After sheltering in place for more than a year, many Americans all over the country are itching to break free from their homes and travel the world over – especially with all of those credit card travel rewards we’ve been racking up with our pandemic shopping.
Indeed, the travel bug has hit many of us hard, and as we begin to prepare for a world post-COVID, we are finally beginning to allow ourselves to once again contemplate the prospect of travel. There are the usual challenges of traveling to a new place and learning to navigate new city systems, as well as new travel restrictions and guidelines that are currently regulating international travel.
For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, however, it’s not always as simple as picking a place on a map. When searching for a travel destination, things like tolerance and inclusivity become an issue of utmost importance not only to preserve your relaxation vibes but to protect your safety, as well. There are also varying requirements that can make travel more difficult, such as TSA screenings and special identification requirements.
The LGBTQIA+ community has been long accustomed to the challenge of finding inclusive travel destinations, but every day, all around the world, it is getting better. More and more cities and countries are both embracing and celebrating LGBTQIA+ visitors, creating week-long and even month-long festivals, celebrations, and extravagances all to celebrate the freedom and expression of self.
These are some of the world’s most inclusive LGBTQIA+ travel destinations in 2021, including travel guidelines for international hot spots like Tokyo and Cape Town.
1. Key West, Florida
Welcome to Key West’s “One Human Family”
More than 250,000 visitors come to America’s most southernmost point, which is known as an LGBTQIA+ haven with tons of LQBTQ+-owned businesses, inns, and B&Bs, including LGBTQIA+-exclusive communities. Revelers fill the quaint streets of Key West at all times of the day and night, with Key West Pride in June and Womenfest in September. Plus, be sure to check out the Tennessee Williams Museum, Key West’s homage to its former openly gay resident and playwright. Rooms average about $200 per night, but there are also options for more affordable accommodations.
2. Providence, Rhode Island
“LGBT Providence” lights up the night
Providence offers a charming downtown with a high population of LGBTQIA+ residents and visitors. It’s an affordable vacation spot, too, with rooms averaging less than $150 per night.
Rhode Island offers a small-town charm all its own. There is fun nightlife with a calendar full of LGBTQIA+ events, and it’s close enough to pop over to nearby Boston for larger LGBTQIA+ events. Don’t miss Rhode Island Pride, which features an evening parade with light-up floats to set the night aglow.
3. Portland, Oregon
America’s leading LGBTQ+ haven for pride
Portland is nestled amongst a mountainous skyline with gorgeous coastline to appeal to the nature-lover. With America’s first openly gay mayor, it’s a city with a thriving LGBTQIA+ urban community that is highly involved in advocacy and legislation efforts.
There’s plenty to do, too, with tons of regular LGBTQIA+ events and parades. Don’t miss Portland’s signature Peacock in the Park event each June. Rooms are affordable, too, averaging between $125 and $150 per night.
4. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Enjoy the HRC’s top LGBTQIA+ hotspot
The HRC’s Municipal Equality Index awards Cedar Rapids a perfect score for its community of inclusivity and diversity. With accommodations for less than $100 a night, this Iowa city regularly welcomes visitors from all over the world.
Famed local hotspot Belle’s Basix has been an LGBTQIA+ staple for more than 20 years, featuring live drag shows every weekend. There is also the family-friendly CRPrideFest, which runs a full week in late June and early July and is a free event with tons of vendors, entertainment, and food to enjoy.
5. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Visit the tropics here in the U.S.
San Juan is a nearby oasis that offers a quick tropical getaway with no passport required. Indulge in the LGBTQIA+ beach between Calle Vendig and Condado Avenue, then skip off to a nearby island for the afternoon to enjoy warm hospitality and endless exploration. Take in the vibrant murals that color the streets and tell stories of days past, and explore the many historic sites in town. It’s affordable, too, with rooms averaging around $100 a night.
6. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Mexico’s go-to LGBTQIA+ island tropical escape
Puerto Vallarta is one of Latin America’s most inclusive LGBTQIA+ communities set amongst some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Your dollar stretches further here, too, with plenty of options for accommodations for under $100 a night.
Waving rainbow flags dot the Zona Romantica, an area bustling with LGBTQIA+ bars, clubs, hotels, and resorts. Consider visiting in May for Puerto Vallarta Pride, which runs for eight days and brings revealers from all over the world.
7. Toronto, Canada
Visit “Queer West” for Toronto Pride
Toronto is Canada’s largest LGBTQIA+ community, offering an entire month-long pride celebration for its Annual Toronto Pride festival lasting throughout June. Immerse yourself in the Village, which offers tons of bars, restaurants, and business with LGBTQIA+ owners – including Woody’s of Queer as Folk fame. There is also an enormous urban cultural scene with May’s Inside Out LGBT Film Festival.
Rooms start around $125 with pricing fluctuations based on resort or hotel type.
8. Auckland, New Zealand
The world’s 15th top LGBTQIA+ community
Level 3: Reconsider Travel
This South Pacific island offers gorgeous waterfront fun with its beautiful beaches, but there is an equally-beautiful countryside with exciting volcanoes and rainforests to explore. It’s a progressive cosmopolitan where guests settle in at the popular Caluzzi Bar and Cabaret for leisurely libations and a show.
Most notably, New Zealand has experienced one of the world’s lower COVID rates, making for a safer international destination than most. Hotel rates are also at record lows right now, averaging around $91/month for an extra affordable getaway.
9. Tokyo, Japan
High-energy with a quirky anime culture
Level 3: Reconsider Travel
Also prominently featured on Queer as Folk, Tokyo is a clean, fun, and pulsing city with a super-inclusive and welcoming attitude to LGBTQIA+ visitors. Check out Ni-Chōme, Shinjuku’s LGBTQIA+ hub, and stop by Campy! to say hi to celebrity crossdresser and owner Bourbonne.
Tokyo also has a huge gaming community that offers experiences unlike any other. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover Tokyo by go-cart dressed up in your favorite Mario Kart gear. However, hotels run on the higher end of our list, averaging between $175 and $200 per night.
10. Cape Town, South Africa
The Gay Capital of Africa with penguins!
Level 4: Do Not Travel
Regularly recognized as one of the most inclusive LGBTQIA+ communities, Cape Town is known for its gorgeous beaches, an impressive wine country, and even penguins. Catch a cabaret show and wander around the bustling De Waterkant neighborhood, which makes up the heart of Cape Town’s rainbow district.
Rooms average around $175/night with some of the world’s most beautiful resorts. Visit in late February to early March so you can enjoy the 11-day Cape Town Gay Pride festival.
The bottom line
A vacation can be one of the best ways to relax and unwind after a global pandemic, but it’s important to remember that coronavirus is not over yet. As COVID continues to affect countries differently, there may be new or revised guidelines that can interfere with travel. Before you finalize your travel plans and hop a flight to your next LGBTQIA+ vacation, it’s important to continuously check the State Department’s travel advisories and guidelines.
Also, give consideration to the time of travel. Many of our top LGBTQIA+ destinations feature special festivals and fun events that can make your vacation more memorable, but they can also affect the cost of travel, such as flights and hotels. Your travel credit cards can help you save money here.
Regardless of when you choose to travel, a stay in one of our best LGBTQIA+ vacation destinations can help you shake off the pandemic blues and recharge your batteries with fun, sun, and plenty of excitement.
Now, it’s just a matter of which hot spot to visit first.
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