Travelzoo Best Bets 2022: Worth the Wait Edition
After nearly two years of intense worldwide travel restrictions, it's finally possible for Canadians to go (almost) anywhere again.
So where should you go? We're glad you asked. Travelzoo Best Bets 2022: Worth the Wait Edition celebrates six iconic, best-in-class destinations that will help make up for all the months when we couldn't travel at all.
Read on to find out which destinations made our list (and see deals to get you there).
We can't be the only ones who mused, "If I never get to travel again, I sure wish I'd visited (or gone back to) Paris." For hundreds of years, the City of Light has been one of the world's top destinations, attracting visitors from around the world drawn to the justifiably famous cuisine, culture, art and fashion. Paris is one of those places you may think you know (if only from seeing it in the movies), but that still has the capacity to surprise — especially if you travel off the beaten track.
First of all, consider going in winter, when you can save beaucoup on your flights and accommodations. With highs averaging 7-16 degrees Celsius between January and April, and lows that rarely dip below freezing, the weather will likely still be warmer than what you're escaping at home. If you're lucky, you may get to see Paris dusted in snow.
Just as important, you'll avoid the crowds. The time you would have spent in summer lineups outside the Louvre or Musee d'Orsay, you can spend seeing some of the city's other 130+ museums. Alternatively, bask in the warmth and endless shopping options of the Belle Epoque department stores on Boulevard Haussmann, or visit the Marais quarter for handcrafted chocolates, quirky boutiques and fine art shops.
In winter, Paris's cozy neighbourhood restaurants and rich, comforting cuisine feel even more decadent than usual. So much of what we think of as classic French dishes — the stews, the sauces, the cheeses and soups, the coffees and wines — seem custom-made for cooler weather. We like to stretch our dining budget by heading away from the Champs Elysees towards the traditionally working-class 11th arrondissement, now considered one of the most foodie-friendly neighbourhoods in Paris.
Get there: Air France has nonstop flights to Paris from Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal; plus you can take Air France to other destinations within France after your Paris trip. Book by Jan. 31 and your flights for travel through June 30 will be fully changeable and refundable.
The Cayman Islands
When we think of a Caribbean escape that’s worth the wait, we think of Cayman. Just a four-hour nonstop flight from Toronto, this trio of Caribbean islands — lively Grand Cayman, rugged Cayman Brac and tranquil Little Cayman — is not the place for megaresorts and tourist throngs. This is the place where, after a day snorkelling with sea turtles or unwinding by the aquamarine sea, you dine at a farm-to-table restaurant helmed by a James Beard award-winning chef.
In other words, Cayman is just the reward you need after the last two (feels like four) years. Want beaches? In 2020, Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman was ranked one of the 25 best island beaches in the entire world by Conde Nast Traveller readers. Love sea creatures? Starfish Point is named for the red sea stars that dot its shallow sandbars, while Stingray City is a set of shoals off the coast where you can swim with docile rays.
Scuba divers have their pick of wrecks, seawalls and caves, including the popular dive at the U.S.S. Kittiwake, a five-deck ship most famous for recovering the lost black box of the Challenger space shuttle. It was intentionally sunk off the coast of Seven Mile Beach in 2011 to become an artificial reef.
Then there’s the food. Cayman has a sophisticated restaurant scene and is considered the top foodie destination in the Caribbean. It even boasts the region’s only CAA 5-Diamond restaurant, Blue by Eric Ripert.
The Cayman Islands have been largely closed to tourists since March 2020, but it is officially reopened to vaccinated Canadian travellers as of Nov. 20, 2021. While this Caribbean paradise doesn't claim to be a discount destination, value can be found this winter as resorts, hotels and homeshares reach out to attract travellers. (Travelzoo Tip: Stay on the west side of the islands to better enjoy the stunning sunsets.) Summer (traditionally low season in the region) offers even more deals. (We like this article by a local resident on visiting Grand Cayman on a budget.)
Get there: WestJet and Air Canada fly to Grand Cayman from points across Canada, with flights resuming December 2021.
Quebec knows how to do winter right. While the rest of the country hunkers down inside and hopes the snow and cold won’t last, Quebec embraces the gifts the season can bring. Think of ski destinations like Mont-Tremblant, Mont-Sainte-Anne, or the new Club Med in Charlevoix; or the Carnival in Quebec City with its outdoor festivities, sugar shacks and the famous ice hotel.
Then there's the everyday enjoyment of winter in cities and towns across the province. Visitors can rent snowshoes or cross-country skis and join the locals who get around in the snow for convenience or exercise. You’re rarely far from a place to skate. And if you do get cold? Well, that’s where Quebec’s world-class restaurants, beckoning bistros and omnipresent cafes come in handy.
