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All Over the Map: Pandemic Travel Two Years On

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On the Road Again

As coronavirus restrictions loosen, including the most recent news that COVID testing requirements for international travelers flying into the U.S. have been dropped, many countries are returning to some semblance of pre-pandemic life. Everyone, it seems, is making plans to take a trip somewhere, anywhere, so long as it’s far away from their living room couch. What are some of the biggest travel trends and hot destinations? Read on to find out. 

 

Related: 18 Ways the Pandemic Changed Travel


at-home covid tests
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Say Goodbye to Testing to Fly

For the last year, all passengers flying into the U.S. have been required to present a negative coronavirus test taken no more than one day before their flight. The Biden administration just announced that the requirement is now being dropped. The decision is based on CDC determination that testing for entry is no longer necessary at this time. A number of other countries, including the United Kingdom, have already dropped this requirement.

Happy To Travel Again
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2022 Will Be the Year of Travel

It’s not just your IG feed, everyone you know is taking a trip somewhere. According to a recent TripIt survey of 1,300 U.S.-based TripIt users, 84% are planning a vacation, 74% plan to visit family and friends, and 43% have plans to travel for business. And the destinations aren’t just confined to the U.S., 16% said they were planning to fly internationally by March and 33% by June in time for the summer travel season. The International Air Transport Association, which represents nearly 300 airlines, estimates 150% more passengers will fly in 2022 vs. 2021.


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Travel Will Be a Main Life Event

Vacation mode will be switched on all year long. The American Express 2022 Global Travel Trends Report found that 62% of respondents are planning on taking two to four trips in 2022. What’s on their travel itinerary? A growing interest in local culture (81%), giving back to local communities (81%), and being more thoughtful about how and why they travel (62%). There’s also a surge in interest for wellness trips with 38% prioritizing relaxation as they plan their next trip and traveling more sustainably with 57% willing to pay more fees to make a trip sustainable. 

 

Related: Volunteer Programs That Give You A Chance to Travel 

Young happy family going on a vacation with their camper trailer.
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People Want to Go on a Family Vacay

If there’s been a silver lining to the pandemic, it’s the coming together of families, and now with fewer travel restrictions, family travel is on the rise. American Express also found that 79% of respondents look forward to traveling with family in 2022, and 58% indicate an interest in taking multi-generational trips in its Global Travel Trends Report. 

 

“Coming out of the pandemic we’ve seen a reprioritization of values, and spending time with loved ones is at the top of the list. The traditional family vacation has expanded to become multi-generational and includes extended family, as our guests want to reconnect and re-engage. Across our hotels we’re seeing demand for experiences that are educational and entertaining for all ages as families look to make new memories together,” said Chris Gabaldon, a Marriott International senior vice president, in the American Express Travel Trends Report. 


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The Furries Are Tagging Along, Too

It’s not just the pandemic pets who’ve brought on this trend. Vrbo says there’s been a 40% increase in demand year-over-year for pet-friendly vacation homes — and the hot destinations to bring Fido to are Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Outer Banks, North Carolina; and Galveston, Texas; Miramar and Rosemary Beach, Florida; and Hilton Head in South Carolina. 


Pro Tip: If you’re traveling with your pet for the first time, TSA’s GIF-filled guide is pretty informative, and MillionMileSecrets has a ranking of pet-friendly airlines.  

 

Related: Summer Vacation Spots Where Pets Are Welcome


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People Are Doing the Research

According to Expedia, travelers want their next vacation to be their Greatest of All Trips (GOAT) with 40% of U.S. travelers more willing to treat themselves and spend money on their next trip. They’re also doing the necessary homework pre-trip to ensure everything is organized for a vacation to remember. 

 

“We see travelers use Beeyonder's virtual interactive experiences hosted by local and qualified guides to not only familiarize themselves with a location before traveling but oftentimes people enjoy their experiences so much they want to tour with the same guide in-person when they arrive at the destination. This also helps the local economy because the guide is not only earning income from the virtual tour, they are then earning income with the same couple who subsequently booked an in-person tour as well,” says Camille Scannell, vice president of experience at Beeyonder, a platform offering live and virtual tours. 


