PORTLAND, Ore., – As a new year begins, the demand for travel is surging. Many are making plans to take trips in 2023, after staying fairly close to home or not traveling at all during the pandemic. For 2023, travel looks different than it did before the pandemic. And working remotely and/or hybrid schedules now allow for greater flexibility for many travelers; “Bleisure” – a combination of business and leisure – is among the new travel trends for 2023.
AAA Oregon/Idaho travel expert Doreen Loofburrow takes a look at the major trends, which include everything from bucket-list trips to TV-inspired travel. “As we put the pandemic behind us, would-be travelers are looking for amazing life experiences and creating memories,” says Loofburrow.
The pandemic showed that life can change in an instant, and that things we take for granted can vanish with little or no warning. Travelers are eager to visit those destinations they’ve always dreamed about. Instead of waiting for “someday” to take those trips, many are making plans now.
Top bucket-list trips for 2023 include golfing in Great Britain, African safaris (where there is no hunting of animals, only viewing them in their habitats) as well as Antarctica, Egypt, France and Spain.
“Bigger and better is the view of many travelers. After not being able to travel internationally during the pandemic, many want to go now,” says Loofburrow. “The traveler sentiment is, ‘we deserve to go big; we’ve earned it. Let’s go now while we can!’”
Some travelers are booking bucket-list trips far in advance, making plans for next year and beyond. “Travelers are more interested in booking trips months if not years in advance than they were before the pandemic,” says Loofburrow. “The pandemic has made it easier to change or cancel travel plans, however, it’s extremely important to read the fine print and know what the change and cancellation policies are.”
TV shows provide travel inspiration
Fans of popular TV shows want to visit the areas where shows are set and/or filmed. These are among the most popular such destinations for 2023:
HBO’s White Lotus – Hawaii, where season 1 is set, and Sicily, where season 2 is set.
Netflix’s Bridgerton – London, York, and Bath, England.
Netflix’s The Crown – London, Windsor Castle, and Balmoral, Scotland.
Netflix’s Emily in Paris – Paris
HBO’s Game of Thrones – Croatia, Malta, and Spain.
Paramount Network’s Yellowstone – Montana
“The settings of TV shows and movies become top travel destinations for their fans who want to immerse themselves in the sights and experiences of their favorite characters,” says Loofburrow.
AAA is a sponsor of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love – a show airing on PBS in January. Each episode covers a different destination, providing inspiration to places around the world.
As noted above, many workers now work remotely or have hybrid schedules. This provides flexibility in planning trips. Some will work for a portion of the day, then spend time exploring a destination. Others will take business trips and take the opportunity to book personal time at the start or end of their visit.
Traveling with family and friends has taken on renewed meaning after the isolation caused by the pandemic.
“Many were not able to see their loved ones during the pandemic or had only limited in-person visits. Families now want to make up for lost time so we’re seeing a big bump in multi-generational travel with grandparents, parents and kids going on trips together,” says Loofburrow.
Some popular destinations and activities for multi-generational travel include cruises, theme parks and all-inclusive resorts. These types of vacations offer something for everyone at all ages.
Travelers are interested in exploring where their ancestors came from. Thanks to genealogy sites, people are eager to explore destinations that are significant to their family’s history.
There’s been growing demand for purposeful and meaningful travel experiences, particularly around supporting sustainable travel initiatives, engaging with local communities, and resorts offering unique wellness activities.
Many travelers are looking to ways to give back during their trip – adding a day to help with disaster relief efforts or volunteering at a local charity. In addition, travelers often look for travel providers that embrace sustainable practices such as elimination of single use plastics or water conservation. AAA has also partnered with Tourism Cares, a non-profit organization dedicated to sustainable travel practices.
Outdoor activities, beach vacations, and visits to state and national parks became very popular during the pandemic, as travelers could limit their interaction with others. This trend continues in 2023 with popular activities such as hiking, snorkeling, horseback riding, enjoying natural scenery, and just lounging on the beach.
Cruises have seen a big surge in interest compared to the other categories of travel, and travelers are focused on the value-added aspects of a cruise. River cruising and expedition cruises are two of the most popular types of cruises. These are usually smaller ships with more time spent visiting their destinations and are often a great value.
Working with a travel agent
A travel agent can help you plan your vacation, whether it’s a bucket-list trip or regional getaway. Travel agents are experts who can offer recommendations and tips on destinations, what to see and do on your trip, and the best times to travel. They can provide the best value for your vacation dollars, and can often find extras or exclusive offers. Travel agents can also assist with any last-minute changes to travel plans, and act as an advocate if the unexpected happens, including illness, natural disasters, cancelations and lost luggage.
“Of course, anyone can book their own travel. But it can take hours of research into potential destinations, where to stay and what to do. And do the photos shown accurately depict the property? How do you know if you’re getting a good price? Travel agents can help you make the most out of your trip and help you get the best return on your travel investment,” says Loofburrow.
AAA highly recommends travel insurance to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions, and more travelers are now inquiring about it. It is best to consult the expertise of a travel agent who can guide you on the coverage options available for your specific trip, including if your destination requires visitors to carry travel insurance.
Volatile times in the skies
After a chaotic year in 2022, it’s clear that the airlines haven’t recovered yet from the pandemic. Demand for air travel surged last year, but airlines weren’t able to keep up due to numerous issues – everything from pilot and staffing shortages to weather delays. This led to thousands of flight delays and cancellations. While most airlines are slowly getting back to more normal service, these issues will likely continue through 2023.
“This week, a computer glitch at the FAA caused the cancellation of thousands of flights. AAA advises air travelers to book flights a day or two before you need to be at your destination so that you have a buffer,” says Loofburrow. “Also download the airline’s app on your phone and set it up for push notifications so that you’ll be notified about departure and arrival information as well as any flight changes, delays or cancellations. FlightAware and other sites let you track your incoming flight so you can find other options if that flight is late or cancelled.
Exchange rate travel
The strength of the U.S. dollar compared to currencies such as the Euro and British pound mean that travelers can get better value on their international visits. Great Britain, France and Spain are some of the most popular countries.
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