Winter-worthiness is just one reason Quebec made our list. Quebec is somewhere Canadians from other provinces really should experience, for the sheer delight of the province, but also to better understand and appreciate this country, its history and languages. Americans and Europeans come to Quebec in droves seeking that Quebecois flavour — though they’ll be fewer on the ground in 2022. Smaller crowds are another good reason to take your trip this year — and we wouldn’t be Travelzoo if we didn’t point out that lower international demand translates to even better deals. We expect 2022 to be a fantastic time to score that downtown Montreal hotel or traditional Quebec City auberge for less.
Get there: If you’re not within driving distance, there are flights to Montreal on every major Canadian airline from every major Canadian airport, with Quebec City and even remote Gaspesie just a connecting flight away.
“But I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon!!” For many of us, that vague list of places we “plan to see someday” was cast into sharp relief under the travel restrictions of COVID-19. Arizona’s Grand Canyon — the legendary river-carved crater whose red-rock formation (1.6 kilometres deep, 29 kilometres wide) is visible from space — may be the most iconic bucket-list site in all of North America. That’s one reason we’ve chosen Arizona as a Travelzoo Best Bet for 2022 — the Grand Canyon (and all the other features of this southwestern state) is definitely worth the wait.
Canadians love Arizona; nearly a million of us visited the state in 2019. Snowbirds are drawn by the spas, the dry heat and the natural wonders — not just the Grand Canyon, but Monument Valley, the Sonoran Desert, the Petrified Forest and more. The state is a wonderland for outdoor adventurers, with activities on a scale from mellow hiking and biking to more extreme mountain climbing, rafting and rappelling.
As for where to start your trip, you really can’t go wrong. Busy Phoenix gives easy year-round access to the Grand Canyon’s southern rim, and it’s close to culture-rich towns like Tempe and Mesa. The desert city of Tucson has Mexican flavours and Spanish-style architecture. Flagstaff is a classic mountain town (you can even ski there!) near the red rock, artsy hub of Sedona.
Get there: Swoop added Toronto-to-Phoenix flights to their lineup in November; the airline also flies from Edmonton and Winnipeg. Air Canada, WestJet, Flair and several U.S. airlines also service the Canada-to-Arizona route.
There’s barely a metre of land in Israel that doesn’t have a story behind it. Whether or not you have a religious or spiritual calling to go — the country is a place of pilgrimage for many faiths — Israel offers an experience steeped in history. It's also rich in attractions that have little to do with the past: cosmopolitan cities, laid-back beach towns, nightlife and spas.
In this compact land of contrasts, you can enjoy several types of holiday in one. Dedicate some time to history — walking in Jesus’s footsteps in old Jerusalem or exploring the seaside Roman ruins of Caesarea — but also discover the ultramodern metropolis of Tel Aviv or the nightlife of Elait, Israel’s answer to Las Vegas. The latter two cities also feature spectacular beaches, and the coral reefs off Elait are popular with divers.
Then there’s the relax-and-chill element of Israel; no visit would be complete without a mud bath and a soak in the Dead Sea, home to spa resorts since the days of Herod the Great.
Speaking of places that are worth the wait, Israel spent the pandemic tourist lull updating and expanding some of its signature sites and museums. If you go in 2022, you can see the newly shored-up Western Wall, the renovated Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, and the new wing at the Terra Sancta Museum, among other improvements.
Get there: Air Canada, El Al and other airlines fly from Canada to both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
It’s hard to sum up why Ireland is worth the wait in just a few lines, but luckily most of us already have a long list of reasons why we would love to go, or to go back. To cite just a few: the spectacular geography (think the Cliffs of Moher or the Giant’s Causeway); the historic cities (from bustling Dublin to coastal Limerick or medieval-infused Kilkenny); the cozy pubs with friendly locals and live music.
But for all the ideas (and, to be fair, stereotypes) we may have about Ireland before going, it’s all but certain that your trip will turn up adventures you never expected. There’s a serendipity to a destination with so much history and so much modern vitality, and we recommend going for at least a week so you have a chance to soak it all up.
Canadian visitors will be especially welcome in 2022 as Ireland seeks to recover from the pandemic-induced dip in tourism (the hotel occupancy rate nationwide was predicted to be just 32% in 2021). There are also some extra incentives to head to Ireland earlier in 2022 rather than later. For one thing, the country’s wage subsidy (which helps tourism businesses stay fully staffed) will expire at the end of April. And in September, the tourism VAT tax will rise from the pandemic rate of 9% back to its usual 13.5%.
Get there: Most major airlines service Ireland, and budget carrier Ryanair has just added flights between Dublin, Shannon and Cork, which makes getting around internally even easier.