Even with jabs being widely administered, international travel can these days seem as improbable as a sci-fi journey to the far reaches of the galaxy.
But hope is cracking open our confined horizons like sunrise glimmering over a red planet. That hope is vaccination, with the number of shots given worldwide now approaching 200 million, and the Australian government planning to have most of us here vaccinated this year.
Tour and cruise companies are already recording significant booking levels as eager travellers eye up opportunities for 2022. We reckon there are at least 22 reasons to travel overseas in 2022 (and 2023 to be safe, too)
Time to be hopeful, inspired and organised. We can't guarantee it'll all work out, but better to be ready than sorry, right?
THE TRENDING DESTINATION
WHY Donald Trump wanted to buy it, climate activists want to save it, and Greenland is an on-the-rise cruise destination.
THE EXPERIENCE The ruggedly handsome coasts of Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands bookend this cruise, but pale in comparison to Greenland's wild fiords. Expect outsized mountains, glaciers and icebergs.
SEE + DO Encounter Inuit culture in fishing village Paamiut, and the face of modern Greenland in the capital, Nuuk. You'll also follow in the Vikings' wake across North Atlantic ports such as Torshavn, Lerwick and Stavanger.
DO IT A 14-day Viking "Views & Vista" cruise from Reykjavik to Oslo with Oceania. From $6950 a person. See oceaniacruises.com
THE OVERDUE SPLURGE
WHY Haven't blown your travel budget in Bunnings? Then blow two years' worth on a luxury holiday for that extra extravagance.
THE EXPERIENCE India expert Abercrombie & Kent is a smooth operator that ensures you never stress. A personalised tour, guides, fine dining and stays in iconic hotels such as Udaipur's Lake Palace ensure you travel in style.
SEE + DO Unpeel the historical layers of Delhi and see the Taj Mahal at sunrise and sunset. Explore Agra Fort and pink city Jaipur, then enjoy lakeside Udaipur and its flamboyant monuments.
DO IT A nine-day "Splendours of Rajasthan" private tour from Delhi to Udaipur. From $6185 a person. See abercrombiekent.com.au
THE COMFORT ZONE
WHY In these troubled times, return to a familiar destination you know, love and can be sure will be a great experience.
THE EXPERIENCE New Zealand has remained almost COVID-free and is Australia's perennially reliable mate (as well as a major full travel bubble candidate). A comprehensive tour of the South Island, draped in glorious alpine and coastal scenery, demonstrates why this is one of the world's most beautiful countries.
SEE + DO Blenheim vineyards, Great Coast Road, Franz Josef Glacier, Milford Sound and Lake Te Anau are eye-pleasing highlights. A three-night stay in Queenstown blends adrenaline sports with downtime.
DO IT A 14-day "South Island Discovery" tour return from Christchurch with Evergreen Tours. From $4745 a person. See evergreentours.com.au
THE REMOTE ENCOUNTER
Scenic Eclipse in Antarctica.
WHY Still nervous about cities, or simply want to clear your head far, far away? In gloriously scenic Antarctica, penguins provide the only crowds.
THE EXPERIENCE A cruise on luxury expedition ship Scenic Eclipse – which has its own helicopter and submarines – to the Antarctic Peninsula. Landscapes are spectacular, but so are vast numbers of seabirds and seals.
SEE + DO The convoluted coastline is a wonder of snow-encrusted mountains and glaciers. The fiord-like Lemaire Channel, where icebergs jostle, is a highlight.
DO IT The 13-day "Antarctica in Depth" cruise return from Buenos Aires with Scenic. From $16,665 a person. See scenic.com.au
THE SAFER HAVEN
WHY Assuage your lingering apprehension by choosing a destination – Iceland, Costa Rica, Singapore, the Maldives – that had a successful, well-planned COVID response.
THE EXPERIENCE South Korea is sensible, safe, high-tech and well-organised. Get a great overview on a Bunnik small-group tour to cities such as Seoul and Busan, smaller historical capitals, and island and mountain landscapes.
