Let’s face it, the past two years have been a complete write-off for many people on the travel front. The pandemic has prevented so many of us from doing what we love – either from our favourite destinations being closed to tourism, actually unable to leave and return from your country easily (as has been the case here in New Zealand and Australia), or just the sheer complications and requirements making it all too hard (we literally cannot buy New Zealand based international travel insurance at the time of writing this!)

But as we enter the third year of this thing, and with what’s looking like a milder variant of Covid-19 HOPEFULLY meaning a slow return to some form of normality, it feels like it’s time to tentatively start making long-awaited travel plans right now – I know we are!

Much of the world is still proving difficult to travel to in 2022 – here in New Zealand we are slowly opening borders, but the reality is, it’s probably another year before tourism can start to re-build. Much of Asia and the Pacific Islands are still under quarantine requirements, and there are large pockets of the world that are still waiting for access to vaccine. That poses an ethical dilemma about whether to travel there and potentially put strain on their already sparse healthcare resources.

That aside, we have been researching destinations, and the good news is there are a number of places that you can travel relatively safely to now. So from behind still-closed borders and quarantine requirements in New Zealand, we present to you our hypothetical list of places we would visit in 2022 if/when we were able to!

Hawai’i

Beautiful Hanauma Bay in Hawai’i

So many people have been dreaming of a family holiday just like the old days (circa 2019!), where there’s something for everyone. Hawai’i ticks all those boxes – a plethora of things to see and do, lovely beaches, great shopping, culture and nature galore. 

Why visit now?

Hawai’i has taken the Covid threat seriously throughout the pandemic, with pre-testing, vaccine requirements, social distancing and mask wearing while indoors or in large groups. We feel that we would be as safe health-wise there as we are at home right now.

Hawai’i, in particular the island of Oahu, is the perfect place to get your travel mojo back. It’s easy travel, and has a great mix of relaxing by a pool or the beach options – we know anecdotally so many people want to do a ‘fly and flop’ right now to recover from the stress of the past few years. If you want a little more from your holiday there’s so many active options too like learning to surf, hiking, snorkelling and learning about the local culture.

You can find out more around entry requirements for Hawai’i here 

What to do

Waikiki Turtle Canyons Snorkeling Excursion

Oahu Island Tour

Kids Surfing Lesson at Waikiki Beach

Where to stay

There’s a wide variety of accommodation in Honolulu – from high-end resorts to self-catering condos and budget rooms. Check out the options and prices here.

United Arab Emirates

A desert safari is a highlight of any UAE trip

The most vaccinated country on earth is a good place to plan your next adventure. And the UAE delivers adventure in spades. It’s a fantastic place to visit with kids, and also has that great mix of beach, culture, shopping, adventure and incredible food.

Why visit now?

Well aside from its high vaccination status (almost 95% as at February 2022), there is simply so much to do in Dubai and the other emirates. It’s a gentle step back into travel as it’s incredibly safe, easy to get around and there is just so much to do for kids.

You could spend a week alone just visiting theme parks, that’s before you add in water parks, shopping, visiting the world’s tallest building and eating amazing food. A trip out into the desert is something your family will never forget.

You’ll marvel at the incredible skyscrapers and glossiness everywhere, but be sure to make time to visit Old Dubai to soak up the culture and get a glimpse of what Dubai was like before the skyscrapers and mega-commerce arrived.

Old Dubai

You can find out more around entry requirements for the United Arab Emirates here (note – there are different requirements between Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the other emirate states).

What to do

Take a desert safari, ride a camel, try sandboarding and learn about Bedouin culture

Visit the Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building

Dubai Old Town, Dubai Creek, souks and street food tour

Atlantis Aquaventure water park and Lost Chambers aquarium

 

Where to stay

Dubai has some of the best accommodation options in the world. There’s something for everyone – ritzy five star resorts, amazing family friendly options and even some reasonably priced accommodation if you’re watching your pennies.

Check out accommodation options and prices for Dubai here

 

Mexico

Incredible Chitchen Itza, one of the new seven wonders of the world

Pandemic or no, it seems like the entirety of people travelling these past two years have gone to Mexico – or maybe it’s just every travel Instagram influencer?! It’s easy to see why though, as it’s a great family vacation destination.

Mexico is huge though, (the 13th largest country in the world), and rules and restrictions vary by state, so be sure to check out what the latest is depending on where you’re headed.

Why visit now?

Mexico is a fabulous mainly outdoor focussed destination, which helps decrease the risk of contracting Covid on your holiday. The food is outstanding, and there is so much to see and do from a cultural perspective, it’s truly fascinating. Like our other destinations, there are plenty of options for beaching and poolside relaxation. We simply can’t wait to get back to Mexico.

Despite some alarmist media reporting, there are lots of areas in Mexico which are safe and that we wouldn’t hesitate to visit. These include the Baja Peninsula where we spent time in early 2020 as the final stop on our family gap year travels (excellent timing!), Oaxaca city and the coastline at Puerto Escondido, Nayarit and the beaches of Sayulita and Puerto Vallarta, San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato with its world heritage buildings, the Yucatan peninsula with incredible tropical beaches like Isla Holbox, the highly rated Merida, Mayan ruins like Chitchen Itza one of the new ‘wonders of the world’, the resort towns of Cancun and Tulum if that’s your thing, and the unique cenote swimming holes that inhabit the area.

