Travel Will Be Different

(Photo credit: Ross Parmly/Unsplash)

Other than people’s love of traveling, the pandemic changed everything when it comes to heading out on the road. At least it seems that way at times. Not only did COVID stop travel altogether last year, but from what I’m learning it appears to caused some deep, and in my opinion, much needed changes, not just about where people will travel going forward but in how they will travel.

We’re already seeing close-to-home escapism becoming more popular, with road trips and RVing at the top of the list for many who are eager to hit the road again. People in the U.S. are already visiting state and natural parks in huge numbers, and taking more wilderness trips as well. Travel to Hawaii and Alaska are booming as many overseas destinations still remain closed to visitors, or require long periods of quarantine (like Japan or Singapore).

One of the biggest changes that seems to be coming to the travel industry can be summed up in one word: sustainability. According to experts, big resort vacations at exotic locations or trips visiting multiple locations in a short period of time are going to be less popular than longer stays in one location, where the focus will be more on “human tourism” and the people and culture of a place versus a short vacation or trip trying to fit in as many destinations as possible. The trend in future travel will be tailored, conscious, and more discerning, with health and safety not just of travelers but of those at the destination of primary importance. In a race between quality versus quantity of travel, quality is expected to win. According to travel experts, future travel will be defined more by purpose versus checking off boxes on a list. I certainly hope this is true, and that places like Venice or Santorini that were being “over visited” are able to return to a more natural and relaxed pace of life that can support, sustain, and give back to the local population.

Tourists in Venice, pre-COVID (photo credit: Globaltrend)

The actual travel experience is going to feel very different as well in the future. Face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes are going to be with us for a long time. Quarantines will be too, depending on where you plan to visit. Going through immigration in another country may mean longer waits in line, proof of a negative COVID test and/or proof of vaccine (and only certain vaccines may be accepted). Travel seasons may change as well, and may be switched off and on depending on outbreaks of the virus or the rise of variants. And, although airline change and cancellation fees seem to be gone for good, travel insurance will be a must have as trips could potentially have to be cancelled or rearranged depending on what’s happening at a destination. For this reason, booking directly with airlines, hotels, and car rentals versus using an online agency like Expedia, Travelocity, and such can help make sure getting flights and other reservations changed or refunded if necessary.

The cruise industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, and will probably face major changes in the future. Restrictions like health screenings, proof of vaccination, and other terms will most likely be put in place for the indefinite future, and things like self-serve buffets and other group offerings will go the way of the dinosaurs. Many countries will not allow ships other than from the country of origin to dock. For example, Taiwain is currently offering short cruises, but only to citizens of Taiwan, and stops are only in Taiwanese ports. It may be a great while before long cruises reappear – current trends point to short cruises of less than a week, many on smaller ships, and only to destinations close to the home port.

Big cruise ships may be shunned for smaller ones and smaller cruises. (Photo credit: Brandon Nelson/Unsplash)

Overall, hygiene and sanitation no matter where you go is going to be the top priority. Air quality, cleaning standards, and personal sanitation are all going to be featured by airlines, hotels, and other travel vendors. Some airlines already plan to keep the middle row of seats empty going forward, especially on longer flight. Smaller group numbers for tours and other activities will be highlighted and other safety precautions put in place. Train and bus travel versus flying is already being encouraged, not only for sanitary reasons but because it’s more environmentally friendly overall.

All of the above points to a very different travel experience going forward. Planning will still be fun, but it’s going to require more thought and a greater degree of flexibility. Change is to be expected. Still, there’s no reason not to start thinking about future travel. We’re still ready to go – it may not be exactly what we hoped for, but it will still be wonderful.

12 thoughts on “Travel Will Be Different

  1. We were happy to see that Italy is about to ban large cruise ships in Venice. I agree that the travel experience is about to change, but the ways you describe are improvements IMO. We also saw a NYT story with pics and videos of the crowds at the national parks this summer and both said immediately, No Way. We’ll wait until the surge dies down and go in an off season (whatever that turns out to be). So glad we’ve seen a lot of the places we wanted to see. My trips to England this year were pretty stressful. Hopefully that improves over time.

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    1. Banning those huge cruise ships into Venice would be a blessing. Same for Santorini, Barcelona, and a few other places. Those locations were not built nor can be sustained on those numbers being disgorged into those areas on a daily basis. Donna Leon’s books often remark on the changes wrought by all these tourists arriving – especially sad are the local businesses that close to make way for more tourist-oriented shops.

      We are already girding our loins for what we may encounter next year. If Japan still has the two-week quarantine in place, we’ll postpone our visit, but with the surges in virus cases coming on, I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll be able to go back to PA next year, or if the college will even hold a graduation, vaccinated or not. So many unknowns right now, but we are beginning to prepare ourselves for the worst.