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The Face Mask Debate

In-flight mask mandates have been an ongoing point of contention. The FAA's latest report found that 65% of unruly passenger incidents to be face-mask related, and in April, the mandate had been extended for a fifth time, until May 3. But that all changed when a judge threw out the federal mask mandate, and major airlines like Delta, Southwest and United quickly dropped their masking rules for passengers and crew on domestic routes. As mandates may remain in place for international routes, passengers should check with airlines for updates about travel requirements.   

 

Related: Unbelievable Airline Incidents Through the Years

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There’s Still a Rental Car Shortage

You’ve booked your tickets and gotten your accommodation sorted — but do you have a rental car lined up? Gas prices notwithstanding, there’s still a rental car shortage, and it’s likely to continue for the rest of 2022. 

 

“For spring break, rental car reservations are up 404 percent compared to last year. The top rental car destinations are Orlando, Phoenix, Kahului, Denver, and Las Vegas, so travelers with upcoming trips to those locations should look into rental cars early and confirm their reservations with the provider after booking,” ​​says Jen Moyse, vice president of product strategy at TripIt.


Enjoy your new wheels!
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Smart Travelers Book Their Car Rental Before Flights

Thanks to the soaring prices and limited availability of rental cars, for some destinations where a rental car is needed, it’s essential to secure a vehicle first before sorting out tickets and accommodation. 

 

“Unlike pre-COVID times, travelers need to book early and take advantage of pre-paying for rental vehicle security. In the Southeast, for example, minivan rental rates were up in March 184% in 2021 over 2020 and this is the case again this March from $463.39 vs. $163.10 per week,” says Michael Meyer, president of Rate-Highway, a provider of car rental real-time rate management intelligence and competitive rental pricing systems. “Over the last twenty-four months across the top 50 U.S. airports, car rental pricing increases 64% of the time. What this means is that car rental companies are raising their prices more often than lowering them, and for the consumer, this means one thing — book your car rental as soon as you even think you are going to travel. For now, this is COVID fallout that is not going away anytime soon.”  


Private Jet waiting on runway
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Don’t Bank on Cheap Flights

Inflation and the rising cost of fuel — the price of jet fuel recently jumped 30.2% — and labor are some of the reasons ticket prices have been increasing and may creep up by as much as 76% by the summer. 

 

“Right now, the average ticket domestically costs 330 bucks. And why is it going to get worse? Well, some of these airlines are going to have to cut their flights. In particular, JetBlue has already announced somewhere around the ballpark of 10% cut,” journalist Dave Briggs said in an interview with Yahoo! Finance.

 

Pro Tip: Here are some new low-cost airlines to check out: Breeze Airlines, French Bee, Aha! and Avelo Airlines.

 

Related: What Flight Attendants Want You To Know About Flying Now

 


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Your Connecting Flight Might Be a Bus Ride

Here’s something to get used to: a bus-as-flight connection. American Airlines has partnered with Landline Co. to transport passengers between smaller regional airports (typically 50-70 miles away) from its Philadelphia hub.

“Bus-as-flight connections are reinventing the ways passengers are transported between airports to help ease pressure on the overall aviation system, while simultaneously improving passenger experience,” says Tim Hudson, principal and global aviation practice area leader at Gensler. “Buses can act as the 'connecting flight' between regional and hub airports with a few subtle differences. They’re cheaper to operate, they relieve crowded terminals and the overall trip time can be similar in length to the time it takes for parking, check-in and boarding processes.”

American Airlines is not the first to offer this service; United Airlines has been using buses at its Denver hub to connect passengers since 2021 and Sun Country Airlines uses Landline to transport passengers to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport from seven cities in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.


Travel insurance documents to help travelers feel confident in travel safety.
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Your Best Travel Bet? Cancel-for-Any-Reason Insurance

Traveling today comes with the expectation that there's a high chance of canceled or disrupted plans. Hence, many consumers are now opting for “cancel for any reason” insurance policies. Pre-pandemic, cancel-for-any-reason and quarantine coverage were not widely known, according to InsureMyTrip, now they're among the most-searched-for products. Another change to note: Younger travelers (18-24) are now more open to buying travel insurance, where previously policyholders were above 35 years old. 

