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It’s a new year, but the coronavirus pandemic continues to worsen around the globe. In the U.S. alone, more than 4,000 people died in a single day on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. Many countries are again tightening their borders and enforcing strict lockdowns.
To put it lightly: It’s not a good time to travel.
Still, it’s impossible to ignore that people are flying right now (over the holidays, millions of people took to the skies), even if it’s just to relocate for the season. For those who are traveling, here are our picks for January. But let us repeat: We are not suggesting this is the right time to travel.
Many people will stay put until the situation improves, and instead use this time to book trips for next winter while taking advantage of discounted rates, value-added incentives and flexible cancellation policies. After all, January would usually be one of the best times to hit the road (and the skies), thanks to off-season deals and noticeably thinner crowds.
So, whether you’re looking for trips to take this time next year, are still hoping to visit a nearby destination this winter or you’re simply seeking ways to satisfy your armchair wanderlust, these are the destination we’re most excited about for January.
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Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out the most exciting and promising destinations for 2021.
Beachcombers can jet off to the incredibly chic French island of St. Barts for a glamorous stay at one of the many iconic and refreshed hotels.
The Hotel Christopher St. Barth has new four-bedroom villas with private pools, perfect for travelers who want to secure additional privacy and space during their stay. And if you’re waiting until next January to make the trip, the Rosewood Le Guanahani is set to open this spring from an extensive rennovation following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Travelers considering a St. Barts vacation in the near future should remember visitors 10 and older must show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 or 72 hours (depending on the type of test) of arrival. If you’re staying longer than seven days, an additional test will be required at a local facility.
TPG tip: To get there, you can normally fly nonstop on JetBlue or Delta from New York-JFK, as well as United from Newark Airport (EWR), to the gateway island of St. Martin (SXM). American also flies nonstop from its hubs in Charlotte, North Carolina, (CLT) Philadelphia (PHL) and Miami (MIA).
Park City, Utah
Looking to embrace winter rather than escape it? Consider Park City, one of the most iconic ski destinations on Earth.
After it opens this winter, check in to the Pendry Park City, a ski-in, lift-out property with 152 guestrooms and suites and a first-of-its-kind rooftop pool and bar. Or, use points to stay at one of the many upscale resorts in the area, such as the St. Regis Deer Valley or the Waldorf Astoria Park City.
Video: This Luxurious Train Journey Through Scotland Comes With an Onboard Spa, Whisky Tastings, (Travel + Leisure)
Just remember that, if you’re traveling this year, Vail Resorts (among others) is using a reservation system to keep track of daily traffic at every resort. So be sure to make your reservations as early as possible.
TPG tip: For travelers flying into Salt Lake City International (SLC), two new concourses opened in September and October. Expansion of the airport will continue in the coming years, with the completion of the next phase expected in 2024.
U.S. Virgin Islands
Even though airlift is down all over the globe, airlines are investing in routes to St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Last month, Delta Air Lines began flying between Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) and St. Thomas (STT), and in October, JetBlue began flying there from New York-JFK. Even Frontier will add St. Thomas to its route map by connecting it with Orlando (MCO) in February.
The U.S. Virgin Islands reopened to international travel in late September, and though travelers are not currently required to quarantine upon arrival, a negative COVID-19 test is mandatory.
Bed down at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, which reopened last year after an extensive renovation. If your trip is farther down the road, watch for the Frenchman’s Reef Marriott Resort and the brand’s first Autograph Collection hotel in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Noni Beach, both of which are expected to open in 2022.
TPG tip: The best part about visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands? The ease. You can leave your passport at home, spend U.S. dollars and English is widely spoken.
For travelers craving warm, dry weather, there are few destinations more alluring than the American Southwest.
A favorite with points-savvy travelers is Tucson, Arizona, where you can use your hard-earned Hyatt points for a night at the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa or cash in Marriott Bonvoy points to stay at the J.W. Marriott Tucson Starr Pass or The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain.
Travelers seeking a more boutique experience could also vacation at one of the region’s iconic dude ranches (such as Tanque Verde or Hacienda Del Sol) or the new Graduate Tucson, which opened in October and features views of Mount Lemmon from its rooftop bar. And don’t forget The Tuxon, a 112-room Design Hotels property that opened this summer that can be booked with Marriott Bonvoy points.
TPG tip: Many travelers choose to fly into Phoenix (PHX) instead of Tucson International (TUS) because it’s easier to find a nonstop flight. But as travelers return to the skies, airlines are adding new flights to the smaller Arizona airport. Southwest, for example, added nonstop flights from Houston (HOU) in November. For travelers eyeing a later trip, the airline will also begin offering nonstop service from Oakland, California in March.
It will be a busy year for Florida’s Gulf Coast. Tampa just welcomed two new properties to its Water Street neighborhood: the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street (Category 6) and the Tampa Marriott Water Street (Category 5). And there’s still a dual-brand Aloft and Element complex coming to midtown early this year.
It’s easy to enjoy outdoor activities at the pristine beaches here, such as cycling and swimming along Tampa Bay at the revitalized 26-acre St. Pete Pier.
And unlike many destinations, Tampa has also seemingly benefited from the shift in traveler behavior. By mid-December, the airport had gained four new nonstop flights with United from Boston (BOS) Cleveland (CLE), New York-LaGuardia (LGA) and Milwaukee (MKE).
TPG tip: Since October, Tampa International (TPA) has welcomed anyone who can show proof of current or past travel within 72 hours to take a COVID-19 test at its facility inside the main terminal near the Airside F shuttle stop.
Additional reporting by Lori Zaino.
Featured photo of St-Barthelemy Airport by Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.