SEE + DO Learn how to make kimchi, attend a temple tea ceremony with Buddhist monks, wallow in a traditional spa and explore Korea's history and culture at museums, religious sites and folk villages.
DO IT A 13-day "South Korea in Depth" tour return from Seoul. From $6,995 a person. See bunniktours.com.au
THE WANT-IT-ALL OPTION
The Parliament Building in Budapest, Hungary. Photo: Alamy
WHY Feeling deprived of Europe? Time for a river journey that covers a satisfying slice of the continent with ease.
THE EXPERIENCE Sometimes you want to be seduced by stereotypes, and an APT cruise on the Rhine and Danube obliges. Think castle-topped gorges, cute old towns and eye-popping palaces, yet without hauling luggage, troubling about transport or worrying about organisation.
SEE + DO Cocktails in a castle, a classical concert in Vienna, Danube cycle and steam-train ride await. Amsterdam, Vienna and Budapest's big-city sights are counterbalanced by pretty towns such as Regensburg and Passau.
DO IT A 15-day "Magnificent Europe" cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest. From $6495 a person. See aptouring.com.au
THE WILD CARD
WHY Because the current moratorium on travel makes us realise we should do extraordinary things while we can. Time to visit places you've never heard about.
THE EXPERIENCE A Silversea expedition cruise around South America's north-east corner takes you to spectacular but seldom-considered places including Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad, plus deep up the Amazon River as far as Manaus.
SEE + DO Port cities Belem, Manaus, Georgetown and Port of Spain provide history, local colour and cultural encounters, while the Amazon is all about extraordinary wetlands and wildlife.
DO IT A 21-day "Fortaleza to Bridgetown" cruise from Brazil to Barbados. From $20,340 a person. See silversea.com
THE FORGIVE-AND-FORGET CHOICE
WHY For all its faults, the US is, among many other reasons to travel, a world-class road-trip destination.
THE EXPERIENCE Collette's classic journey through the American West visits five outstanding national parks and takes in Yellowstone geysers, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and other iconic landscapes.
SEE + DO The panoramas make you feel you've strayed into an old-time western, but this is also an encounter with Native American culture, settler history and the urban pleasures of towns such as Jackson Hole and Salt Lake City.
DO IT A 12-day "National Parks of America" tour from Scottsdale to Rapid City. From $US3899 a person. See gocollette.com
THE CATCH-UP CELEBRATION
WHY Missed a honeymoon or significant anniversary in these COVID times? Then impress your other half with the ultimate catch-up cruise.
THE EXPERIENCE A Pacific cruise on suave, chic Crystal Serenity is perfect for special occasions. Romantic starting point Tahiti introduces a string of lush tropical islands. Sink your toes into sand, snorkel in blue lagoons and sip cocktails under kitsch sunsets.
SEE + DO Calls include the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji and New Caledonia. Over several days at sea, enjoy downtime at the ship's pool deck, cinema, spa and specialty restaurants. Crystal Cruises offers an extensive enrichment and entertainment program.
DO IT A 19-day Papeete to Brisbane cruise in February 2023. From $10,715 a person. See crystalcruises.com.au
THE DREAM TRIP
WHY Having lost two years of international travel opportunities, don't delay the dream any longer. What better than a float along the Nile River?
THE EXPERIENCE An astonishing journey through agricultural and desert landscapes, ancient monuments and the incessant bustle of modern Egypt. Viking Cruises launches new Nile ship Viking Aton in September 2022.
SEE + DO All the great temples (Luxor, Karnak, Dendera, Esna) and tombs (Nefertari, Tutankhamun) are covered, plus the Pyramids and treasure-choked Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. Consider a pre-cruise extension to Jerusalem, or post-cruise addition to Jordan.