 

Related: Your Flight Is Canceled or Delayed: What Can You Do?


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Big Cities Are Back in Demand

If spring break trends are anything to go by, many people are planning a big-city break. Looking at TripIt’s recent survey data that analyzed flight reservations made by TripIt users, big cities are making their way back to the top 25 destinations. New York City (No. 7), San Francisco (No. 12), Chicago (No. 13), Boston (No. 24), and Washington, D.C. (No.25) Skyscanner data also points to London as a top destination desired by U.S. travelers for summer, thanks to a drop in airfares and a general easing of on-ground restrictions. 

 

Pro Tip: JetBlue recently announced Boston-London flights, adding to its existing service from New York to Heathrow and Gatwick. 


Florida Beach Aerial
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Florida Continues to Be a Hot Destination

We don’t just mean weather-wise. In 2021, Florida registered nearly 118 million domestic visitors, the highest level in state history and Vrbo is seeing a lot of interest in the Sunshine State: Fort Myers and Cape Coral, Florida Keys, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Naples are four of the five most-searched-for destinations, according to the 2022 Vrbo Trend Report.    

La Mariana Sailing Club, Honolulu, Hawaii
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Hawaii Drops Its Quarantine and Mask Mandates

If you’re planning on visiting the Hawaii islands, know that it’s getting to be crazy busy in the 50th state. March 2022 saw more than 25,000 air passengers landing daily on its sunny shores, the surge of interest no doubt fueled by the end of quarantine and face-mask restrictions. 

 

Holidaying in Hawaii this time around might be a bit trickier. A new rule has just been introduced banning short-term vacation rentals in most residential neighborhoods on Oahu, plus the car-rental market is still at an all-time high. “The average price for a one-week car rental in Hawaii is around $800 before tax, which is about twice as high as we’ve ever seen,” says David Angotti, CEO of HawaiianIslands.com.

 

Pro Tip: If you’re traveling as a group to Hawaii, booking a hotel block might be the most cost-efficient solution.  


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EuroTrip 2022 Anyone?

All of the European Union and European Economic Area countries may be considered high risk by the CDC, but that’s not deterring travelers from planning their summer sojourn across the pond. According to a report in Fodor’s, Expedia’s flight searches to Rome jumped 105% in February; Barcelona shot up by over 50%; London by nearly 80%; and Paris by nearly 70%. Another hot spot? Greece. Data from the Greek Tourism Confederation shows flight bookings from the U.S. to Greece have now returned to pre-pandemic levels. There are 22,000 seats scheduled per week from the U.S. to Greece for this summer, and United Airlines is leading the charge with its daily-direct Athens and New York-Newark route

Family at airport waiting for flight in pandemic
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U.S. Travelers Are Welcome Everywhere, Almost

May 1, 2022, that’s when New Zealand will finally open to U.S. travelers without the need for quarantine and a visa. The Land of the Long White Cloud has been closed since March 2020 and is one of the last countries to re-open. While others such as the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, and Italy have eased their border rules, many still require vaccination/booster proof and testing. For a full list of restrictions, check the CDC website for updated information. 


Father with four children preparing for day on the beach
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Book Now for a Summer Home

Those YouTube ads are clearly working: Vrbo is reporting an earlier-than-expected rush to secure a summer abode with bookings up by 15% compared to summer 2021. Some of the most popular summer vacation destinations? Cape May and Ocean City, New Jersey, and Outer Banks, North Carolina, where already less than 30% of properties are available for July. Don’t worry, there’s still availability; spots like Corpus Christi and Port Aransas in Texas, Tucson, Arizona, and West Palm Beach, Florida, are seeing a little less demand. 

 

Pro Tip: According to Vrbo, 60% of respondents said they plan to book their vacations earlier than they did in pre-pandemic times. Of those, 43% said they would book their vacations 3-5 months in advance.