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  2. I’ve been so busy I’m way behind in reading your posts! So I will have to catch up now. I think it’s too soon to say what will happen with travel in the long-term, but I hope a lot of what you’ve outlined here comes true. I have a tentative trip planned to Florida in November and depending on how things are going in Hawaii, I may come there in early December. I read an article that the tourists there are out of control, but it’s always tough to know how accurate these types of articles are. The article focused on Maui. Maybe things will settle down by then.

    I was talking to someone I know and he said adherence to mask wearing on flights varies by airline. He said he’s been on some flights where they were very strict and some where it wasn’t enforced. These were all domestic flights.

    I have no plans to travel internationally in the near future. I think it’s going to be a few years before I feel comfortable doing that. People I know who have flown overseas recently said it was difficult. One person told me it was a nightmare of cancelled flights and trying to find alternative flights. He said he’d land at one connection only to find out his next flight had been cancelled and it took him days to get from Sweden to the US. This was in June so maybe things have improved since then.

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    1. We are all having to think about “depending how things are going” once again. Cases of the virus are rising again in Hawaii, brought by unvaccinated visitors and locals. It’s scary, and we’re extending our own personal stay-at-home orders. We walk at the park, we go to beaches that are never very crowded, and we only go to Costco and Walmart when needed and with masks on. Anyway, if you do make it to Kaua’i in December, I hope we can get together!

      Currently, a coach seat from Honolulu to Tokyo is over $5,000 per seat!!! I think that’s to discourage people coming over for the Olympics, but still. Americans are still discouraged from traveling, and even if you have to go, if you’re coming from certain states, like Florida, you have to go into government quarantine (their location) for a few days before resuming regular quarantine. Vaccinations are going on there now – both our son and DIL have gotten their first shots – but the Delta variant is causing major problems. We are mentally preparing ourselves for not being able to go next year, or having to postpone our trip until 2023.

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    1. New Zealand has been very, very smart about handling the virus in order to protect its citizens, and a model for the rest of the world. The U.S., not so much.

      We think restrictions will continue in Japan, our only planned overseas destination, for the next 18 months as well. Good for them, sad for us.

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    1. I totally agree. I think the era of cheap travel is over for good though. That sadly means less people getting out to see the world, and difficult for regions that depend on tourism, but better for the earth and the world overall.

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  3. I do hope we’ll see some significant changes in the way people travel. Checking places out of a list is so meaningless and quite hurtful to the communities where these tourist attractions are. I remember when we visited Venice, it was so strange to see the enormous number of people who were crammed in the boats to be presented with the water view of the city. I couldn’t help but wonder what a person caught in the middle could actually see, what would one remember about Venice at the end of that day. We chose to walk the city’s streets from the train station all the way to Piazza San Marco. Needless to say, we loved it. We eventually got in a boat later in the evening and it was indeed breathtaking, but by then, the crowds were gone. However, the next day they came back with vengeance. I wouldn’t want to live in Venice. Such a unique place and so mistreated by the tourism industry I suppose. I am glad the city finally decided to put some limits in place.

    As Lucinda noted, let’s hope that more sustainable traveling will not mean that only the very rich can afford it. Because now I see that there is a race for space travel going on. We, the regular mortals, keep our thermostats to 78 or under, embrace minimalism and work on reducing our carbon footprint while the richest people get to dip their toes into space🤣. And while this is a great achievement for humanity( or at least that’s what we’re told), it seems to me that is quite frivolous at the moment to launch this type of travel. I really don’t know how one can mitigate the carbon emissions from air travel by having rockets flying regularly in space.

    Meanwhile, let’s hope that in a couple of years we’ll see our beloved occasional nomads out there in this world, keeping us informed and entertained by their (un)usual adventures.

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    1. There are places I love to visit (or would love to visit), but agree with you that living there would change things, and would not be best for the location or the residents.

      I think travel being more expensive going forward is going to be a given, and I see many of the discount airlines that have sprung up over the past few years eventually going out of business as their fares (have to) rise.

      I am somewhat disgusted by these two rich men sending themselves into space – so much more could have been done and could be done with the money spent on their vanity projects.

      We can’t wait to get back out in the world once again, although it’s still going to be a while. I appreciate you sticking with us while we wait out the current situation, and do our best to prepare for the future.

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  4. Many of the resort areas in Colorado, including in Steamboat where we live are pulling tourism ads because we don’t have enough workers to handle the influx of tourists. Most recently I noticed that the meat counter of the grocery store was dark because they have no one to work. I manage a lumberyard and I am doing most everything, stocking, ordering, helping customers on my own because I can’t find help. We have a very high COL and no housing available. We have a roommate that we were hoping would move on in the fall but he has no where to go and the rent he pays helps offset the rent we pay.

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    1. I have been reading about situations similar to the ones you describe. Thankfully we don’t seem to be having the same problem here – lots of jobs, lots of people eager to work, although some jobs did not come back. Apparently some places are “streamlining” operations to help their bottom line, but it means people who didn’t get their old jobs back.

      Good for you for keeping on your roommate in spite of your hopes for the fall. It sounds like a win-win for both of you.

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