By: Nick Callos
Travel in the 2020s didn’t start out well, as the COVID-19 pandemic brought most domestic and international trips to a halt. As vaccines become increasingly available, it appears the world will emerge from this pandemic.
For travel lovers like us, it’s time to rejoice. We can finally get back to doing what we love: going on unforgettable adventures.
However, we have to recognize that things won’t return to what they were before. COVID-19 has transformed the travel sector, and there are trends we can expect to continue in this decade.
So, we thought it would be interesting to discuss our travel predictions for 2021 and the rest of the 2020s. This list will not only help you prepare for your next journey, but it may also provide inspiration on where to go and what to do.
Now, let’s get to our top 21 travel trends for 2021 and the rest of this decade.
1. Vaccine Passports
With COVID-19 still around, many countries require proof of vaccination for entry. By early 2021, countries like Belize, Ecuador, Croatia, and Nepal had opened to international travelers — as long as they could provide proof of vaccination.
2. Road Trip Boom
A higher percentage of folks chose to travel by car during the pandemic. As we come out the other side, we still expect road trips to continue their resurgence. A McKinsey survey found 67% of Americans would travel by car for their first trip since the pandemic.
3. Virtual Travel Experiences
During 2020, virtual travel experiences enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime boom. If virtual reality (VR) technology continues to improve, more people will choose virtual travel experiences. It’s convenient and eco-friendly. As a National Geographic article notes, virtual travel offers you the chance to see far-flung destinations with “minimal environmental impact.”
4. Digital Nomad Visas
The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a rise in remote working and digital nomad visas. Many countries, such as Spain, Georgia, and Mexico, began to see the economic and cultural benefits of having freelancers reside in their country. From Asia to Africa to the Americas, we expect more countries to follow their lead.
5. Online Language Exchanges
When the pandemic first hit, 1.2 billion children found themselves learning from home. While many students have gone back to the classroom, e-learning is here to stay — even for adults looking to upskill. We expect online language exchanges on sites like italki to keep rising in popularity. This new form of ‘travel’ will lead to folks from around the world making lasting connections and friendships.
COVID-19 accelerated remote working, and that accelerated workcations. One survey found 74% of Americans are interested in taking a workcation. Indeed, the workcation isn’t just a digital nomad thing anymore. It’s going mainstream.
7. Travel Corridors and Bubbles
COVID-19 hasn’t disappeared, and it’s hard to predict what will happen throughout the 2020s. This has caused governments to create travel corridors with other nations (like China and South Korea have done). It’s a smart option to keep travel going while protecting countries against a virus resurgence.
8. Rural Travel
The pandemic led to more people escaping to nature and less populated areas. In fact, 20% of Airbnb bookings are now in rural destinations such as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Whitefish, Montana. We expect this to remain a top travel trend in the 2020s.
9. Resort Stays
During spring 2021, searches for resort stays on Google reached their highest level in 10 years. This travel trend isn’t a surprise. Since resorts can require COVID-19 tests and are contained within one property, they can ensure the safety of travelers (something many value as they get back to taking trips).
10. More Travel in General!
A March 2021 survey found more than 25% of people plan to travel more, while 58% will return to pre-COVID travel habits. After a rough start, the 2020s could be the decade of travel.
11. Close-to-Home Travel
An Erie Insurance survey discovered many travelers don’t plan to go far on some trips. We expect travel to nearby destinations to be a top travel trend in the 2020s for several reasons: It’s more affordable, it allows you to support local communities, and it’s more environmentally sustainable.
12. More Travel Insurance Purchases
The pandemic led to an unprecedented rise in travel cancellations, and many folks have yet to recoup their money. This is why we’ve seen a 180% surge in sales of “cancel for any reason” plans since the pandemic began. People have learned their lesson, and travel insurance purchases will be a top travel trend in this decade.
13. Outdoor Activities
Hiking, skiing, camping, rock climbing, and other outdoor activities became a lot more popular during the pandemic. We believe this travel trend will continue, as people now more closely associate travel with experiencing the great outdoors.
14. Foodie Travel
A May 2021 survey found 60% of people are now comfortable eating out in restaurants (it never exceeded 42% in 2020). We think this number will increase. And that’s why one of our travel predictions for 2021 and beyond is that food-focused travel will surge!
15. Domestic Travel
TripAdvisor data shows 70% of travel booked in early 2021 was for domestic trips. International travel should return to pre-pandemic levels in the 2020s. However, some uncertainty may remain for a few years, which is why domestic travel should continue to dominate.
16. Big City Deals
The pandemic dealt a blow to travel to major cities, like Washington DC and San Francisco. We expect that to slowly rebound, especially since some of the best bargains you’ll find are for big urban centers. For instance, as of spring 2021, the average hotel price in New York City was 40% lower than it was in 2019.
17. Space Travel
Okay, while this won’t become mainstream, it will become a travel trend of the 2020s. Obviously, only those with deep pockets will be going at first. But as an article from MIT notes, space travel will get cheaper throughout this decade. Who knows? Maybe the common person will be able to afford space travel by the 2060s.
Cruise companies had to shut down in 2020 after a wave of virus outbreaks on ships. In spring 2021, the comeback began. Expect cruise trips to pick up substantially this year and beyond as more people get vaccinated and cruise providers get better at mitigating COVID-19 risks.
19. Semi-Retirement Travel
An important shift in mindset happened during the Coronavirus pandemic: People began to rethink their lives, work, and time on earth. This will lead to a rise in semi-retirement as people quit their nine-to-five jobs to travel, spend time with loved ones, and enjoy life more. We think this is a good travel trend. After all, you only live once (YOLO!).
20. Work Sabbaticals
This goes along with the last one. We should see a rise in the work sabbatical, as people with good savings who are burnt out from the pandemic decide to take a few months or longer off work.
21. Living Abroad
The pandemic led to a steep decline in expats in nearly every country. That’s going to begin reversing, as folks once again look to fulfill their dreams of living and working overseas. Look for every country, from Peru to Italy to Japan, to see an increase in expat residents.
Here’s to Travel in the 2020s
That concludes our list of the top 21 travel predictions for 2021 and the rest of the decade. We hope the list inspires you to fulfill your travel dreams.
Have any great travel plans or ideas for this year? Join our community and start the conversation.
About the Author
Nick Callos has always had a passion for reading, writing, and discovering the new and unknown. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Nick holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Boston College. He currently splits his time between his hometown, Chengdu, China, and the open road. A full-time travel writer, Nick hopes his work can inspire others to explore the world more deeply and enjoy the digital nomad lifestyle.