 

Related: 33 Amazing East Coast Beach Houses to Rent

Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint, Montana
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National Parks Need to Be Reserved

Two years of socially distant holidays have just fueled our love for the great outdoors. While all 63 national parks are now open, seven U.S. national parks will require advance reservations to maintain a certain level of crowd control, especially during the popular summer season. The parks affected are: Yosemite National Park, California; Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado; Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii; Acadia National Park, Maine; Glacier National Park, Montana; Arches National Park, Utah; and Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.  

 

Related: The Most-Visited National Parks During the Pandemic


Young woman works on laptop by lakeshore in the morning
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Having a Home Away From Home Has Become Easier

Remote work and “The Great Resignation” are attracting a new type of traveler, one looking for accommodations that make travel/work from anywhere a turnkey experience. On the hotel front, Tom Ito, hospitality lead at the architecture firm Gensler anticipates guests prioritizing the following amenities: hotels with restaurants, in-room kitchens, parking, pools, and outdoor space. 

 

Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s own CEO, is testing the workation theory out, living, working, and tweeting from Airbnbs across the U.S. for 2022. If your ambitions (and tax filing tolerance) extend to international shores, this report by the Gulf News gives you the skinny on where to go and which countries offer special remote-working visas. (Bermuda and Boracay look rather compelling.)

 

Pro Tip: Brazil has just launched a Digital Nomad Visa allowing foreign nationals employed outside Brazil to reside in and work remotely from Brazil without local employer sponsorship. All you need is a minimum monthly income of $1,500 or a bank balance of $18,000.  


Woman traveling in Gornergrat train
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Rail Travel Is Back

A growing interest in more sustainable travel has seen travelers keen to book a scenic train journey. “The multiple lockdowns saw amazing nature recovery in urban environments, which were a silver lining for many in a very difficult time. With aviation emissions predicted to grow exponentially, many people are looking to do their bit and reduce their holiday emissions by switching away from flying when they can. Rail travel around Europe is seeing a surge in demand, with huge popularity in newly launched sleeper train services,” says Rebecca Thompson of Ecosy Travel. Rail companies like France’s SNCF and Swiss Federal Railways have relaunched affordable overnight services between Paris and Nice for as low as $21 and Zürich to Amsterdam (via Basel and Cologne). In some cases, trains may also be the only alternative. A new law passed in France has banned domestic flights for journeys that can be made by train in less than 2.5 hours unless they connect to an international flight.

 

Pro Tip: Check out NightJet operated by ÖBB (Austrian Railways) offering overnight journeys between Vienna and Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Hamburg.

CLOSE UP: Woman on long road trip across Vietnam sleeping in a comfortable bus.
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Don’t Rule Out Luxury Coaches

Getting from point A to B might take some creative thinking if you’re looking to sidestep fluctuating gas prices and flight disruptions. “We’re seeing significant growth in Florida and Texas,” says Florencia Cirigliano, vice president of marketing for RedCoach, a luxury motorcoach with bed-like seats and complimentary Wi-Fi with routes in Florida and Texas. “As airlines continue to suffer from flight cancellations, pilot shortages, and aircraft delivery delays, and with gas and car rental prices at record levels, we have seen an increase in the number of RedCoach passengers as tourists seek affordable alternatives.”  


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Travel Consultants Aren’t Just for the Rich

They’re the pros, and they aren’t just reserved for non-tech-savvy travelers. New Amex Trendex survey data found that 36% of millennials are more likely to call their travel provider due to the pandemic. Travel advisors are increasingly being called upon to untangle today’s complex travel environment where travel disruptions, cancellations, and vaccine passports are becoming part of the deal. 

 

“Travel advisors have all the latest information on how to manage those challenges and work to ensure that travelers are prepared for the what-if scenarios. Whether it’s a flight cancellation, problems at a hotel, or an unexpected illness, a travel professional can quickly jump in and assess the situation and then navigate all the roadblocks to find a solution. And, that has never been more apparent than during this current crisis,” says David Harris, CEO of Ensemble Travel Group, a consortium of travel advisors in the U.S. and Canada.


