We may not be able to travel at all for the next few months, but should we stop dreaming and planning? I don’t think so. The world’s most exciting destinations, most alluring and fascinating sights, its most inspiring journeys are not going away. 

The chance to see penguins skidding across the Antarctic ice, to drink in the views of the South Island fjords while walking the Milford Track, to come face to face with the Rwandan gorillas or watch the sun rising over the Venetian lagoon will always be precious, unique experiences. And – except during the current few months of crisis – they will always be in extremely high demand. 

You may feel preoccupied with other things just now, but in your calmer moments, it could pay real dividends to turn your mind to the future. Most predictions seem to suggest that coronavirus will peak in the early summer and by then, life will start to return to normal. Certainly, large numbers of people will have recovered (and presumably enjoy immunity) and our appetite for travel will surely have returned. So this is the moment to plan ahead and to make sure that you don’t miss out. 

We’ve picked out 25 outstanding trips – some with only very limited availability, some looking ahead to specific dates when we know demand will be high. Departures vary from late autumn until well into 2021, so you can be fairly confident that the world will be back on its feet again. So whether you want to cruise around the world, or treat the children to a visit to Father Christmas in Lapland, here are some holidays to think about now.

Adventure cruises

Cruising isn’t just about lying back on the sunbed and tucking into delicious unlimited buffets. Smaller, more robust ships are now putting some of the world’s most exciting and inaccessible destinations – especially the polar regions – on the map. There aren’t many of them however, and demand for these expedition cruises is strong. It seems sure that bookings for these highly adventurous holidays will pick up very quickly as confidence begins to return. Book yours now.

1. Antarctic explorer

The short season from November and March, the small size of the expedition vessels, the restriction on the number of people allowed to disembark onto the the pristine ice floes combined with growing demand means early planning is essential to bag the best departure dates and cabin types.

Explore (explore.co.uk) offers a Classic Antarctica Expedition trip from £4,621 for ten nights full board. Excludes flights and transfers. Departs November to March.

2. Galapagos cruise

Plenty of larger ships explore this stunning archipelago and its unique wildlife, but the smaller motor-yachts give the best access and experience so need booking well in advance. One of the most sought after cruisers is 16-berth MY Grace (named after Princess Grace of Monaco who honeymooned onboard). 

Journey Latin America (journeylatinamerica.co.uk) has an 11-day Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands with seven nights on MY Grace. From £7,784 until February 2021 including meals on board. Excludes flights.

Meet the residents of the Galapagos

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3. Arctic itinerary

Expedition voyages depart for the Arctic from mid-May to October when the weather is at its warmest and wildlife, including polar bears, walrus and arctic fox, are at their most active. Demand is high for the most sophisticated polar vessels fitted with comfortable cabins, lecture theatres and spa facilities. You should be planning for 2021.

Noble Caledonia (noble-caledonia.co.uk) offers In the Realm of the Polar Bear from £5,795 for eight nights including flights, transfers and all meals on board. Departs July 5, 2021. 

Outstanding expeditions

It seems like a terrible irony now that many of the world’s greatest attractions are utterly deserted, but so strong has been the growth in tourism in the last couple of decades that access to some places has had to be strictly limited. To enjoy some some of the most spectacular but fragile landscapes and wildlife-watching opportunities you now need to apply – and pay – for a permit months in advance. So plan now for 2021.

4. Walking the Milford Track 

Winding through the dramatic landscapes of Fjordland National Park on the South Island, the 40-mile Milford Track is one of the most popular and scenic walks in the world. Numbers of hikers are limited to 40 per day between October and April and pre-booked accommodation is obligatory. Tour operators are taking bookings now for the 2020/21 season.

Macs Adventure (macsadventure.com) offers a five-night Milford Track itinerary from £1,295 excluding flights and transfers. October to April.

Milford Sound

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5. Trekking the High Andes

The Peruvian authorities issue a maximum of 500 passes daily to walkers, guides and support teams for the four-day trek along the 26-mile Inca Trail up to Machu Picchu. Permits are available year round with the exception of February, but the demand is high particularly during the dry season from April to October.

Exodus (exodus.co.uk) offers an Inca Trail itinerary from £2,199 for ten nights including flights. March to December.

The crowds will return to Machu Picchu

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6. Gorilla-watching in Rwanda

Visits to the small number of mountain gorilla groups which live in the Rwandan rainforest are heavily restricted and you need a permit costing US$1,500 per person for an hour’s viewing (maximum eight for each gorilla group). Tour operators need to book these as far in advance as possible, particularly for high season departures (from June to September and December to February).

Wildlife Worldwide (wildlifeworldwide.com) has a five-night Gorillas in Rwanda trip from £5,595 including flights, transfers and one-day gorilla permit. Year round departures.

There’s few more moving experiences than a gorilla encounter

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Festive season

Bookings for the festive season follow a characteristic pattern. Some switched on customers are super-organised and book a year ahead. Then things go quiet and a new rush starts in late August as people start to think ahead to Christmas and the New Year. Because of the timing of the coronavirus outbreak, that pattern probably won’t change much this year. But it still means that you will have more choice and secure a better deal if you act now. The floodgates will open as soon as confidence returns.

