Are you ready for a vacation? You're not the only one.
With 2020 behind us and the global vaccine roll-out underway, people are starting to think about travel again. While tourism was one of the hardest-hit industries last year, it's already begun to bounce back. And as people continue to gain confidence about traveling in a post-COVID world, the industry is expected to boom. After a year of tragedy and upheaval, we're all looking forward to a chance to get away.
On the heels of such optimism, a recent survey on travel sentiment and trends shows over 70% of Americans are excited to travel again and are dreaming or planning for a future trip. Domestic travel throughout the US will be the first to benefit from this shift in mindset, as families seek to reunite after a long separation. But no doubt, international travel will follow close behind.
Experts predict that it may take until 2023 for the travel and tourism industry to make a full recovery. But in the meantime, many are already booking in anticipation of life returning to normal. While they may be ready for a holiday, they are still cautious. And those concerns around safety are reflected in this year's top travel trends, which include:
- Outdoor adventures
- Sun and sand destinations
- Luxury travel
- Bucket-list experiences
- COVID safety protocols
- Sanitization standards
- Quality accommodations
With these trends in mind, we reached out to Travel Writer and Blogger Mary Chong from Calculated Traveller Magazine. We got her take on inspirational destinations, what we can expect travel to look like moving forward, and COVID traveling tips we can use. Chong started Calculated Traveller Magazine in 2013 to chronicle her love for new places, people, and adventure and has turned that passion into a community of over 26,000 followers. She covers everything from international travel to cruise vacations, aiming to help people travel well and spend wisely. She shared her thoughts about post-COVID travel and delighted us with her dream travel picks.
Sophia Murphy: What can we expect travel to look like over the next few years? Can it recover?
Mary Chong: Yes. It definitely will bounce back. Everyone wants to go on vacation because so many people had their trips canceled, and others feel like they've missed out on a lot. You'll find people are doing more bucket-list type vacations because they've waited all year and saved their money, so they want to take a big trip and do it right. Travel brands and companies call this trend "revenge travel," and it's the motivation behind the recent surge of travel bookings. And that's expected to continue for some time.
Travel right now isn't about the budget trips where there may be a high-density situation. People are going big because then they know they'll be safer, more isolated, and in a controlled environment.
SM: What are some travel sectors you think will make the fastest recovery?
MC: I think it depends on the age range of the traveler because people in their 30s or younger might be more apt to stay at a resort. While those who are older may prefer a cruise.
That being said, I think private cruises like river or barge cruises are more enticing to travelers right now. These types of cruises cater to smaller groups of travelers; you can have as little as 4-8 people on a barge cruise. These cruises also require 100% vaccination. So, you're essentially in a small bubble that moves with you. These private cruises are more expensive than a mainstream cruise, but everything from your food to your tour to your guide is included. It's the ultimate in vacationing, and you can do your own thing.
Resorts should do well, too, because they also offer the security that comes with being in a bubble. Yes, it's a larger bubble for sure, but it's one where staff is 100% vaccinated, and visitors are required to be vaccinated as well. You can stay at a resort and get the sun, heat, and everything that comes with a beach getaway without having to leave the bubble.
SM: What do you think is important to travelers right now?
MC: I think safety is on everyone's minds. People will be inclined to stay at higher-end places where they believe the necessary COVID precautions and measures have been taken. These locations are generally more secluded, people need to be vaccinated to stay in them, and the cleaning protocols will be more stringent.
Private villas and vacation homes are also smart options for people looking for a secluded getaway. Then you know you're in control of your environment.
SM: Considering all that we've discussed, what are your top five destinations for inspirational travel? And once we get there, what should we see and do?
MC: I want people to consider that though we're all eager to travel, we have to give ample time for the world to open up again. It's an excellent time to book and take advantage of the available deals on cruises, flights, and accommodations. Plan your trip now and book for a time later in the year or next year when the vaccine has been fully distributed worldwide.
I'll start my recommendations off with two of my favorite destinations in Asia.
If you've always dreamed of going to Japan, now is a great time to make your plans. Airlines are running phenomenal deals and promotions on flights this year, which will make it a more affordable option. And because Japan is hosting this year's Olympics, they will have a lot of new infrastructure and facilities and will be well-practiced in COVID protocols.
When you're in Japan, make sure to get a JR Rail Pass, available only to foreigners. With it, you can enjoy unlimited rail travel for the duration of your stay. Top places to see while you're there include Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Hiroshima, all of which you could visit on a 7-day trip. Japan is known for its fabulous culture, shopping, and food. Make sure to visit the beautiful temples and Japanese gardens.
It's well documented that Singapore's daily COVID numbers have been some of the lowest in the world throughout most of the pandemic. Aside from this added boost of security, Singapore has so much to offer visitors.
While there, visit the Gardens by the Bay, take in the free light shows held every night, explore the botanical gardens and waterfalls of Cloud Forest, or check out Singapore's iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel. You can stay at a luxurious resort along the beach in Sentosa Island or enjoy premium shopping and dining. In Singapore, the first language is English, so there's no need to worry about a language barrier.
If you love the outdoors and are looking for an adventure, there's nothing like Alaska. It's all about enjoying nature and the unique experiences you can have there. Some activities you'll want to add to your to-do list include wildlife and glacier tours, hiking, whale watching, floatplane tours, and water activities. And if you're timing is right, you might see the Northern Lights.
Alaska has a small population, so even in the major cities, you won't need to worry about crowds.
There's never a lack of things to see and do in Hawaii, including water and outdoor activities, island hopping, volcano tours, helicopter tours, and more. You can also rent a car and check out all the nearby towns. It has gorgeous and pristine beaches, warm temperatures, and a welcoming local atmosphere.
Avoid the crowds and visit some of the smaller islands like Kauai, Maui, and Oahu. Stay at one of the many stunning beach resorts or rent a villa of your own.
Curaçao + Caribbean
When it comes to the Caribbean, I would suggest visiting smaller islands like Curaçao, Monserrat, St. Kitts, and Grenada that aren't as well-traveled as the bigger islands.
Personally, I highly recommend Curaçao. The beaches are beautiful, and you'll have your pick of luxury resorts or private villas to complete your stay. Must-see sights include the dolphin sanctuary, the waterfront area, and the Caribbean, African, and American history museum—Kura Hulanda Museum. Because of Curaçao's close proximity to Aruba and Bonaire, it's easy to take a ferry and enjoy a day trip to those islands.
SM: What kind of precautions should we take traveling post COVID?
MC: If you plan on traveling, get vaccinated. You won't be able to go anywhere without being vaccinated—the exception being those with waivers or medical reasons. In some places, you'll be required to show that you've been vaccinated.
We're all alert to how you can contract COVID, and when we're on vacation, we shouldn't be lax. So all the precautions you're taking now, you should continue them when you're on vacation. Here are a few tips to follow:
- Wear a high-grade disposal mask or an N95.
- Wash hands regularly and always have hand sanitizer close by.
- All hotels are putting extra care into their cleanliness and sanitization procedures. But if you're concerned, travel with bleach wipes and use them to wipe down surface areas in your hotel room or your plane seat.
- Be more cautious about your surroundings. Visit less crowded places and be selective about what you're going to see and do.
SM: Final thoughts
MC: More people want to travel now than before. Once more countries open their borders, we'll likely see a massive explosion in international travel. Before you make plans, I suggest checking out sites like the Points Guy for regular updates on countries that are reopening. There are still places that are open to tourists, and there will be more, but at the end of the day, where you go is up to you and your level of comfort with post-COVID travel.