It’s time to whip your calendar out again for the next round of holiday travel planning in 2021.
We’re looking at available dates when travel is possible so you can start setting any extra leave dates you may need from work as well as budgeting how many trips you can afford and narrowing down your bucket list.
Please note this article was originally released pre-COVID. We have updated known school holidays and religious dates for 2021 but not all travel suggestions may be possible this year.
UAE Public Holidays 2020
Religious holidays are always subject to change as the Hijri (Islamic) calendar is based on moon sightings. Some occasions may only be marked by the stopping of alcohol service for 24 hours, or if marked on a weekend only 6-day workers will get a day off on Saturday.
- New Years Day – Friday, 1 January 2021 – follows the Gregorian calendar, always a fixed day off (no extra public holiday to be given on Sunday 3 January.
- Isra’a Wal Mi’raj (Rajab 27th) – the Prophets Ascension – est Wednesday, 10 March 2021 – not usually a day off.
- Ramadan starts – (Ramadan 1) – est 12 April 2021 – not marked by a holiday but a change in business and school hours.
- Eid Al-Fitr – (Ramadan 29 to Shawwal 3) – est 11 to 15 May 2021 – can be marked by anything up to one week of holidays, TBC moon sighting.
- Arafat Day – (Dhul al-Hijjah 9) – est 18 July 2021 – linked to Eid holidays, confirmed by moon sighting.
- Eid Al Adha – (Dhul al-Hijjah 10-12) – est 19 July to 21 July 2021 – can be marked by up to one week in holidays – final announcement TBC.
- Hijri New Year (Muharram 1) – Monday, 9 August 2021 – usually marked with a public & private sector holiday – observation by the UAE has been gazetted to occur on 12 August 2021.
- Mouloud (The Prophet’s Birthday) – Monday, 18 October 2021 – observation has been moved to Thursday 21 October 2021 granting a 3-day weekend
- Commemoration Day (previously known as called Martyr’s Day) – Wednesday 1 December 2021 – moved from its previous date 30 November to coincide with National Day celebrations – always a day off
- National Day – Thursday 2 & Friday 3 December 2021 – always a 2-day break, usually attached to a weekend, an extra day is likely to be granted 5 December TBC
NB Christmas Day and other Christian holidays are not formally observed. Many employers will be flexible, however, in granting Christian employees a day off but it will come from their annual leave allowances.
UAE School Holidays 2020-21
(Please note these vary by curriculum and Emirate, we have based this on guidance from ADEK and KHDA for schools starting with a September academic year. April starting curriculums will vary. Please check with your individual schools.)
- Winter break – 11 December 2020 to 2 January 2021 [3 weeks]
- Midterm break – around one week commencing 14 February 2021, varies in length, some schools only
- Spring break – 26 March to 10 April 2021 [2 weeks]
- Summer break – commences 2 July 2021. Students likely to return 29 August but formal announcements for 2021-22 academic year unlikely until May/June 2021. [8 -9 weeks]
- Autumn mid-term break – around one week commencing 17 October 2021, varies in length, some schools only
Where to head at each UAE holiday break
Note, travelling over popular UAE holidays always adds to the cost. The earlier you commit to dates the better the price you will pay but you may risk not having the day off school/work as intended!
Approx 11 December 2020 to 2 January 2021 [3 weeks]
Weather in the UAE: Highs around 24°C. Water temperature can be cool and occasional rain possible
With most schools getting 3 weeks off at this time, it’s an idea time to make some longer escapes at this time, both to take advantage of the cooler weather within the Middle East region, and short flights that can take you to the best winter wonderlands!
- Our best winter getaways coming soon!
If you are sticking around in the UAE, just be mindful its a very popular time of year for inbound visitors too. Attractions that normally have no queues are at their busiest over winter break so do factor this in.
Some schools may also grant a few days in mid-February
Why not take the opportunity to try one of the UAE’s beautiful glamping spots?
Approx Friday 26 March to Saturday 10 April 2021 [2 weeks]
Weather in the UAE: Highs around 30°C, sunny days most likely but can rain
A perfect opportunity for exploring locally taking advantage of the early summer sun. Though do note, it’s also one of the busiest times for inbound tourism to Dubai and the UAE. As a guide, Easter is Sunday 4 April 2021 and UK Public Holidays run approximately 3 April to 18 April 2021. Ramadan will commence approximately 12 April.
Why not try:
Approx Tuesday 11 May to Saturday 15 May 2021 [5 days]
Weather in the UAE: High 30°C‘s, hot out but water still refreshing
Many schools are likely to also tie this public holiday to a small mid-term break. Dates are variable, so there’s every possibility there could be a 9-day break. Here’s our full list of Eid Getaway suggestions at home and away.
- Some slightly cooler but sunny destinations to try include Cyprus, Turkey, Greece.
- Best beach resorts for families in the UAE
- Why not try one of these hotel resorts with a private pool
Approx Sunday 18 July to Wednesday 21 July 2021 [4 days – could be a 9 day break with weekends]
Weather in the UAE: Extremely hot, expect Mid-40°Cs.
This will fit in the very middle of summer during 2021. If you are not already on a summer escape, then it could be the perfect opportunity to get yourself away for a week, using minimal leave as at least 4 days are likely to be called as public holidays.
- We will update you on our favourite nearby summer escapes soon.
Hijri New Year Observed
Thursday 12 August 2021 [3 days]
Weather in UAE: Scorching! Expect 43°C+ and humidity
Falling most likely on a Thursday, it will make for a great mid-summer long weekend. If you’re staying in the UAE over summer we suggest keeping it local with a staycation, look out for hotels with fabulous pool deals.
Commemoration Day / National Day Long Weekend
Wednesday 1 December to Sunday 5 December 2021 [5 days]
Weather in the UAE: Expect temperatures up to 28°C
There are plenty of good reasons to stick around the UAE for this holiday. While it might be cooling for the beach and swimming, it’s the perfect weather for camping and exploring outdoors.
We suggest you try our UAE winter weekend ideas at this time of year. Desert camping is a very popular option, as is road tripping to Muscat in Oman (beware it’s also the busiest weekend for border crossing).
2021 will be a larger celebration than usual due to the country celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary.
If you are coming to Abu Dhabi, don’t miss our guide to 40+ things to do for Free (or really cheap). Also see our guides to popular Abu Dhabi attractions including:
Going further afield?
Planning Tools for flights out of Dubai
We use Skyscanner as our starting point for any search to see what approximate flight prices and accommodation costs we should expect. Give it a shot here:
Don’t forget you can search from more than just DXB! Why not also try starting with:
- AUH for Abu Dhabi
- DWC for Al Maktoum Airport
- SHJ for Sharjah
- AE for all UAE airports
- If you’d like to get creative and see where you can go, use “Anywhere” as your destination.
Note for overseas visitors on UAE School Holidays
If you are trying to work out how busy attractions will be in the UAE, it’s more important to note when other countries have their school holidays, when inbound tourism to the UAE is at it’s busiest.
During the cooler months, particularly December Christmas to New Year and Spring Break – early April, it’s more likely that expat families stick around. But over the hottest summer months July & August, a lot of expatriate families leave the country.
Hotels can also be heavily discounted in the summer, but this is to reflect that it’s near impossible to be outside during the day and many outdoor activities are suspended. We talk more about what to expect in Summer here.
Don’t forget to jump over to our Family Travel Middle East chat group to discuss ideas with fellow parents. We will update in the group and our Facebook Page as we become aware of any great last-minute deals.