7. Caribbean Christmas

Despite high prices and minimum stay requirements over the Christmas and New Year period, the best rooms in top Caribbean hotels are snapped up early. 

Caribtours (caribtours.co.uk) offers a ten-night stay (which is the minimum available) at Carlisle Bay in Antigua from £11,900 per person half board, based on an ocean suite from December 23 to January 2, 2021 Price includes return flights, private transfers and access to a UK airport lounge on departure.

Carlisle Bay

8. Santa saga

Although plenty of tour companies offer short trips to meet Father Christmas in Finnish Lapland, the most desirable departure dates at weekends and in the school holidays and for the best destinations sell out months in advance.

Transun (transun.co.uk) offers short breaks in Finnish Lapland from £999 (adult) £899 (child aged under 11 years) for two nights including flights and transfers. Departs November and December 2020

9. Celebration time

Large country houses are highly popular for gatherings of family or friends over Christmas and New Year, but demand far outstrips supply, so they need to be booked now.

Kate and Tom’s (kateandtoms.com) offer Mount Offham in Kent, sleeping up to 20. From £8,950 for seven nights starting December 28, 2020. 

10. Peak flights

This is one of the busiest and most expensive months to fly long haul – fares rise steeply after December 16, before dropping again between 28-31. Despite the current uncertainty, anyone with travel plans during this period should book now as prices are only likely to rise closer to departure. Book with a credit card though, to make sure you money is protected.

Flights to Australia or New Zealand, and other long-haul destinations through Trailfinders (trailfinders.com), Travelbag (travelbag.co.uk) and Dial-a-flight (dialaflight.com).

Sydney

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School’s out

Most of us have experienced the effect that school holidays have on holiday and flights. Not only do prices roar upwards as soon as the children break up, but it is much harder to find the flights and accommodation that you want. Although most people travel in summer, the pressure is even greater at half terms and at Easter, when the window for travelling is much narrower and the choice of destinations with decent weather is more restricted. With this Easter and perhaps the next May half term out of the equation the pressure is likely to be greater than ever, from October onwards. Take the chance to book now for the best places on the best dates. 

11. Disney half-term

Disney hotels, within walking distance of the Disneyland Park, are the first to book out and there is high demand for seats on Eurostar during the half-term week.

MagicBreaks (magicbreaks.co.uk) offers two nights at Disney’s Hotel Cheyenne from £1,575 b&b – the total price for a family of four with two children under 12 years, including Eurostar fares and three-day park passes. Departing October 21, 2020.

12. February sun

February half term is an extremely popular week in the Canaries for families – it is one of the few destinations within easy reach of the UK offering reliable sunshine at a reasonable price. Book now for the best choice of flights and accommodation.

Cachet Travel (cachet-travel.co.uk) offers a seven-night self-catering stay at two-bedroom Bungalows Caleta Campos on Lanzarote from £3,948 for a family of four including flights and car hire, departing February 14, 2021.

Lanzarote

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13. Florida parks

The lure of Orlando’s famous theme parks combined with the warm and sunny weather in April makes this an excellent – and highly popular – family treat. The big operators have already opened their bookings for 2021.

Tui (tui.co.uk) offers seven nights at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort in Orlando £1,456 per person, room only, based on a family of four departing April 5, 2021 (Easter Monday). 

Prime tours

One of the most interesting travel trends of recent years has been the growth of small-group escorted tours. The best are led by outstanding lecturers and often offer special access to buildings, sights, gardens and wildlife-watching which are not normally available to the public. Only a tiny number of escorted tours can offer these treats, the group sizes are very small and they sell out months ahead. There may be a hiatus in bookings at the moment, but they will soon pick up again and remaining places will be snapped up.

14. Pompeii and Herculaneum

Martin Randall’s itinerary to the Bay of Naples not only covers two of the greatest Roman sites – Pompeii and Herculaneum – but it includes visits to areas normally closed to the public and is led by one of the most eminent experts, Cambridge University professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill.

Martin Randall (martinrandall.com) offers Connoisseur’s Pompeii from £1,620 for three nights including flights, transfers and most meals. Departing October 6, 2020.

Pompeii

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15. Cherry blossoms

Japan’s wonderful parks and gardens are absolutely at their best during the cherry blossom season from late March to mid-April. So strong is the demand to see them, that some of next year’s prime spring itineraries for escorted small group tours are already sold out.

Inside Japan Tours (insidejapantours.com) has a 13-night Spring Elegance tour from £4,375 b&b including transfers and some meals. Excludes flights. Departures in March and April 2021.

Blossoms in Japan

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16. Tiger tour

One of wildlife-specialist Naturetrek’s most popular escorted trips is to Southern India’s Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary, part of Nagarhole National Park. Home to Asian elephants, tigers, leopards and the elusive black panther, the tour offers only six places and is accompanied by an expert naturalist. Its 2021 departures to this region have tight availability at best, and some are already fully booked.

