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2021 travel trends and how traveller focus is shifting

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

The travel world (and pretty much everything) has been thrown into chaos this past year, with many travellers catching flights out of necessity rather than for pleasure. While many of us have put our vacation plans on hold for a while, there’s hope that the 2021 travel scene will be back closer to how it was in 2019. After all, our sense of exploration knows no bounds—even when borders are closed.

As one of the world’s most popular travel sites, we’re lucky to have stacks of anonymous data on how people are searching for flights, hotels, car rental options and more. So what have we learnt from the shift in searches we’ve seen? Come along as we dive into the travel trends of our New World of Travel report.

Plane flying over mountains
2021 travel trends and how traveller focus is shifting

One-way travel has gone way up

2020 has been a year of one-way travel (rather than return trips). Earlier in the year, travellers prioritized getting back home while the going was good. As the pandemic continued, we’ve seen searches for one-way flights drop slightly, but they’re still at a significantly higher level than they were at this time in 2019 (or even before March 2020).

Will one-way trips be popular in the 2021 travel world? People are still moving in one direction for many reasons. Expats who stayed put at the beginning of the year are slowly returning home. Meanwhile, other people are seeking alternative places to live for the remainder of the pandemic.

The trend of ‘workations’

A workation (‘work’ + ‘vacation’) is a concept that is becoming more popular as the year goes on. Working from home has become the norm for many, but where ‘home’ is has become a lot more flexible. With long commutes gone, many people have moved to more leisure-friendly locations.

Similarly, traditional ways of working—whether that’s in-person meetings or flying for business trips—have changed drastically in 2020. Travellers are now taking longer trips where they can clock in those much needed work hours, but can also relax once it’s time to disconnect. With Zoom meetings becoming the new norm, there’s never been a better time to master the art of pairing your business shirt with jogging pants.

2021 travel trends: beach hotel with hammock
2021 travel trends and how traveller focus is shifting

WFHotels

Many of us have experienced working from home this year, and while there are many positives that come from clocking in from your couch, it does have its downsides. The lack of separation between home life and work life can take its toll on your productivity, as well as quality family time. Many who work from home battle a constant stream of interruptions—in the form of laundry or the next episode on Netflix.

As certain travel restrictions have eased, some people have started to move away from the comforts of their home. Without the need to go into an office every day, they’ve questioned why they’re in a certain city. Instead of staying put, they’re booking longer stays at hotels in destinations they’ve always wanted to see.

By day they work (in a business centre or sitting at a modest desk in their hotel room) and the evenings are used to enjoy and explore new surroundings. If you want to WFHotel (work from a hotel), find one by the beach and ask if you can reverse your working hours!

Remote working

One step beyond WFHotels is working remotely as a digital nomad. The idea is simple: this type of life means bringing your work with you wherever you go. Some jobs include teaching online, freelancing, and running your own business. A major benefit of the digital nomad life is that you can discover your passions and learn more about your strengths (and weaknesses) as a worker as you go. Many of us can work from anywhere in this day and age, so why not think outside the box? All we need is an internet connection and we’re good to go.

With in-person meetings a thing of the past, people have had a better chance than ever to get out of the city—and the more remote they go, the fewer people there are to interact with. You can try different foods, explore the natural landscape around you (sustainably) and have countless little adventures in between emails and video meetings.

woman walking down to the beach with her dog
Travel trends for 2021: Working remotely

Last-minute travel bookings

While we all know by now that the best time to book a vacation is well in advance, it’s hard to know exactly what the world will look like in a few months. And with international borders opening and closing so often, it’s difficult to know where you can go.

Because of this, we’ve seen a huge increase in people looking to book last-minute getaways, which are trips planned within the next month or less.

From a practical standpoint, it makes sense. Many people have been navigating around cancelled flights and hotel bookings, so investing money in a vacation that might not happen can seem daunting. Instead, some travellers are booking trips within the next few weeks when there’s a clearer perception of what’s happening with travel restrictions.

Domestic travel

Another key change in travel trends that we’ve seen in searches is a surge in local, domestic travel. For example, even though many borders were opened to Canadians this past summer, travellers preferred staying in the country. And this is especially true in destinations like the U.S, where international travel is limited. Worldwide, we’re also seeing similar data.

A huge reason for this trend is all the uncertainty around COVID-19 cases and border closures. Being stuck on the other side of the world can be stressful, as many people learned in 2020. Travel trends in 2021 suggest that domestic travel is going to remain strong as travellers discover the beauty of their own backyards.

beautiful red-coloured canyon and grassland.
2021 travel trends and how traveller focus is shifting

Travel planning habits and considerations

Given all that’s gone on in the world this year, 2021 travel planning is going to look a lot different than it did prior to 2020.

Gone are the days of the fly-by-your-pants and hope-for-the-best travelling. Travel insurance, for instance, has evolved from a great idea to a mandatory part of your travel checklist if you want to visit some countries or in places where healthcare may be limited.

Flexible bookings will also be key in 2021 travel itineraries. Making sure we choose flights, hotel, and car rental options with flexible change and cancellation policies is essential. This is a major win for frequent flyers. Best of all, you can filter for flights and hotels with free cancellations on Skyscanner.

Family travelling together
2021 travel trends and how traveller focus is shifting

Airlines, hotels, and tour operators have also upped their cleanliness practices. Companies that have face masks, enhanced cleaning routines, and safe check-in services will win health-conscious travellers over others. Our new COVID-19 safety rating listed below each flight search result reveals which option is best when it comes to cleanliness and travel safety.

Plane cleanliness

Sustainable travel is also going to be a huge trend for 2021 travel. Travellers might opt to explore regional destinations, relieving pressure on crowded cities like Venice, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. These difficult times have given many of these once-overpopulated cities a chance to review how they’ll handle crowds in the future. On top of that, many airlines are also opting to fly their newer aircraft, which are often more fuel efficient. Want the most eco-friendly flight? Simply look for the ‘Greener Choice’ option whenever you search.

eco friendly choice

In the end, the world is going to keep travelling if it can. How this looks in 2021 will hopefully be closer to 2019 levels than what we’ve seen in 2020, but there will be changes and adaptions to our mindsets as we move into a new way of living.

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