I work in the travel industry as both a travel advisor and a travel writer. I’ve owned the travel blog, Fifi + Hop, for the past 6 years, and write mainly about family travel, as I have two kids. Between my conversations with other family travel bloggers and my colleagues in the travel agency world, there are certain trends that will no doubt play a part in family travel in 2021. We’ve seen them already, and they will continue for a while.
The first one is family vacations to national parks, such as Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Acadia and the Great Smoky Mountains. They offer wide open space in nature, and are much more easy to socially distance in than a city. The vaccine is encouraging news, but as it will take some time to distribute, people are still going to be more inclined to travel to places where they can be outdoors. The U.S. national parks have always been a favorite for family vacations—now more than ever.
Road trips, RV’s, and glamping were huge in the summer of 2020. They will continue to be big in 2021 as well. Families can be outdoors and socially distanced, and simply by themselves. It’s a great way for East Coasters to discover the west, and vice-versa. Speaking of “by themselves”, private home and small hotel rentals are going to continue to soar. With the onset of COVID-19, many hotel groups ramped up their villa and home offerings—simply by building more. There is a vast array of hotel homes to stay in, either with just your family or a group of families (or friends). A great example of a small hotel to rent out is Scarp Ridge Lodge in Crested Butte, CO. Want all the luxuries of staying in a 5-star hotel, but don’t want to be around a ton of people? Lodges like this provide the perfect solution.
As 2021 moves along, and so does the vaccine, international travel will undoubtedly pick up. It may be slow in the beginning as people adjust to the idea of long-distance travel, but one thing is for sure—once the vaccine is distributed and the country has “herd” immunity, international travel is going to come back with a vengeance—especially with those who like to travel a lot. Big trips will be a form of compensation for many, for the long hiatus.
As far as which places will be most popular first, that of course depends on the administration of the vaccine, and which countries open first. I don’t have a crystal ball, but it is generally considered that places such as Mexico, Costa Rica, the Caribbean and Bahamas will be hugely popular. Mexico and Costa Rica, for one, don’t require a COVID test to enter. That is appealing to some, and not appealing to others. While these countries may be easy to get into, they may also become more risky. But we are already seeing Mexico as a hugely desirable destination.
Another trend that is and will be big—even for families—is wellness travel. People have been put through the ringer in 2020, and what they really want is to relax, recharge, and renew…get a treatment, get a massage, get their body in shape. People (parents included!) want serenity and tranquility. Places such as the Caribbean, Costa Rica and Mexico can provide them with a sense of total relaxation among white sand beaches and turquoise blue water. And the kids won’t complain.
Europe is a bit hard to predict at this point, but Greece will most likely be a hot spot. It did well with COVID, and opened in 2020, just not to Americans. Much like the Caribbean being a place of beauty and peacefulness, so are the Greek islands. The sea, beaches, healthy Mediterranean food are all tonics for the soul. The Greek islands provide a sense of adventure too – they are in Europe and you can hop around from one island to the next. And the Greek culture is extremely family-friendly.
Another European country very much in a similar vain is Italy. Italy is the mother of family-friendly destinations, and I have written a lot about the country, as I have taken a few family vacations there with my kids. Yes, Italy did not do well with COVID, but once the vaccine is in full-effect, Italy will be huge for family travel. Simply put, it always has been, and always will be.
Rounding out Europe, I suspect that Portugal, Spain and Switzerland will be popular for family vacations as well. Portugal has the Algarve, with its dramatic coastline and beaches; Spain has its beaches and islands, such as Mallorca, Menorca and the Canary Islands; and Switzerland of course has its mountains and stunning scenery—a nature lover’s paradise.
It will be interesting to see—as the vaccine takes shape—how each country progresses. No one can predict what will happen, and things are ever-changing, but I believe these trends give us an idea of where things are headed.