Naturetrek (naturetrek.co.uk) offers Realm of the Black Panther from £3,395 for nine nights including flights, transfers and meals. Departs Feb to April 2021.

Grand journeys

As Passepartout discovered, it pays to have plenty of time to prepare before you depart on a big trip. He was so rushed into leaving with Phileas Fogg that he famously left the gaslight burning in his room and was forced to pay the bill on his return 80 days later. But in all seriousness, the grandest and most iconic voyages and journeys don’t just need plenty of preparation, they need booking well in advance. The simple law of supply and demand means that the best accommodation on the most desirable trips – from to grandest world cruises, to the most sumptuous railway journeys – is already selling out for departures in 2021.

17. World circumnavigation

Big cruise lines launched their round-the-world programmes for 2021 some time ago. It’s not too late to bag a small and more affordable cabin on one of these classic, once-in-a-lifetime voyages, but the availability of spacious suites is dwindling fast, despite the high prices.

P&O Cruises offers a 99-day World Cruise from £24,418 for two sharing a standard, Seaview cabin, full board. Departs Southampton January 3, 2021. 

18. Transatlantic treat

Cunard’s ocean liner, Queen Mary 2, makes the iconic journey across the Atlantic regularly and while the standard class cabins are more plentiful, the grander, ocean-facing berths on the westbound leg sell out well in advance.

Cunard (cunard.co.uk) offers a seven-night Westbound Transatlantic Crossing from £5,798 for two people in a Queens Grill Suite departing Southampton on April 19, 2021. Includes return flight.

Queen Mary 2

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19. Train to Turkey 

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express offers frequent departures to Venice, but only makes the classic journey from Paris to Istanbul once a year in August. Bookings for 2021 have just opened, and despite eye-poppingly high fares, the suites and cabins are always in exceptionally high demand.

Luxury Trains (luxury-trains.co.uk) offers the five-night Paris to Istanbul trip from £15,000 per person including most meals. Excludes return flight. Departs August 20, 2021. 

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Prime river cruises

River cruising is one of the most relaxing and sociable ways to enjoy both landscape and local culture. But the relatively small size of the boats means that, at peak times, they sell out far more quickly than their ocean rivals. Things like the seasonal flow rate of rivers also affects some itineraries, putting a squeeze on the number of prime departure dates and further reducing the amount of availability. So for the best trips at the best times of year you need to be looking well ahead.

20. Mekong meanders

The voyage between Hanoi in Vietnam and Phnon Penh in Cambodia, which includes a visit to the temples of Siem Reap is particularly popular in the winter months. Christmas and New Year departures are sold out but there is currently limited availability on departures in early 2021.

Viking Cruises (vikingrivercruises.co.uk) offers Magnificent Mekong from £5,845 for 14 nights including flights and onboard meals. January to March, 2021.  

21. Port to port 

The Douro valley is especially beautiful during Portugal’s golden autumn weather, when the temperatures are still hovering in the mid-20s and the port harvest is underway. This is the most popular time to travel and river cruises sell out.

Great Rail’s (greatrail.com) highly popular Portugal and the Douro rail and river cruise costs from £2,995 for 13 nights including rail travel and some meals. Departs September 26 and October 10, 2020. 

The Douro

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22. Highland cruise

Carrying up to 50 guests and 38 crew, the Hebridean Princess has a loyal following on its cruises in and around Scotland. There are still a handful of cabins available on the late autumn cruise through the Highland lochs departing from Greenock but these are filling fast.

Hebridean Island Cruises (hebridean.co.uk) offers Clyde Castles and Stately Homes from £2,770 for seven nights full board including two gala dinners. Departs November 3, 2020.

Solo travellers 

The problem solo travellers face is that most tours and accommodation are still designed around couples. Dedicated accommodation for singles is very hard to come by and they often face no choice but to book more expensive double rooms and cruise cabins. With everyone else holding back for a few weeks however, this is a good chance to step in and bag the few offers and rooms which are available for travel later this year and next.

23. Single cabins

Fred Olsen’s 423-berth Black Watch cruise ship has over 40 single cabins – from interior to suite categories, which always sell out quickly. Book now for 2021.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines (fredolsencruises.com) offers a Caribbean and Atlantic Island Discovery cruise from £4,249 for a single cabin including one flight and all meals. Departing Southampton on January 8, 2021.

24. No supplements 

Cox and Kings has a highly popular range of small group tours exclusively organised for single travellers with no extra to pay on rooms.

Cox and Kings (coxandkings.co.uk) offer Oman Discovery from £2,945 for eight nights including flights, transfers and most meals. Departs October 6, 2020. 

25. Single discounts

Act now to take advantage of the sole occupancy discounts which operators are unveiling for departures this coming winter.

Classic Collection Holidays (classic-collection.co.uk) offers a seven night stay at five-star Europe Villa Cortes in Playa de las Americas, Tenerife from £1,550 b&b including flights, transfers and a sole occupancy discount of £339. Departs November 18, 2020.

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