Travel Trends You Need To Know About For 2021
From nature and wellness-based vacations to exploring locales closer to home to celebrating postponed milestones, these are our expert picks for how we’ll be traveling this year.
If you had asked us at the start of 2020 for our list of travel trends for the year, spending most of our time on the couch, catching up with friends over Zoom wouldn’t have made the cut. Still, despite extremely challenging circumstances, we made the most of it: There were virtual tours and online celebrations, staycations, and summer road trips.
And as the months progressed, trends did start to emerge—from a desire to connect more with the outdoors to an uptick in private dining and other exclusive experiences—many of which we’ll see continuing this year.
Make no mistake, though: Last year was a difficult one—and travel still has a long way to go. But as the world slowly begins to open up again, we are hopeful. We are committed. And most of all, we look to the year ahead with positivity. With that in mind, and with expert insight from F1S advisors, we bring you our picks for what travel will look like in 2021, and how and where people will see the world this year.
Exploring closer to home
2020 was the year of discovering our own backyards (or at least, backyards within driving distance)—and even though recent research has pointed to flying as a low-risk activity when safety precautions like mask-wearing and proper disinfecting practices are in place—staying local is a trend we don’t see slowing down in 2021. And with so many towns and hotels to explore, there’s no shortage of safe fun to be had. Toronto-based F1S advisor Linda Montemarano, for instance, recently spent time at the Shangri-La Hotel Toronto, where she surprised her family by renting out the screening room. “We had dinner while watching ‘Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith’! What an intimate and special experience for guests staying at the hotel!” she says. And F1S advisor George Alexandrou’s clients, who usually travel outside of their native Canada, spent time outdoors, orca spotting and boating, at Nimmo Bay, a remote British Columbia resort. Want more inspiration? These East Coast road trip destinations should do the trick.
Another trend that isn’t going anywhere? Socially-distanced vacations and trips that put nature at the forefront (think: national parks, remote resorts). But we predict that in the coming months, travelers will take this one step further, exploring even more secluded spots, like the Galapagos Islands, Iceland, and Scandinavia, where they can see wildlife, search out the Northern Lights, or stay in hotels like northern Sweden’s Arctic Bath, where gorgeous cabins are set against a secluded (and often snowy) background. F1S cruise expert Mayla Melo has also seen an uptick in expedition cruises, “as clients want to travel to experience more nature and adventure without the big crowds,” she says.
Focusing on wellness-based travel
There’s no doubt about it: Last year took its toll on all of us—and a one-hour massage just isn’t going to cut it. That’s why wellness and health-based travel is set to take center stage in 2021. F1S advisor Valeria Dröge recently spent 21 days at Vivamayr Altaussee in Austria—and calls the experience life-changing. The health center and hotel offer a range of medical programs, like “stress control” and “immune boost” as well as cryotherapy, lab tests, and other treatments and therapies. “When you arrive at Vivamayr, the first thing you do is have a consultation with your doctor, who you will then see daily throughout your stay. They ask you lots of questions in order to assess the state of your health and then you get sent off for blood tests, etc. The doctors then get together to decide what the best treatment path for you will be and you spend your time at Vivamayr following the tailor-made treatments,” explains Dröge. Her favorite? Cryotherapy. “You walk out of it feeling completely refreshed!” she says. And there are plenty of other wellness resorts we love—from Miraval Austin to Canyon Ranch to Chablé properties in Mexico, which blend historical and modern techniques, to the SHA Wellness Clinic in Altea, Spain, where you’ll find various health programs, like “detox” and “rebalance” set on a breathtaking scenery along the Mediterranean.
From hotels providing cool private dining options, like the glass-enclosed two-person private waterfront dining houses at Maryland’s Inn at Perry Cabin, to the ability to rent out full facilities, like Montemarano did with the theater at Shangri-La Hotel Toronto, these types of offerings will only get more popular as people look for ways to combine old favorites with new realities. “We really miss going to the movie theatre and are somewhat reluctant to go at this time,” Montemarano explains. “This is a great opportunity to have a private screening room just for the family.” Travelers are also going all-out and renting entire properties—or even small cruise ships—for themselves and their loved ones. If a buyout isn’t in the cards, there’s also an upswing towards smaller settings. That includes river cruises or smaller vessels, like with Silversea or Oceania, and staying at more intimate properties, like the Blantyre in Lenox, Massachusetts, where guests can choose between the Tudor-style manor, carriage house, and private cottages, or the 8-suite Caldera House in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Celebrating postponed birthdays, honeymoons, and other milestones
We loved all the creativity that went into micro-weddings, drive-by birthday parties, and virtual baby showers in 2020, but we expect lots of people who postponed or put off major celebrations will party it up this year. F1S advisor Carlos Melia, for instance, recently booked a vow renewal in Buenos Aires—where the couple rented out an entire hotel—as well as a 50th birthday celebration in Rwanda. Similarly, after F1S advisor George Alexandrou’s clients had to postpone a multigenerational trip to celebrate a milestone birthday at Sonora Resort in British Columbia, Alexandrou helped them re-book for early summer 2021.
Visiting under-the-radar spots, meeting area artisans, and searching for souvenirs have always been among the best parts of traveling. And now, with many small businesses badly hurt by the pandemic, we predict travelers will have even more of an incentive to shop local. Plus, new ways to support these businesses are also emerging—even if you’re unable to visit in person. Some of our favorites include “Journey to Piemonte through Truffles”, where you can virtually forage for truffles with an expert and then have them shipped to you. And a boutique we always send our clients to in Cusco, Peru, sells gorgeous, handmade items made by local artisans, like alpaca wool hats, baby clothes, and luxurious sweaters that can be sent around the world. We want to make your shopping even easier: F1S can do the legwork, confirm pricing, and arrange shipping to you directly. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.
Choosing immersive and authentic experiences
Similarly, travelers are more interested in immersing themselves in a destination than ever before. That means shopping small, as well as engaging with local cultures, forming connections within the communities they’re visiting, and getting to the heart of what makes a place unique. It could be volunteering while on vacation, having a “favorite” breakfast spot you visit every morning, or learning from area experts, like at Canada’s Sonora Resort, where members of the Homalco First Nation can guide you on a grizzly bear spotting tour. And to do that, travelers are now also opting to linger in one city or country versus destination hopping every few days.
While this trend has been on the horizon for some time, discerning travelers are looking for even more ways to reduce their environmental footprint, particularly after the year we’ve just had. That could be finding ways to streamline travel by taking one direct flight instead of multiple layovers, which Montemarano says is becoming more common these days, or staying at an eco-minded resort, like One&Only Mandarina in Mexico, which was intentional in the way their design melded with the natural environment of mountains, beach, and rainforest incorporated the local culture, and made use of local materials, such as Cumaru wood, found in the 40-foot high treehouses and the volcanic rocks from the property, which were used to create the terraces and courtyards.