2021 Travel Trends: What Travel Might Look Like This Spring/Summer

Heather at the Garden of the Gods

As the weather starts getting warmer and the snow begins to melt (at least here in Michigan), we start to get antsy to travel. However, many people are anxious and not sure what traveling will look like this year. I myself have been putting off traveling, but I am looking forward to resuming it this year. Most people from being cooped up for so long due to lockdowns fall into these categories for future travel. They are very excited about the possibility of traveling again (me!), wanting to travel more in the future to make up for time lost in 2020, intend to plan a trip to make up for a celebration missed due to COVID-19, or intend to rebook a trip they had to cancel. Here are the leading 2021 Travel Trends that I see for the upcoming spring and summer travel season.

Heather at the Garden of the Gods
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Travel Flexibility/No Fee Changes

Nobody wants to deal with the hassle travelers had last year trying to cancel flights, hotels, and vacations at the last minute and get stuck with huge penalties. Travelers won’t accept anything but easy flexibility in all future travel plans. And the travel industry is paying notice and allowing travelers to easily cancel their cruise, hotel, or tour without penalty. You will also see a no-change fee policy being applied to the rest of the travel industry, covering everything from home rentals to city tours. People aren’t going to book their vacations without the flexibility to cancel if they need to.

Some of the companies with no change fees and offering flexibility are:

  • United, American Airlines, and Delta have scrapped change fees for domestic flights. Remember
  • Hotel groups are taking a similar approach–in the case of Four Seasons, full changes or cancellations are permitted at no charge up to 24 hours before arrival. Refundable accommodations a now a must-have for people’s next trip.
  • Celebrity Cruises allows customers to cancel their cruise up to 48 hours before departure and rebook through May 2022.
  • Intrepid Travel, which offers small group tours, allows customers to change the departure date and/or destination up to 21 days before a trip for no fee.

Vaccinations will Improve Traveler Confidence

Heather at the Airport

Yes, everybody is banking on vaccinations for us to get back to normal. Unfortunately, there will be no return to normal anytime soon. In the meantime, getting a vaccination will improve your chances of not getting it, but it doesn’t eradicate COVID-19. It might improve your confidence to travel again; however, you should still wear masks and practice social distance practices and follow any guidelines in the place you are traveling to. Plus, as more people start to travel, you need to be comfortable with your own health and safety. I recently traveled on two airplanes where one still had a middle seat empty, and the other one had every 175 seats filled. It was hard to adjust to being in a cramped space with so many people.

People Spending More Time Researching Trips

If you are like me, you have spent the majority of lockdown dreaming of places to go. And you are not alone; 95% of travelers spent time looking for vacation inspiration, with over a third of them (38%) looking at potential travel destinations as often as once a week. Many people have been dreaming about their next big vacation for more than ten months, so it’s no surprise that travelers are extra conscious of getting it just right by reading reviews, spending more time to select their accommodations, and finding things to do. If you are looking to travel this year, start your research by using Pinterest. This is a valuable search tool that can help you find some really great places you didn’t even know about.

Last-Minute Trips will be the Norm

The tendency to stay closer to home has increased interest in last-minute travel and a more spontaneous wait-and-see approach to travel. And with guidelines and restrictions changing constantly, it helps to be a little spontaneous at the moment. If you feel comfortable making last-minute reservations and flying off for a few days, you can find some awesome deals. Skyscanner offers daily flight deals up to 55% off.

Family Gatherings

Raulerson Girls

Another travel trend is that people are looking to take family vacations once it is safe to travel. With Disney World, Universal, and Legoland opening back up in Florida, you will see more and more families looking to book their family vacations there. The other trend is that families are renting vacation homes on VRBO for the whole family to meet up and enjoy vacation fun and relaxation.

More People will be Taking Longer Trips

With more people working remotely, people have been tacking extra days onto their weekends, turning a weekend trip into a far more leisurely week-long trip. Because people aren’t spending as much on airfare, they can afford to splurge on accommodations as long as there is good wifi connectivity. According to a VRBO study, over a third (37%) of travelers have already considered booking somewhere to stay to work from a different destination. In comparison, 52% say they would take the opportunity to extend a business trip to enjoy leisure time at the destination. Even Hilton offers business professionals a way to enjoy a beachfront change of scenery while working remotely at the Hilton Sandestin’s new Home at Hilton program.

