The travel world has been thrown into chaos this past year, with many travelers catching flights out of necessity rather than for pleasure. While many of us have put our holiday 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 hire options, and more. So what have we learned from the shift in searches we’ve seen? Come along as we dive into the travel trends of our New World of Travel report.
One-way travel is way up
This has been the year of one-way travel (rather than return trips). Earlier in the year, travelers 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.
A workation (‘work’ + ‘vacation’) is becoming more popular as the year ticks 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 sales trips—have changed drastically. Travelers are taking longer trips where they can clock in those much-needed work hours, but can also relax once it’s time to disconnect. There’s never been a better time to master the art of wearing business-friendly attire up top, and pajama bottoms down below.
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 whittle away both work productivity and 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 restrictions have eased, some people have started to venture away from home and look at working from hotels as a new option. 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 into hotels in destinations they’ve always wanted to see.
By day, they work (often in a hotel’s business center) and by night they explore their new surroundings. If you want to WFHotel (work from hotels), find one by the beach and ask if you can reverse your working hours.
One step beyond WFHotels is remote working as a digital nomad. The idea is simple. Where you go, your work follows. In this day and age, many of us can work from anywhere. Generally, 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. Here, you’ll find fresh air, natural scenery, and adventure in between emails and video meetings.
While we all know by now that the best time to book a holiday is well in advance, it’s hard to know exactly what the world will look like in a few months. With state and national 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 for 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 canceled flights and hotel bookings, so investing money in a holiday that might not happen can seem daunting. Instead, some travelers are booking trips within the next few weeks when there’s a clearer perception of what’s happening with travel restrictions.
Another key change we’ve seen in searches is a surge in domestic interest. This is especially true in destinations like the United States, where international travel is limited. Worldwide, we’re also seeing similar data.
A huge part of this is due to the uncertainty of 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 travelers discover the beauty of their own backyards.
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 traveling. Travel insurance, for instance, has evolved from a great idea to a mandatory inclusion if you want to visit some countries or in places where healthcare is limited.
Flexible bookings will also be key in 2021 travel itineraries. Making sure we choose flights, hotels, and car hire options with lenient change and cancelation policies are vital. This is a major win for frequent flyers. Best of all, you can filter for flights and hotels with free cancellations on Skyscanner.
Airlines, hotels, and tour operators will also up their cleanliness practices. Companies that have face masks, enhanced cleaning routines, and safe check-in services will win health-conscious travelers 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 safety.
Sustainable travel is also going to be a huge trend for 2021 travel. Travelers might opt to explore regional destinations, relieving pressure on crowded cities like Venice, Barcelona, and Amsterdam. This time has given many of these once-overpopulated cities a chance to revamp how they’ll handle crowds in the future. Additionally, 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.
In the end, the world is going to keep traveling 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 slight changes and adaptions to our mindsets as we move into a new way of living.
Discover where it is safe to travel from the USA
For the latest information, find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map. Sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.
Want to read more?
- Coronavirus Travel Advice: Stay up-to-date regarding the current COVID-19 outbreak and what this means for travel.
- Everything you need to know about airplane filters and airplane cleaning: The ins and outs of how airplane filters work and the steps airlines are taking to keep their aircraft clean.
- When can Americans travel again? Latest border reopening news: An outlook on when U.S. citizens can travel again.