Top Travel Trends for 2020 and 2021

Travel experts and industry insiders offer insight on what 2020 through 2021 travel trends will look like as stay-at-home restrictions change and social distancing continues. Find out the travel trends to look for.

June 02, 2020
Related To:

Photo By: Georgia State Parks

Photo By: Visit Austin

Photo By: Erin Gifford

Photo By: Visit California / David H. Collier

Photo By: FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP / Getty Images

Photo By: Park City Chamber Bureau

Photo By: Discover Newport

Photo By: Georgia State Parks

Photo By: The Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Photo By: Colorado Tourism Office

Photo By: RVshare

Photo By: Jason Smith

Photo By: Orange County Archives, flickr

Vast Travel Changes

As travel trends develop in 2020 and into 2021, the impact of COVID-19 continues to change our lives. From rising campground visits and RV vacations to one-tank trips, here are the trends that insiders predict will affect the travel landscape going forward this year and beyond.

More Domestic Travel

The US State Department is currently advising all American citizens to avoid international travel due to the global impact of coronavirus and some states are still also requiring self-imposed quarantines for visitors who enter their borders. Those who do opt to travel abroad despite government recommendations can face 14-day quarantine requirements on arrival, making travel outside the United States a hard sell right now. According to SquareMouth, a travel insurance comparison site, domestic trips make up 48 percent of planned summer travel (among SquareMouth policyholders). That's up from 15 percent one year ago.

Camping Getaways

KOA conducted a survey to take the temperature of today's travelers. They found that nearly a third (32 percent) of those who have not camped before expressed an interest in camping, eager to get out into nature after being cooped up in the house. Among prospective campers, 41 percent are most interested in a cabin stay. In fact, 36 percent of those surveyed specifically noted an interest in full-service cabins with private kitchens and bathrooms.

Car Travel

With average fuel prices at record lows (as in, less than $2 per gallon, per AAA), road trips are a predicted trend. A recent survey commissioned by roadside travel center Pilot Flying J revealed that 35 percent of people would rather drive this summer because of the ability to better control their environment and interactions. Many state tourism bureaus, including Colorado and California, share road trip itineraries on their sites for all types of travelers.

Less Plane Travel

Travel by plane has taken a dip with Southwest Airlines reporting that it filled just 6 percent of its flights in the month of April. "The traffic levels are next to zero at this point,'' Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said in a CNBC interview in April. Air travelers are predicted to choose direct routes when flying rather than ones with plane changes and more interaction.

Trips Into Nature Predicted to Rise

A recent KOA study found that nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed were ready to get back to nature. As outdoor lovers get ready to hike, bike, kayak and canoe, a group of nearly 20 outdoor-focused organizations, including the American Hiking Society, REI and the National Park Foundation, came together to form the Recreate Responsibly Coalition. The group's mission is to help travelers enjoy outdoor spaces and recreate responsibly by planning ahead, practicing physical distancing and leaving no trace on trails and waterways.

A Rise in One-Tank Trips

Getaways where you can get there and back without having to fill up your gas tank while on the road, and trips within two to three hours from home, are increasingly popular, according to travel studies.

More Last-Minute Decisions

As the coronavirus pandemic ebbs and flows, many are understandably reluctant to plan getaways too far into the future. With so much uncertainty, many travelers are waiting until the last moment to book summer trips, sometimes booking stays the same day or within a few days of the first day of vacation, according to Rentals United.

Vacation Rental Stays

According to AirDNA, a provider of short-term vacation rental data, vacation rental bookings have jumped 127 percent since early April. Many families see vacation rentals, like beach houses and mountain cabins, as safer accommodation options for summer, because there are no germy elevator buttons to press, and no cleaning staff entering your room.

Small Town Getaways

Even before the coronavirus, more and more travelers were gravitating toward smaller towns and cities. Smaller, less-frequented destinations that are set away from top tourist attractions, like theme parks and national parks, will likely appeal to travelers.

The Rise of the RV

Interest in RV travel is skyrocketing as Americans contemplate how to safely travel this summer. According to RVshare, a national RV rental marketplace, bookings of travel trailers, fifth wheels and motorhomes have jumped more than 1,000 percent since early April. For many, being able travel, sleep and eat in one place is appealing, enabling them to limit face-to-face interaction with others and minimize contact with unclean surfaces. According to RVShare, travel to state parks is on the rise. Emerging destinations include Lake Murray State Park in Oklahoma, Garner State Park in Texas and Oak Mountain State Park in Alabama. Capitalizing on this trend, Pottery Barn and Airstream have teamed up on a line of RV-suitable decor.

Sidewalk Cafes

From big cities to small towns, sidewalk cafes that allow diners to eat outdoors at safely distanced tables and avoid recirculated air are a workable solution for a dining industry devastated by the pandemic. Many cities including Tampa, San Francisco and New York are also contemplating closing down whole streets to create more alfresco dining and drinking opportunities.

The Return of the Drive-In

Drive-in movie theaters have seen a spike during the stay-at-home measures and many drive-in owners are hoping that trend continues.

Shop This Look