DO IT A 12-day "Pharaohs & Pyramids" itinerary return from Cairo. From $7295 a person. See vikingrivercruises.com.au
THE WELLBEING OPTION
A toucan in eco-friendly Costa Rica. Photo: Alamy
WHY Time to unwind the mind and get back to healthy living – with eco-friendly Costa Rica a great choice.
THE EXPERIENCE Yoga classes with views to volcanoes, more yoga on stand-up paddleboards, soaks in thermal waters and long walks amid splendid landscapes will have you feeling rejuvenated.
SEE + DO Kick back at beachside Playa Carrillo, hike bubbling volcanic national-park landscapes, and enjoy adrenaline-activity capital La Fortuna in the magnificent Northern Highlands. You'll also visit a coffee co-operative to discover how coffee is cultivated and processed.
DO IT An eight-day "Wellness Costa Rica" tour return from San José with G Adventures. From $2379 a person. See gadventures.com
THE GREATER OUTDOORS
WHY Sometimes we need to soothe the soul, and few ways are better than getting into awe-inspiring mountain scenery.
THE EXPERIENCE Travelmarvel's tour in western Canada and the US includes a two-day journey on the Rocky Mountaineer train, seven-day Alaskan cruise and a stay at Chateau Lake Louise for the full dose of outsized landscapes.
SEE + DO Whistler, Jasper National Park, the Icefields Parkway and a ride onto Athabasca Glacier are scenic sensations, bracketed in the urban pleasures of Vancouver and provincial capital Victoria, with its superb Butchart Gardens.
DO IT A 21-day "Reflections of the Rockies and Alaska Cruise" from Victoria to Vancouver. From $9695 a person. See travelmarvel.com.au
THE NO GUILT INDULGENCE
WHY Want to reward yourself for getting through a difficult time? Nothing like a luxury cruise ship for a hassle-free holiday.
THE EXPERIENCE With unlimited shore excursions, specialty restaurants, bar drinks and Wi-Fi included, relax as you sail through South-east Asia on Seven Seas Explorer. Higher-level suites have butlers, too.
SEE + DO Jakarta, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok ensure big cities are covered. Food tastings, history tours and visits to butterfly farms, markets and museums are among shore-excursion options.
DO IT A 14-night "Culture & Cuisine of Asia" cruise from Bali to Bangkok with Regent Seven Seas Cruises. From $12,980 a person. See rssc.com
THE MEGA-EVENT DESTINATION
Doha's skyline at night. Photo: Alamy
WHY As the world returns to normal, a reminder that the men's soccer FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar in November, 2022.
THE EXPERIENCE Doha erupts along a stylish promenade, but has a long history recalled by forts, age-old crafts and traditions such as falconry. Beyond lie beach-draped islands, salt flats and sand dunes.
SEE + DO Discover Qatar offers holiday packages and tours such as desert safaris, west-coast excursions and harbour cruises by dhow. Excellent museums include the world-class Museum of Islamic Art.
THE SHOWSTOPPING STOPOVER CITY
WHY We all want to make up for lost time so, wherever you're headed, why not squeeze in a stopover?
THE EXPERIENCE Urban Adventures has more than 1200 city tours, many themed around food, drink and shopping, which provide an inside gaze and interaction with locals. In Singapore, one of the Asian nations which has managed the pandemic effectively and therefore is a strong early travel bubble contender with Australia, take a cycle tour, investigate colourful Little India, or arrange a customised itinerary.
SEE + DO A Chinatown tour introduces you to the history of this vibrant district and familiarises you with traditional hawker-centre dishes such as Hainan chicken rice and poh piah rolls.
DO IT A 3.5-hour "Chinatown Food Adventure" tour costs $111 a person. See urbanadventures.com
THE HELPING HAND TRIP
WHY Australia has escaped COVID-19 lightly and has few other problems, so consider a holiday that helps those in greater need.
THE EXPERIENCE World Expeditions offers various volunteer projects embedded in wider travel itineraries. Trek and cycle in the Altai Mountains of remote Mongolia and you'll feel fit, fantastic, and contribute to raising funds for cancer research.
