two of you. Whatever travel dreams you had for 2020, here’s to making them come true in 2021.

Need inspiration? Each of these four travel ideas comes with a new twist for the new year.

Experience total relaxation in the Caribbean.

If 2020 left you in need of some get-away-from-it-all, forget-your-worries downtime, head for the curvaceous swaths of sand and aquamarine waters that make up the Caribbean. Some 30 island nations dot the ocean from just beyond Florida’s southern tip to the northern coast of South America. No matter how you get there, each country offers its own brand of escape—from zip lining through misty rainforest treetops to blissfully floating in a freshwater cenote.

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You could pick an island and stay awhile at an all-inclusive resort, where every part of your stay—room, food and activities—is included in one price. Nothing to think about but burying your toes in the sand and letting the sun-warmed breeze wash over you. Think butler service and beachside balconies, or even an over-the-water bungalow for two.

If you prefer to island-hop via a cruise, you can do it on a brand-new ship in 2021. Carnival Cruise Line plans to debut the Mardi Gras—featuring the world’s first roller coaster at sea—while Royal Caribbean is set to launch Odyssey of the Seas. It’ll have a skydiving simulator and a bungee trampoline for those seeking thrills, and a redesigned resort-style pool complete with shady casitas and hammocks for quieter moments.

Get a glimpse of Hawaii’s natural wonders.

A Hawaiian vacation is a bucket list-level adventure for many travelers—and going there in 2021 will carry even more significance. The year brings the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which will likely come with moving remembrances at the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu.

Beyond the pull of history, the 50th state beckons with jaw-dropping scenery—think black-sand beaches, lunarlike lava flows, emerald-green peaks and gushing waterfalls. Travel restrictions limited access to all that natural beauty for much of the year, but as rules begin to ease, people can experience the state in a few new ways.

There’s a side of Hawaii for just about every travel personality. Find the one that suits you best.

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Among the most recent offerings from island outfitters: a solar-powered e-bike tour of Honolulu’s Koolau mountain rainforests and a helicopter flight over Oahu that includes tales of Hawaii’s legends and deities. On Kauai, you can go whale-watching via kayak, paddling the same sea paths traveled by early Polynesians and whaling captains (October–April), and take an ATV tour of the fossil-rich limestone Makauwahi Cave.

And, of course, there are the classic experiences: hiking lava-filled landscapes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, snorkeling the crystal-clear waters of Maui’s Molokini Crater and cruising along the ultrascenic Hana Highway.

6 Hawaii facts as eye-popping as the scenery

Get to know the 50th U.S. state before you visit.

Get your culture fix in Europe.

For lovers of art and culture, a European vacation brings unmatched sights, from the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo in France’s Louvre Museum to Michelangelo’s David and Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco in Italy. And the coming year will bring even more ways to appreciate Europe’s masterpieces and storied history. (When planning to travel again, be sure to research specific travel restrictions in the destination you hope to visit).

In Germany, Berlin should see the long-awaited opening of its Humboldt Forum in late 2020. The huge museum complex will blend modern and Baroque architecture inside a reconstructed 18th-century royal palace. Visitors can browse a range of displays featuring everything from Berlin’s history to Asian art. And in neighboring Austria, Vienna’s Sigmund Freud Museum is now open in a newly expanded space. Guests can step into the home of the famed neurologist and father of psychoanalysis to learn more about his life and work.

Farther north, the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark and Sweden awe with spectacular natural scenery—thundering waterfalls, narrow fjords and glistening glacial lakes. But there’s just as much for art lovers to gawk at in the sleekly modern cities. A visit next year to Oslo, Norway’s capital, brings the chance to explore the Munch Museum’s towering new home (set to open in spring 2021). The glass-and-aluminum building will provide more space than ever to display the works of The Scream painter Edvard Munch. Oslo’s new National Museum—the largest art museum in the Nordic countries—is also set to open in 2021.

5 European masterpieces and where to see them

Europe is home to some of the world’s most treasured works of art. Here are just a few you’ll want to seek out when you visit.

Rediscover theme park magic.

When Florida favorites like Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando closed last spring, lots of vacation dreams were dashed. The parks reopened over the summer—with increased health and safety measures—but if you haven’t gotten your dose yet of hair-raising thrills and cuddly characters, there’s still a lot to look forward to in 2021.

Most of the excitement centers on Walt Disney World, which is gearing up to celebrate its 50th birthday on Oct. 1. Cinderella Castle got a fresh look over the summer, with a blush-pink paint job and glam gold accents. New rides are on the way, too, including Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in Epcot (which is in the midst of a multiyear transformation) and the TRON Lightcycle Power Run in Magic Kingdom.

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Universal Orlando Resort’s reopening brought with it The Bourne Stuntacular, a new stunt show that fuses stagecraft and film as hero Jason Bourne battles bad guys across three continents. Plus, a new Jurassic Park-themed roller coaster, Jurassic World VelociCoaster, will start running in the summer of 2021. And at SeaWorld Orlando, new thrills abound onboard the park’s first launch coaster: Ice Breaker soars up to 93 feet and reaches speeds of 52 mph.

4 theme park thrills you won’t want to pass up

Spectacular shows, beloved characters, who-cares-about-the-calories snacks—they’re all part of the theme park experience. But nothing compares to the rides.


This story was featured in the
November/ December 2020 issue of AAALiving Magazine

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