5 Travel Trends in 2020 That Will Have You Packing Your Suitcase
New year, new opportunities to explore the globe. If you've been wanting to take a vacation (or another one), we're here to tell you — there's no time like now. Whether it's a weekend trip here or a wellness retreat there, make this the year you actually take advantage of your PTO days. Yes, all of them. Ahead are five trends to provide a little inspiration to help you travel better, smarter, and slower. Grab your bags; there's a whole world of adventure waiting for you.
Hometown Vacations: According to Vrbo data, travelers who are renting vacation stays in major cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta are originally from... those same exact cities. Unlike staycations, which involve staying in your own home, local travelers are looking for a getaway without the hassle of actually getting away. Another emerging trend includes celecations — renting a large vacation home to accommodate groups coming into your hometown for special occasions (birthdays, weddings, family reunions, etc.). The best part — you can host family and friends without having to worry about cleaning up after them.
Unconventional Accommodations: Why stay in a regular house when you can stay in a treehouse, or rent a simple cabin when you can rent out a castle? Per Vrbo, demand for houseboats, yachts, RVs, and Airstreams is up 30 percent year-over-year as travelers seek out unique accommodations. After all, if you're going to go on vacation, you might as well do it in style (and for the 'gram).
RVs, specifically, have seen explosive growth in the past few years. RVShare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, reports a 650 percent growth in RV interest since 2013, with 75 percent of millennials saying they would like to rent one in the future. The most popular destination for RV? The last frontier, Alaska. Both RVShare and Outdoorsy, another peer-to-peer RV rental platform, show the number one growing destination for RVing is Anchorage, Alaska. For outdoor enthusiasts, Alaska is an obvious choice — the country's largest state has miles of uninhabited landscape, glaciers, impressive wildlife, and Denali, the highest peak in North America.
Japan: Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Games, so it's no wonder the country is gearing up for an influx of travelers. Tokyo is number 4 on Google's 2020 trending destinations (based on global hotel search activity) and number 17 on Airbnb's 2020 destinations to visit (showing a 103 percent increase in year-over-year bookings). And Japan Airlines is expanding routes from US to Tokyo (including new services from Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, and Los Angeles), providing more opportunities to get to the country.
Outside of the capital, Japan has much to offer travelers of every type, whether you want to visit temples in Kyoto, pet the deer that roam freely in Nara, or take a Wild Bum guided climb up Kintoki Peak for spectacular views of Mt. Fuji. New luxury hotels, like Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono in the mountains and HOSHINOYA Okinawa, a beachfront resort, are also planning 2020 openings.
Still looking to book a trip to Japan? Google has launched some new features including a "when to visit" tab (on desktop), which will show you how weather, crowds, and hotel pricing varies across dates, so you can optimize for your ideal trip.
Slow Travel: Sometimes the journey is just as important as the destination, and 2020 will highlight the importance of slow travel. According to Booking.com, travelers are increasingly looking to take longer routes to take in the scenery, enjoy the experience, and reduce their environmental impact.
Trains are one of the most affordable and gorgeous ways to travel across countries or continents. For example, you can see both the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas on Amtrak's California Zephyr, which goes from Chicago to San Francisco; hit up Europe's most famous cities via Eurail all in one trip, or marvel at the Alaskan wilderness in one of Princess Rail's glass-domed trains. Train travel hails back to simpler times, and 64 percent of Booking.com travelers said they're even interested in throwing it back by taking a historical train journey (e.g. the Flying Scotsman or the Orient Express). What's old is new again.
Sustainable Alternatives: Overly touristy cities are annoying for multiple reasons, but they also provide strain on local communities. Booking.com predicts a rise in second-city travel in 2020, a desire for people to explore more off-the-beaten path locations and be more responsible travelers. Over half of global travelers want to reduce over tourism and said they would swap their original destination for a lesser-known but similar alternative if it meant reducing their environmental impact. Taking the road less traveled can lead to great things.
For those looking to be a trendsetter, Kayak.com lists a number of cities that have a lot of hotels but haven't spiked in travel searches yet. Among the list include Port Elizabeth, South Africa (two hours from Capetown or Johannesburg); the historical town of Tbilisi, Georgia; beachy Santa Maria, Cape Verde; and the resort town of Hua Hin, Thailand, just a three hour drive from Bangkok.
Intrepid Travel, a carbon-neutral company and certified B-Corp, offers trips that support local economies, preserve the environment, and protect vulnerable people and wildlife. One of their 2020 travel trends is to make undertourism a thing by launching adventures in regions and countries that are not necessarily on people's radars, but still provide unforgettable experiences.
Natural Habitat Adventures, a responsible adventure travel company, is using its 2020 trips as a way to bring awareness around climate change. This year their small group, nature-focused trips will go to places under threat from global warming (the Amazon, Greenland, Southern Africa) and be accompanied by WWF experts. Natural Habitat Adventures will offset a year's worth of carbon emissions for every traveler that books one of the designated trips. Win-win.
Food-Focused Itineraries: Food is a great connector of people, regardless of culture, language, or country. A good meal, regardless if it's at a Michelin-rated restaurant or from a small street food cart hidden down an unnamed alley, can be the highlight of any trip. Per Booking.com, 71 percent of global travelers want to eat locally sourced produce while on vacation. To taste local flavors is to get a truly authentic experience. Black Tomato, a luxury travel agency, has taken foodie travel a step further by partnering with Eater to create Eater Journeys, a way to experience various countries, one bite at a time (think: truffle hunting in France, Mezcal sipping in Mexico, or pasta tasting in Italy).
Lesley Chen is a California native who writes about travel, health/fitness, and other lifestyle topics. She has a serious case of RBF and exercises mainly to balance out an aggressive candy addiction.