SEE + DO Travelling steppes framed in mountain panoramas is magnificent, and a chance to encounter nomadic Mongolians. Expect yurts, sheep and yak herds, inquisitive kids, ancient rock art and glacial landscapes.
DO IT A 12-day "Can Too Mongolia Challenge" return from Ulaanbaatar. From $4730 a person. See worldexpeditions.com
THE SUSTAINABLE TOUR
WHY Now, more than ever, we've realised the impact that tourism has on local communities and environments. Time to make more sympathetic choices.
THE EXPERIENCE Go on safari in Tanzania and Kenya while treading lightly. Carbon-neutral operator Intrepid Travel specialises in small-group adventure travel, promises minimal environmental and social impact, and supports local charities.
SEE + DO The Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti grasslands are two spectacular safari destinations, dense with vast heads of zebra and wildebeest and home to lions, elephants, rhinos and giraffes. You'll also visit Lake Victoria and local communities.
DO IT An eight-day "Serengeti Trail" tour return from Nairobi. From $2570 a person. See intrepidtravel.com
THE HAPPIER HOLIDAY
WHY For a feel-good option that feeds your spirit and considers local welfare? Think Bhutan, where gross national happiness is part of government planning.
THE EXPERIENCE Slow-paced, friendly Bhutan limits tourist numbers and fiercely maintains its cultural traditions and lifestyle. Expect dazzling mountain scenery and multi-coloured Buddhist architecture.
SEE + DO The scenic Punakha Valley, remote and sacred Haa Valley and cities of Paro and Thimphu combine outstanding Himalayan landscapes with many monasteries and temples, of which cliff-clinging Tiger's Nest Monastery is the most dramatic.
DO IT A nine-day "Bhutan: Dragon Kingdom' tour from Thimphu to Paro with Peregrine Adventures. From $4945 a person. See peregrineadventures.com
THE NEW HORIZON
WHY If staying at home has given you an increased appetite for travel, look beyond the usual destinations and set off somewhere new.
THE EXPERIENCE Its increasing appearance on the travel radar suggests you should visit the Caucasus before crowds surge. Trafalgar Tours visits 10 cities across Georgia and Armenia with an emphasis on top sights and local life.
SEE + DO Meet locals over lunch, admire ancient monasteries, and visit a wine cellar, brandy distillery and carpet-making centre. The scenery is splendid, from high mountains to Lake Sevan and views of Mt Ararat.
DO IT An 11-day "Georgia and Armenia Uncovered" tour from Tbilisi to Yerevan. From $3234 a person. See trafalgar.com
THE ALTERNATIVE CHOICE
Syracuse, Italy. Photo: Alamy
WHY Issues of overcrowding in popular tourist destinations such as Venice and Paris are growing. Time to find alternatives on the road less trampled.
THE EXPERIENCE Globus has a series of Undiscovered Tours. Consider Sicily instead of northern Italy: it has a rich multicultural past, flamboyant architecture, superb cuisine and provides an alternative look at Italian history.
SEE + DO Island capital Palermo, Greek ruins at Agrigento and Syracuse, a mosaic-encrusted Roman villa and hill towns such as Caltagirone and Erice provide variety. Ragusa and Noto are baroque-era wonders.
DO IT A 10-day "The Sicilian' tour" from Palermo to Taormina. From $2987 a person. See globus.com.au
THE QUICK GETAWAY
WHY Don't care for intercontinental travel, long-haul flights and going it alone just yet? Kick back on a South Pacific cruise, where the only thing shaken is your cocktail, with this part of our neighbouring world likely to be an early travel bubble contender with Australia.
THE EXPERIENCE Celebrity Eclipse sails our region from September 2022. Days at sea allow for relaxation and big-ship entertainment, while various ports have you immersed in blue lagoons and local culture.