There are currently no vaccination or testing requirements for travel to and around Mexico, however masking is recommended, and it has an average vax rate of around 60%. You can read more about Covid status in Mexico here.

What to do

There’s so much to do in Mexico that it needs a whole series of blog posts to document them all. However, here are some of the highlights in the destinations mentioned above.

Whale watching in Cabo – we had the most incredible time watching whales when we visited Cabo San Lucas in January 2020. We hired a boat through the wonderful Roger and his Seabreeze boat, taking us out to exactly where the whales are. We did a fabulous snorkel in the water seeing loads of fish, visited Lovers Beach and Lands End.

Stunning Cabo Arch taken on our Rogers Seabreeze boat trip

We highly recommend Rogers Seabreeze Boat for an amazing day out on the water!

Oaxaca – a traditional cooking class and market visit

Sayulita – family-friendly jungle zip-line and canopy tour 

Yucatan Peninsula – Chichén Itzá, Valladolid & Cenote Tour

 

Where to stay

If you’re looking for a more resort-style vacation then the Yucatan Peninsula probably has the best options, check out hotels and prices here.

For Oaxaca check out hotels and prices here.  

For Nayarit check out hotels and prices here. 

The incredible pool at our Cabo condo

For Cabo – we were lucky enough to stay in this incredible condo right in the heart of Cabo San Lucas (next to the marina) back in 2020. We can’t recommend it enough! Check out prices and availability here.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica has so many stunning waterfalls!

Another hot spot for people who have been out there travelling recently is beautiful Costa Rica. We’ve read nothing but positive trip reports from family travellers who have just raved about it.

Why visit now?

Costa Rica is a nature lovers paradise and is perfect for families looking for a mix of wildlife and adventure. Even though it’s a small country it’s incredibly diverse, with over 6% of the world’s biodiversity found here. Everyone we know that has visited recently has loved the wildlife, lush jungle, volcanic landscape, beautiful Carribean and Pacific beaches, and all the great activities on offer.

Like Mexico, so many of the things to do in Costa Rica are outdoors, so present lower risk. Around 73% of the population is vaccinated, making it higher than both the UK and US currently. There is no vaccination, testing or quarantine requirements for entry at present.

You can read more about Costa Rica entry requirements here 

What to do

Top of most people’s list in Costa Rica is to experience wildlife…in the wild! Over five million migratory birds visit Costa Rica annually, and you can also see a wide variety of monkeys, crocodiles and caimans, lizards and iguanas, frogs, butterflies and of course everyone’s favourite – sloths.

Everyone’s favourite Costa Rican native

There’s a plethora of national parks, amazing beaches on the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean, volcanoes and geothermal activity and lush jungle and cloud forests. It’s a real nature lovers paradise.

For some of the highlights in Costa Rica you could try:

Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna waterfall and hot springs tour

Manuel Antonio National Park

Tortuguero National Park (3 day guided tour)

Where to stay

Here are some options for different areas of Costa Rica:

Arenal Volcano

Manuel Antonio

Tortuguero National Park

Portugal

Visiting The National Palace of Pena in Sintra in 2019

If you’re looking for a European destination to dip your toes back in the travel waters, then Portugal is an excellent choice.

Why visit now?

Portugal is the most highly vaccinated country in Europe (and second highest in the world), with 91% vax rates. It has a fantastic mix of beautiful cities, beaches and countryside. The food is also amazing and it’s a very safe place to visit. We also found it very budget-friendly compared to other European destinations.

You can find out more about the entry requirements for Portugal here.

What to do

Lisbon is a fantastic city, and pre-pandemic was almost getting to the point of over-tourism. While things are rebuilding, it would be a great time to take advantage of less crowds and visit.

The trams of Lisbon are a familiar sight around the old town area.

Top of the list of things to do for our family was the brilliant Lisbon Oceanarium, exploring the quaint Alfama area in the old town of Lisbon, visiting the original Portuguese custard tart bakery in Belem, and a day trip out to the stunning UNESCO world heritage town of Sintra.

Outside of Lisbon, the Algarve is the place to go to visit beautiful beaches, or you could try the surf scene at Nazaré on the Atlantic Ocean. Another gorgeous city to visit is Porto located on the Douro River and inland from there you can explore the vineyards where Port is made.

Here are some of the highlights of Portugal:

Lisbon Oceanarium

Sintra, Cabo da Roca and Cascais tour

Algarve kayaking

From Lisbon: Fatima, Obidos, Batalha and Nazaré Group Tour

Porto Hop On Hop Off Bus and walking tour

 

Hopefully this gives you some great ideas and food for thought on family-friendly travel destinations that work in 2022! Have you got any travel booked for this year yet? Let us know in the comments below…

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