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Get Your Sea Legs Ready

Nope, you don’t need to be a billionaire (although we hear there are a few mega yachts that might be open to new ownership) to sail the high seas. Families and groups eager to get away but stay in their bubble and be outdoors are increasingly renting a water vessel (yacht, houseboat, powerboat) for holidays. “We've seen 10X revenue growth in the past two years and have grown to offer over 150,000 boat rentals and water experiences across 9,300 destinations,” says Val Streif of GetMyBoat, a boat rental, and water experience marketplace.  

 

Related: 20 Gorgeous Airbnb Yacht Rentals in California

 


Disney Cruise Line in 2019
Disney Parks

New Relaxed Cruise Regulations

With the CDC’s updated COVID guidance to Level 2 or "moderate" risk, cruise lines will now be able to resume pre-pandemic style cruising. Disney Cruise Lines has announced it will lift physical distancing requirements across its ships, according to Travel Market Report, and with it bring back self-service buffets and no longer require guests to wear face coverings (a boon for the little ones) in any indoor areas onboard.    

 

Related: The Craziest Cruise Ship Amenities

 


Arrival in Paradise
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Your Bucket List Trip Might Be Via an Exotic Cruise

Cruise diehards will find any reason to cruise, but converting the cruise-shy might be easier now that luxury liners have added a few exotic routes to their sailing schedule. 

 

“The Caribbean remains hot among cruisers. It’s always the top destination for cruising, but given the cruise industry’s pause and gradual return — combined with general pandemic weariness — we’re seeing some significant interest in booking a cruise to the region,” says Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. “Alaska is also a key destination for 2022. Canada has just relaxed its ban on cruising from the country, opening up a wide range of cruises to Alaska, New England, and throughout Canada — most of which have been unavailable for more than two years. We’re also seeing some real interest in bucket-list destinations and we’re seeing cruise lines continue to tap into that market — mainstream lines and luxury lines are adding destinations like Antarctica and the Galapagos to their itinerary portfolios. Historically, you could really only visit those places on a bare-bones expedition ship. Now lines are really investing in those cruises, providing travelers with the opportunity to visit those far-flung regions with the creature comforts from home — and even more luxurious surroundings.”

 

Related: World's Most Beautiful Glaciers to See Before They're Gone


Unrecognizable female customer leaving the tips at the tip jar
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Set Aside Extra for Gratuities

Cruising and gratuities have always been a gray area. What’s the policy? Can you skirt it (and you shouldn’t), or can you get it baked into your final price? On mainstream cruise lines, gratuities cost around $15 extra per person, per day, but now according to Cruise Critic, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line will raise gratuities as a result of increased fuel charges, costs for COVID-19 tests (for crew and some passengers), and shipping delays for supplies. Still, confused about the tipping policy? See this handy guide.    

 

Related: How to Tip When You're Traveling Abroad


Airport with indicated garbage bins
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Airports Are Becoming More Sustainable

Air travel and sustainability don’t usually go hand-in-hand. As travelers grow more concerned about their carbon footprint, airports are stepping in to help alleviate the guilt. Gensler’s Ty Osbaugh points to Pittsburgh International Airport’s investments in wind, geothermal and solar power to reduce carbon emissions and create self-sustaining facilities. The terminal’s features like capturing rainwater for use in landscaping irrigation and maximizing outdoor spaces and natural light as a passenger amenity are also some of the ways airports are trying to align with the wider environmental issues at hand.

 

Related: Airport Design Features That Could Make Travel More Pleasant

 


Istanbul Airport
igairport

They’re Also Getting Super High Tech

Thanks to the pandemic, airports are increasingly adopting low-touch measures, rolling out everything from robot cleaners, self-service kiosks, biometric identification technologies, and touchless systems so passengers can go through virtual queuing and touchless security screenings. Some other developments in the works? According to Passenger Terminal Today, travelers can expect to eventually see shoe scanners with millimeter-wave imaging systems that detect weapons, drugs, and explosives, and next-generation security devices that have integrated artificial intelligence systems to help detect any suspicious activity. 


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