Traveling Outdoors is the new “Experiential Travel”

Heather at the top of Coronado Peak

Since we can’t explore overseas and enjoy the culture, food, and experiences, the focus has shifted to parks, nature, and the great outdoors. To be close to home and emphasize social distancing, travelers will want their trips to include outdoor activities, and for those who have splurged this past year on things like boats, RVs, bikes, and camping gear, this is your year. National parks have become popular destinations for travelers eager for outdoor adventures. However, you will have to deal with pretty crowded national parks for the foreseeable future. Try to look at some lesser-known National Parks to mitigate the crowds this summer.

Domestic Trips Will Be King

Heather and Janet touring Street Art in Tucson

I know that I’m focusing more on domestic local travel this year, actively planning trips to Indy, Missouri, Florida, and the Gulf Shores. In the first week of January, nearly 70% of hotel clickers on Tripadvisor were booking future domestic trips in May through August. Globally, three-quarters (74%) of travelers surveyed plan to take at least one overnight domestic leisure trip in 2021 — and an enthusiastic 80% in the U.S., where over a third of respondents (34%) are planning at least three domestic trips this year. Domestic vacations are where more people stay close to home, travel to rural areas, and stay in private accommodations like Airbnbs instead of large hotels and resorts.

RV Road Trips

Those of you heading out on domestic trips will be taking road trips either in your car or in an RV. According to RVshare, there has been a 166 per-cent year-on-year increase in bookings at the end of 2020 for traveling this year. Traveling in your own vehicle provides security, and it gives you a wonderful sense of freedom after a prolonged period of being stuck at home. With an RV, you have the capability to be able to cook, sleep and shower in your own mobile home, which is the ultimate in self-sufficiency. If you are considering van-life, check out the movie NomadLand.

Touchless Payment Options Everywhere

It feels weird to have cash in my wallet nowadays because touchless payment options are everywhere, and you would have to be living under a rock not to see how the world is going cashless. These touchless payment options are being added in hotels for digital check-in and check-out and other tourist spots. You can get on Google Pay or Apple Pay to even go card-free. Mobile apps are becoming more important as well, and touchless screening technology at airports will be expanding.

Sustainable Travel

Travelers will have a more eco-conscious mindset going forward especially if they have seen the effects of not traveling to the over crowded destinations; water in the rivers are clearer and air quality has gotten better in some cities. People are looking for more sustainable travel options, and travelers will start looking at alternative destinations to avoid the overcrowded hot spots in the past. Some sustainable ways to travel are:

  • Pick the Scenic Route – Rent a hybrid or electric car for road trips.
  • Fly Mindfully – direct flights (less fuel required)
  • Take the Road Less Traveled – choose less touristy destinations, go during off-peak or shoulder season, fewer people, and you can score better rates on accommodations.
  • Go local – Seek out small businesses. According to the UN, as little as 5% of international travel spending in developing countries enriches the destination itineraries specifically designed to help local communities-check out organizations like G Adventures, which gives back and is a proponent of sustainable travel.

Documents You Might Need

This is an unclear area, but you might have to show proof of a negative test (and maybe vaccination) for future travels. It might be as easy as the yellow health card needed for international travel or something different.

Digital Health Passports

One of the possibilities is a digital health passport being developed by many companies, including the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This IATA Travel Pass will allow travelers to store verified test or vaccination results on their smartphones. These health apps can reliably confirm negative COVID-19 test results and proof of COVID-19 vaccination for those that need it for traveling.

Stay On Top of Country Requirements with iVisa Documents

Restrictions are still constantly changing and continue to change, so you need to stay on top of things before and during your trips. Check out iVisa before you go to make sure you have all the right documents in this ever-changing world we live in.

Summary

I know that this is a large post, but it is jam-packed with information for you. Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of what to expect if you start to travel this spring and summer. And of course, always be safe and stay healthy!

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Further Reading

If you are needing more travel tips, check out these posts for extra travel inspiration:

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