The great honeymoon dilemma in 2021. Will travel restrictions and quarantines still be in place? Which destinations will have opened their borders to tourists?
With around 80% of UK weddings taking place between April and September, there is already a serious shortage of wedding dates and venues in 2021. It will also mean some difficult decisions for brides and grooms deciding on a honeymoon. Mark Hodson, co-founder of 101 Honeymoons, offers some expert advice.
For most couples, a honeymoon will be the most keenly anticipated - and most expensive holiday - they will have ever taken. The tour operator Kuoni says its clients are spending an average of £8,247 on honeymoons in 2021 compared to £7,709 in 2019.
A honeymoon is a chance to unwind after the stress of planning a wedding, and an opportunity to create magical new memories. Typically it is months or even years in the planning. With the right budget, the world is your oyster. But a cloud hangs over 2021: will travel restrictions and quarantines still be in place? Which destinations will have opened their borders to tourists?
The safe option is to stay in the UK. Few brides will have dreamed about hiking in the Highlands or crabbing on a beach in Cornwall, but there are some tempting treats such as the new Spa Lodges at The Gilpin in the Lake District, and a castle on a private island in Argyll.
If you’re craving privacy and freedom, Rural Retreats has some gorgeous honeymoon cottages in the British countryside. And more couples than ever are planning a mini moon in the UK followed by a longer, more lavish second honeymoon in the months ahead.
The Mediterranean is glorious in spring and early summer. Hopefully by then our government will have introduced a system of airport testing to replace the clumsy and ill-considered quarantine measures currently in force. But don’t put your house on it.
Greece has had a good record of containing the pandemic. You could opt for a private pool suite at the wonderful Sani Resort in Halkidiki, or go all-inclusive at one of the classy Ikos Resorts.
Cyprus has successfully managed the virus and has remained on the Foreign Office green list throughout. It’s also a sunny option for a late winter honeymoon in February or March. Check out the five-star adults-only Constantinou Bros Asimina Suites Hotel in Paphos.
For many, there’s no substitute for a tropical beach. Ironically in 2021, it may be safer to book a honeymoon on a tropical island than in the likes of Spain or France. Top of many lists is the Maldives where about 40 private island resorts have already re-opened. At present you’ll need to get a negative test before arrival but hopefully the Foreign Office will put the destination on the green list before spring 2021.
Once it does, you can expect some price reductions as hotels battle to attract the first wave of guests. The Inspiring Travel Company has the pick of the luxury resorts while bargain hunters can try the all-inclusive Meeru Island Resort. But don’t book any of these trips online; speak to a travel agent or specialist tour operator first.
Another honeymoon favourite is Mauritius, which declared itself free of coronavirus on 15 June. Its borders are currently closed but a phased reopening is planned for later this year. How about a Private Pool Suite on the beach at Trou Aux Biches? Beachcomber Tours has some mouth-watering discounts including 50% off rates for NHS workers.
The Seychelles will open to British tourists from 1 October provided they are tested before flying and on arrival, and spend the first four days confined to their hotels - some honeymooners may actually relish this last one. Best places to stay include the Four Seasons on Mahe, and Raffles Praslin. Speak with the experts at Abercrombie & Kent.
Most of the Caribbean islands have managed the pandemic remarkably well and are widely considered safe with most currently on the Foreign Office green list. The Caribbean is also a great choice if you’re planning a wedding in the winter, perhaps because your chosen venue is booked in the popular spring and summer months.
Some islands are being particularly cautious. Anguilla had just three cases of Covid (all now recovered) and is currently charging visitors $1,000 to cover testing, additional health staff, surveillance and security. Elsewhere, individual hotels have laid out their own protocols. For example, Anse Chastanet in St Lucia requires guests to prove they have taken a PCR test within seven days of arrival. Curtain Bluff in Antigua will reopen on 24 October with a tight health and safety regime.
Cuba will open to international flights in October with mandatory testing on arrival and a strict test and trace regime. Face masks must be worn in public places. For more details, contact the specialist operator Cuba Direct. And if you don’t fancy staying at a hotel, Oliver’s Travels has luxury villas for two in the Caribbean such as Orchid Cottage in St Lucia.
African safaris have long been a favourite with honeymooners, and they have added appeal in the age of Covid with remote lodges and private game drives. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition group of hotels re-opened Mahali Mzuri in the Maasai Mara and Mont Rochelle in South Africa’s winelands in August and Ulusaba in the Sabi Sands in September.
Two of the most hotly-desired African destinations are likely to be Botswana and Kenya. Tour operators are waiting for restrictions to be lifted. South Africa, for example, still has a blanket ban on all international passenger flights.
Thailand and Singapore were recently given travel corridors by the UK government, although neither country is yet ready to admit British holidaymakers. Sri Lanka was already on the green list, but its airports remain closed. Realistically, few countries in Asia are likely to be welcoming tourists until later in 2021. For more detailed information contact a specialist tour operator such as Selective Asia or Inside Asia Tours.
Booking ahead will give you something concrete to look forward to in the months ahead, but for peace of mind - and protection if any goes wrong - you should book with a trusted tour operator. Don’t shop around to try to shave a few pounds off the price. Instead, build up a relationship with an experienced consultant, talk through your options on the phone and perhaps set up a video call. As soon as you book, make sure you have travel insurance in place.