SEE + DO Chic French-influenced Noumea, the turquoise-rinsed Loyalty Islands and the postcard-perfect Isle of Pines give you three experiences of New Caledonia. In Vanuatu, visit the capital Port Vila and laidback Mystery Island.
DO IT An 11-night South Pacific cruise return from Sydney with Celebrity Cruises. From $2038 a person. See celebritycruises.com
THE PREDICTABLE PLEASURE
WHY Sometimes you have to treat yourself to a trip that, although not wildly adventurous, supplies lashings of enjoyment.
THE EXPERIENCE France never lets you down, and an Insight Vacations tour takes in all the happy expectations, from romantic Paris and the French Riviera to the Alps and cork-popping Champagne region.
SEE + DO The tour covers classic sights such as alpine resort Chamonix, Nice and Monaco, and lavender-scented Provence, but also includes more unusual destinations such as pilgrim town Rocamadour and Albi, birthplace of Toulouse Lautrec.
DO IT A 16-day "Country Roads of France" tour, return from Paris. From $6716 a person. See insightvacations.com
ROLL OUT THE CRYSTAL BALL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
SHOULD I REALLY BOOK A TOUR OR CRUISE RIGHT NOW?
Yes, provided you are offered a flexible booking policy. Life is too short to dither. To reduce complications in the event of cancellation, book flights and additions as part of the package if you can.
CAN I GET A REFUND ON A CANCELLED TRIP?
Reputable tour and cruise companies provide various COVID-related guarantees but carefully check the conditions. Some offer full refunds, others re-bookings or carry-over credits.
WILL TRAVEL INSURANCE COVER COVID-19?
Probably. Some companies have introduced domestic COVID-19 related cover, so expect the same for international travel, though the devil (and cost) will be in the small print.
WILL I NEED A NEGATIVE COVID-19 TEST IN ORDER TO TRAVEL INTERNATIONALLY?
Yes. Many airlines, cruise lines and destinations already demand them. This is the crucial key to the resumption of travel.
WILL A VACCINE JAB SUFFICE?
It remains unclear how long vaccines last, or whether they combat virus spread and mutant strains. Vaccination will become another travel requirement, but COVID-19 tests will still continue.
HOW WILL I PROVE MY HEALTH STATUS?
Possibly with a digital health passport that tracks your tests and vaccines. When governments come to an agreement over which model to adopt, health passports will likely become part of our lives.
CAN I RELY ON OPEN BORDERS?
Not necessarily, so check your booking policy and insurance coverage. It's unlikely enough people will be vaccinated worldwide by 2022 and governments have a track record of sudden and unpredictable border closures.
WILL I NEED TO QUARANTINE ON RETURN?
Don't worry too much. If quarantine continues in its present form, the Australian government won't let you leave for tourism purposes anyway. If all goes well, home or no quarantine at all, is on the cards for certain destinations in 2022.
THE RETURN OF AUSTRALIAN CRUISING
You probably missed it but domestic cruising has actually already returned in Australia. Small-ship companies such as APT, Coral Expeditions, Murray Princess and True North are offering cruises in destinations such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Murray River, the Kimberley and Tasmania.
Big ships have yet to resume operations. Foreign-flagged cruise vessels are banned until March 17, 2021, and while some have scheduled Australian sailings thereafter, the ban may be extended.
However, successful cruises elsewhere provide hope for a phased reintroduction of Australian sailings. Among proposals are local bubbles – Queensland-based ships carrying only Queenslanders, for example – and regional bubbles with nations such as Fiji and New Zealand.
By 2022 there is a reasonable expectation that more comprehensive big-ship cruising within Australia will be back.
"Booking trends for the first part of 2022 are encouraging and compare well with the same period of pre-pandemic 2019," says David Jones, corporate communications manager for Carnival Australia, which operates Australian-based ships under the Carnival, Princess and P&O Australia brands.
"This is evidence of underlying confidence that cruising will rebound in keeping with the historic resilience of the industry following previous disruptions."