What do we really want out of our travels in 2021?

With the new year almost upon us it’s time to start thinking about places to travel in 2021, and what travel will look like next year.

Like something out of a bad sci-fi movie, a mysterious virus reshaped our reality in 2020. Us travel lovers had our wings clipped as planes were grounded, borders were shut and the only comfort was looking back over photos of previous holidays abroad.

Now there is a hope. Multiple potential vaccines hitting the news and the symbolic changing of a year have us thinking about how travel will be in 2021. Travel site Expedia.com released its 2021 Travel Trends Report, using data to determine the biggest takeaways from this strange, strange year and giving some insight into what we might expect in the year ahead.

Now’s the time to ask – what do we really want out of our travels in 2021? 

We never want to stop travelling

Americans were quick to swap international flights for road trips closer to home this year. Expedia.com has plenty of travel data and shares that in 2019 exotic cities in far-flung locations like Lima, Osaka and Lisbon were top of the trend charts, while in 2020 it looked more like The Hamptons, Yellowstone National Park and Lake Havasu in Arizona.

The choice was to adapt or stop, so many travellers saw the obstacle as an opportunity to explore destinations within driving distance. So what places will we travel in 2021? The question is whether the pendulum will swing back to US travellers exploring other continents or sticking to their own backyard for a little longer…

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We want expect flexibility

Flexibility is now an expectation, not just a “nice-to-have”. All travellers who consider travelling in 2021 will have the word flexibility at the top of their minds. If certain companies aren’t meeting a travellers expectations, they will go to their competitors. And fair enough. No one wants to book a flight, hotel or tour only to miss out on the experience due to reasons outside of their personal control. 

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We want safe experiences

In the year 2020, tourism businesses around the world pulled up their socks, took out their cleaning spray and slapped friendly “Healthy & Safe” Covid badges on their doors. Expedia.com says almost 300,000 accommodation providers added health and cleanliness information to their property listings. This included things such as extra cleaning, contactless check-in, social distancing and other guest safety measures. In 2021 we still expect hand sanitiser bottles to be glued (perhaps permanently) to walls and counters everywhere. The most popular places to travel in 2021 will be those with cleanliness and hygiene still top of mind.

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We want to book less than one month out

The quick shifting landscape has been hardest for the long-term planners. Travel has become more spontaneous with a shorter lead time. The average US traveller is booking flights just 29 days before their departure date. This is the first drop below the 30-day mark in a few years. Experts say it will rise again as airlines eliminate change fees and travellers feel confident to book further out and make changes without penalty. Hooray for flexibility!

We want to retreat somewhere special

Castle quarters or hotel room? Cabin in the woods or a roadside motel? There has been a growth in the alternative accommodation scene in 2020. While hotels were still most popular, it is growth for ranches, chalets, cottages, cabins and castles that is up. Perhaps we’re all just chasing a fairytale feeling for our short getaways. And it makes sense. The global pandemic has us swapping city stays for wide open spaces, the chance to connect with nature and find privacy from others. In 2021 we expect this trend to continue as travellers look for a slice of safe respite.

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We want to go somewhere tropical

Between Zoom meetings and hanging out washing, Americans are dreaming of escaping to somewhere tropical according to data from Expedia.com. Sandy beaches, tropical palms, fresh seafood, private villas and connecting with nature are a few reasons that islands are top of mind. Leaving your children with grandma and reconnecting with your partner again is another. 

Of the top 20 trending places to travel in 2021, half are islands and another third are popular beach resorts. Cancun is number one, followed by Riviera Maya, Playa Carmen and Tulum. Aspirational searches for Punta Cana, Oahu, Maui, French Polynesia, the Maldives, Key West and Bali also made the list. 

Cancun is trending for places to travel to in 2021

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With New Year’s Eve around the corner have you thought about where you can travel in 2021? Let us know in the comments…

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